Hitting The Ice At Island Lake

Much of this winter has felt like a search for ice. Where, oh where are you, frozen water? Finally, we had enough of a cold snap to put a skim of ice on the lakes, and from there it was just a matter of biding time until the inches were thick enough. When Island Lake was thick enough to open for fishing, I was surprised how eager I was to get out there. I had not been looking forward to the ice as much as usual, but a lack of other fishing options was leaving me in the doldrums, and the idea of wetting a line found me with one hand on my floater suit, waiting to jump inside it.

Of course, life is busy, and despite trying to get out for Island Lake’s opening weekend, Darrell and I found ourselves busy at home. This past Sunday we finally managed to clear our schedule, pack the truck, and head to Orangeville.

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Back on the ice and in the hut!

We weren’t the only ones eager for a day of ice fishing. The main parking lot was full and for the first time since we’ve been fishing there, Darrell had to drop me and the gear by the lake before heading to one of the other parking lots and walking back.

Ice huts created a near solid rainbow of colour on the ice – blue, black, yellow, red, green, orange. With our favourite areas being full, we headed for some of our less-desired spots, drilled holes, had a look with the camera, and setup the hut. We hadn’t spotted any fish on the camera, but chose to start on a small drop-off. Since no panfish had been observed, we dropped down big, flashy lures, hoping to entice Big Momma pike.

We jigged, jiggled, dead-sticked, and ripped those lures, but eventually I found myself staring more at the camera than the rod, playing with my phone, and noticing the chill in the air that we could not remedy since we left the heater at home. Darrell went to a friend’s hut to visit while I rotated through a variety of lures for pike and perch. Then I got bored and decided to move.

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I spend a lot of time watching when the camera when we go ice fishing.

The next spot had healthier looking vegetation, but despite drilling several holes, we still didn’t see any fish on the camera. Deciding I would rather be warm in the hut than continuing to search for fish (and let’s be honest, I was really searching for crappie), I told Darrell we would setup up on some of the holes he had just drilled.

As fishless time continued to add up, my technique became less about skill and more about fooling around. I was using a Lunkerhunt Bento Minnow for the first time and was having fun watching it in the water. At one point as I was erratically ripping it around, I felt a slam, tried to set the hook, had weight for a few seconds, then felt the line go limp. I jumped up to look down the hole and there was small pike just chilling under the middle hole, watching my lure. I tried to entice it in, and Darrell followed suit with another lure, but the pike clued in and swam away.

Not long after, a perch started swimming into view on the camera, unbeknownst to me. Darrell said I scared it away with my jigging.

This is what happens when I tell Darrell to smile for a picture.

This is what happens when I tell Darrell to smile for a picture.

It was a slow day for us, but when the conservation officer stopped at our hut to check licenses, he mentioned that he’d seen a fair number of fish caught. We talked to a few other people that fished the lake over the weekend and most of them had a flurry of success when a group of pike went through, landing three or four, and then little to no action after that.

Despite the slow start to our ice season, it ended up feeling wonderful to get out there again. It was nice to get out the different gear, spend time watching the camera, and have a good reason for drinking a thermos of hot chocolate.

I’m looking forward to the start of the Annual Island Lake Ice Fishing Derby that runs for the month of February. It’s always fun to have another goal to strive for while fishing.

Hopefully the weather cooperates now and gives us a nice ice fishing season. Get out there and enjoy it!

Island Lake Is Open For Ice Fishing

CVCEager ice anglers in the Orangeville area can stop organizing and reorganizing their tackle because Island Lake is now open for ice fishing!

According to Credit Valley Conservation’s website, the lake opened to ice fishing today, January 15th, with 7 inches of black ice and no white ice on the lake. You can’t ask for nicer ice. However, the shoreline is a little slushy so no ice hut rentals are available yet.

This is great news for anglers that have been waiting for Ontario’s unseasonably warm winter to catch-up, cool down, and give us some ice. Now it’s time to drill holes, drop lines, and wait for the tug. Island Lake is a great place to pull pike and perch through the ice. Schools of black crappie and sunfish can also be found, but anglers with an underwater camera may have more fun just watching them swim around.

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A nice pumpkinseed from Island Lake, caught while ice fishing.

Island Lake is a great place for ice fishing since the walk from the parking lot is fairly short, the ice conditions are monitored by the park (but don’t forget that ice is never 100% safe), rods can be rented, the park sells minnows, and when the conditions allow, ice hut rentals are available. There’s also a month long ice fishing derby in February with great prizes.

Before heading to the lake, it’s a good idea to check for updates on ice conditions at www.creditvalleyca.ca.

Get out there and have some fun!

What Happened in 2015?

Reading through my Facebook the past two days is an interesting look at what has gone on for people in the past year. Some recaps are tragically sad, while others are humorously uplifting, but all of them have left me wondering, what the heck happened in 2015?

I’ll start with the important stuff – Darrell and I are still alive and, apparently, healthy. So I’d say that’s a successful year. My time these days is measured by the memories Darrell and I create together. The hardships we struggle through, the joys we share, and the goals that keep us going. So really, any year that means we’re still together and loving life is a great year.

But yes, many other things happened in 2015. I lost Argo in 2014, but that loss has been present with me daily. Not a day goes by where I don’t think of him. It is rare for more than a few days to go by without tears falling when I think of him. Far too often I have caught myself thinking that it was time to go turn Argo out, only to remember that he is no longer here. I’ve had some truly bad days this year, where the grief has overwhelmed me and I have struggled to get out of bed. When I walk around the property I can’t stop myself from thinking how much he would have liked it here. When I’m sad I long to once again sit in his stall while he buries me in hay and listens to me spill my troubles. I want to run my hand over the little indent on his neck  and feel the soft grey hairs beneath my fingers. His coat was always so soft. Instead, I try to focus on the incredible memories, for those leave me smiling on a daily basis. I focus on being thankful that I had so much time with him, and try to remember that he loved me as much as I loved him. And then I cry in Darrell’s arms until the grief subsides.

My great uncle passed away in 2015. While I had not seen much of him in the past few years, it was sad to say goodbye to the man that I always regarded as a grandfather. My love of birds was in no small part shaped by his passion for pigeons and the stories he shared. He was one of the greatest pigeon breeders in Canada, his rollers being sought after by many. Those birds could fly and boy could they spin. He took such great pride in them and could remember so many of the ones he had known over the years. He used to pass birds on to me and my father to breed from and eventually look after in their retirement. He was always so happy to hear that his favorites lived such long lives, and that their offspring had turned into great performers. Aside from the birds, he was just a great man. He was always smiling, always laughing, always happy to listen to anything you had to say.

2015 was the year I also said goodbye to one of the greatest horseman and friends I had ever known. I had lost track of her in 2014 after I had graduated from Fleming. She had been a rock for me while I dealt with the insane driving and the stress of going back to school when I had so much going on at home. It wasn’t unusual for her to stop communicating with me for an extended period of time – she had her demons to face, just like the rest of us – but as the silence dragged on to a year I googled her name and found myself staring at her obituary. It was such a shock. It’s still hard to believe that I will never again get to talk to her about horses, or her cats, or gossip about the people we knew in the horse business. I met her when I interviewed for a job on a horse farm. After talking to the owner I realized pretty quickly that I didn’t want to work for him, but when I talked to his farm manager for an hour after the interview, I knew I wanted to work with her and learn from her. I’ve never regretted that decision. I only stayed at the job for four or five months, but I made a great friend who I will never forget. She taught me everything I know about handling and prepping thoroughbred yearlings for sales, she gave me so many insights into horse behaviour, and there was never a group of horses better cared for than those that were under her care. She lived for her cats, a more comical crew of felines I will never meet. Those cats were spoiled, happy, and quirky, having survived several close brushes with death before being welcomed into her home. She was initially quite reluctant about me having Darrell in my life. He earned her respect the day he alerted me to one of the horses choking, and continued to get it when he supported me in going back to school. I miss her emails, her sarcasm, her quick wit, and her devotion to the horses.

But before this post is too depressing, I have to point out all the good that happened in 2015. Like welcoming my second nephew into the world. My god the kid is awesome. He is perfect, just like my first nephew who turned one this past year. Both of those boys bring me so much happiness. I love visiting with them, I love seeing my sisters with them, I love watching my brothers-in-law playing with them. While I have never been fond of kids (I like critters with fur and feathers better than children having tantrums), I fully expected to love my nephews. I just didn’t realize how much. Nothing brightens my day like getting a new picture of them and hearing what they’ve been up to.

This past year I also found my chicken obsession. From the four white leghorn hens we inherited when we moved here last winter, we now have a flock of 21 chickens of a variety of breeds. I wanted one rooster originally – I’m now up to three. The chickens were my surprise of 2015. They have been an incredible source of happiness and amusement. Need to relax for a few minutes? Go watch Chicken TV. Need breakfast? Go collect eggs. Need a hug? Visit with Daisy and Chuckles. Need to chat? Go find Smokey, she’ll talk back. Yes, all the chickens ended up with names. We had to renovate the coop to fit them all in. In 2016 I plan to turn an old camper trailer into a second coop, buy an incubator, and starting hatching out some eggs. We’ve loved having them around.

2015

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Then there’s the farm, though technically it’s only 4 acres so farm doesn’t really apply, but I still describe it that way. The reason we didn’t fish as much as we would have liked to was largely because we have spent the entire year working on projects around here. From fencing for the horse paddocks, to the vegetable garden, to projects in the house, gathering and chopping firewood, and everything else that we decided to do, it was one heck of a busy year. Of course, one would think that maybe this means things are done and we can have more free time for 2016, but I want to enlarge the vegetable garden and start using the ideas of permaculture around the property. I want to plant fruit trees and build pens for meat birds, some turkeys, a cow, and maybe a pig. Now that we have our own place, I want to grow our own food. While Darrell agrees with doing all of this, you should see the look on his face every time I suggest another project.

Fishing. We just did not do enough of it in 2015. That is the only resolution we have made for 2016 – to fish more. That shouldn’t be a problem now that we know how many beautiful brook trout live in the little stream across the road. Literally, right across the road. How did we luck out on that? But while we didn’t get out as often as we wanted, we did have some awesome times. From a week of big bass on our summer vacation, to finding pike in a local lake we didn’t expect them to be in, to exploring new water (and finding even more pike). We fished the Fish-A-Thon For A Cure where I somehow got the big bass award with a tiny fish, but more importantly we raised a lot of money for a great cause and had an awesome day on the water with great people. We fished the Owen Sound Salmon Spectacular again and had another dismal outing fish-wise, but an amazing time otherwise. We went pond-hopping and had a blast catching panfish on the 2-wt fly rod. Darrell even got a pike through the ice at Island Lake that put him on the board and got him some great prizes. I can remember every moment of him catching that fish. It was just too much fun.

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I spent a lot of weekends volunteering at Ontario Women Anglers/Fishing 101 for Women events. I met so many amazing women, had a blast showing some of them new skills, and loved watching them catch fish. For some reason they even let me do a seminar on crappie fishing at the Reel Women seminar at the Spring Fishing and Boat Show. I love talking to a group of people, it’s one of the few ways in which I am quite outgoing. I’m looking forward to organizing a couple of OWA events this year with my awesome co-organizer.

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And while I am sure I am forgetting many of the other awesome things that happened in 2015, this post is already incredibly long and I want to add the most important event. We added to our family. No, we did not have a kid. We did, however, bring home a puppy to join Jack and Molly. It wasn’t planned, but while visiting Darrell’s mother on her birthday, we saw the puppies from an accidental litter. They were already four months old and two had found a new home, but for some reason I told Darrell we should bring one of the remaining three home. Next thing we knew, Panda was in the backseat of the car with Jack and Molly for the ride home. Despite his odd colouring (he’s a piebald), Panda is a purebred Australian Shepherd, just like Jack (Molly is a Setter mixed with who knows what). For the first few days here he was the world’s most perfect puppy – no accidents, no barking, no chewing things he shouldn’t chew. Then he settled down, the carpet got peed on, shoes got chewed, paper was pulled off the table to be torn to shreds, and he started annoying the cats (which I don’t think Darrell minds). But he’s learning to behave and is still the most laid-back puppy I’ve ever known. He fancies himself a lapdog and I don’t have the heart to tell him otherwise. He’s pretty cute, incredibly loving, and though Molly hates sharing the attention, Jack really enjoys having him around.

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So there is a look at our 2015. It had its ups and downs like any year, but we’ll take the memories and move on to 2016. I look forward to all that we have planned, and the adventures we have yet to dream about. Here’s hoping for more time on the water, more visits with fish, and a great year for everyone!

A Few Days On The River

As the last few days of 2015 disappeared before us, Darrell and I found ourselves with some time off work and a desire to go fishing. Atypical warm weather meant there wasn’t even a hint of ice on our local lakes, so the ice fishing gear remained scattered through the basement and fishing room. I was eager to visit a lake just up the road and throw spinnerbaits for pike, but with Luma’s motor still in need of some repairs, it seemed like it wasn’t the best idea. So we settled on gathering up our float rods, donning our waders, and hitting up the river.

I have a love-hate relationship with river fishing. I love the peace of finding yourself a quiet stretch of river, with no one else around, where you can cast uninterrupted and just enjoy the scenery, even if no fish make an appearance. I hate that most rivers, especially during the extended season at the end of the year, are crazy busy with other anglers at every pool and run. Some of them are respectful and avoid areas where other people are fishing. Some don’t. I think it’s great to see so many people enjoying the sport, but I long for solitude and hate fishing in crowds. I love the tug of feisty steelhead and seeing my rod bend over, but I hate that I’m always thinking of how much better it is to catch fresh chrome out in the big water while in the boat.

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I love a walk through the woods.

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There is something spectacular and humbling about rivers.

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The chill in the air was reflected by ice in so beautiful ways.

In the two days we managed to spend on the water before the New Year, I experienced all of these feelings.

If it sounds like I didn’t enjoy myself, that would wrong. Our visit to the river on Monday was pretty much perfect. We found ourselves fishing spots along the river that we haven’t fished in years because they’re usually so busy. The crowds were non-existent and we ran into only a few other anglers, giving us that rarely obtained peace and solitude that both of us prefer. A light dusting of snow lined the trail, hiding the occasional icy patch that sent my rod tip dangerously close to a tree more than once.

Water rushing over boulders, gulls circling overhead, the brilliant green colour of the river, and the silence broken only by our own conversation made for one of those days that remind me of why I love fishing so much. The wind picked up through the day, making me grateful that Darrell had insisted on my wearing his warmest winter coat, though I still found myself ducking into the trees for cover and taking a break every few casts to warm up my hands.

After putting several drifts along the edge of the faster water, I dropped into the slack water right in front of me that held several boulders, and watched as my float disappeared beneath the surface. I reeled up the slack in my line and started putting pressure on the fish as I saw it rise to the surface. I got a couple more turns of the line in and watched the fish flash over a rock before I felt my line give; my float flew into the air and the fish went on it’s way, taking my hook and bead with it.

The adrenaline rush stayed with me for the rest of the day, but the cold temps and approaching storm had us turning around and heading back earlier than we would have liked. We fished our way back and stopped at a spot that we rarely manage to cast in (when we’re doing our usual crowd avoidance). I took a few drifts but ended up retreating to the cover of the  forest while Darrell kept at it. Just as I was about to say we needed to go, since my legs were now completely frozen, his float disappeared and his line went straight. I saw the fish come up in the water column and started running for the net because it was a big one. However, it would seem that we were destined to lose fish that day, and Darrell’s line broke just as mine had, and the fish took off. We made some changes to our set-up after that, but we headed for the car a few minutes later.

frozen waders

My waders and wading boots were nicely frozen by the time we returned to the car. I sat with them under a blasting car heater until we reached Canadian Tire (where we were going to buy some more tackle trays). Fortunately, the heater worked well.

Losing fish was the theme of the day, according to the other anglers we talked to. Only one seemed to have been successful at landing them. It didn’t really matter to us, we still had a great time and had a wonderful day on the water.

The storm on Tuesday kept us at home and we headed out again on Wednesday. Wednesday was the opposite on Monday. I woke up feeling exhausted and lacked any real desire to leave the house, but didn’t want to miss a fishing opportunity. We made it to the river and I knew by my mood that I’d better get into a fish fast or it wasn’t going to be a good day. Most of the time I enjoy a day on the water whether or not I catch anything, but every now-and-then I just can’t get into it and I just don’t enjoy it. That was Wednesday.

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The storm had brought more snow to the river and was quite beautiful.

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A more white and grey day than on Monday.

The river was more crowded, people were walking into the spots we were fishing and taking casts, interfering with our drifts. I got snagged often, we both lost gear, it just wasn’t fun or peaceful. I told Darrell I would go wait in the car while he continued fishing, because I sure wasn’t good company. Being the good guy he is, he decided to call it a day and we headed home.

It was a less than wonderful way to end our fishing season, but that’s kind of fitting given the year we had. We did not fish near as much as we normally would have this past year, a fact that has bothered both of us. However, the day I will remember from this past week, is that great day we had on Monday. The fun, the peace, the wonderful time on the river. That’s what fishing is all about.