A Pike And Panfish Kind Of Weekend

It may have been opening weekend for bass in many areas of Ontario this past weekend, but those of us in Zone 16 have to wait it out for another week. It wasn’t a hardship to forego bass and spend another weekend chasing pike.

After spending Saturday morning running errands, working in the gardens, and watching the chickens play in the horse stalls, I was eager to hit the water when Darrell got home from work at noon. We headed to a nearby lake, pleased to see several vehicles in the parking lot and many kayaks coming and going. It’s always nice to see other people getting outside on a sunny day and enjoying what nature has to offer.

fishing

A perfect day!

As we ran up the lake I watched a boat towing a tube drive in tighter and tighter circles, bouncing the tube higher out of the water and causing great laughter for all participants. I am not particularly fond of swimming in lakes (I have real issues with the feel of swimming through aquatic vegetation), but this lake with its crystal clear, deep water, always makes me consider jumping out of the boat for a splash.

While pike were the main target of the day, we also wanted to find some panfish, so we headed to a quiet bay that has produced both for us in the past. I took a few casts and was pleased to notice that my boat legs seem to have returned. It’s so much easier to get a good cast while standing up, but I was really out of practice on our first few boat trips this year. I was casting around some logs when my chatterbait felt like it moved – just a slight change in the vibration. Nothing bit, but pike are big on swinging at a lure the first time they see it, so I cast back to the same area and this time the fish inhaled it. The retrieve was one of the most fun I’ve had with a pike. It was a decent sized fish, nothing big but not tiny, and it leapt out of the water like a smallmouth bass, spraying me in the process, and than dodged all over the place coming to the boat. It was a great little fight. Unfortunately, he really inhaled the lure, so we didn’t get a picture because time was of the essence to return him back to water.

We thought that pike was a good omen, but the bay failed to produce anymore bites. The sunfish were on redds and have yet to stack up in the deep spot like they will later in the season. Not being overly patient anglers, Darrell started the motor up and we moved on to another spot.

rock bass

Love the little guys.

sunfish

Sunny!

fishing

A peaceful sight – rods in the boat.

A few more pike were caught in woody areas with floating veg. Some fish came out of shallow water, others were deeper. Since we like to catch and release, we tried to release most of the fish without taking them out of the water. Sometimes this is accomplished by leaving some slack in the line and the fish will shake the hooks loose, other times we use the pliers to pop the hooks out without touching the fish.

The vegetation on the banks was really coming to life, and the pitcher plants were stunning for their numbers, colours, and blooms.

Pitcher plants

Pitcher plants

While the pike were providing a great fishing outing, I was really hoping to find some panfish. Sometimes, all I really want to do is catch a pile of little guys that fight like much bigger fish. I was in luck! In a sheltered bay we came upon schools of sunfish and rock bass, all associating with stumps and bank undercuts. It was as simple as tossing out our Berkley Micro Power Nymphs, and reeling in the fish that managed to get there first. It was entirely too much fun. I hope I never get tired of the simple joy of catching panfish after panfish and watching them swim away after the release.

On Sunday we were able to get out once again (a second day of fishing?! Unheard of these days) and headed to a different lake in hopes of a few more pike. With another roadside gravel ‘ramp’ I was again super grateful for our great little boat; it’s so easy to put her into just about any lake we choose.

The forecast had called for rain much of the day, but despite some ominous clouds the weather stayed dry. We headed for some sticks and I picked up a little pike right away. Though I cycled through some different baits for the heck of it, it was again the chatterbait that continued to shine for the toothy critter bite. There were several bass swimming in the area and we took a moment to watch them. I hope we can still find them next weekend when their season is finally open.

pike

The weather cleared and Sunday was beautiful.

fishing

Grabbing a fish.

fishing

Now that’s a nice rock bass.

Rock bass decided to steal the show from the pike and Darrell caught some incredibly nice ones. They sure made the ultralight rods work and even tried grabbing some of the pike gear.

Pike took over again as we drifted along a weed edge on a dropoff. We got a double-header, and several more fish on every few casts. It was a pretty quick and fun bite while it lasted. There were the typical short strikes, swings, and fish getting off at the boat, but every minute of it was a blast.

The clouds parted and the sun came out. A green heron flew from log to log, a turkey vulture soared out of the trees, and the green frogs sang a chorus around the edge of the lake. I could not help but realize that I would have missed all this if I never got into fishing.

We caught a few more fish and called it a day. Two days of fishing felt absolutely wonderful, but all to short. Bass finally open next weekend!

A Pike Kind Of Weekend

Last weekend Darrell and I had planned to make the drive to Belwood and take part in the annual Belwood Lions Pike Derby. However, as often seems to be the case these days, we got busy doing chores around the house and it was mid-afternoon on Saturday before we were even able to leave. By that point we decided it would be better to stay closer to home and try searching for pike in some of the local lakes.

While I voted for heading back to our main lake here, the one we hadn’t visited since we were last there breaking ice with the boat, Darrell had other ideas and wanted to check out some new lakes he had found online. Since we hadn’t been exploring for some time, I agreed to try the new lakes and off we went.

back road

Hmm…are we supposed to be here?

Trying to find access to these lakes proved that you really can’t trust what you see online. On Google Maps it looked like there were two roads that would take you the water. The first one we tried ended up turning into a small dirt lane with a tunnel through the trees, clearly a road allowance that isn’t meant for boats. We eventually turned around when it became clear the road would never turn down to the water like we hoped. Thank goodness for a 4×4 truck and a small boat that fits just about everywhere. The second apparent ‘access point’ turned out to be a private laneway. We finally gave up and headed for our main lake.

The main lake is one that we normally fish for brook trout and panfish in the spring, and bass in the summer and fall. But on our last visit to the lake another angler mentioned he had caught pike in the lake for the first time last year, so we set out on a pike finding mission.

water

The best sight.

Finally having clear, open water at this lake was a nice change, and the motor was appreciative of having a nice run to start out. So was I. I love feeling the boat race along the water, having the wind in my face, and watching the scenery fly by.

The first couple of casts landed some smallmouth bass. Being out of season they were quickly released without taking them out of the water, and we realized that we would have to adjust our plans. Many of the areas we thought looked prime for pike also happened to be active spawning areas for bass. We stopped casting in the real shallow areas, or anywhere we saw a dark shadow. We did, however, venture close enough to have a look at some beautiful fish without disturbing them, then move on our way.

It was a windy day on the lake but we were able to get into some pike by visiting quieter water in the bays and casting along the drop-offs. This tactic kept us away from the bass but landed us some fun toothy-critters. The best part about the fishing was that we were landing the pike on hard-bodied swimbaits, lures that had never really produced for us before. The pike were just inhaling them.

pike

Toothy-critter!

On Sunday we were able to get going earlier in the day and headed to a group of lakes we had previously fished only through the ice. With road-side launching and easy access for shore-fishing, the lakes were a popular destination that day. We setup in the first lake and again found that the bass were actively spawning. The deep water and lack of weeds left us thinking that there may be better options for pike than that particular lake, so we boated to the back and moved along into the second lake.

The second lake was more what we were looking for: weeds, less steep drop-offs, and some quieter water. We tossed around the swimbaits without success and I switch up to my white chatterbait. The chatterbait, one of my go-to pike lures, was lucky once again and landed me a small pike. I actually saw the little guy swing at the lure twice before he finally took it. That turned out to be the theme of the day.

turkey

The turkeys were out for a walk.

Moving on to a smaller lake attached to the second one, we found an ideal area for pike. It looked like it should hold several of the toothy-critters and we were not disappointed. Throwing chatterbaits to the drop-offs, we consistently pulled in fish every few casts. Almost all of them would swing at the lures a few times before hitting. Some would follow back to the boat and scamper off when they got too close, only to hit on the next cast. It’s almost more of an adrenaline rush to see the fish swimming boatside, waiting to pounce, than it is to actually land them!

We each caught several pike over the course of the weekend, got some rust off of our open water skills, and finally got much needed time on the water. By the looks of the spawning bass, we should have a lot of fun trying to find those monsters when the season opens at the end of June. Until then, we’ll keep busy with toothy-critters and continue our search for Big Momma pike.

6 Things I’ve Learned As A Chicken-Keeper

My journey as a chicken-keeper started when Darrell and I bought our little farm this winter and inherited four laying hens in the process. Since then, I’ve learned quite a bit about these wonderful creatures.

1. Chicken Math

This became evident to me even before I had come across the term online. If you enjoy having a couple of chickens, you will inevitably want more. And more. While it’s best to start small, the numbers will grow and you’ll have a hard time sticking with the status quo. I  started with four White Leghorn hens. Then I came across Jersey Giants and was enamored with the stories about their size and temperament, so I went out and got two hens and a rooster. Then I found a wonderful enabler who set me up with six more hens. The flock stands at 13 and I’m itching to get more.

jersey giant

Judy and Arrow, black Jersey Giants

2. The Variety

I used to think chickens were predominantly white or red and laid only white or brown eggs. I was wrong. After inheriting the first four hens in the move, I set out to learn all I could about chickens (which will be ongoing process for the rest of my life). The first thing I learned was that there are a crazy number of breeds available in all different colours, shapes, and sizes. They are capable of laying a rainbow of eggs. In addition to the white eggs of my leghorns, I now have birds that lay different shades of brown eggs, and a couple that lay green eggs. The green eggs are perfectly normal inside, they just have a different coloured pigment in the shell.

chicken eggs

I love a colourful egg carton.

3. Change Is Bad

Shortly after starting on my chicken journey I moved the feeder to a different spot in the coop, thinking it would give the hens more room to gather around it. They responded by refusing to eat out of the feeder and generally trashing the coop. When we replaced a side door with a screened window, Arrow (our rooster) nearly had a meltdown and made one heck of a racket. Even putting a brick on the floor caused the need for all 13 birds to closely inspect it. Adding new birds after the quarantine period will often disrupt the laying schedule for a few days and always results in reestablishment of the pecking order. Chickens are creatures of habit and change takes some getting used to.

4. ChickenTV Is The Best Show

Forget any show you watch on TV or Netflix, nothing is as entertaining as ChickenTV. After a day at work the best way to relax is to watch the birds wander around the pen eating bugs, chasing each other, visiting the horses, and wallowing in the dust bath area. They force me to slow down and relax because I just can’t stop watching them. I love their curious nature and watching what they’ll get into. Like any good show, the time flies by while you’re watching it.

chicken-keeping

Smokey and the leghorns enjoying a good dust bath.

5. The Personalities

I should have realized this would be the case because my pigeons always had personalities, but for some reason I didn’t expect it with the chickens. They have such strong and unique personalities. Smokey, one of our Easter Eggers (EE), is the pet of the coop. She’s the friendliest little thing, always flying up to say hi, falling asleep in Darrell’s arms, and she loves to chatter away. She’s the first in line for treats and the last to give up when I tell her the treats are all gone. Bandit, the other EE, is her polar opposite. Bandit is as independent as they come and sits at the top of the pecking order without ever having to fight. She’s not a pet. Big Red is a Euskal Oiloa and likely my favorite of the bunch. Her curiosity really gets to me and I love watching her work things out. I usually have to pick her up to get her inside at night. Then there’s Arrow, who turned out to be the perfect first rooster – mellow but protective. We had one run-in early on where he tried to give me heck for picking up on of his hens. I responded by picking him up instead and we’ve gotten along ever since. He enjoys treats, following his hens around, and squishing himself into a small next box.

easter eggers

Bandit and Smokey, the Easter Eggers.

euskal oiloa

Big Red, a Euskal Oiloa. My curious and wonderful girl.

6. The Enablers

There are many people out there with the chicken addiction, and they’re eager to have more members join the group. They’ve encouraged me to get new birds, look into new breeds, and make it through the tough times (which do happen). They’ll share their experiences and provide a lot of laughs along the way. Chickens are even more fun when you can share their stories with others. Darrell has turned into my number one enabler, falling for the birds as much as I have. He doesn’t even say no when I suggest we may want to pick up some more hens.

Life with chickens is better than life without them. They provide us with fresh eggs and great enjoyment. They may have caused us to take some time away from fishing, but they’ve proven to be worth it. I love being a chicken-keeper.

Register Online For The 2015 Belwood Lions Pike Derby

www.belwoodlionspikederby.org

belwoodlionspikederby.org

In just under a week it will again be time for the Belwood Lions Pike Derby at Belwood Lake, held May 23 & 24, 2015. Over $5000 in prizes will be awarded at the derby, with first place receiving an awesome $2000 cash prize. The number of draw prizes handed out each year is pretty incredible, and anyone attending the prize ceremony has a great chance at going home with some goodies. I won a collapsible rod one year that conveniently fits into my backpack (and pretty mush stayed in it while I was at school).

New for 2015 is the ability to register online for the derby at belwoodlionspikederby.org. This is a great idea for someone like me who always talks about picking up tickets ahead of time, but never remembers to. The entry fee is $25 for for adults (15 and over), and $10 for youths (9 to 14). These are extremely reasonable rates for such a great event. If you prefer not to use the online registration, tickets can still be bought at some local tackle shops, Belwood Country Market, or at Belwood Hall during the derby.

Last year’s winning pike was an incredible 40-3/4″, so the big ones are out there. A couple of years ago I missed a huge one the week before the derby. Even if you don’t get a big one, there are always a fewer smaller ones willing to play. Some years the pike are biting like crazy and you can’t keep them out of the boat, yet other years they are slow and you just keep tossing lures in the hopes of one biting. Either way, it’s a great way to spend the weekend.

Don’t miss out on some fun fishing and great camaraderie, plan to be in Belwood next weekend and have a great time on the water!