September 05, 2018

Exploring the Maritimes - Day 6

Day 6 May 25th – Heading Home

We woke up to a loud, incessant clanging sound. Confused, we got out of the car and investigated to find the source of the noise. It was a woodpecker that had decided that a metal trail sign would perhaps contain some delicious grubs lol.

Turn out we had set up camp in the wrong area, likely due to our exhausted state the night before as well as confusing signs. We wanted to hike to the “Grotte des Fées” which translates to “Fairy Grotto”. It didn’t take us long to reorient ourselves and we soon made our way up the trail. The grotto was a pretty cool sight and we were glad we made the stop; it was nice to get off the beaten path.

That hike concluded our planned activities for the trip, so we prepared to make the rest of the drive home to Montreal. We drove along the 132 and enjoyed views of the Gulf of the St-Lawrence for a good part of the way home J

Exploring the Maritimes - Day 5

May 24th – Deception & Exhaustion

Day 5 began with a visit to Kouchibouguac National Park, where we would finally get to take a shower! Since it was the first shower of the trip, it was an incredible morale booster to finally feel clean. Despite being in a relatively uninteresting location compared to the national parks out west or even in Cape Breton, Kouchibouguac had a large beach and a cool saltwater marsh. This latter area particularly interested me as I had some intel that it contained the 2 remaining Sticklebacks that I needed to complete my slam. We ate lunch on the boardwalk that crosses over the marsh before I set up to catch some micros. I could see large schools of something small below us so I was excited to get started. The fish I was seeing ended up all being Mummichog, but I was noticing some smaller, more discrete fish darting in and out of the kelp. They were Stickleback! I caught many of them, but did not have a field guide so was unsure as to whether they were Threespines or the Blackspotteds I was looking for. After a good amount of tanago fishing, I switched to my dipnet and succeeded in catching a consolation Fourspine Stickleback! On the way out of the park, we stopped to use the internet and I confirmed that I had caught a Blackspotted Stickleback! Slam complete.

Leaving the park, we drove to our next destination: the Miramichi River. The plan was to stop at an Acadian restaurant for lunch on the way and sample some of the traditional cuisine. To our dismay, the restaurant we had selected was closed permanently L After looking around a bit, we gave up and continued on our way to the supposed Striped Bass paradise.

Arriving in Miramichi, we were simultaneously amazed and dismayed to see at least 200 boats on the river in front of us :o It was the day before the annual Striper Cup so there were many anglers prefishing. With stories of 600 fish days and non-stop action, we were getting antsy to cast a line in the water. Armed with 50lb braid and heavy swimbaits, we launched our lures as far as we could into the strong current of the river. Unfortunately, I was having an issue with my reel where the bail would snap shut if I made powerful casts. This led to me quickly losing all of the expensive baits I had bought specifically for Stripers. The day did not pan out as expected; the bite was off. We fished for hours without seeing a fish or getting a single hit; other fishermen we met on the bank told similar stories. After trying every spot I had researched, we were losing hope so gave up and made PB&J’s. Before leaving, we tried one last Hail Mary spot located on a rocky shoal where we could wade a good distance out into the river. It payed off! First cast and I had a fish on! Same for Alex! We were getting hits and/or catching fish every cast. We ended up catching about 50 Striped Bass total, even after the tails on our last swimbaits had been ripped off by the aggressive fish.

The sun had set while we were catching fish so we made our way back to the car before it got too dark to find our way. We then gunned it to make some headway back towards home. Alex did the bulk of the driving and kept us on the road until 2AM despite bad driving conditions. We made camp down a rough road into crown land.

Exploring the Maritimes - Day 4

May 23rd – PEI

Day 4 was dedicated to visiting Prince Edward Island. Therefore, the day started with crossing the Confederation Bridge: a 13km long bridge connecting PEI to the rest of Canada. It was quite an impressive structure although we weren’t looking forward to paying the $50 toll on the way back out XD Upon arriving on the island, we soon noticed that there was red dirt everywhere: roads, fields, cliffs, etc. We also enjoyed seeing the houses which were painted with bright colours such as turquoise, pink, and orange.

Our first stop was at a small village called Victoria-by-the-Sea. Honestly, it was quite disappointing; it looked much better in pictures on the internet. One nice thing about PEI is that everything is very close together, so messing with our itinerary was not an issue. In fact, we never drove more than an hour at a time :p So we headed to North Rustico, an area where Ken said I would have a shot at a Blackspotted Stickleback. I fished for an hour but could only find Threespines and Mummichog, the Blackspotteds were nowhere to be found.

We drove along the Coastal Scenic Parkway in order to get a good view of the famous red cliffs as we headed to our next destination. Along with Thunder Cove Beach, we thought it offered the best views of the cliffs so it was well worth the drive.

The next stop was a visit to the Anne of Green Gables house, I had no idea who she was but it was a must-see for Alex. Apparently, it’s a very famous Canadian story that I was somehow oblivious of. It seemed like a pretty standard house to me but it did have this useful fireplace without a place for a fire LOL.

Our final stop on the island was to eat dinner at the Chip Shack in downtown Charlottetown. It ended up being the highlight of our quick tour of the province. The lady who runs the place is super outgoing and enthusiastic; it seemed impossible to not have a good conversation with her! The food was delicious; I had a lobster roll while Alex enjoyed fish and chips.

Exploring the Maritimes - Day 3

May 22nd – Saltwater Species
We woke up to an amazing sunrise over the white sand beach; it was beautiful. Alex went to explore the beach and see some seals while I packed up the car for the day.

The next activity of the day was a hike down to the Kejimkujik National Seashore. We saw deer, rabbits, and seals, but overall we were unimpressed with this Oceanside area. Carter’s Beach is only 10 minutes away and is much nicer.

We then made the 2-hour drive to Peggy’s Cove, one of the more popular tourist attractions in NS. We understood why: it was exactly what you’d expect a small Maritime fishing village to look like. Large boulders worn smooth by the pounding of waves, and a protected harbour with lobster boats waiting to be taken out to check traps. To top it all off, a majestic lighthouse sat on the highest point of the outcrop, allowing for some awesome photo opps. Alex took the opportunity to send a postcard back home; apparently the lighthouse doubles as a post office.

I also tried a little bit of fishing in the harbour, but only found juvenile Atlantic Cod (EDIT: Haddock), a species I had previously caught in Massachusetts and Saguenay.

Today was going to be the only day I would target fully saltwater species. My friend Kenneth Tse had given me a spot at a pier nearby where I should have a good shot at Cunner, Shorthorn Sculpin, and Longhorn Sculpin. Alex dropped me off at the spot and we parted ways because she wanted to go explore Halifax. I didn’t have any regular saltwater bait so I just fished with nightcrawlers on a pickerel rig. It didn’t take long to catch a Cunner; they usually found the bait within 10 seconds as long as you kept it close to the bottom and near the pillars of the pier.

After checking Cunner off the list, I tried casting further out to see if I could catch either Sculpin species or whatever else happened to be swimming by. It took a couple hours of dragging my rig slowly along the bottom before I had my first solid hit! A short fight later and I was looking at my lifer Longhorn Sculpin, what a crazy looking fish! Many of my friends described it as a dragon-fish; I have to agree given its crazy shape and large spines. I’m still not sure if these guys are venomous or not…

I kept casting in hopes of getting lucky and hooking a Shorthorn, but just couldn’t get away from the Longhorns. Finally, I felt a smaller tap and dragged in what I expected to be yet another Cunner. What came up over the side of the pier initially looked like a smaller Longhorn but upon closer investigation was my lifer Shorthorn Sculpin J

A couple hours of fishing later and Alex came back to pick me up. Our next destination was Fort Beausejour, which we planned to explore before heading to a nearby camping spot. BTW, I used “” to find most of camping spots this trip, we only spent $70 in accommodations for all 6 weeks of travelling. We got gas and washed our hair at a gas station before driving into the fort. It was pretty cool to see overall; much of it was what you’d expect an old fort to look like, but it did have a good view over the Bay of Fundy.

Exploring the Maritimes - Day 2

May 21st – Change of Plans

The original plan for Day 2 was to travel south into NS and down to Kejimkujik National Seashore. However, upon checking the weather and realizing that it was one of our last days with clear weather, we decided that it would be a good time to go check out Cape Breton and its incredible views. The drive around the cape was longer than expected and took a majority of the day to complete. I did a little bit of micro-fishing but we mainly focused on being tourists and taking advantage of the views and good weather. Cape Breton is incredible! The road hugs the outer edge of the island and winds its way up and down steep hills that plunge down into the Atlantic. The different viewpoints were almost all worth stopping for and offered vantage points over a deep turquoise ocean. The contrast of the turquoise with the rich green of the rolling hills creates a beautiful setting that definitely makes this one of the most picturesque areas in Canada. We enjoyed having lunch at Lakies Head and watching the waves crash onto smooth granite as the lobster boats drove by in the distance.

This day also marked the first time Alex and I had the opportunity to hear Acadian French; we were confused when we heard what sounded like an Anglophone trying to host a French radio station. Alex described the accent as “a weird mix of Quebec and France French spoken through the voice of a Canadian English person.”

We ended the day by gunning it all the way to Carter’s Beach at the other end of the province, where we made our camp for the night.

Exploring the Maritimes - Day 1

May 20th – Lifers Already!

5:00 AM wake-up and we were on the road to begin the first leg of our journey across the continent. We had just about a week to explore the three closer Maritime Provinces: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. The drive over to NB was about 8 hours long so we appreciated being able to switch drivers.

First stop of the journey was to a set of rapids on the Oromocto River to see if we could get into some Alewife and maybe Blueback Herring. Upon arriving, we spied a few families fishing in the fast water using dipnets, a very good sign! We hurried to the river and it didn’t take us long to realize that it was teeming with fish! It proved difficult to get them to take a hook but eventually we both succeeded in landing some, our first lifers of the trip.

Next, we drove down some back-roads to get to a small creek that I had heard was supposed to have a good population of Slimy Sculpin. Most micros don’t interest Alex very much so she stayed in the car while I made the quick trek through some thick woods. The water was incredibly clear and I quickly found some sculpin laying right on the current seam. A short bit of fishing with a small worm and another lifer was mine! Driving out of this area was not as easy as catching the fish though. The route Google Maps suggested took us down what was little more than a trail, with large rocks, small stream crossings, and ruts. I wasn’t too happy to give the Matrix a beating this early in the trip.

After successfully navigating the “road”, we made our way to Hopewell Rocks to see the famous flowerpot formations. The natural sculptures were cool, but the Stickleback and Topminnows in the surrounding marshes were even cooler! One of my big goals was to catch the remaining 4 species of Stickleback in eastern Canada that I had yet to encounter. I’m happy to say that the Hopewell Rocks tidal marshes provided me with some beautiful male Threespine Stickleback, as well as a Mummichog (little did I know Mummichog would be found everywhere).

After a long day, we drove to our home for the night: a nice campground called The Shire. It’s a free area to spend a few nights and is run by an older gentleman by the name of Don. He only asks that you walk across the road to greet him and sign-in before spending the night. Apparently, he’s been doing this for a good 20 years; I was amazed by his generosity. The area had a sort of hippie-era feel with lawn sculptures, VW buses, and a communal eating area. To my delight, it was also home to some Ninespine Stickleback which I found in the marshy area behind the campsite J

Fishing Virginia, DC, & New Jersey - Day 4

August 25th – New Jersey & Neverending Traffic

After the late night, we slept in a little bit and rose at 8:00AM. Then we drove out to the coast to a spot near Tom’s River where I wanted to try dipnetting for a whole panoply of saltwater species. Unfortunately, it seemed like none of them were to be found. All I caught were some Mummichog and this Inland Silverside.

Leaving Tom’s River, we continued our route north along the coast to an inlet at Point Pleasant. The amount of people going to the beach that day was insane, we were starting to regret sleeping in. I fished from the rocks for a while but the action wasn’t very hot. I was looking for Searobin but all I caught was a Cunner in the rocks.

After a while longer of casting I felt a tap out in the middle of the inlet and reeled in my first Summer Flounder! They have such beautiful patterns.

After about 2hrs of fishing, we gave up our parking spot and continued on our way to the Shark River Inlet. The tide had slowed down by this point and it seemed like no fish were being caught during the time I was there.

Final destination on the coast was Sandy Hook. We paid the $15 fee to access the park, it’s well worth it when you don’t have to pay for parking and also helps to avoid the crazy crowds at the public beaches. Upon entering the park, I noticed some shallow tidal pools that seemed fishy so I crossed the highway to go check them out. They were full of a ridiculous amount of Mummichog, I netted one Striped Killifish but knew I would never be able to get one on H&L because of all the ‘chogs.

We drove all the way up the point and were surprised to see some abandoned building and some old missiles/cannons. Apparently Sandy Hook has been used for military reasons, wish I had taken pictures of it. We stopped at the “fishing beach” where we would be spending the day before making the long drive home. I waited for hours with my bait in the surf but didn’t catch anything. I saw one person catch a Searobin… very jealous lol.

That unsuccessful attempt at Sandy Hook was the end of a very successful trip down into the US; I caught 10 lifers on hook and line in 4 short days. Final total is: Satinfin Shiner, Pirate-Perch, White Catfish, Longear Sunfish, Blue Catfish, Mud Sunfish, Banded Sunfish, Bluespotted Sunfish, Blackbanded Sunfish, Summer Flounder. Big shoutout to everyone who helped me plan this trip, I could never have caught all of these fish without help.

The drive home was brutal, NYC traffic killed us and we only rolled in at 4AM.

Fishing Virginia, DC, & New Jersey - Day 3

August 24th – Sunfish Slamming

I woke up early to have some time to fish in the nearby pond which was supposed to have Redear Sunfish. It took me a while before I found any fish at all, but when I did they all turned out to be Bluegill. I kept one for bait but otherwise failed the Redear mission.

We drove back into DC where we were going to try a little more Snakehed fishing. It was high on both our lists so we wanted to make at least a small effort even if our chances were slim. Unfortunately, the spot we had planned to fish had a construction yard blocking the access. So we gave up and went to a Blue Catfish spot.

We cast out two lines each baited with the cut Bluegill I caught that morning. It didn’t take long before we had our first run… man these fish hit hard. Unfortunately the fish dropped the bait but almost instantly the second rod went off! I set the hook and knew I was into something sizeable. In the excitement of fighting the fish, the first rod started being dragged into the water again, Alex set the hook but unfortunately ended up snagged. I finally landed the fish and was super happy to lift up my lifer Blue Catfish! It also had a pretty cool whisker mutation, kind of like split hairs.

The bites went on like this for a while until the tide slowed down. The action was insane but our hookup ratio was terrible, I was unused to cutbait so think I had cut it too thick and it was stopping the hook from catching on anything. It probably took 10+ missed runs before Alex landed one of her own as well.

Satisfied with our afternoon of catfishing, we made our way up to Philly. Guess what, traffic was terrible here too, the drive took over 4hrs. Alex wanted to visit a harbour park but it was impossible to find parking cheapr than $17US :o No way were we about to pay that, so I dropped her off and did a quick check-up on my car while I waited. We also had the mandatory Philly cheesesteak, they’re pretty good.

Leaving Philly presented us with surprisingly little traffic, so we made good time as we headed to the New Jersey Pine Barrens for some very special species. It was dark by the time we arrived, and I wasn’t sure how that would affect my targets. As it turns out, it couldn’t have turned out better. The Mud Sunfish I wanted were crazy aggressive and it didn’t take long to land my first one!

Next up were the 3 “micro-sunfish” of the Enneacanthus genus. I was seeing small Sunfish all around but it took a little time before I was able to differentiate the species with my headlamp. I located a number of Banded Sunfish and lifted up my first one in no time!

The Bluespots took a little more time to find. Probably about 20 minutes later I gave up and tried going for what I figured was another Banded Sunfish. To my surprise, the fish I lifted up was my Bluespotted Sunfish! Only the Blackbanded left now…

This last one proved difficult. I figured they would be easily recognizable in the water but I was unable to locate any save a very small individual that I knew was too tiny even for the smallest of tanago hooks. I was somewhere around the spot where I had caught where I caught the Bluespotted when I saw the desired stripey fellow. I tried convincing him to take a small chunk of worm for about 10 minutes before I realized his mouth was just too small to take the already miniscule bait. So I cut it in half, the smallest bait I’ve ever used… after a little bit of tempting the fish, it nibbled the bait and I lifted out the Blackbanded Sunfish! I couldn’t believe my luck at having completed the slam in one outing, and at night!

After that fish it was getting close to 1AM so was definitely time to find a WMA and get to sleep for the big day ahead of us.

Fishing Virginia, DC, & New Jersey - Day 2

August 23rd – Washington DC

Today was an exciting day, we would be visiting the city and there wre quite a few lifers available to me in the area. We started by attempting to get to the Longear spot again, traffic screwed us once more L So we changed plans and headed straight downtown. Alex and I parted ways after having lunch at the seafood market, she went to visit museums while I fished. I started by casting around for a Northern Snakehead but didn’t get a single hit.

Giving up on the Snakehead, I cast out a worm rig and a cutbait rig for White Catfish, Blue Catfish, and whatever else would hit. It didn’t take long before I had my first bites on the worm rig, but every fish I pulled up were either Bluegill or White Perch. I kept some of the gills for bait. Finally, I felt a hit from something slightly larger and reeled in an American Eel; a species I had caught earlier in the spring but it was still cool to see another one.

Shortly after, I got another good bite. I reeled in what I thought would be another Eel, but was pleased to find a Catfish on the end of my line. My much-desired White Catifsh! Apparently they are becoming rare in the area so I was super happy to have landed one J

Eventually, Alex came back from the museum and then later Patrick Kerwin came to join us after work. Pat is an experienced multi-species angler from the DC area, we met online through mutual friends. He told me that it was unlikely but still possible that I could catch a Longear Sunfish at the spot and was kind enough to lend me his Sunfish pole so that I could try for them. I pulled up Bluegill after Bluegill but then suddenly Pat exclaimed “that’s it” as I lifted up another Sunfish. I looked up dumbly wondering what was what and it took me a moment before I realized I was holding my lifer Longear in my hands XD

After catching the Longear, I “lent” Pat’s pole to Alex so she could also try for some sunnies. She also caught countless Bluegill but also managed her lifer White Perch. Pat also caught a Blue Catfish on one of the Bluegill she caught.

After dark, we drove out of the city and straight into, you guessed it, more traffic! We made our way to a WMA about 2hrs away and went straight to bed.

Fishing Virginia, DC, & New Jersey - Day 1

August 22nd – The Traffic Begins

My girlfriend, Alex, and I had decided to travel down to Virginia for a short 4-day trip as a way to cap off the summer and celebrate finishing our summer jobs. There were many species on my wish list in the area and Alex wanted to cross Delaware off her list as well as go to the beach. Day 1 was basically a driving day, Google Maps told us 11hrs to our furthest point. I had planned to stop at a Longear Sunfish spot that Pat had given me on the way but the insane traffic around DC prevented us from making it there in time. Instead, we stopped at a creek where he said there should be Swallowtail Shiners, Satinfin Shiners, and River Chub present. Unfortunately, when we got to the creek I saw that it was high and muddy: unfishable.

And so we continued on our way down past the city and to an area in the Mattaponi River drainage. We arrived well after dark but I was desperate to add something to my lifelist so I got out my tenkara gear and walked down to the creek. At first I saw some shiners that looked like they had glowing fins in my headlamp; I needed one! It didn’t take long before I had landed my H&L Satinfin Shiner lifer.

Afterwards I continued walking upstream and noticed some fish moving around in a puddle that had formed just to the side of the creek itself and I went to investigate. To my delight, they were Pirate-Perch! I was very lucky to have found them in an area with no cover where they could hide themselves, a so-called “Pirate-Perch Puddle”.  It took a little convincing but I succeeded in getting one to take the tanago hook. As far as I know, I am one of 2 people to successfully land one of these.

The final fish I would catch with my micro gear that night was a Pickerel, I thought it was a Grass Pickerel so was very excited. Little did I know it would turn out to simply be a juvenile Chain Pickerel (thanks guys).

I also managed a few species with my dipnet that night: Banded Sunfish, Comely Shiner, Shield Darter, Flier, Swallowtail Shiner, and Eastern Mosquitofish. By the time I returned to the car to go to sleep, it was well after midnight.