October 21, 2018

Dipnetting Upstate New York

It was Saturday, Alex and I had planned to hike up Mt. Mansfield but a rainy weather forecast made for a change of plans. Instead, we decided on a mini road trip into Upstate New York. We enjoyed the Fall colours, went for a walk in a state forest, and I did some dipnetting. I had recently received some great intel on fish species in New York state and had been wanting to make the drive over for a couple weeks.


First two spots were on the Salmon River and Little Salmon River in Fort Covington, they didn't produce very much. I found Spotfin Shiners, Tessellated/Johnny Darters, and a small Fantail Darter.


Next spot was further upstream on the Little Salmon River near the town of Bombay. It was more of a creek at this point, but a beautiful little place with great species diversity! I didn't get any lifers, but did catch a few fish I don't get to see very often. Species list for this spot included: Spotfin Shiners, Tesellated/Johnny Darters, Fantail Darters, Cutlip Minnows, an Iowa Darter, and a Stonecat.






Last stop of the day was on the Deer River in Brasher Falls State Forest. The first place where I walked into the river was swampy and didn't seem very promising. I was catching mostly tadpoles with a few Golden Shiners and Tessellated/Johnny Darters mixed in. But I did see a sand bank and a riffle upstream so I pushed on. It was well worth the effort. I haven't mentioned it until now, but my main target on this adventure was the Eastern Sand Darter. A rather rare species and protected in Canada, I didn't think I'd ever have the opportunity to see one. You know where this is going, after a lengthy amount of time sifting through sand, I saw the desired darter in the bottom of my net! What an amazing species, they are pretty much completely translucent and spend much of ther time hiding in a sandy substrate. I was ecstatic just to be able to see one of these guys, got my heart rate going and everything haha.


That completed my goal of catching every fish from the percidae family present in Quebec. I may not have them all on hook & line but I felt lucky to have seen them all :) The total list is comprised of: Eastern Sand Darter, Rainbow Darter, Iowa Darter, Fantail Darter, Johnny Darter, Tessellated Darter, Common Logperch, Channel Darter, Yellow Perch, Sauger, and Walleye.

October 16, 2018

Adventures in Ontario

This post will sum up two separate adventures I went on into the neighbouring province of Ontario. The first was was at the end of August, after Alex and I had returned from our adventure down to DC. The main goal was to investigate some observations of Northern Sunfish I had seen posted on iNaturalist near Peterborough. On the way there, I stopped at a friend's house on Lower Rideau Lake to try for Yellow Bullhead. As expected, they were nowhere to be found and I maintain my theory that they are an inexistent species made up to waste a lifelister's time. I did manage to catch my first hybrid Sunfish though: a Bluegill x Pumpkinseed cross.


I also stopped at some smaller creeks with the hopes of finding a Brassy Minnow, one of the last two cyprinids I had yet to catch in the region. No luck with the Brassy but I did get my first Blackchin Shiner on hook & line.


Next up was the main event for the mini-trip: the Northern Sunfish. It was the last fish I had yet to catch from the species in the Sunfish family that had been sampled in Quebec. Needless to say, I was very happy when my plan worked out and I caught the desired species :) Another family complete. Oh yeah, I even got a hybrid Northern!


On the way home, I tried two Lake Ontario tribs for an unlikely shot at a Coho Salmon. I only fished a couple hours and just found Chinooks.


Trip 2:
Trip 2 was much later in the Fall, and the main goal was fishing the Salmon run. I kept my hopes up for a Coho and my friend Tim would have been happy with a Chinook. We tried a new stream a friend had suggested that had very little angling pressure; we didn't see any other fishermen the whole time we were there. It took a couple hours of fishing, but I finally hooked and landed my Coho Salmon! It only took me about 5 years of annual trips to the tribs haha.







Having successfully caught my target, I left Tim to continue trying for Salmon while I drove over to Peterborough to catch a Hornyhead Chub. A biologist friend had suggested some spots where I would have a good shot at catching one... it didn't take long:


I then rejoined Tim on the tribs and did my best to help put him onto fish. Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful in this task and he went home skunked :( I did catch one more Chinook at the end of the day though, a nice way to end a great day.




Cross-Canada 2018 - Mountains, Mountains, & Mountains


In this next part of the trip, we travel through the mountains from Edmonton and out to Vancouver, then down to Yellowstone, before heading home through the US. Since we left off, the next interesting things we saw were a bunch of Bison at Elk Island National Park. We were worried we wouldn’t see any but as the sun started going down they came out, and nothing scares these guys! They were even walking down the main road.
 

It having been a few days since we caught our last standard-sized fish, I was getting pretty antsy to do some fishing. Luckily, the next 2 days were all fishing :) I convinced Alex to agree on a “small” detour up Grande Prairie and then back down to Jasper so I could have a shot at a few northern species. Finding info for this area proved very difficult so I decided to just go for it and stop at any nice rivers we saw.


The first stop didn’t really pay off. I did catch a decent pike but that was pretty disappointing considering I expected it to be a big Bull Trout. The second stop didn’t seem to be much better, water was high and we weren’t getting any hits. I had given up and was wading back to the car, while “trolling” my lure behind me… of course this is when the fish hit. My lifer Arctic Grayling! Just a small one but a major bucket list species for me :) There aren’t too many fish I care for catching a second time but this is definitely one of them.


After the Grayling, the fishing continued to be difficult, as expected. This was early June and the rivers were still experiencing runoff from the wintermelt. Didn’t catch anything for the rest of that day or for the first half of the next day. Finally, on the last open river of the detour, I found a nice pool with a bunch of Rocky Mountain Whitefish. Another salmonid in the books :)


Next we were back to a few days without fishing and instead did the tourist thing and hiked around Jasper and Banff. I’ll spare you the details but basically it’s a spectacular region and here are some photos to prove it, send me a message if you’d like any travel suggestions.




After the national parks, we headed to k-country, where I hoped to catch a Cutthroat Trout. Incredibly, I could not find a single one! These guys are supposed to be like the Brook Trout of the west XD Rainy weather and bad stream fishing led to us trying a lake out of desperation, good thing we did because I caught a big Bull Trout!! Totally unexpected, I knew the lake had them but never thought I’d get one in shallow water from shore. What a crazy fight, like lakers on steroids.


We also started seeing Grizzlies at this point. They kept to themselves but seeing them was a good warning that we weren’t the biggest predators around anymore.


In the interest of brevity, let’s say we headed to the Kootenay region of BC next. On the way, I fished one river where I caught a fish that was way cooler than I realized at the time: the Mountain Sucker. Wish there was a cooler story to tell about how I poured through documents for hours or something… but nope. Alex visited a wolfdog sanctuary and got some very cool pictures as well.

 


Quick teleport and we were in the Kootenays. A friend I made online had graciously agreed to meet up with us and guide us around his home waters back in the mountains. I was amazed at his generosity, he essentially spent all day bringing us to all his best spots, the kind of places you could never find online. Unfortunately, the runoff came back to bite us and the fishing wasn’t spectacular, but I did catch another Bull Trout! This one was especially cool because it was caught on the fly in a small river way back in the bush: a place I’d never expect to catch something bigger than a pound or two.


 





Hop, skip, and a jump later and we had driven through the rest of the mountains and out to Kelowna and the Okanagan Valley. One last Canadian fishing stop was at a relatively small lake to try for landlocked Sockeye Salmon (Kokanee). To our dismay, all of the boats were already rented out and so we were out of options. Luckily, another friend I had made online said he was on the lake that day and offered to bring us out on his boat! People are amazing. Needless to say, he really knew his stuff and it didn’t take long for both of us to have our lifers.


We then drove out to Vancouver just to say that we had reached the Pacific. Mandatory ocean photo and we were on our way down to Yellowstone. Incredible what living out of a small Toyota can do to your hair, I swear I woke up with it like this.
We had high expectations for Yellowstone seeing as its one of the most popular U.S. national parks. To our dismay, it was quite disappointing :( Sure, it was cool to see the geysers and hot springs, but it’s nothing compared to the grandeur of the Rockies and it seemed poorly managed compared to Banff. Brief failure with some Cutthroat Trout and we agreed to be on our way ASAP.


 















This is getting long so let’s just say it was almost a straight shot from there to home. One last memorable stop was at the Garrison Dam in North Dakota where Roughfish member Paul Schumann had been posting pictures of mystical Blue Suckers, Shovelnose Sturgeon, Buffalo, and more. Just about anything here would be a lifer for us since we’ve never been in the central U.S. Indeed, it didn’t take long for us both to get into some Bigmouth Buffalo. Alex caught her biggest fish ever and we both enjoyed some epic battles in the current. We also caught some good Pike :) Oh yeah, and we visited the hatchery and got to see/hold some Paddlefish, Shovelnose, and Pallid Sturgeon.

















And that’s about it for our big trip. Incredible adventure and we’re super excited for the next one. Only one province and three territories left to go, and I’m sure it won’t be long before we make our way over to them :) Here's a couple extra wildlife shots, couldn't think of the right place to fit them in the report.





October 03, 2018

Cross-Canada 2018 - Shield, Prairies, & Badlands


June of 2018 was the month of our biggest adventure so far. My girlfriend Alex and I planned a trip across Canada, adding 15,000km to the odometer and crossing through 7 provinces and 9 states. I also added 11 new species to my lifelist :)


The journey pretty much started on the Niagara peninsula with an obligatory stop to see the falls. Crazy amount of tourists so it didn’t take us long to decide to switch gears and try for some fish. Primary goal was to get the Grass Pickerel that have eluded me for so long. Long story short, we failed and they continue to elude me. I did get a redemption lifer Rainbow Darter though!





We did see some of the elusive Ontario-population peacocks before heading up to the bigger Great Lakes.


Tried and failed for some Northern Sunfish before continuing on our way to Bruce Peninsula and Lake Huron. Did manage what I think is a Spotfin Shiner but nothing to write home about. The peninsula was awesome and it was great to take a ferry across to Manitoulin.





Didn’t do too much fishing during the rest of the way through ON but that didn’t take away from the beauty of north shore Lake Superior. The little bit of fishing I attempted yielded a small Pike and exactly 0 Round Whitefish.







The last stop before transitioning to Manitoba (MB) and the prairies was in Thunder Bay. My friend Corwin gave me some key info for Lake Chub and Ruffe so I did my best to catch both of them. Despite being invasive, it was super cool to catch these Ruffe so far from their homeland. The Lake Chub mission was mostly a failure, I managed a juvenile with my dipnet but nothing on hook.



Our first real day in MB was nothing short of epic! We fished the mighty Red River just about an hour outside the province’s capital. My main goal was to get a Goldeye but Alex needed a lifer Drum and neither of us would mind some of the giant Catfish and Carp the area is known for. The fishing started off slow but once we discovered the proper technique the action was great. We both got nice Drum, and I had my 5/0 hooks bent out by some giants.



Around lunch, we gave the river a break and drove over to a stream where I heard rumours of a White Bass run. They were just random pictures I saw online and matched the background to Gmaps but it paid off! We both caught our lifers, both on master angler fish by the province’s standards.



We returned to the big river so I could make one last attempt at the Goldeye. I casted out as far into the current as I could and finally ended up setting the hook into something small after catching big fish all day. Reeling in was nerve-wracking but shortly later I was holding my lifer in my hands :)


We pretty much skipped through the rest of the prairies and made our way to the Alberta (AB) badlands. Didn’t fish much in the southern part of the province but did get a lifer River Shiner while I was trying for Flathead Chub (which I didn’t catch).



 



I know these aren’t fishing pics but I had to include some shots of the badlands because the terrain was so different from what I was used to. I’ll end this report here for now and in part 2 we will finally reach the mountains!
P.S. The world's largest dinosaur isn't real ;)