Get Ready For The Fall Pike Smashfest

When the leaves start changing colours and the temperatures start dropping, two thoughts run through my mind:

“Is trout season really almost over?” and

“Woohoo, toothy-critter time!”

pike fishing

Toothy-critter time!

In the past three years, the end of trout season reminds me that I did not hit the rivers near as often as I had planned. When we lived on a brook trout stream, I was out there every day. Now, it’s a bit of a drive to get to my favorite spots. As the end of September hurtles towards us, I always try to cram in a few more days with the brookies.

Yet, as trout season comes to a close, I am gearing up for one of the best times of the year to be on the water. With the cooler temperatures signaling the approach of winter, the pike start putting on the feed bag, and this can lead to some truly amazing days of fishing.

As this time of the year approaches, I start keying in on feeding flats with plenty of weed left. Last fall, Darrell and I were fishing in just such an area and happened to notice schools of minnows jumping out of the water. The minnows were being chased by pike, so we started casting into the schools and landed pike on almost every cast. It was fantastic.

pike fishing

While we don’t have many trophy-sized pike locally, the fall smashfest is too much fun to resist.

Not only are the pike abundant at this time of the year, but they are also extremely aggressive, allowing anglers to use power-fishing techniques, which is much more to my liking. Go-to baits at this time of the year are spinnerbaits and chatterbaits, anything with flash and vibration. In general, bigger spinnerbaits seem to help attract bigger fish. Crankbaits, especially lipless varieties, can pull in the fish when nothing else does. For even more fun, try tossing a topwater lure.

While white and chartreuse baits work through the spring and summer, adding some orange makes a huge difference on in the fall on my local lakes. Days where the fish seemed to be shut right down have taken dramatic turns when I finally toss out an orange spinnerbait.

Some of our go-to lures.

Some of our go-to lures.

A benefit of using spinnerbaits is that it saves your line from getting too many knicks as the knot is usually outside of the mouth. When targeting pike, don’t forget to check your line often, and retie if you find knicks. Some anglers prefer to use stainless steel or titanium leaders while targeting pike. I prefer to use a fluorocarbon leader as it’s invisible and can be tied directly to the lure.

Targeting pike in the fall can produce a memorable day on the water. There is little to compare with the smash of a hungry pike. My best days have left me with sore arms, shredded lures, the smell of pike emanating from the boat, and a permanent smile on my face. If you haven’t been out for pike before, the fall is the time to get out there and give it a go. Be prepared for the smashfest.

Making Time For Fishing

fishing

It’s easier to make time for fishing when you have a fishing buddy (or buddies).

I speak to a lot of people who express a desire to go fishing. During these conversations I usually hear something to the effect of, “I’d love to go fishing, but I just don’t have time.”

It’s true, time is a valuable commodity, and with all the demands of daily life, it can seem like an overwhelming task to find time for fishing. Over the past few years I have encountered this problem myself. Sometimes, I find that I have committed to too many other things and I have no choice but to go without fishing. However, there are many ways I’ve found to combat this over the years. Here are a few ways to make time for fishing.

Keep Some Gear with You

I often have a rod and small selection of tackle in my car. It’s usually a small, cheap rod that can be used for a variety of species and techniques, and a few common lures like inline spinners, crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and jigs. If I find myself driving by a lake or river with an open season (I always have a copy of the regs for my area), I might stop and take a few casts. I was on my way home from an appointment once and felt overwhelmed by everything. I hadn’t been fishing in days, but happened to be driving by my favorite lake and had a rod in the car. I spent 15 minutes there, casting and catching sunfish. Not only did I get my fishing fix, but I felt relaxed and ready to deal with life.

Invest in a Collapsible Rod

Collapsible rods make it possible to keep some gear with you in more places. Last summer I was in school and between classes, assignments, five hours of driving, and chores at home, I had very little time for fishing, even on weekends. After a few weeks of misery when I couldn’t find time to hit the water, I started packing my collapsible rod in my backpack. When I had a break between classes I would walk down to the river, or go for a short drive to other water bodies.

Have a Fishing Buddy

Having a fishing buddy means there is someone else who will remind you that you need to go fishing. I am lucky to have a live-in fishing buddy who is always ready to hit the water. When you feel like there are too many things on your plate and going fishing is the last thing you should do, your fishing buddy can remind you that hitting the water is a good thing. Sharing this activity with another person also makes you feel less guilty about putting other things on the backburner. Besides, getting fresh air and sunshine is more important than having a spotlessly clean house.

Keep it Simple

I enjoy all sorts of fishing, but some are easier to do in a short amount of time. I may want to hit up my favorite river with the fly rod and chase brookies, but that means making sure my waders are clean and going for a 45 minute drive. I may want to hit the big water and troll for big salmon and trout, but that involves a long drive, lots of money for gas, and a full day commitment. So when I’m struggling to make time for fishing, I usually choose a destination that is close to home, costs nothing to get into, and requires minimal gear. By keeping it simple, I get the most enjoyment out of my short time on the water.

Tie it in with Other Activities

It’s easier to go fishing if you tie it in with your other activities. Taking the dogs for a walk? Choose a destination where there is some water, pack a rod and some gear, and take a few casts along the way. Taking the kids to a splash pad? There are a lot of splash pads near lakes and rivers. Running into town for groceries? I have chosen the grocery store based on whether or not it’s near water so I can take a cast.

Fishing isn’t about spending all of your time on the water. While it’s great to be able to get away and spend the whole day fishing, it’s not always practical. By looking for options that fit into your day, you can get that fishing fix and have some fun. Be the person who always has a new fishing story.

Happy National Dog Day!

Thanks to Twitter, I discovered that today is National Dog Day. It is hard to imagine life without a dog. Before we brought Jack home, I went without a canine companion for a few months and it was awful. I enjoy coming home to these happy faces, and I love including them in our adventures.

Jack is our Australian shepherd. He is one of the smartest dogs I have ever met. When you talk to him, you can see him trying to piece things together. I swear he always knows exactly what I am asking him to do – sometimes he does it, often he chooses to ignore it. He will not make eye contact if he does not want to do something. If I tell him that Darrell should be home shortly, he will park himself at the sliding door and watch the driveway until he sees the truck. Jack also happens to be sneaky, athletic, afraid of thunderstorms, great with cats, and a total suck. He was like a magnet up in Owen Sound last weekend, with several people wanting to look at him, pat him, and talk about him. Jack loves fishing, but more than anything, he loves Darrell.

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One of my favorite pictures. We took him for a walk and he started running all over the place, taking the giant logs in stride.

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The cats love to cuddle with Jack.

australian shepherd

He is always watching something.

Molly is a setter mixed with border collie and any number of other breeds. We adopted her at six months old, from a single parent family that loved her very much, but did not have the space or finances to look after her. I was warned that she had been abused as a young puppy, and to this day you can still see her hesitate around some people. She loves children. While Jack is the dog that runs away from kids and prefers to play with other dogs, Molly is the one that pulls us towards kids and sits patiently while they pet her. Fishing is a tolerable activity as far as Molly is concerned, but jumping out of the boat and getting wet is even better. Chasing birds is what she lives for, and walking in a straight line is not for her. When she is unsure about something, Molly runs to me and won`t leave my side.

dog

Molly is never far from Jack.

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It is impossible for me to sit down without having Molly come over. I love her for it.

dog

If reincarnation is real, I want to be this happy dog in a second life.

So Happy National Dog Day to our pooches. Maybe they will get a treat with dinner.

Please share some stories about your dogs!

Opening Weekend At The Salmon Spectacular

The opening weekend of the 2014 Owen Sound Salmon Spectacular was an adventure for Darrell and I. It began on Friday night, with the mad rush of packing the boat and making sure we had everything we would need for us and the two dogs. Having a boat big enough to store all the gear in was a nice change, but it also represented a learning opportunity in trying to figure out where everything should go. I left that in the hands of the master packer, as Darrell manages to pack things with a Tetris-like precision.

Never before have I willingly jumped out of bed to a 2AM alarm, but somehow I was up and ready to go first thing Saturday morning. The dogs were too sleepy to even ask for breakfast.

We arrived at Georgian Shores Marina in Owen Sound around 5AM and quickly got the boat in the water. Boats were already lining up at the ramp, waiting for their chance to launch. One angler I spoke to was down from Thunder Bay to fish the derby with family. It just goes to show what a reach this event has.

If I had to choose one word to describe Saturday morning, it would be “fog”. Lots and lots of fog. It was so dense that it was easier to hear a boat near you than to see it. By using the compass, fish finder, GPS, and Navionics app on my phone, Darrell was able to keep us on course and out of trouble. I was nervous as heck.

salmon spectacular

So foggy.

boat

I’m always glad to have a capable captain when I don’t feel comfortable driving.

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Jack found his favorite spot.

dog

And Molly found her favorite spot.

We spent much of that morning getting used to fishing out of the boat; figuring out how she handled, working out a routine for putting down the kicker motor, getting used to the electric down riggers (I never want to go back to manual riggers), and learning how to work around the dogs.

We didn’t catch any fish that morning, but we marked several and got used to being back out in the big water. We heard jubilant shouts travelling through the fog, so we assumed other boats were having some luck.

Puling lines, we ran back in for lunch and enjoyed the convenience of having a slip in the marina. There’s something to be said for being able to dock the boat and have a nap. I also enjoyed having a real bathroom available to use, instead of having to use the porta potties at the big tent (although they are kept remarkably clean).

The wind had picked up through the afternoon, creating a very choppy lake. In the 12ft tinny, we would not have gone back out, but in the big boat, it seemed worth it. The boat handled the waves just fine; my head and stomach did not. We were only out for about an hour before one of the dogs had been sick and I was leaning over the side of the boat as a precaution. I haven’t been sea sick in some time, but I sure suffered on that trip. Seeing no other choice, Darrell took us back in and I spent the rest of the night sleeping.

salmon spectacular

Sunday was a much nicer morning.

My Sunday morning started early when I woke up at 2AM. Waking up on my own boat was thrilling experience, but the lingering effects from the day before reminded me to move slowly. We got organized and were out fishing by 3AM. The morning was a beautiful one with clear visibility and just a bit of a chill. With far fewer boats on the water, we took advantage of the space to work a highly productive area. Again, we marked a lot of fish, but we couldn’t convince them to bite. We changed lures, worked different trolling speeds, and tried different directions. Nothing. Once the rest of the flotilla showed up around 6AM, we decided to troll further out and see what we could find.

With the sun up and in 140 FOW, we changed our setups once again. This time, it worked. Darrell’s rod started pounding like I’d never seen it go before. Resisting the urge to jump out of my chair, I let him grab it. For a couple of minutes he fought the fish, even having it peel some line, then I heard the “Ugh!”. The fish threw the hooks and was gone. Too bad, because it sure put on a show like a nice big fish.

After seeing a salmon feeding on the surface, I changed my setup and used a planer board. It seemed like a decent idea, but the fish didn’t agree, so I switched back to the rig I had down when Darrell hooked his fish. The big flashy dodger I had down seemed to bring the fish in, but they preferred chomping on Darrell’s orange spoon. Now in 200 FOW, Darrell’s rod once again fired, and I didn’t hesitate to leap for it. A rainbow trout was my reward. It was nice to christen the boat with a fish, and I loved all the fighting room I had. After a quick picture, I released the fish since it wasn’t near big enough to make the leaderboard.

salmon spectacular

Love these little guys.

Our weekend ended a little while later as we pulled the boat out and headed for home. The dogs had adjusted well to life on the boat and were experts at jumping in and out of it. I enjoyed having the cuddy to lock them in when we were getting gas or loading the boat.

We spoke to several other anglers who found the fishing to be slow. It often seems that way during this derby. The locals mentioned that the fishing had been on fire last week, but that the fish seem to know when the derby starts and they get tight-lipped. With that many lines in the water, it’s easy to see why. Nonetheless, everyone we spoke to enjoyed being part of the event. We all like being out there and wasting gas money. It makes it that much more enjoyable when you actually figure it out and get into some fish.

We’re back home for a few days, but I can’t wait to get back up there. If you haven’t yet bought yourself a ticket, there’s still time to do so, just get it the day before you plan to fish. The Owen Sound Salmon Spectacular is a blast.