Everyone who fishes anticipates the coming of spring. This winter was very mild and kept an energy of excitement and anticipation for Spring. Seminars were packed, shows saw increased attendance, and the cash registers were ringing at the tackle retailers during a time of what would be the quiet season.
That enthusiasm was a necessary recharge to the fishing industry after two consecutive years of record cold winters and dismal fishing success throughout the summers of 2014 and 2015 on Lake Ontario. A positive attitude towards the upcoming season continued into the beginning of March with some incredible weather and boat ramps free of ice. For those with aluminium boats that were ready in time, would launch and find Brown Trout snapping up body baits trolled along the shoreline. On March 12th a friend in the salmon fishing fraternity boated the earliest Chinook Salmon I have heard of and it was not a small fish. It was just shy of 20 lbs. Here again the excitement level in the salmon fishing community was given a shot of energy like a race engine with a shot of Nitrous Oxide. Visions of spring time trolling spreads are planted in my mind.
Then something happen on the fourth week of March and it shock us back to reality. The winter temperatures arrived, as did the snow falls. But it wasn’t for one week, it lasted for 6 more weeks. Like a kid full of sugar candy, my patience to start the trolling season was wearing thin.
The first half of April saw more snow than we did in November and December and temperatures that resembled what should have been during early March. With the cold weather came North and North East winds. The winds were persistent and constantly coming from that direction, not like it was induced by approaching cold-fronts, but rather like we were stuck in a polar vortex for weeks. (Got to love those new weatherman catch phrases).
By mid-April the coloured water along the shore looked promising for Brown Trout. We worked the shoreline waters of less than 12 FOW and managed the odd Brown Trout pulling stickbaits behind the boards. The best producer by far was the Jointed LIVETARGET smelt in the 115 size in black and silver back 55 feet behind the inline planerboard on 12 lbs test line. In April charter bookings were light and therefore made it possible to get the kids out. Here’s my son Aidan and Mark’s son Jeffery showing the results of a short evening first trip out on the boat for the year. Jeffery holds up the rod with the LIVETARGET that took the fish Aidan is holding.
When the weather allowed us to get out fishing I was amazed at the great conditions of coloured water along the shoreline and the satisfactory water temperatures in the shallows. At times, hours of trolling resulted in no bites in what appeared to be the most perfect Brown Trout conditions. In New York they are blessed with incredible Brown Trout fishing and it is my wish that the south shore between Hamilton to Niagara-on-the-Lake would establish a similar fishery. Changes in the methods the MNR stocks Brown Trout would have to change. In the new 2016 stocking plan those changes were issued. Now stocking will take place in greater numbers in less number of locations. Port Dalhousie will see more Brown Trout plantings and that should booed well for the future. I keep thinking we need more though. I’m not an advocate in stocking more to catch more, but Brown Trout are a different type of fish that appears to find Gobies the new food source along the shoreline.
The Ken Fisher Memorial derby held by the Strait Line Anglers Club was the next trip out on the lake and the game plan was to seek a morning king bite in the green water that reached out to 40 FOW. We trolled mostly 27 feet to 32 feet where the colour transition appeared evident. We trolled quicker with spoons and a few stickbaits hoping for a silver fish to add weight to our cooler for weighin. Instead of hitting our first salmon of the year we were taking bites on the spoons we had on the downriggers. We boat the first fish on a spoon stretched back 40 feet behind the ball and down 14 feet. It wasn’t a salmon but a Brown Trout. Then maybe 15 minutes later a silly set up on an inline planerboard was a Super Magnum sized Matrix spoon in blue and silver back 50 feet on mono line with no weight hoping for a bite beneath the surface takes a strike. Dad reels it in and it’s a small Brown Trout that had an unusual appetite. As we net the fish and work to get the hooks out of the fish, Aidan yells Dad, dad that rod. It was the rigger rod set 25 feet down over 30 feet of water and spoon (a bit of a story about this special spoon in a moment).
Aidan tried to pull the rod out of the rigger rod holder, but I had to help. Then it was all him on the rod meanwhile dad and I ready the net untangling the hooks from the previous Brown Trout. Aidan is confident on the rod and works the fish in without instruction, but once I turned my head to what was going on I wondered about the type of fish. It wasn’t behaving like a Salmon and it appeared to be approaching the surface rather than bulldog down like a Lake Trout, none-the-less it wasn’t a light and easy fish like the last two. As it got closer and visible through the pea green water the fish was known to us as a Brown Trout. Not just any Brown trout, but a FAT one that I scooped in the net and high fives to Aidan as we giggled about what he caught it on. We brought it to the scales to weigh in for the St Catharines Game and Fish derby with hopes for it to break the 10 lbs mark. It was shy of that at 9 lbs 4 oz. But later it was told that the Junior division doesn’t have a minimum size. So that put him first on the derby board in the Brown Trout category. No wonder it was so fat, check out one of three gobies found in the fishbox that the fish spit up.
That Brown Trout was all Aidan’s and here’s the back story on the spoon. Two years ago on a charter one of my clients was fighting a fish on a Magnum Warrior spoon when the fish charged the boat and the spoon went into the prop. I unravelled the line from around the prop to pull off the spoon that had no more paint on it and it was bent in half at a little more than 90 degrees. About the chuck the spoon away I said to Aidan when I got home, “You want your own spoon to paint it as you wish?”. Of course he said yes, so I bent it back to straight and he picked gold and purple spray bombs from my garage shelf and proceeded to paint one end gold and the other purple. Then I said when it dried, you can add tape to it to finish it. I said you can use transparent tape like this fish scale tape over top of the paint and then add an eye. You can add other tape too, whatever you wish. So he added a glow eye and a glow ladderback. Boom – Aidan’s spoon.Picture of his spoon.
Each time we go out fishing we have to run his spoon and this day was without exception. That spoon has caught its share of fish. Mostly Rainbows during the summer on leadcore. I asked where you want to run it. He said the downrigger. His call, his spoon, he spotted the rod, he fought the fish and he got it to the net. It was all him and that’s what makes it special.
Like a kid, I had little patience in waiting for the Spring Brown Trout fishing to get underway. Once it did, the kids shared turns on the rods bringing in fish. One of those turns might turn out a Junior division placeholder in the St Catharines Game & Fish Derby.