October 12, 2021
June 21, 2021
You know I'm getting desperate when I decide to head out to saltwater. Such was the case when Alex and I finally made the call to head east and try to knock off some more species from the gulf of the St-Lawrence. I figured I had a good shot at one lifer, but we did even better!
We drove along the north shore of the fleuve and enjoyed the views over the water, stopping a couple times to look for spawning schools of Capelin. These fish actually spawn right in the surf, so shallow that they often get washed onto shore! Unfortunately, we must have missed the peak of the season, and saw none.
|No Capelin here!|
It was only about a 5 hour drive to our first real fishing spot, and we arrived around noon. According to all my buddies who have fished here before, the Staghorn Sculpin should have been about as thick as Creek Chubs. Clearly, I was doing something wrong because I couldn't get a single hit for the life of me. After about an hour, I moved to a different part of the pier and got an instant bite: lifer Arctic Staghorn Sculpin!
|Arctic Staghorn Sculpin|
Side note, any fish with "arctic" in its name is automatically a cool fish!
It only took a few more casts before I realized just how annoying these sculpin would become, it was pretty well instant bites. Of course, this convinced Alex she could catch one easily and tick it off her list, so she made a cast. Wouldn't you know it, she pulls up an Atlantic Halibut! On her very first cast! I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little jealous.
It took a few more casts, but she eventually got her Staghorn Sculpin as well :) At this point, I really really wanted my own Halibut. I kept casting my bottom rigs, and eventually the right species came up; lifer #2!
Now normally, I would have been satisfied with these catches and moved on, but something kept me casting that day. This pretty well resulted in more non-stop sculpin action, but eventually I pulled up something new. It looked like a regular old Rainbow Smelt, but a closer inspection of the anal fin told me I was holding my lifer Capelin!
In my opinion, persistence is key when saltwater fishing for new species with bottom rigs, so I just kept casting. After weeding through another 100 or so staghorns, I pulled up a smaller sculpin that looked a little different. I figured it was just a juvenile staghorn, but took some photos just in case. Later, after sending them to some friends, they told me it was an Arctic Hookear Sculpin! Likely the first one ever caught by the lifelisting community, and a fairly rare fish all around!
|Arctic Hookear Sculpin|
That last sculpin pretty much ended the excitement for the trip. We tried a new spot further east but caught nothing. Fortunately, we found a beautiful free campsite right by a waterfall to make up for it :)
June 18, 2021
I would call it a medium-sized river, flowing 124km from its source at the northern end of Lake Champlain, and dumping into the St-Lawrence. It averages around 300m in width, meaning it is (mostly) safe to fish from almost any watercraft, and that a good portion of it can be covered from shore. However, there are a few sections of rapids to watch out for!
I'll divide the river into three sections for the purpose of this summary: the Upper Richelieu (from Lake Champlain to St-Jean-sur-Richelieu), the Middle Richelieu (from where the river narrows near Sainte-Anne-de-Sabrevois to Chambly), and the Lower Richelieu (from Chambly to the St-Lawrence). I will also describe the fishing in some of its major tributaries.
Main Species of Interest: Rudd, Bowfin, Northern Pike, Largemouth Bass, Panfish, and Redfin Pickerel for those who dare.
This is the slower, warmer-water portion of the river; where Bowfin and Northern Pike are king, and many other interesting species lurk in the weeds. I fish two main areas in this portion of the river: Noyan and St-Paul-de-l'Ile-aux-Noix.
The Noyan area is mainly accessed via boat, but some shore spots exist as well. There are two great boat ramps available for a small fee. The first is at Pourvoirie Laramée (45.066794,-73.333404). The owner here is a nice guy, speaks English, and also has the option of boat rentals at low cost. The other boat ramp is located across the river at the Sleepy Hollow campground (45.065217,-73.319382).
Noyan is the place to be if Bowfin are your target species! In the springtime, they can be found in very shallow water along the shorelines in this area, and even up in the flooded forests of the islands in the area. I mainly target them by sight-fishing with jigs, keeping the lure directly in front of the fish until they react. I sometimes find it necessary to downsize to panfish jigs or use faster moving lures such as spinnerbaits if the fish are being finicky. Note: cutbait or baitfish of any sort are not permitted as bait in QC, so keep that in mind!
Besides Bowfin, the area also has good Northern Pike and panfish (Pumpkinseed, Bluegill, Yellow Perch) fishing. These can all be found in and around the weedy areas, especially along the weedline in the case of Northern Pike. I like using anything flashy for Northern Pike; spoons, spinners, and spinnerbaits all work well. Small jigs or worm rigs will work well for the panfish.
A variety of other species can be caught here as well, including Walleye, juvenile Rudd, Longnose Gar, Brown Bullhead, Banded Killifish, Bluntnose Minnow, Golden Shiner, and Johnny/Tessellated Darter. I haven't spent much time targeting most of these in this particular area, but the Walleye tend to hang out in the channel where there is more current. All of the others can be found in the shallower areas around the weed beds.
St-Paul-de-l'Ile-aux-Noix is another area that is best accessed by boat, but also has a couple shore spots and is a popular ice fishing destination. The main shore fishing area is a pier located directly beside the boat ramp at Pourvoire Guy Mayer (45.132554, -73.267345). The owner of the ramp speaks English and used to be a commercial fishermen so knows a lot about some of the more obscure species in that area. Ice fishing in the area primarily happens on the man-made canals on the west side of the river.
This area is your best bet if Rudd are your primary target, but it also offers great panfishing for Black Crappie, Bluegill, Pumpkinseed and Yellow Perch. Largemouth Bass and Northern Pike also show up and slam the ultralight gear. All of these species can be caught using small panfish jigs tipped with a 1-2" plastic or a bit of worm/maggots if they are being finicky. They all seem to relate to the docks in the canals, with the Crappie sticking tight to the structure and Rudd forming large schools within the marinas and canals.
Northern Pike, Bowfin, Tench, Common Carp, Redfin Pickerel, Bluntnose Minnow, Banded Killifish, and Golden Shiner are also available here. That being said, I would recommend other spots for Bowfin, Tench, Common Carp, and Redfin Pickerel. Walleye can be caught in the main channel of the river.
The canals in St-Paul are also a popular ice fishing area, because they freeze before very early in the season. Northern Pike, Black Crappie, Bluegill, Pumpkinseed, Yellow Perch, and Golden Shiner can all be targeted through the ice here.
The Middle Richelieu
This central portion of the river is the one I have explored least, and seems to have the lowest diversity. Nevertheless, it may still hold some secrets I have yet to discover! I've fished two areas in this section: St-Jean-sur-Richelieu and the Chambly rapids. This is also the most dangerous section of the river, with many sets of rapids and rocky shoals.
There is a good shore fishing/wading access to this part of the river located at Parc Martial-Bessette (45.326692,-73.256561). Channel Catfish and Brown Bullhead can be caught on bottom rigs, as well as large Freshwater Drum out in the faster water. There is also a free boat launch with ample parking beside the "Le Nautique" Marina (45.302313,-73.250436).
The Chambly rapids are the last stronghold of the mythical Copper Redhorse! Targeting them is obviously completely illegal, but it's still a fun place to visit and see the many interpretive signs describing the plight of Quebec's only endemic fish, and one of the rarest fish in North America. There are many sanctuaries in this area, so care should be taken in reading up on your regulations before heading here. That being said, the river can be accessed from the shoreline at the town of Richelieu (45.448897,-73.262392). Both shore fishing and wading are excellent techniques here.
|Image Source: Fisheries and Oceans Canada|
The Lower Richelieu is potentially my favourite section of the entire river. There are many accessible shore fishing spots, all offering some pretty great roughfishing! Two of my favourite spots are the Chambly Basin and the historical locks in St-Ours. However, there is also a lot of great fishing along the shores of the towns of Otterburn Park, St-Hilaire, and Beloeil.
The Chambly basin starts at the base of the the Chambly rapids and is a bizarre widening of the river, almost more like a lake. This area is best fished by boat, but you need to stay back from certain areas designated as sanctuaries for the Copper Redhorse. The town of St-Mathias-sur-Richelieu offers the closest free boat ramps and parking (45.475205,-73.271337).
The calmer, shallower bays of the basin also have some great fishing for the more "swampy" species like Longnose Gar and Northern Pike.
The next spot has much faster current, and can be difficult to fish without 4oz sinkers. The current seam just downstream from the train bridge and by Capitaine Pouf is another good spot to try from shore. Big Lake Sturgeon swim through this area and can put up pretty incredible fights in the current. River, Silver, and Shorthead Redhorse are also more-or-less common but must not be targeted as they are protected. This spot also has a spectacular view of the St-Hilaire Mountain, best appreciated when the leaves change colours in the fall.
|Image Source: Alexis Desmarais|
June 08, 2021
No lifers here, this is a short report about some of the fishing I was able to complete in April and May of 2021. Covid has still put a damper with crazy travel restrictions, but I decided to make the best of it and use the opportunity to get back into exploring back lakes for Brook Trout.
A lot of people ask me for these spots, but finding them really couldn't be much simpler. All I do is look for higher altitude lakes that look deep enough to hold trout. Then I choose the ones that aren't accessible by road to ensure they haven't been fished out. Using this procedure, I figure I have about a 50% success ratio, but I certainly got lucky this spring!
I started my time off before fishing season opened, so Alex and I did some scouting and took a day trip down a local river, the Tomifobia. The water level was perfect, just high enough that we rarely had to portage. That being said, it was a bit muddy so we didn't see any fish. Here's Alex working to clear a logjam while I attempt to move the tree from shore.
By the next weekend, season had finally opened! We made our way to the Outaouais region to spend an overnighter on a lake I knew could hold a rare population of landlocked Arctic Char. The lake required a decent portage to get in, and we were met with some pretty unfavourable weather. High winds, rain, and even hail slowed our progress. We waited out the worst of the weather and kept on fishing. The bite was slow, we couldn't seem to find the fish regardless of the technique used. Finally, on our third loop of the lake, something attacked a small jerkbait I was casting around laydowns. It was a beautiful wild Brook Trout, making all the effort finally worth it!
The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful. We didn't catch (or even see) any more fish, and spent some time on a short hike exploring the area. Nevertheless, we were plenty satisfied with the excursion.
Next, I headed out to the Townships to try and put my buddy Alexis on some new salmonid species. It would be a tough ask, but I knew he'd have a shot at Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout, and Landlocked Salmon. We never saw the salmon, but he missed a Brown and caught his first Rainbow so it was a marginal success! I also took advantage of the day trip by finding a brand new patch of wild garlic and keeping some Fallfish for the freezer, which was actually pretty tasty :)
Another day trip took me back out to the Outaouais, this time with my good buddy Carl. As usual, the goal was to explore some more back lakes in hopes of finding wild Brook Trout. The first lake was a flop, but the second produced some of the nicest wild brookies I've personally ever caught! I caught a beauty male and female pair just by casting a spinner from shore. I also lost a third fish to some fallen timber that pulled just as hard as the other two!
May 06, 2021
March 17, 2021
Crazy times call for crazy measures? Border closures, curfews, and constantly changing restrictions have really limited the fishing opportunities here, so Alex and I made the crazy decision to drive 12 hours, fish for 8 hours, and then drive all the way back... no sleep! Well, it was worth it.
I hatched the plan when I was at work a couple weeks prior, a way to maximize our fishing time all while beating the Quebec curfew and taking all precautions to avoid contact as we travelled. Driving overnight both ways allowed us to travel a long distance without having to spend a night anywhere. The destination: Lake Superior, the target: Round Whitefish.
We arrived just before sunrise and Alex took a quick nap before we set out to our desired fishing spot, starting the day in about 10ft of water. We fished for a few hours and saw very few fish, and certainly no Whitefish :( The highlights were a big Lake Trout Alex hooked and a monster Rainbow that slurped up my jig... but both popped off.
As the day warmed up, a nearby pressure crack started making lots of noise so we made the call to move shallower in case the ice sheet should decide to separate. We were glad we did, within hours it was wide-open water!
The move also proved fruitful fish-wise. We started seeing more fish come in and pay interest to our lures. Of course, all the big fish threw the hook. I think our ultralight Whitefish setups simply didn't have the backbone to keep them pinned. Then, after disappointingly dropping yet another Lake Trout, a slim shadow of a fish darter across the bottom and picked up my jig. I set the hook and immediately noticed that this was something smaller. In fact, I was freaking out and yelling "this feels small, this feels small"! Luckily, the fish in question was my much-desired Round Whitefish :)
That makes it one more QC species checked off my list. For those who don't know, the whole reason I got into lifelisting was to catch every species in my home province; I'm now at 107/111.
The trip wasn't over yet, Alex still had two potential lifers to catch! She kept fishing hard and saw two more Whitefish move in to investigate the lures. Unfortunately, both eventually spooked before shw could hook them properly. As the sun started to near the horizon, it was time to leave and make the long drive back home.
January 12, 2021
In October of this year, Alex and I made our way out to Ontario to fish for some Lake Whitefish at a lake one of my co-workers had been telling me about all summer. We left early in the morning, picked up a canoe at Alex's sister's, and finally got to the lake around 14:00. We were late but the water conditions were perfect and we couldn't wait to get out on the water.
We launched the canoe and paddled out to find our friends. I cast out a spinner to try trolling our way out, but only saw some small perch that weren't interested. We met our friends at the far end of the lake, and quickly made the decision to spend the night at an awesome campsite they found. Unfortunately, that meant paddling all the way back to the car to get our gear for the night. We did see an otter on the way though!
|North American River Otter|
After returning to the car and getting back to the campsite, it was finally time to fish! We paddled out to a fishy area and casted out some small jigs for the whitefish. The fishing was slow, we saw a couple fish surface but saw no action on the end of our lines. After about an hour, I felt a small tap but missed the hookset. The bite was so light, it could very well have been some debris on the bottom. Just in case, I cast back to the same area and began slowly dragging the jig on the bottom, and... fish on! It was a spirited fight on my ultralight setup, but I got the best of it in the end :)
We fished a while longer, but that would be the only fish of the evening; the whitefish bite just wasn't happening today. We returned to the campsite, enjoyed some nice sausages and beers around the fire, and went to bed.
It rained a bit overnight, but not enough to completely soak our gear. We woke up bright and early, to make time for the day's plans. We fished a bit on the way out, but didn't catch anything for our efforts. The rest of the weekend was spent exploring the backwoods looking for waterfalls, abandoned mines, and those great Canadian fall views.