I find myself short of time to get the most important people -family- out on the boat for a little fishing.
Holidays help and this Victoria Day I was free to take my nephews Colin and Evan with my brother-in-law Joel and my son Aidan out for a late morning fish.
Recent outings and reports have shown that the best bite is early (at dawn) and because this day was a little less about the bite and more about the experience on Uncle Shane's boat, we decided to make it a late start. 8:00 am we were off the dock and ready to start where I left off yesterday. As you can imagine, the bite was slow, but the boys took turns on a few fish. My 4 year old nephew Colin took a rainbow trout on 5 colour, and my 8 year old nephew near the end of the morning managed a fish he will not soon forget...
The cohos were a little off the bite this morning and it was assumed that a few of the short strikes we had throughout the day were a result of those cohoc not taking the hook well. Cohos have been at center stage in reacent outings, but mature kings are a little more tricky to catch.
You need to work water deeper then 180 feet down in order to connect with bigger black jaws. With the cohos off the bite, the idea to drop a downrigger to those depths was implemented to answer some of the great marks of fish we had shown on the SONAR in 220 feet of water.
The late spring bite had the fish move from the Niagara River Bar to the extreme west end of the lake in a matter of a week. The real story of the late May Lake Ontario fishery is the unreal numbers of coho that are being caught. We are catching as many coho in a day then what we would catch in an entire season.
When it comes to the charters, the cohos are the headliner of the show. Rods are moving regularily and these fish are fine table fare. Check out this video of Jim from California that flew in to meet with Ken from Ajax, Ontario.
Many fish came off before getting to the net, and some short strikes left you setting rods without a fight at all. Still Jim and Ken managed limits and had a fish fry that evening.
I have been away from this tournament for two years, but it’s one of those small tournaments where who wins is a win for everyone. Fishing amoungst friends and enjoying conversation between contestants when at the scales.
Reelbuddies is a closed membership website messageboard that has ran this tournament with the invite from members of the open membership of the Spoonpullers website. In past years of my participation in this tournament, I was invited from the Spoonpullers to be a part of the Spoonpullers team. Where it once was two website teams that competed for the overall team winner, it has now become merely a Reelbuddies tournament with the lack of Spoonpuller team participation. Of course it not an exclusive involvement between sites, most (if not all the salmon fisherman from Reelbuddies) is also very active members of the Spoonpullers website. It’s just a shuffling of the same great group of good salmon fisherman and friends.
The weather forecast for tournament wasn’t without concern. All week long the lake was calm and showing perfect conditions to venture out on the lake. A calm lake while we have to work, and then Northeast winds to 30 kms/hr was forecasted for Saturday morning. I could hardly sleep with excitement and concern for the winds. Felt like I had one eye open to keep surveillance on the maple tree limbs and the other eye closed knowing the 4:00 am alarm will come soon.
At 1:00 am the leaves began to shake with a breath of winds. Then at 2:00 am they were still again. 3:50 before my alarm goes off for 4:00 am I spring out of bed. Sure enough the branches are swaying. “Geesh!”
Ken Stewart and John were at my house early as well. 4:20 they were pulling into the neighbourhood. We were on the road for 4:30.
When we got to St Catharines Marina at Port Weller the winds were up to 20 km/hr and the waves were building. A few boats went out and reported it was fishable so the tournament was pushed back to a blast off tome of 6:30 am to give time to let all the boats get into the water.
We lined up, in the chop, outside the wall and at 6:30 we were blasted off. The Key Largo started its way over 4 footers going 25 mph at 4000 rpm. As we progressed east the wind and waves were growing. Soon our 4000 rpm was making way at 19 mph over 5 and now 6 foot waves and then 16 mph when we were at the end of our leg about a mile east of the red can, well into New York waters.
We turned to roll downhill on the waves and began setting lines. Two trolling bags were deployed and then a third went out about two hours into the troll. The serge of the waves would have been an issue with the divers, without them, since the boat, in those conditions would push rapidly forward, causing the divers to trip or they would have to be tighten so snug on the releases that it would be a concern for lost fish. Speed of the presentation of salmon is the first concern. Boat control means speed control.
It wasn’t long when the 124 Kelly Green Black tiger Walker Deeper Diver set to 2, and out 275 ft on wire rod took a strike.
towing a Magnum MC Rocket in Chartrous/ Green Dot with glow. Ken was on the rod and the fish comes in with little fight. But when it reached the back of the boat, the fish came to life and began fighting between downrigger lines, downrigger Cables and the other wire rod on the other side of the boat. It was a chore to manage the fish to the net with the long leaders behind the diver. It was a fish in the high teens and went to the box.
The other wire diver rod was also set to 275 ft but knowing the depth of this diver would be less since it was a 107 Walker Deeper Diver set to 2. The Diver was a new colour in 2011 called “Salamander”.
Behind the diver was a Chartrous Splater Back SpinDoctor 8” with a Black/purple Trigger X imitation cutbait. It was about 45 minutes and this rod went off and I was on the rod. Again the king came to the boat with ease, but this time the fish was much more trouble behind the boat. The fish crossed every line the other diver rod and around the starboard side boom rigger twice. It was merely a circus show in the back of the boat and surprisingly the fish came to the net. It was another decent king in the high teens. Perfect we are on to something.
With two crazy kings luckily in the boat, the game plan switched to a clean four rod set up from the 6 we were running. Two riggers and two divers with the plan to pull everything up on the next fish since each bite were essential to get into the boat. The waves were still between 6 and 8 feet and this was already a chore to move around in the boat. John in fact almost went into the drink with his loss of balance. The Bert’s Rod Holder stopped his sure wet destination.
We made a long troll all the way along the Niagara Bar’s ledge through to Four Mile point and didn’t move another rod in the depths. By this time it was 10:15 and we had much time to make another move. So we decided to take our time and run back up wind and do it all over again.
The run back up to the top of the troll east of the red can was a slow crawl at 7 miles per hour against big waves. We didn’t want to pound the boat and our bodies, so we took our time. We turned to roll with them again and started to set lines. One wire diver on the port side went out first. Then the port side rigger. Then I moved to the starboard side wire diver rod and started letting it out slowly ( I always take my time letting out divers so they track and pull out away from the other lines while going out). The line counter read 250 and I felt something different happen. A nudge like feeling. So I held the line with my thumb on the spool to stop the line from going out for a second and felt the line tighten up as the diver started cutting out. Then there was a strike, and the rod doubled over meanwhile I engage the reel and pull it out of the rodholder and handed the rod to John. Then we cleared all the rods except the other diver rod. We got the fish in, another King, but this time about 11 lbs. the fish was a weird looking beast. It had a club gill but it was a natural fish. Here’s a picture;
Now we have three kings and with these conditions we knew our goal is to go for the win and look for another big bite. If we catch a smaller fish in the process- that would be fine.
The Troll along the ledge was uneventful for the majority of the way. We marked fish up high, but avoided them in search of another quality fish to round out the box. The bite down deep died for us, so we raised a rigger to 60 ft and almost instantly the rigger rod starts bouncing. We manage a 5 lbs Coho to round out a full box of four to weigh. But we still needed that one last big fish.
Time ran out and by 2:30 we were exhausted fighting the waves all day. We went to the scales with a coho that knowingly meant we were out of the race. We managed 6th place with 45.31 lbs.
Here’s the final standings of the top 10 ( note the two ties in the top four spots) with 21 teams registered in total;
1. Gman/Marshman/TonyS - 69.62lb (big fish 21.38)
2. Jammer/JoeOD/Grappler - 69.62lb
3. Darrell Day - 62.99lb
4. Team Iceguy - 62.99lb
5. Aaron/Markus/Matt - 59.67lb
6. Team Fintastic - 45.31lb
7. Tony/Sinker - 41.99lb
8. Team HotSpot - 40.89lb
9. Fishdawg/NastyBoy/Ian - 33.15lb
10. Team Net Profit - 33.15lb
11. The Rest of the teams we DNW (Did Not Weigh)
Big Fish Winner - Gman/Marshman/TonyS - 21.38lbs