You got to love that fishing excuses shirt with all the reasons printed all over it that reads why you didn't catch fish on your fishing trip. ***Sometimes you feel like you are living those excuses when your catch rate is slightly less than you have anticipated. You can try to align yourself for the best outcome, but whether you like it or not, you cannot control everything that is explained on that shirt of excuses.
Over the August Civic Holiday Long weekend and crossing over the next week into the second weekend in August, I made plans to make the best of my time fishing for Walleye out of Port Bruce. The past two years previous I was exposed to what I would potentially call a Great Lakes Walleye trollers dream fishery. Here, limits of walleye for most savvy, fast paced, Lake Erie trollers were common practice. Coming back to dock with anything less than a count of walleyes that equal full limits would mean pulling out that most dreaded excuse shirt again. It usually not about if you got a limit, it’s more asked, “and how fast you reached your limit?”
The Civic holiday Long weekend was first met with the adversity to drive down to Port Bruce. The drunken dump truck driver that smashed his way to producing total traffic mayham in Hamilton, clogged all routes in and around Hamilton trying to make a detour around the closed QEW Toronto Bound at the Skyway bridge.
My son Aidan and I rode out together with our tent, alarm clock and the boat behind us as we inched our way across the South Hamilton Mountain zig-zagging our way to the 403 following lines of vehicles doing the same. We rolled into Port Bruce and stayed at Beelin Trailor Park where we set up camp right at dusk.
The next morning the clouds hung low and were dark and the air humid. Aidan and I made a big campfire breakfast and had plenty of time to prep the boat, put it on the dock at the campground slip and then manage to drive into town for ice and a few other “missed things” on the camping packing list. Meanwhile the thunder already started to rumble across the lake and the rain followed with lighting chasing most of the fisherman off the lake and back into Catfish Creek. It was only 2 hours of fishing for most of those guys and I was glad Aidan and I took our time that Saturday morning.
While in Alymer, I get a Phone call from Tom letting me know they were well on their way from Burlington, traveling to meet us at the North Erie Marina. At 2 pm Aidan and I met up with Tom and Mac at the gas dock and while we set off down Catfish Creek towards the open waters of Lake Erie, a fellow angler warned us that another thunderstorm approaching in about ½ hr as it was already in the Port Stanley area.
With discussion with Tom and Mac and as a safe alternative we decided to do a bit of perch fishing first and wait out what will happen with the chance of another T-storm on route. The Perch grounds are close and easy for us to pick-up and go back into dock in sheltered harbours. This would be a better alternative than being 12 miles off shore fishing for walleye.
We motored out to where at least another 10 boats were anchored and pulling up perch consistently. I set the anchor and start putting minnows on pickerel rigs and handing the prepared fishing rods to Aidan, Mac and Tom. In no time they were into the perch, two at a time and many were in the 8-10 inch range. No really big perch, but we were able to manage 20 keepers before a big black cloud sounding its alarm of thunder approached us. We pulled up and ran into the creek, making it to the dock with just enough time to tuck away all that we didn’t want to get wet, and out of harm’s way.
Harm wasn't the word for it. We stood under the fish cleaning tent as I cleaned the perch we had just caught and watched rain pour down then mix in hail, strong winds and flashes of lightening that lite the darkness under this ominous and powerful storm cloud. The Trailer Park was flooded with areas of giant pools of rain water, I could only guess the harm to our stuff in the tent, back on our campsite.
The time was ticking away and the storm seemed to hang on us like it was barely moving past. It was 6 pm when the rain finally ceased, we hopped in the boat and set off to the Lake once more, but we knew we are getting close for time to get this trip in. We reached the Pier head and looked out to the South only to see another very dark cloud. That was enough, the walleye excuse shirt for the day would include a thunderstorms.
The next morning Aidan and I woke up to the alarm clock and we met up with a friend of mine, Rob to attempt the walleye trolling thing,once more. Again the skies were overcast and the air humid with the marine forecast labeling it a chance of thunderstorms. The lake had only a slight chop from a light Northeast wind. We ran straight out to my waypoints from last year and began setting lines. Before the second rod was set the first one already had a fish on. I hand the rod to Aidan to reel in. I set the next rod and it goes off. Oh boy, We are doubled up and wouldn't you know, both came off, I thought “not one of those days?” Sure enough the next three were lost fish and then we finally boat one walleye barely hooked on the tail hook of the crank bait. Subsequently the next few walleyes we boat were also just barely on the tail hook and we drop a number of other fish off the line between each successful catch.
I said to Rob, “These fish are biting soft after all those Thunderstorms yesterday”. They were tough to keep on the hooks, but as the morning continued we discovered what sets were getting more bites and we started to present more shorter leadcores with deep diving cranks. I simply had one 5 colour Leadcore and one 7 colour leadcore that I alternated on the starboard side Bert's mast planerboard line. The other side the planerboard line pulled a 10 colour Leadcore that wasn't nearly as productive. To make that change, I instead pulled one of the rods off the Planerboard and ran that rod with a reel, spooled with 10 colours of Leadcore, down the chute, but only let out 7 colours. That change translated into managing a few more bites and fish. The divers set on 3 and out 130 and 140 were also getting bites pulling stickbaits, but the diver bite slowed as the morning progressed and the leadcores took over the production line.
We heard rumbling of thunder from across the lake and decided to motor back in at 2 pm. We were 3 shy of a three man 6 fish limit with 15 walleyes in the box, and 8 lbs 10 oz was Aidan’s biggest of the day. We dropped Rob off at the Marina and then Aidan and I had went to the beach and then a fish fry. After dinner it was about 7 pm and I said to Aidan, "let’s get out there and fish until dusk – this evening looks too good to pass up." The threat of that distant thunderstorm never turned our way and the skies opened up and the winds remained light. Aidan was so eagerly looking forward to round two on Port Bruce Sunday fishing with just his dad and we motored out 7 miles and set up in 52 feet of water this time.
Running four lines meant easy to manage and relaxing troll for me and the little man. One directional diver with a Knock-out Blueberry muffin on a 3 setting out 135 feet, One 5 colour on an inline board and one 7 colour on the other inline board and the last rod was a chute leadcore rod loaded with 10 colours but let out 6 colours. The diver and spoon managed 2 walleye, the 7 colour managed 1 walleye and the 5 colour leadcore another 2 walleye to finish our limit, but the chute rod was yet to come in. Sure enough it manages another walleye and we turn it free at the back of the boat. The Sun was approaching the horizon by this time. 1 ½ hr fish and we were “boxed out for the day”. Instead of fishing the Monday morning we packed up and headed home and watched a giant black cloud hang over Burlington. It was the storm that caused the flooding and damage in the area.
The Friday August 8th I traveled back down to Port Bruce with Rob, leaving the house at 3 am and launching the boat at Port Bruce at 6 am. We were met with Bob and Nicholas at the ramp and we set off for another try at limits of Walleye. There was a light to moderate East wind that made about a 1 ½ foot to 2 foot chop and I decided to run East of my waypoints with the idea to troll downwind to them. We set up in 57 feet of water near where the depth drops out gradually to 60 feet of depth. We quickly boat four walleye on the diver and spoon and diver and stickbait out 120 and 140. And the leadcores on the boards were getting bites too but things slowed to one bite per 40 minutes or so and we lost a few as well while the winds finally started to diminish. Once they did the 7 and 10 colour Leadcores started picking off fish at a much faster pace than the divers and we soon had 9 walleye in the boat by noon and it was time to pull and run in to pick up the afternoon crew.
Dave and Ryan were next to board for the afternoon and we set off with the lake now flat since the wind was no longer blowing. I set up East of the waypoints and trolled to them and this time with a much better game plan. Rods were firing at a regular pace all afternoon. We lost many walleye, but the group was easy going with only poking fun at each other and jokes to keep conversation light on everyone's missed opportunities. 7 colour Leadcores were by far the best on the boat. Divers also had plenty of hits but too many missed fish. By 6 pm everyone on board had limits and we were running back to the marina with big smiles and a heavy colour of 13 walleye and 2 rainbows. The day’s 12 hours of fishing was 24 walleye and 2 rainbows and likely lost nearly dozen other walleye throughout the day.
As a casual once-a-year visitor to the Port Bruce area, I think I was caught up with all the hype and then set my expectations pretty high. Nothing grounds you quicker than working your way through adversity. Chased off by Southwestern Ontario thunderstorms, to fishing a soft bite due to the passing of those thunderstorms and East winds, and then the many lost fish that are, for the most part, all elements in the game we cannot control. This time the excuses shirt was well worn. So much so, it turned into a hand rag we can use to wipe off the Walleye juices.