September 19, 2013

After work quickie

Too tired and hungry to write a full report.

Finished work later than hoped, but Richard and I still made it to the dock by 6pm. Casting for pike was once dusk approached, we switched to glow spoons.

At around 7:45, Richard hooked into the first of the night...a 20lb male salmon.

Then it was a bit quiet, so Richard prepared the dinghy for launch. While he was busy with the dinghy, I made a few cast and got hit but fish missed the hook.

Once launched, we fished on anchor in 15 feet of water and cast in 360 degrees.

I cast toward shore and was picked up at around 8:30. She was a big girl!

About 15 minutes later Richard got hit and he landed another male around 20lbs.

It was a bit quiet after. I got ripped hard around 9:30, but the hooks did not set. I got hit again around 10:15. This time the hook stuck and it was another male. This one broke through Richard's net yet again...and unfortunately, my rod tip was trapped in the mesh when the salmon fell through...and that horrible, horrible SNAP! Fish took a casualty...and it was my new favourite rod too! Even so, we landed it with my net. I should have filleted his arse!

We stayed until 11pm but nothing exciting we called it a night.

Not bad for 5 hours of after work I'm going to stuff my face with pizza LOL.

September 14, 2013

Spoon fed salmon finally avenged!

Before I dive into the real story, I was fishing at a creek earlier in the morning. Something pretty rare happened. This immature Chinook Salmon, around 3-4lbs, CHASED!!! my roe bag while I was retrieving the line to start a new drift. The roe bag was moving, with speed and unnaturally, UPSTREAM! I've only seen this happened a couple of times over the years. This fish didn't enter the river to spawn. It sat behind the school of salmon waiting for eggs to drift by and it would feed on the loose eggs. Apparently, it really wanted my roe bag. About 10 minutes after, it found my roe bag again and the float was yanked down HARD! It fought with more energy than some of the 15-20lb spawn-ready salmon. Simply beautiful fish and full of vigor! It was so stunningly emerald and chrome (for a river salmon) I just had to share. for the REAL story!

For over 15 years, I've fished the fall salmon run. In my very early days of salmon fishing, I fished in the rivers for spawning salmon. Later on, my friends showed me how to cast spoons at piers and river mouths for actively feeding fish that were staging for the spawn. Through the 10+ years of casting spoons, I've only EVER hooked one salmon long enough just to lose it, 200 yards run later, to a line break. Since then, I've only had a handful of short hits on the spoon.

In 2007, I visited British Columbia to fish for salmon. At the Skeena River, I hooked a 30lb class Chinook (King) Salmon on the spoon and fought it for over 20 minutes, only to have the net guy messed up the job and the barbless hook subsequently fell out of the mouth. The fish was so shallow that net guy could have even scooped it up with his hands...but anyways, the fish was lost. On the same trip, I was casting spoons for Coho Salmon at the Capilano River and yet again had a solid hit, a hook up but ended with the fish jumping off a few seconds later.

In 2008, I was back in British Columbia and had pink salmon and chum salmon chase spoons and had a couple of missed hits on the Kitimat River.

I've since caught salmon on the float rod and fly rod, and trolling from friends' boats, but my goal to catch a salmon while casting spoons remained to be realized.

That is...until tonight.

Last fall, my friend Richard invited me to fish from his yacht club's docks. Salmon invades the marina between September and October for 4-6 weeks. Last fall, I put in 3 evening sessions but didn't even had a bump while Richard landed four Chinook Salmon fishing beside me. Thursday evening was the first time I fished for salmon this fall. Like the three previous trips, I didn't even get a bump while Richard had a fish pulled the hook right by the dock.

I met up with Richard at 6:30pm at his slip. He treated me to dinner before we started to cast for pike for a bit. The pike were not active, so once dusk approached, we switched to glow spoons.

Here and there, we could see salmon splashing on the surface. The odd ones would jump clear out of the water, often multiple times. Seeing splashes and jumps were signs that active fish were in the area.

Richard often cast off the swim platform of his boat. Tonight, he gave me his prime spot while he cast from the dock. It must have been 8pm when I saw a swirl about 10 feet away from the boat that was docked two slips from us. I was pretty confident that fish were around.

A few casts later, I had a good hit that pulled drag on the hit. However, the hooks did not set. Another 10 casts later, I had yet again another solid hit that stayed on for two seconds before the fish let go. Sometimes, if the fish struck the spoon at certain angles, the hooks may only find the bony areas of the mouth. Only when the hooks find the corner of the mouth would landing percentage increase.

It must have been another 15 minutes later when my rod was ripped hard. The fish initially gave short spurts of acceleration only. It wasn't until a minute later that the fish decided to go on a long run. These fish knew safety was to be had by swimming back to the lake, so the fish was headed out of the marina. But with my beefy gear turned the fish before it could swim off 150 yards. A give-and-take battle then ensued until the fish was close to the swim platform.

Richard had the net ready and I led the fish toward the net. With a scoop, the fish was in the bag. As we lifted the net up, the fish somehow fell back into the water. In a moment of scramble, we didn't really know what happened. I thought perhaps the hooks was entangled in the net and the fish had managed to unhook itself and fell back into the water. Richard then saw that the fish had tore a hole in the net, and luckily the fish was still on the line.

For a few tense moments, I was fighting the fish through the hole in the net. Luckily, I had also brought my net. With some careful maneuvering, we managed to net the fish with my net while the line was still going through Richard's net.

Sometimes a great catch needs a dose of luck.

After this, it went a little quiet for 15-20 minutes when I was hit again, only to have the fish dropped the lure again.

As the night progressed, fish seemed to have left the area. It was not until around 10pm that Richard finally hooked one! The fish hit very close to the dock. Strangely, this fish did not go on a long run, only to twist and turn by the dock a short length from the rod tip. The fight also lasted relatively short, maybe just 3-4 minutes, before I put it in the net. It was a heavy one, a fish that needed Richard's extra hands to hoist it up the dock.

She measured out 38.5" long, and we estimated her to be at least 25lbs.

We continued to fish until 10:35pm, but it was really quiet after the last fish, so we decided to end the night early.

Thank you Richard for helping me accomplish a goal that had started over 10 years ago!!!

September 1, 2013

Muskies - Rain or Shine

Muskellunge (Esox masquinongy), commonly called "muskie" or "musky", come from the Ojibwa word maashkinoozhe ("ugly pike"). Personally, I find them as the fairer cousin of the Northern Pike. The mystique surrounding these often difficult to target fish also elevate them into a class of their own. A trophy muskie is truly a highly regarded prize.

Coming out of fishing hiatus just for a special lifer trip, I had the pleasure to take Richard and his son Tristan on their quest to catch a lifer muskie this weekend. Our location is a muskie factory with a great population of smaller individuals - the average size here is in the high 20-inch to low 30-inch, with the occasional 40-inch plus. We only had 1.5 days to find them, so instead of fishing some trophy waters, I wanted to have quantity in our favour.

Day 1

Friday afternoon, we arrived to set up camp first. Rain was in forecast so securing a dry refuge was crucial. By 3:30pm, we finally launched the little dinghy into the tannin waters of (not-for-your-eyes) and started plugging the shorelines.

After an hour of fishing, the usual muskie haunts were pretty vacant, so we fished toward Rocket Bay to see if one of these little rockets could be found. Along the way, Richard caught a 1lb Largemouth Bass with a frog patten Jitterbug.

The mouth of Rocket Bay was enclosed by a point topped by healthy green weeds and patches of lily. I have caught some nice bass off this point in the past. Casts were made to deliver the muskie bucktail inches from the shoreline vegetation and pull them out of the shallows over weedline. One cast produced a THUMP as soon as the lure landed, follwoed by deep headshakes and an impressive jump, and an incidental catch was brought into the net. We didn't tape measure or weight this fish, but I would guess it was around the high 3 to low 4 range, making it a potential personal best Largemouth Bass. A great catch, BUT it wasn't a muskie!

Once inside Rocket Bay, we started the drift down one side along the weedline. If we positioned the boat on the line, it was possible to cast into the shallower weedbed and the deeper basin at the same time. Casting ahead and behind the boat would allow the angler to work lures parallel along the weed edge. Boat position was critical fishing here, but the wind was making our job difficult.

After covering the entire length of the bay, the wind hastened and the drizzling rain became a steady shower. Rain or shine, the decision was to continue fishing with our limited time.

We drifted deeper into the back end of the bay where it was usually too shallow for bigger muskies, but it was here where my lure was stopped during the retrieve. Initially guesses of another bass turned into a happy revelation when a long body came to the surface. Just a little 26-inch muskie, but target nonetheless. Poor little guy was bit by a slightly larger muskie.

After seeing the muskie, Richard switched on the hunting mode. He swapped his Jitterbug for a black buzzbait. As we turned out of the back bay to work down the other side of the bay, his buzzbait was stopped by a small muskie. Unfortunately, due to some issues, his first muskie experience turned sour when the fish jumped off. The rain was coming down pretty hard now but we fished on. Tristan was a trooper donning his rain jacket and manning the live bait line.

We saw a giant floating yellow banana and Michael finally arrived to join us. The four of us plugged the shoreline pretty well but failed to garner another hit. The intensity of rain increased exponentially by the second and now it was torrential and horizontal. The wind was constantly pushing the boat toward shore, so Richard and I decided to call it a day for Tristan's sake. Michael decided to wait out the storm.

As expected, when we finally got back to the launch and hauled out the dinghy, the rain stopped. It was a bit late to launch again, so we simply returned to camp. Later, we found out Michael was reward with a 30-inch muskie after dark on a buzzbait.

Everything was drenched and even the tent seams had small leaks, but we did start a campfire, had dinner and roasted some marshmallows. Since the ground was so damp, the amphibians were crawling about, including this beautiful Blue-spotted Salamander (Ambystoma laterale).

Day 2

We had a late start to the morning knowing Tristan would appreciate a few more hours of sleep. After breaking down camp and having breakfast, we were finally on the water by 9am. We covered some of the usual muskie haunts again but found nothing aside from a couple of Largemouth Bass, so onwards toward Rocket Bay we went.

Michael was already there but reported a very slow morning. We made a drift down the left side of the bay with no love. While drifting down right side of the bay, Richard finally hooked up with the right kind using a firetiger Husky Jerk. Another 26-inch muskie, but a lifer nonetheless!

We made a drift down the left side of the bay again and I hooked up near the mouth of the bay. It was an even smaller 23-inch model, but so very beautiful.

Fishing was pretty slow in the bay and we decided to explore new territories. We found one nice looking shallow bay and I had a small muskie followed the bucktail.

Fishing back in the main deeper areas again, we drifted down the shorelines until we hit a little shallow saddle area. My initial cast was fouled with some green weeds, but the follow up cast was grabbed by a little one. By this time, it was already 2:20pm and Tristan had all but given up on the live bait rig. He had been extremely patient with the two fish heads in the boat but obviously showing a bit of frustration for his lack of excitement. I handed the rod off to him so he can land his first muskie as well.

Exploring more areas, we found this turn in the shoreline where there were three downed trees within 30 feet area and a floating dock 15 feet to the right. In total, we tempted 4 muskies from this spot, but all of them showed varing levels of interest without a solid hookup. Michael was the closest after the same muskie hit his Figure-8 three times but failed to hook up on each hit! I saw the biggest fish of the trip which was a 30-inch plus muskie following the bucktail, but the fish dropped off the chase upon seeing the boat. Frustrating...but that's typical of muskie fishing.

We finally found the bay where Michael caught his lifer Tiger Muskie and regular Muskie. This spot produced only a hit for me today. We continued to push on deeper into the unknown until we reached another promising shallow weed shelf. A couple of casts later, I was rewarded with the 3rd muskie of the day at 4pm.

We fished another hour in the area and decided to troll back to the launch for no further love. It was a decent day of muskie fishing. In the past few years, I typically experienced more follows from bigger fish and less fish landed. This year, we landed a few smaller fish but didn't see anything over the 30-inch range. Perhaps it was the time of year, or perhaps it was the low pressure that blew through the overnight. I know there are bigger fish in the maybe Thanksgiving weekend will allow us another try at it. Regardless, we had a fun weekend of muskie fishing and I was glad Richard landed his first ever muskie and Tristan got to hold one of his own as well.