November 05, 2018

Top Catches 2018

It's getting to be that depressing time of the year in late fall when the fish are becoming inactive but the lakes haven't frozen yet. So I figured I'd write a short summary of my top 10 favourite catches of the open-water season. This year held some pretty epic adventures, which made it quite difficult to choose even 10 fish. But here goes, starting at #10 and working up to my most memorable catch of the season:

#10. Longhorn Sculpin
Longhorn Sculpin makes the list because it is likely the coolest-looking fish I've ever caught. Sharp spines, an interesting pattern, and a cool body shape make for a pretty crazy fish! I caught my first of this species at a public wharf in Nova Scotia using nightcrawlers as bait.

#9. Bigmouth Buffalo
These guys are on the list because they pulled super hard and were very abundant. As a bonus, the one Alex caught was also her biggest fish ever! We caught them below a dam in North Dakota on soft jerkbaits. Unfortunately many were accidentally snagged but we each caught some fair-hooked fish among the numerous catches :)

#8. Micro-Sunfish + Mud Sunfish
I suppose including 4 fish under one heading is cheating, but these were all caught during the same session on the same lake so it seemed fitting. I was super lucky and managed to catch all 3 micro-sunfish of the Enneacanthus genus in one trip! They were caught in New Jersey on specialized tanago gear. Combined, they made for a very memorable outing.
Banded Sunfish
Bluespotted Sunfish
Blackbanded Sunfish
Mud Sunfish
#7. Blue Catfish
This big Blue Catfish was one of my biggest catches this season, maybe the biggest. It had to be at least 30lbs! Alex and I each caught one on our trip down to Washington D.C. They were also some of the first fish I ever caught on cutbait. It was thrilling, we would get hits at least every ten minutes, sometimes just minutes after casting out. The Potomac must be infested with them, and I'm not complaining!

#6. Sockeye Salmon (Kokanee)
Catching Kokanee in the mountains outside the Okanagan valley of British Columbia was one of the top highlights of our big adventure across the country. The surroundings were incredibly beautiful and the fishing was great thanks to the help of a friend I made online. A man I had never met in real life saved the day when we discovered that all of the rental boats were booked for the day. He took us out on his boat and even let us use his gear so we could both catch our first Sockeye Salmon. He really knew the fish and it only took a couple of hours for both of us to catch one.

#5. Eastern Sand Darter
This one might be a bit controversial to some of the hardcore lifelisters because it was dipnetted and not hooked. But I don't have really care lol. This one was special because it was the last fish in the Percidae family present in Quebec that I had not yet caught (and the looks super cool). It required a lot of research and planning as I had to travel to upstate New York where they were not listed as endangered. Everything came together in late October when Alex and I went on a mini road trip to some of my carefully chosen spots.

#4. Bull Trout
How can you not love this species!? As a friend of mine told me: "they can only be found in the most beautiful of areas", I have to agree. I caught my first one from shore on a big lake in Kananaskis Country, Alberta. I had seen a big fish roaming the flat I was wading on and kept casting in hopes it would hit. It took many lure swaps and tons of casts, but finally I got a huge hit! A chipped guide on my rod meant I could only fight the fish at specific angles and still my 6lb line was slowly fraying. After a long and nerve-wracking fight, I landed this beautiful Bull Trout! Bonus: I also caught another big one on the fly a couple days later deep in the backcountry of the Kootenay region of British Columbia with another friend I met online.

#3. Northern Sunfish
Many of you might think this fish would be less special than some of the previous ones mentioned, but something about catching them made me really happy. Not only were they the last fish in the Quebec Centrarchidae family, but there was something purely enjoyable about relaxing and catching Sunfish just for the fun of it. Even after I already had my lifer, I continued to fish longer and catch more of the smallish fish. I even caught a hybrid :) This was in the Kawartha region of southern Ontario.
Northern Sunfish
Hybrid Northern Sunfish
#2. Striped Bass
This may be a relatively common and well-known fish, but it makes #2 because of the situation in which I caught them. Alex and I had been fishing the Miramichi river in New Brunsiwck for hours on end without seeing a single fish. This is a river known for anglers catching hundreds of fish a day. We had pretty much given up and decided to try one last "hail-mary" spot I had marked on the map, that turned out to be the best decision we made all day. We saw stripers busting on smelt and the action was instantaneous. We had hits on nearly every cast, even after our baits had been torn apart!

#1. American Eel
And for #1, the slimy and unappreciated American Eel! I had been trying to catch this one for years now, and it finally came together this spring right near home on the South Shore of Montreal. I knew they were at the spot, I just needed to put the hours in... and more hours, and more hours. I watched friends catch them right beside me on 4 separate occasions but could never get one. Needless to say, I was ecstatic when I finally got mine :) As luck would have it, I caught 4 more this year and now I don't even want to handle them (their slime is incredibly sticky).

That about sums it up for now, I only wish I could have included more fish but this is long enough as it is. There were many other unforgettable catches such as Arctic Grayling, Rudd, Longear Sunfish, four new Sticklebacks, Coho Salmon, Freshwater Drum, Goldeye, Tench, and White Bass. Perhaps more importantly than the awesome catches were all the amazing experiences and adventures with new and old friends :)