April 13, 2018

Early Season Tench!

No real reason to write a whole blog post about this, but I just can't get over how pretty these fish are! I almost decided not to go as I couldn't find a partner and just wasn't feeling motivated. Last minute, I asked Alex if she would like to go after work, she said yes and so we drove up the Richelieu to the historic canal in St-Ours.

We were stressed for time and only had about an hour and a half before it got dark, but Alex got the 1st bite within what felt like 5 minutes! She had 2 Tench on her pickerel rig at the same time, a "double-lifer" as it were. Super happy for her, these fish are stunning. We weren't expecting Tench at all, so it was sort of bittersweet to be catching these invasives so far away from their native range in Europe. Here's a few of the pics we took :)

Alex with her "double-lifer"!
My personal best Tench
Their eyes are incredible!

Bonus: Recently found an armchair lifer hiding in my iNaturalist observations. Apparently what I thought was a regular old Crevalle Jack is instead a brand new Florida Pompano. Thanks to user pmk00001 for the original ID and to Kenneth Tse for the confirmation.
Species #125!

February 20, 2018

Saguenay 2018

Having tried most of the different types of ice fishing around Montreal, fishing the Fjord Saguenay is one of the last places offering me any real chance of catching new species on ice. Although it can be a difficult fishery, the diversity is simply astounding! Needless to say, I was very excited to make the 5 hour drive northwest to the town of La Baie on the shore of the only fjord in Quebec :)


Fellow lifelister Michael Verdirame was going to be joining Alex and I on this trip so we planned to meet at the first spot: Anse a Benjamin. As a matter of fact, I somehow managed to recognize Michael from his Facebook pictures when he passed us earlier that morning on the 20! My goal at the first spot was to get my lifer Greenland Cod, so I set up in "shallow" water in accordance with the advice given to me by some friends I had spoken with online. That being said, "shallow" for the Fjord was about 80'! Alas, the Greenland Cod was not to be and here I caught my only fish of the trip; a small Acadian Rockfish (Sébaste in Fench).


I had already caught one the year prior so this wasn't a lifer but it was still cool to see one of these creatures of the depths. It was shortly after this capture that my friend Francois, who was fishing a different area of the Fjord, sent me this picture of an epic species his friend caught; an Arctic Cod (Morue Saiga in French). That fish just looks so badass, I need to catch one!!


After a relatively long afternoon with only one Sébaste for me and another for Michael, we packed up our gear and headed into town for supper. A classic Québécois meal consisting of poutine, steamies, and fries at the Cantine Boivin seemed fitting and was an excellent reward after the day's adventure. We also got to see the poor waitress-in-training struggle with Michael's English as he ordered; we taught him how to pronounce "poutine" properly shortly thereafter.

Next stop was Anse St-Jean, where we had reserved an ice cabin for the night to serve as both a fishing location and a place to sleep. As we waited for the owner to come meet us, I witnessed a real drunk driver for the first time. This young couple in their off-road Jeep were clearly on something and proceeded to drive in circles aimlessly. They nearly backed into my car, and also almost hit Michael. Didn't take me long to decide to park my car a little further down the road out of self-preservation.

Shortly after, the owner of the cabin found us and explained that the ice road to the village was too rough for my Matrix but that Michael's 4Runner would make it just fine. Therefore, Alex and I got an exhilarating ride in his side-by-side as Micheal struggled to keep up behind us. Arriving at the cabin, we were pleasantly surprised to find it in excellent condition; we didn't even wear shoes inside! Unfortunately, we caught nothing in the cabin other than this Snow Crab.


We fished until 12:30 at night and then went to bed in preparation for Day 2 back at La Baie. The next morning we drove to the spot and walked out to about 300' of water. Alex still hadn't caught a single fish at this point so was starting to get restless. Thankfully, the fish gods smiled upon her and she caught her #1 target for the trip in the last half-hour of fishing! Refusing to settle for catching a juvenile using micro techniques, she was determined to catch a decent Sébaste and she finally succeeded :)


Despite the lack of fish, this region always has me wanting to return as soon as I get home. The potential of new species, the kindness of the people, and the beauty of the environment makes this one of my favourite regions of Quebec.


February 19, 2018

Early Winter 2017

Finally deciding to write this post because the poor ice conditions this year are preventing me from getting to my usual mid-late winter spots. I need something to look back on! This post basically summarizes my fishing in the month of December up until I left for North Carolina as seen in the previous post.

After enduring that horrible time of the year between regular and ice fishing seasons, cabin fever had set in and everyone was very anxious to get out on the ice. Day 1 ended up being on Dec. 15th, we were out as soon as we could find a solid 3" of black ice. Fair warning to all, I don't suggest going out on thin ice unless you know the necessary precautions to take. This 1st day I went out with Alex and Carl and we all got into some nice 11-13" Crappie. Highlight was Alex catching her lifer Crappie of course :)
























The next day I went back out with Carl to check out some abandoned quarries that he had been eyeing on Google Maps. Unfortunately, they were filled with tiny perch :p Check out the amount of fish on my sonar in the picture below. They day after I explored a new lake with another friend and found huge population of White Perch!























If I remember correctly, I took the next day off and then went to a Bluegill spot with Alex the next day. She caught a giant, one of the biggest I've seen out of Quebec! It also turned out that there was a hot Crappie bite at the spot, I had almost never seen them here before.






















This is starting to get a bit long so I'll just summarize two more days in this paragraph; there were other nice Crappie and Bluegill days that I'll omit in the interest of brevity. One of the more memorable days was when Francois came to visit from Quebec City for his first ice fishing experience and also a shot at his lifer Black Crappie. He succeeded, albeit a small one haha. I also met another new friend the next day at the Longueuil marina. We started talking on iNaturalist so it was nice to meet another person with similar interests. Ali also came down from the Townships and we caught a couple of nice Pike and Perch :)
Francois' Crappie

January 07, 2018

North Carolina 2017-2018

In early December I was given the opportunity to join my girlfriend's family on their annual Christmas trip to North Carolina. Of course, I jumped on the offer to get to spend some time with them as well as hopefully catch a few new species ;) It was also nice to get away from the Canadian winter, although the South was unusually cold this season.

Given the "cold" temperatures, the fishing was quite difficult. That being said, I still managed to find a lot of new species and got to try out some new equipment I received as Christmas presents. Namely, a new photo tank and a Peterson's guide. Ended up with a grand total of 20 lifers; 11 of which were on hook & line! I even had to break ice to catch some of them given night temperatures dropping to almost -10C.

Because this was more of a family trip and not an adventuring one, I'll simply list the fish caught instead of telling the story chronologically. Besides fishing, I got to try playing disc golf for the first time and enjoyed some Southern food and culture. Thank you to my girlfriend's grandparents for hosting us and to her grandfather for lending me his truck to go explore new streams!

Eastern Mosquitofish:












I believe this is the smallest species I've caught so far; was very happy to catch one before I realized that they were absolutely everywhere!

Fantail Darter:












EDIT: Wrong again, turns out this is a Fantail Darter!

Redlip Shiner:












First cyprinid of the trip, and in my opinion the most beautiful I've ever caught. Those red fins are absolutely stunning! Wish I could keep some in my aquariums at home...

Whitemouth Shiner:












Apparently this one can be quite frustrating to find so I'm glad to have caught it in my new dipnet.

Bluehead Chub:












Another pretty common species, it was cool to catch my first Nocomis! I would love to see a spawning male with the obvious blue head.

Creek Chubsucker:












It seems I'm very lucky to have caught this fish on hook & line, they're not supposed to go for bait too often. Getting it to bite wasn't even that difficult; it went right for a small chunk of worm. Sometimes fish are weird haha!

Satinfin Shiner:












Finally, my first Cyprinella species!

Margined Madtom:












This one was very high on my list of fish I wanted to catch in NC as it is quite rare in QC. Kinda disappointed I didn't get any decent picturess of it though :/

Highfin Shiner:












These guys were very common most places I explored.

Swamp Darter:












I love the way darters look in the photo tank, nothing special to say about this guy though.

Waccamaw Silverside:












Pretty sure this is the rarest fish I've ever caught, it is only found in one lake in the world! (Lake Waccamaw)

Piedmont Darter:












In my opinion, this is the best picture in my new photo tank. This guy doesn't look quite like most Piedmont Darters but there aren't any other similar species in the area.

Brassy Jumprock:












Biggest fish of the trip, was hoping to catch some Smallmouth Buffalo but the cold weather shut that bite down.

Sandbar Shiner:












These guys schooled in huge numbers and were very aggressive.

Whitefin Shiner:












Difficult to get a 100% ID on this guy but we believe C. nivea is most likely. There is also the chance of it being a Greenfin Shiner.

Pirate-perch:












One of the cooler fish I caught, almost looked like it belonged in a cave or something. I caught it in a tunnel under a highway so that was kind of fitting :)

Rosyside Dace:












This may be the least rosy Rosyside Dace ever, I was unfortunate to not have caught one with the bright red slash on its side. Still neat-looking!

Redbreast Sunfish:












So these are supposed to be one of the most common Lepomis in the streams where I was fishing but it took me forever to catch one! Really happy to have this beautiful specimen though :)

Green Sunfish:












This was one of the other species I really wanted to catch. I just think they're so cool with their big mouths; they look like a cross between a bass and a sunfish. These have been found in the Richelieu river but not in any targetable quantity as far as I know.

Flat Bullhead:












The final species of the trip and the first of 2018! Always fun to catch new Ictalurids :)


Overall, this was a great trip and I can't wait to get back and explore more areas of the state, hopefully in warmer weather! Big thanks to all of the members of the NANFA Facebook group that helped me identify many of these species, it would have been impossible for me otherwise. There are simply too many species different from the ones I'm used to. A special thanks to Tim Aldridge who showed me a lot of cool spots to try around the state!

December 04, 2017

James Bay 2017

I am writing about this trip even though it's been over 5 months since we returned because it was such a great experience and I want to have something to look back on other than the pictures taken. This trip took Carl and I nearly 2 years to plan so I was obviously very excited to head north when the time came. Unfortunately, upon receiving his schedule in June, Carl was unable to get the vacation time and so would not be able to make the trip :o After scrambling to find a replacement for a couple days, someone finally responded that they wanted to come! A huge shout-out and thank you to my friend Jason for rearranging his schedule to be able to make the trip; he even missed his final math exam!

The plan was to head north, far north... to the James Bay region of northern Quebec. We would be travelling over 1200km north to where the "Route de la Baie James" meets the Transtaiga road, then nearly 700km east on gravel. This final destination, the Digue Duvernay, represents the furthest point away from civilization one can attain in North America by car. In fact, the nearest town, Radisson, is 740km away. For this reason, it is critical that you plan ahead and think of everything; a seemingly small malfunction can get very costly very quick in remote regions such as these. We brought a satellite phone, GPS, extra spare tires for both car and trailer, tire repair kit, extra gas, spare bearings, and a whole lot more!

A little backstory on the region: The only reason roads exist this far north is because of Hydro Quebec's many dams and the infrastructure required to maintain them. Besides their workers, we only saw other fishermen over the entirety of the Transtaiga. In fact, it is the Hydro reservoirs in which we would be fishing. I've attached some maps to help situate things a little better:

REALLY Far North!
The Transtaiga










Note: This is not meant to be a guide on how to prepare for such an adventure in any way; do your own research and plan accordingly. That being said, I strongly suggest "signing in" when you reach the start of the Route de la Baie James; where you will be given a map of the area as well as important local information.

"Road Isolated on 375km"

That 375km point is just an area to get gas, food, and rest. Much of this area is occupied by the Cree, so most people you meet will speak English. I highly recommend stopping at every viewpoint suggested on the map, there aren't that many and all are breathtaking. A highlight was definitely the rapids of the Rupert River, the largest I had ever seen!

The Mighty Rupert River

We also stopped to do a short bit of fishing on the Rupert and take a break from driving. I managed to catch the first fish of the trip, a nice Northern Pike!

1st Fish of the Trip!

Fishing the Transtaiga essentially consists of fishing the different Hydro reservoirs that run along the road. They were all created by the damming of the La Grande river in the 70's. In order, they are named: LG2, LG3, LG4, LaForge1, LaForge2, and Caniapiscau. The ones further west mainly hold Walleye and Pike, and these turn to Lake and Speckled Trout as you head east.

Our plan was to drive to the end of the road (literally), and then fish our way back. We fished the many small streams that crossed the road along the way, and were rewarded with some beautiful Speckled Trout, small pike, and a new species! I caught my first Lake Whitefish under Jason's expert fly fishing guidance; this was a very important capture to me as it was the final Quebec sportfish I had yet to capture.

New Species!!


Our first "real" stop was at the Duvernay dyke; getting there was not easy! Thankfully, only one flat tire on the car and one lost bolt on the trailer and we made it to the end. Jason was very excited to fish this area as he had never caught any Lake Trout over a few pounds and this was one of the bodies of water known to hold the largest in QC. His hard work was rewarded and he caught 2 lakers nearing the 10lb mark! I unfortunately caught none and we left quickly due to extreme weather conditions.

Jason's Biggest Lake Trout!
Typical Northern "Boat Ramp"




The next day, we made our way to "Brisay", the hydroelectric dam forming the reservoir where Jason had caught his trout the day before. We decided to fish from shore after reading large signs warning of strong, unpredictable currents. Here I caught my first Lake Trout of the trip, not a trophy, but it still felt very special to be catching fish in such a remote location :)


The next few days kind of went by in a blur as isolation started to set in and our level of  malnourishment increased. The combination of bad weather and fatigue was preventing us from cooking proper meals so we were essentially surviving on protein bars and Gatorade. Note that Jason has never been on this sort of trip before, so one this far away from home was a rude awakening. At one point we even started listing all of his new "records" from the trip: furthest north, biggest Lake Trout, most teepees seen, 1st time meeting Cree Amerindians, etc.

Of course, we were still catching fish the whole time :) After having fished Caniapiscau, Brisay, and LG3; the Sakami River on LG2 was to be our last fishing spot. And what a way to end the trip! My girlfriend's dad had given me some spots on the river and they sure panned out. We were on a hot Walleye bite and were catching fish on just about every drop of the jig.
























After catching a ridiculous amount of Walleye, we were feeling quite satisfied with our fish excursions and got ready to make the trip home. In the end, we made it back and only had one punctured tire on the car. My boat and trailer, on the other hand, did not fare so well. One tire exploded, both mudguards fell off, many bolts were lost so the frame was weakening, and all the benches in the boat had ripped off. Once home, I made the decision to bring the boat/trailer to a welding shop as the extent of the damage was more than I had time to fix on my own. $300 later and my rig was as good as new :)

This trip was one of the best experiences of my life and I am very proud that I was able to overcome the many challenges presented throughout. I also want to thank Jason for putting up with me and trusting me to get us home safely. With that, I'll leave you with some pictures of the scenery we were rewarded with on our adventure:





Tight lines, folks!