The 2015 Fish-A-Thon For A Cure Recap

One event gets marked on our calendar before all else every summer – the Fish-A-Thon For A Cure. So despite having a late start to the morning and a 2.5 hour drive to get there, Darrell and I were not missing out on this year’s fun.

We pulled into Deer Creek Conservation Area a little before noon, quickly registered and got the boat in the water. Darrell pulled the trailer out of the water and I reached for the motor to maneuver myself out of the way and wait for him. I turned the handle of electric motor…and nothing happened. Noting my apparently panicked expression, I received some help from people on the dock to grab the boat and pull me over. I wasn’t so much panicked as shocked that the motor failed to work. Darrell’s great at prepping our equipment and it rarely has issues when we hit the water.

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A pretty spectacular day on the lake.

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I love spending a day here.

As I joked with the guys on the docks about all the rowing Darrell was facing, he came back down the launch, heard about the problem, rowed us out of the way, and fixed the connection. With the motor now working we were free to move around the lake at a good clip and enjoy the day.

In the past few years of the Fish-A-Thon we have faced everything from oppressive heat to torrential downpours. This year was pleasantly cool when the clouds were overhead, and a good deal warmer when the sun was shining. All in all though, it was a beautiful day to be on the water.

The event was being held later in the year than normal, so we had to search a little more to find fish. I never did locate the school of crappie that usually sets up in a weed bed off one of the points – the weeds were gone. The bluegill, however, were willing to bite, and we amused ourselves by targeting them for a while.

I enjoy fishing this event because it’s all about having fun on the water. Sure, there are prizes for big fish and the grand slam, but I don’t think anyone gets too serious about that. We like to move around the lake, spend some time targeting panfish, search for bass, maybe pull in a trout – just have fun targeting a bunch of fish and looking at the scenery. When you ask other participants how the fishing is, there are always jokes to be made and laughs to be had.

Recent changes in the weather had slowed the bite, making it especially hard to land the big bass that roam this lake. We saw a few of the big ones cruising, but failed to catch their interest. My wacky-rigged senko managed to catch a few smaller bass, including a 16-5/8 inch fish that hit with a thud and gave me a nice little fight before coming to the boat.


I love catching these guys.

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This guy ended up getting me Big Bass on a day when the bite was difficult. Was a fun fish.

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Chunky little rock bass.

After a fun afternoon of fishing we pulled out the boat and headed to the pavilion for dinner and prizes. We didn’t think any of our catches would be long enough to enter for the big fish awards, but when Ryan announced last call for entries and said that not many pictures had been entered, Darrell told me to take the picture of my bass over. Surprisingly, that 16-5/8 bass ended up being the big bass for the day and got me some nice stuff from the amazing sponsors of the event. Darrell also ended ended up with a prize for getting over $250 in pledges. That was in addition to the generous door prizes that every participant gets. Fish-A-Thon For A Cure sponsors are absolutely amazing (check out the website for list of the sponsors).

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My prizes from this year’s Fish-A-Thon.

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Darrell with his prizes (and a photobomb from his pet chicken, Smokey).

Of course, the fishing is secondary at this event, we are there to raise funds for the Canadian Cancer Society, and to remember those we’ve lost and honour the survivors. Everyone has been touched by cancer in some way or other. I participate and collect pledges for my sisters: One is a breast cancer survivor (she writes an incredible blog about her experiences), and I hope the other never has to hear a diagnosis of cancer. Everyone has a story about why they are there and tears fall every year. It’s a pretty powerful experience.

My favorite moment came during dinner. Ryan made an announcement that the event was $180 short of reaching a milestone number, and he was setting a jar on the table for anyone who might have some spare change to toss in and see if we could reach the amount. In minutes, literally only three or four minutes, over $200 was raised from people who had already donated and collected pledges! I feel teary even now, thinking about what a great group of people I am privileged to spend a day with every year.

Over $15,000 was raised for this year’s Fish-A-Thon For A Cure, bringing the total raised in the past seven years to an unbelievable $70,000.

It would be pretty spectacular to raise $30,000 next year and put the event over the $100,000 mark. Please consider participating in the event and collecting pledges. Or pledge someone you know will be participating. Or go to the website and make a donation to the event. The funds raised go to the Canadian Cancer Society and help in so many ways.

Another spectacular Fish-A-Thon For A Cure is in the books! Thank you to the incredible organizers and volunteers of the event, the amazing sponsors who make sure participants get to go home with some great prizes, the Long Point Region Conservation Authority for hosting the event at Deer Creek, and to the other participants, who are just an awesome group of people to hang out with. I can’t wait to do it all again next year!

Ontario Women Anglers 1st Annual Angler-New Angler Event

Experienced women anglers, novice women anglers, and a group of female fishing instructors gathered at Island Lake Conservation Area in Orangeville on July 11th for the 1st Annual Angler-New Angler Event put on by Ontario Women Anglers. The event was coordinated to coincide with Canada’s National Fishing Week – a week that encourages Canadians to get involved in the sport and allows anglers to fish without a license during that time.

Since Fishing 101 for Women became a program under the Ontario Women Anglers (OWA) banner this year, there were many familiar faces around from the Fishing 101 events but, much to my delight, there were also several new faces. There was a new wrinkle for this day – for once, Yvonne Brown was not on the hook to organize the event. In fact, Leslie-Anne Dungog and I had the fun of getting things organized (with Yvonne helping when needed, of course). Leslie did an amazing job of looking after the registration and making sure all the participants knew what was happening. All I had to do was organize the venue.

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A great group of ladies!

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Hanging out at the picnic area.

We decided to ask Credit Valley Conservation (CVC) if they would host the event at Island Lake since we were familiar with the lake, it has a panfish population that usually cooperates, it was located centrally for many people, and the facilities were exactly what we needed. Having spent the last few years volunteering with CVC, I was lucky enough to know some great people in the organization who made it happen. Thanks to the efforts of Lindsey Jennings and Yasmine Slater, everything was arranged quickly and we were good to go.

When I arrived at the park in the morning, I realized just how lucky we had gotten with the venue. We had been given the picnic area by the entrance for our tables, and the casting piers had been reserved for us. It was a perfect setup for getting the ladies into some fish and having a enjoyable space for the event. The weather was even cooperating with blue skies, fluffy clouds, and low wind.


In addition to Leslie and I, Chris McCoy, Chris McDougall, and Anneliese Bochenek arrived to help out as instructors. Yvonne even managed to get there despite landing at the airport not long before.

Participants started walking over to register for the event and buy tickets for our 50/50 draw to benefit the Kelly Shires Foundation. Thanks to Leslie’s organizational skills, registration was a breeze and we ended up with about 30 ladies, laughing, chatting, and eager to hit the water. This was not a Fishing 101 seminar with an educational component ahead of time; it was all about fishing and getting time on the water.

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Now there’s some dedication! That said, having walked in the lake myself that day, it was rather refreshing.

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A great group of anglers enjoying the morning at Island Conservation Area.


We split the participants into groups and sent them to the casting piers with the instructors. For those who didn’t have equipment, it was provided (this is why my car was so full leaving the Fishing 101 for Women seminar in Peterborough a couple of weeks before). For those that needed help casting and rigging, we provided that too. Participants were free to move around, help each other, ask the instructors for help, and take a break whenever they wanted one.

The goal for the day was let a group of ladies have fun fishing together, learn some new skills, and meet some fellow anglers. If they all had fun by the end of the day, I would consider it a resounding success.

I walked between the groups, taking pictures and chatting as I went. The instructors were doing an awesome job and everywhere I went there were smiles and laughter. Some ladies decided to wade into the water for the chance to cast further out, while others were happy to drop their line down from the pier and watch the sunfish and perch play with their bait.

The anglers got a good lesson about needing to try new things and change it up when the fish aren’t biting. Since the smaller fish were being a little shy, Yvonne suggested that we downsize the slip-float rigs that many people were using. Adding mono leaders and changing to smaller hooks was just the ticket to get the fish biting. Even from the picnic area on the other side of the trees I could hear the shouts as ladies hooked into perch and sunfish.

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Kiss the fish – it’s a must!

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Big catch!

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Everyone was having fun.

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Fish stories, I tell ya. This group was trying to convince everyone that the big one got away.

One of the fun things to watch was when Anneliese got out her fly rod and started casting. Talk about a great way to introduce ladies to other aspects of the sport. It’s not all about bass or all about slip-floats or all about lures.

By the end of the morning I had heard more than a few ladies making plans to go out fishing together, and others were talking about staying in touch and hopefully planning something in the future. There were discussions over places to fish, opinions given and asked about lures, and talk about the upcoming OWA events. Some participants had never fished before and were now showing that beginner’s enthusiasm: that feeling of having caught your first fish, having taken your first casts – that feeling that hooks you for good.

There were a lot of good fish stories going around once we had gathered back at the picnic tables. Our 50/50 draw raised $100 for the Kelly Shires Foundation, a great amount that we were all proud to donate. Many ladies went home with some neat prizes, such as PanAm tickets, fishing swag, and a half-day boat rental from CVC.

Thanks to all of the participants, all of the instructors, CVC and the Island Lake staff and to Yvonne for showing on such a quick turn around from her trip. Major thanks and congrats to Leslie for the incredible amount of work she did for this event. The 1st Annual Angler-New Angler Event was an absolute success and I can’t wait for next year’s edition.

Rain Can’t Dampen The Fishing 101 For Women Spirit

I turned the car radio up a little louder so I could hear it over the din of the rain. After almost three hours of driving, the rain was showing no signs of letting up, and I wondered how many ladies would decide to make the wet drive for this year’s Fishing 101 For Women seminar at the OFAH’s Mario Cortellucci Hunting & Fishing Heritage Centre in Peterborough.

For the second year in a row, I was lucky to be helping as an instructor for this great event that introduces women to the sport of fishing. The day is split between a classroom education portion, a hands-on technique rigging session, and a couple hours on the water where anglers get to try their new skills, or brush up on existing ones. If you want to learn to fish, get some additional knowledge, and meet some great ladies to fish with, this seminar is the place to do it.

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A great group of ladies for this year’s Fishing 101 for Women seminar in Peterborough. Photo by Mathew Depew Photography & Designs

Last year’s seminar was a pretty spectacular experience, and I was looking forward to seeing more of the same this year. I arrived to find I wasn’t the first person at the Centre – Yvonne Brown (founder of Fishing 101 and a person who puts in so many volunteer hours making this program run that I don’t think she actually sleeps) had already arrived, as had one of the other instructors, Chris McDougall, and a few participants. The rain slowed a few people down, but they eventually trickled in and the other instructors, Rachel Moffatt and Leslie-Anne Dungog, came through the door. Only a handful of ladies were unable to make the day.

Yvonne began the seminar with the usual introductions. I loved hearing Yvonne share a bit more about her personal life, Rachel sharing a story about helping a young girl catch a big fish, Leslie talking about fishing with her son, and Chris speaking to her passion for the sport and getting more ladies involved with it. I feel sorry for those ladies that have come to multiple events and hear me give basically the same introduction – I’ll have to vary it up a bit!

The amazing instructors I was honored to spend time with. Photo by Mathew Depew Photography & Designs

The amazing instructors I was honored to spend time with. Photo by Mathew Depew Photography & Designs

One of the most interesting things about the Fishing 101 seminars is to watch as anglers progress and grow in the sport. Two of the instructors, Leslie and Chris, were participants at the event last year, and had grown comfortable enough to help other ladies learn to fish. Many participants return year after year, event after event, taking in information that they didn’t grasp the first time, sharing their growing skills, and bringing new questions to the table. I loved watching the ladies add their opinions about topics, and found it refreshing that everyone seemed comfortable enough to ask questions and seek clarification. Instead of one person lecturing, there was more of a discussion. The conversational ball was rolling better than most of my university professors could have dreamed of.

After watching Yvonne spend the whole morning talking without a break last year, I had offered to do some of the speaking (which honestly, is really doing me a favour since I love to gab about fishing-related topics). Luckily, for my aquatic biologist side, I was able to blab about fish ID for a bit. It was great fun to get up there and help people understand the difference between a pumpkinseed and a bluegill.

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I’m always blabbing. I think I was trying to convince the ladies to buy a great fish ID book. Photo by Mathew Depew Photography & Designs

The hands-on rigging session is a real strength of this program. Instead of handing participants an already rigged rod and sending them fishing, participants are shown how to attach the reel to the rod, run the line through the guides, set the drag, and how to tie knots. They are then shown how to rig a slip-float with a jighead, how to set a wacky rig, and how to texas-rig a senko. While they can choose any of these presentations to fish with, they can also cut the other ones off and keep them as a reference for when they go back home.

The rigging session is always entertaining as looks of concentration take over the faces of the instructors and participants alike. Laughter, frustration, and celebration when a knot finally works out, are common sights around the tables.

Fishing 101 for Women is blessed to have some incredible sponsors and thanks to them, the ladies all got to go home with something from the draw prize table – hats, buffs, shirts, rod gloves, and more. I should also mention here that Shimano donated rods and reels to the program that are much higher quality than what you would normally find in a learn-to-fish program. The ladies don’t know how spoiled they are.

Rain was beginning sprinkle once again as we headed to Little Lake in Peterborough to test out everyone’s new/improved skills. This is the time for new anglers to get casting instructions, and for everyone to ask questions. One of the best things about taking a group of women fishing is that they all just want to see others catching fish and having fun. Participants help each other out, taking on the roll of instructor as well as learner. I find that my role at these events is to not take things too seriously, just make sure everyone has a fun time and wants to go back out in the future.

While the fish were not overly cooperative on this outing, there were a few small ones willing to bite, and that made for plenty of hoots and hollers. It may have been wet out but everyone had a great time.

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Give Tracey a gold medal for teaching! She didn’t come as instructor but got one young lady absolutely hooked. Photo by Mathew Depew Photography & Designs

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Hanging out and having fun. Photo by Mathew Depew Photography & Designs

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Leslie giving some instructions. Photo by Mathew Depew Photography & Designs

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Small fish, big smile. Photo by Mathew Depew Photography & Designs

Participants started to splinter off from the group and head home. I left with my car full of Fishing 101 equipment that was needed for the next event, and still had to make a detour to pick-up some Black Copper Marans chicks I had arranged to buy (I managed to combine two of my passions into one day). Though it was a long, wet day, the enthusiasm of the participants and my fellow instructors made it yet another successful Fishing 101 for Women seminar. Please join us next year!

Big thanks to Mathew Depew of Mathew Depew Photography & Designs for again spending the day with us and capturing all the moments that make these events so great. Check out his work on his Facebook page.

Island Lake Crappie Fishing

There are days when you hit the lake with a plan in mind, only to change that plan when things don’t work quite as you hoped. Sometimes, that new plan works out even better.

Darrell and I made our first visit to Island Lake in Orangeville this season with the goal of catching some bass on the frog bite. Topwater bass action is one great way to get an adrenaline fix, and I had yet to get catch anything on my beloved Scum Frogs. Island Lake has often been a cure for that in the past.

However, as we worked along the usual areas, we realized we couldn’t see any bass, much less catch them. The lone bass we saw scurried away at the sight of the boat. Whether it was the heat, a slow recovery from a winter die-off, or poor fishing skills on that particular day, I do not know, but I quickly changed my mindset from one of targeting bass, to one of targeting panfish.

There were sunfish everywhere, so I picked up my ultralight combo and started toss to them. I landed a few and laughed at the fight they put up. If I ever get tired of catching sunfish, I should probably just give up fishing. We drifted by a log that looked to provide good cover and I cast to it. My lure was grabbed immediately, but to my absolute joy, I had caught a crappie, not a sunfish. That was pretty much it.

We have not yet found a lake near home with crappie in it, so I was jonesing for a crappie fix (seriously, I’m addicted to them). The boat drifted along some more and Darrell caught one, but the bites were few and far between.


It wasn’t just crappie and sunfish, the perch joined in too!

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Oh my darling crappie!


How I missed these guys.


A beautiful pumpkinseed.

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Yet another crappie.


Wonderful crappie!

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This one looked like it had tangled with something.

Darrell was reluctant to give up the search for bass, but once we found a good patch of pondweed, he finally gave up and we started the crappie search in earnest. As is so often the case, these wonderful little fish were suspended in the vegetation, staying out of the sun. The key was to find the right type of veg, sort through the sunfish and rock bass, and get to those schools of black crappie a little further below.

Simple jigs were the perfect lures, with both of us going to our standby Berkley Micro Power Nymphs. These things are seriously awesome for crappie. Once we found the right locations for the day, it was a matter of dropping the jig down, and pulling up a fish. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to fully describe why I love crappie so much, but I’m sure part of it is that they can be the most frustrating species to fish for. They are either completely off (even when you can find them), or completely on. On this day, they were completely on.

We caught several different sizes of crappie, indicating different year classes – always a welcomed sight. It started out with 20 fish, then 30, but the more we released, the more we caught. We had to have caught some of them twice, because our total count was over 100 crappie between the two us, with another 100 sunfish (pumpkinseed, bluegill, and apparent hybrids) and rock bass.

Catching big fish is great, but some days you just need to catch a whole pile of fish. Crappie usually give me that day. We didn’t catch any true slabs, but we also weren’t refining our technique to look for them. We just enjoyed the bite. As long as we had the right vegetation, the right depth, and the right presentation, we couldn’t keep them off.

It was impossible for the two of us to stop smiling that day. We may have set out to catch bass, but our old friends decided the day should be about them, and we couldn’t have been happier.