Monday, April 13, 2020

The Rumination of Ranger

Last November, a day after our freak early winter storm, I shoveled out the 206 Key Largo Centre console before it’s new owner arrived to hook up to it and pull it away. Months previous, I spent a significant amount of time contemplating a number of things with regards to what type of boat I can see fit for my business and lifestyle as well as affordability.

I have been wavering between purchasing a bigger boat that stays on a dock vs a boat of similar length as the Key Largo but slightly different style. My discernment included the follow factors to swing my decision;

Adaptation to a changing fishery

Although we are still in a very good place on both Lake Ontario and Lake Erie fisheries health, there has been significant change. These changes have me thinking I need to be more adaptive, more versatile, be agile and limber to what swinging punches come our way.

Lake Ontario Observations

Lake Ontario’s Western Basin is Struggling Risk (Threat) – This will likely continue to struggle for the next five years (minimum) as we ride out an imbalance of predator/prey biomass. The sky isn’t falling, but there are some adjustments I need to make to position my business for what Lake Ontario still provides and where there are gaps. This includes; 1.) The dramatically less Rainbow Trout population after the 2014 and 2015 cold winters causing Thiamine Vitamin deficiency. This creates a quagmire for alternative Western Basin Mid and Late summer opportunities for when Salmon numbers are low. 2.) The significant lack of late summer salmon action with reduced number of returning salmon in the Western Basin tributaries since there isn’t natural reproduction and stocking numbers are down. In addition to this, Pen projects have been stopped this spring due to COVID-19 which will mean less imprinting for salmon stocked at Port Dalhousie for 2023.

Dockage Availability Risk (Threat) – In 2019 marina were closed and limited in fuel dock and other facilities for anyone looking to moor for the season. In 2020 COVID-19 has all Marina’s closed and even if we return to normal, the amount of time to bring things back to operation and make dockage services available once more, might not return this season. Not to mention the lack of income might cause some private marina businesses to be forced to foreclose.

Niagara River, Port Dalhousie and now Hamilton Harbour walleye have become a new opportunity.

Lake Erie Observations

The walleye population explosion Risk (Opportunity) -causing significant impacts in other fish populations, namely the perch numbers are down. Smelt numbers are also seeing a lower population count that has turned some of the walleye to turn to the shallows for large Goby especially in early summer. The creel limits and other increased measures to help harvest and control the walleye populations might be the result of fisheries managers.

Options for Eastern Basin Walleye Techniques Risk (Opportunity) – Its not just for mid summer trolling for chartering. The lake has provided other options that has engaged other techniques to catch walleye and extend the season. Walleye numbers are so high that it has extended the seasonal fishing opportunity and lake wide range and has expanded techniques. Shallow water trolling fishing into early summer and again in late fall, jigging deep water reefs in late summer, and casting and jigging in larger rivers like the Upper Niagara River and the Lower Grand River in the late fall and early winter.

The bass populations continue to be strong and does provide guiding opportunities in Fall. The bass diet has become more diversified as goby numbers seem to be dropping and more traditional shiner jigging and casting techniques, we used in the 90’s, are coming back.

With the above mentioned the other boat style and design will follow some other additional factors.

Asset Lifecycle and price point

I am 2/3 of the way through my career at the City of Hamilton. My pension planning says I have 10 more years before early full pension retirement. Financially I have a mortgage that will be paid by then, two kids that will be done what ever post secondary they need covered and that leaves me with a smaller than needed budget to buy brand new. I need a boat that will last for 10 years minimum, one that can be purchased at a price point that will not make me boat poor. One that operates efficiently and with less overhead. So here are my selection constraints for selecting the right boat that fits the above directive.

1.)Only deep V fiberglass or heavy weld aluminum hull would do. The longevity of a hardy hull and the kind of ride to preserve my back.
2.)Capacity/space/comfort of 3 adults to keep with the same current business format which puts you at a minimum 20ft length
3.)Extend my season into the early winter (by December 15th) to take advantage of the Niagara River steelhead and walleye, Port Dalhousie Brown Trout, Bass on Lake Erie, and Hamilton Harbour Walleye means a different format for multispecies with large deck space for casting.
4.)Need more horsepower to get up and go, with no fumes of a 4 stroke, and it had to have low hours to maintain longevity if older vintage.

In addition to these… I had a price range in mind and I was preapproved for that amount before looking at what else was above the price range. I didn’t care if I had to travel days on the road to find the right one. I knew that Yamaha outboards were far and away much more important to have then any other brand. Price for a Verado or a Pro XS would need to be -$3000 and an Etec wouldn’t even be considered. I am a consumer not sponsored and my dollars will only be invested in the best when it comes to power. No sacrificing motor quality to bring price point down I got to rely on the power behind me. After much investigation I also knew what was a good number of hours on the motor and the vintage and brand of boat.

Researching brands of boats it was clear that a Walleye style boat was most fitting my format. If Heavy weld aluminum was in my sights it would be on a Harbourcraft, Hewscraft, Stanley or the alike. Not some of the riveted models or light weld aluminums. If it was fiberglass walleye boat I was looking at a Skeeter WX series in 2090, 2100 or 2200, Ranger 620 or 621. In all of these makes, the Ontario market is weak in providing options. Simply put- everyone likes there riveted light aluminum boats in Ontario. That meant I needed to look more in the United States. This meant all sorts of other things to think about when shopping for a boat in the US.

1.)The exchange rate at the time was $1.35
2.)There are no tariffs applied to used boats but the 13% HST was to be added onto the US price tag.
3.)If the boat was being sold by a dealer- it might also be subject to a State Tax. So pricing out values needed to consider the private sale and a negotiating range on a dealer boat.
4.)The preparation for bringing the boat across the border needed attention. More on this to follow.
5.)Not unlike buying a car, seller silliness is all over the boat sales industry.
6.)The weather for towing the boat need to be clear.
7.)Find someone who will ride with me for hours listening to my rants and hear me singing to the country music on the radio?

Bringing over a boat across the border needs significant planning. Planning with a time table and balancing the bidding process with a prospective seller with concessions of payment of a boat sight unseen. It’s a balance of seller patience and trust with buyer commitment and organization.

Leading up to finally finding my boat, I was ready to purchase 3 other boats but when your gut instinct tells you to steer clear – listen close and ask the questions that are most difficult.

The first boat I was ready to pull the trigger on was a Skeeter WX 2090 and it was nearly a done deal when I asked the owner on the second call if there are any Liens. Sure enough, there was a significant portion of the value of the boat rolled up in a lien with a bank. A lien can be paid for during the purchase agreement when you buy the boat but you need to have the ability to pay off the lien with the seller along side, during business hours and with the total amount on hand. This also means the difficulty of carrying a new title to the boat and the lien release form for both the boat and trailer. The complexity is far greater to sift through when you get the boat to the border and sort all of this out at Canada Customers.

The second boat was a Skeeter WX 2100 and the seller neglected to tell me until the third call that the motor was recently rebuilt and still was in break-in period. Because this information was given late in the negotiations, I had no trust in the seller and backed out.

The third boat was in Texas and was a great looking Skeeter WX 2200 with a 300 Yamaha. I found out the motor was part of a twin on a big boat and this was the motor with the proper rotation (on twins, the port and starboard motors rotate opposite to one another). The motor might have been perfectly fine but considering the lack of knowledge on the history of the motor and then the 26 hour drive to see the boat, I decided not to make an offer.

The boat that followed me home was a match of all criteria, buy and seller patience and trust, I was committed to having all details planned out and organized and with a timetable to drive out and buy the boat.

About the boat and it’s history

The boat was located in Stillwater, Minnesota by a private owner who was the second owner of the boat that had known the previous (original) owner. The 2006 Ranger 620 VS was powered with a 4 stroke Yamaha 250 horsepower with roughly 100 hours. The seller bought the boat in 2017 from the original owner with only 57 hours on the big motor and when he tried the kicker motor – It wouldn’t start because it was used so little the carburetor needed to be cleaned. He got it running and has been good the past two years.

The seller described a very similar story about high water levels not unlike the lower Great Lakes. He said that the St Croix River has been shutdown to running the river with a wake. All year 2019 they couldn’t run the big motor to get the boat on plane. The boat had little use and it was evident when I went to see the boat.

Numerous calls back and forth lead to the agreed upon price, timing and transfer of all the details that I needed to get the paperwork started for my return across the border. That paperwork included:

1.)Vehicle Import Registrar forms which requires the Trailer VIN number, history report and lien clearance, as well as copy of title, and any recalls. I gathered numerous pictures of the trailer, the VIN number of the trailer, the ownership title of the boat with Trailer and I arranged my insurance coverage for the boat, motor and trailers before I was on route.
2.)Insurance required Trailer VIN number, VIN number of the Yamaha 250 outboard and the Hull Identification Number. A list of other additional items like the electronics the boat came with and the kicker motor and its VIN number. Then also a breakdown of value of each as it sum the agreed upon price.
3.)According to MTO, I was allowed to tow the boat without license plate, but because I had a plate already, I went into get a new plate owner slip so it was on hand and easy to read.
4.)Although we had discussed everything on the phone between me and the seller, I also had everything followed up in an email back and forth. Then I printed off the email thread conversation that also discussed our negotiated price and the agreement of no deposit because I wasn’t interested in sending money with site unseen. Also collected was a series of pictures and photos of all the title documents.
5.)I ran a background check report on the boat using the Hull Identification number which told me the ownership history, any accidents, recalls and encumbrance that will prevent the acceptance of crossing the border.
6.)Money wise I not only negotiated, but also prepared to carry the money on hand across the border under the rules. I had a portion of the moneys in a Certified Bank Draft in US dollars as well as $3000 in cash. You are only allowed up to $9999.99 in US Dollars cash on hand when crossing the border. The bank draft is allowed largely because the intended recipient in named on the bank draft and it matches the sellers name and address and description of the boat.
7.)To ease the mind of the seller I also had the seller’s financial institution call my bank to confirm the moneys were there and ready and what format it will be coming in as a Bank Draft. Some US banking institutions don’t recognize a Canadian made bank draft even if its in US funds. The call in advanced allowed the two institutions to verify the transfer will be successful.
8.)Lastly, I needed to book my places of stay with very aggressive timelines to maximize drive time with my Minnesota arrival to be a decent timing to connect with the seller. The target time was 5 pm on Saturday and we were 30 minutes before! Talk about perfect timing. In addition, we wanted to be coming across the border in late afternoon on Sunday. So careful planning set out stop/stop locations to book our overnight stays.

Friday, February 7th at 1:30 pm I left work in Downtown Hamilton and drove to pick up my son Aidan at his highschool in Grimsby for 2:45pm. Run home and finalize our packing and then pick up my dad and hit the Highway. We got to the border in Sarnia at 8:00 pm and got through without any concern and stopped in Lansing for the night. Woke up at 6:00 am had breakfast and hit the road by 7 am. There was a snow that covered the roads and we got a bit messed up in our directions first thing as we circled around and then finally got on route. We found the worst part of our drive was driving around Chicago with more road cut offs and basket weaving roads then anticipated. The GPS kept telling us to go towards the City and we wanted to avoid the City.

The location of our stay on the second night wasn’t booked yet as we were unsure what to anticipate for timing, weather, and any other hiccups along the way. We instead drove to Madison, Wisconsin by lunch time and looked at our timing and plans and decided to book a room in Madison so we force ourselves to get that far before the end of the day as we backtrack our route.

To change it up, my dad drove for the next 4 hours as we made it to Stillwater, Minnesota and finally to see the boat.

The boat was inside a large garage with the cover on and all cleaned up. I helped roll up the cover to take a look inside and the interior was in great shape. No stains or wear on the carpet, even on the step up to the front deck. The deal was made and then backed up the truck, hooked up and waved good bye.

The signs on the highway and on the local radio announced an approaching winter storm. It was to hit Minnesota and Northern Wisconsin at 3:00 am with a snowfall of between 6 and 9 inches. Besides the safety and delays that might occur when driving in wintery conditions, I also didn’t want my boat to be covered in salt and slush and road grime. We were booked to stay that night in Madison, Wisconsin which is the southern part of the state and looking at the local weather suggested that instead of 3 am it would hit Madison for 6am. I said to my dad and son, if there are any flakes falling- we are loosing sleep.

I slept with one eye open partly because the kind of people I saw around the area we were staying and was worried about the boat and truck, and of course the pending weather coming in. 5:00 am my other eye opened as the snow started to fall. I leaped from the bed and straight to shower. My dad was up just as fast and we had to drag Aidan out of bed and into the truck to hit the road. We were pulling on to the highway by 5:45 and was near the border of Illinois by 6:35 where we stopped for breakfast and fuel and being chased by periodic snow blowing. No accumulation on the roads so we kept on our route and clocked the miles and managed the border by 3:30 pm and still no accumulation on the roads and no salt trucks.

My preparation for the border allowed the easy and fairly fast customs visit. Highway 402 to 401 was Hammer down and we got to dad’s in Stoney Creek at 6:30 pm. On our way to Beamsville we stopped at the car wash to spray down the boat and trailer and then arrive in the driveway for 7:30 pm. The snow was coming down good my then and we were happy to know we won- we did it, 32 hours of driving in 2 ¼ days and everything went smoothly.

The next day I stored the boat at dad’s and planned with Grimsby Tackle to begin rigging. Also took the boat to Canadian Tire to have the Trailer inspected and MTO certification of safety compliance sticker. Three weeks later the boat was at Grimsby Tackle’s show for Rigging. Next Blog is about boat rigging.

The Key Largo went out with a snow storm and the Ranger came in with a snow storm. Both boats go and come in like Lions, does that mean that the Ranger will stay like a Lamb?

Shane Thombs
FINtastic Sportfishing

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Fishing Widow

The skies darken the roar of distant thunder washes over the sounds of the whitecaps and the whistling winds running through the fishing lines. My cell phone rings, its Shari, my wife. “The storm is here, are you getting off the lake?” Where would we be without the care of our other half? Looking out for us, all the while hearing the wind static on the phone and our short answers to speed up the conversation and get back down to business. It’s time to do homage to our better half. The one who reminds us to balance our work, our family life, and fishing in balance.

Of course we are keeping a watchful eye on the storm while sea billows roll. We intently assess the situation by watching the RADAR, factor in our travel time in potentially bigger waves and maybe even the need to consider driving rain as the storm nears and the need to be off the lake where lightening is in dangerous range. We even assess what time it might take to hook and land that last salmon of the day and if that window of time should keep us from resetting that line to catch another. Sometimes an approaching storm front turns the fish on the feed and it can mean some amazing action.

From a charter captain’s perspective with clients on board, the anxiety increases ten fold and we absolutely take no chances. We manage our time and potential risk and “pull the lines” much earlier to ensure safety and comfort. These are the things that when not being in the boat with us, would not be understood from the perspective of looking out the window at home and with the phone in your hand against an ear. But knowing you have someone looking out for you is what’s important here.

Shari is my wife of seventeen years on September 28th of this year and we were together for seven years before that. She knows full well that fishing is a permanent part of my life, a life passion that has been with me all my life. When she married me, it was understood that my flaw is that I come with “fishing baggage”. Fishing baggage that means extensive time on the water away from the house and the kids. To say it doesn’t come with arguments and misunderstandings, would be a lie. I continually work towards a work-life-fishing balance so she doesn't feel like a widow at home. There is a bit of leniency and sacrifice that takes place to make things work. From a place of poking fun at the situation, Shari- the wife of a charter captain- has jokingly call herself the “Fishing widow”.

All kidding aside, today I am sore and tired. Not because of a long day on the water, as a matter of fact we had to cancel our charter due to the weather. Instead, a friend in need meant providing an urgent helping hand. A mother of four kids trapped in domestic abuse from an alcoholic husband. A husband who felt drinking would fill the void in his life, that void which could instead be filled with a life passion like fishing. She required help to move belongings out of the house, while he was at work. The deadline for his return to home was imminent and the stress levels for the family were extreme. She was on the run from a very dire situation and potentially her life and the lives of her children. We assembled to help, we worked fast and hard and with heavy hearts. She was not widowed through the death of the deadbeat dad and husband, but the death of a peaceful marriage that required escape.

Sustaining a work-life-fishing balance lifestyle is not easy. Working all week at my day job, working every weekend on the boat and then pulled so many directions, it was clear that me and the family required break. ROAD TRIP!!!

In July a family two week long East Coast trip answered the need to balance things again. 5,000 plus km of driving offered us the views of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. 37 years before, my parents did a very similar family camping road trip and it was my interest to see some of the very same sights now, almost 4 decades later. This Shari and I wanted to share this experience with the kids while they were at the perfect age to remember it for years to come.

Driving in Nova Scotia, we toured the south coast from Halifax to Lunenburg. Stops like Peggy’s Cove, Mahone Bay were planned but one particular location was that of Indian Harbour just west of Peggy’s Cove. A small campground called “King Neptune” was a location that I remember vividly as an 8 year old. The old fishing shack and dock to the little red fishing vessel piloted by the husband to Katherine (Kay). The included 1982 picture with the kids show my sister and I, along with two other kids from the campground, holding up the fresh catch of Halibut caught by Kay's husband.

Kay is now 97 years old and is a true Fishing Widow as here fisherman husband had passed away of natural causes. When we pulled into the campground I explained to Kay’s son (who now watches the campground) that I was only stopping in to gather the views and conger up those 37 year old memories. Of course he was welcoming and showed us to the yellow house that still appeared original and standing the test of time. We knocked on the door and approached the screen door a 4 foot 10 inch woman to welcome us in. We intended only to say hi, but Kay insisted that we stay for cookies and conversation.

Soon we were talking more than just names and where we were from. Laughs and thoughts were shared with how the campground has historically remained the same, yet gained popularity and with worldwide attraction. She showed here notebook of years of logs noting the number of campers from countries around the world. Surprisingly the country (outside of Canadian campers) of Germany was the highest count of campers. The campground is full most of the summer which was not the case when we were camping there 37 years ago.

Kay also shared how the Swissair Flight 111 MD- 11 crash impacted the campground in 1998. 229 people died and King Neptune Campground became the command centre for search and rescue efforts. She explained that there were some 30 men stationed at the campground rotating shifts out to sea. The men were provided rations of sandwiches and soup for each meal. When Kay heard, she stated with importance that she would have none of this. Instead she sat 21 men plus family and friends to a quality wholesome East coast cooking. Hospitality of a Bluenoser is like no other!

Kay also opened up a photo album that showed various pictures of the campground and life of Indian Harbour. Many pictures were of her husband, at the fishing shack, on red fishing boat, and with the catch of the day. Kay outlived her husband, but her spry spirit and hospitality showed that being a fishing widow isn’t the end of her story and
she provided a welcoming way for me to reconnect to a special place as a fisherman and as a person whom wishes to treat people as we like to be treated.

We joke around and poke fun with the words of “Fishing Widow”, but in life we are all in this together. As I continue to learn and strive to create work-life-fishing balance, I can see it has helped strengthen our family. Fishing as a life passion fills your soul with peace and happiness in a world that can otherwise be mean. When all is well with your soul, you can weather the storm, have empathy for others in need, and give generously no matter how many mouths to feed.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Today's Spatially Aware Angler

On long drive camping trips when I was a kid, with my parents and sister, often meant sitting in the passenger seat beside dad who’s driving, with the Ontario road map partly unfolded on my lap.
I suppose I was the navigator since my sister in the back suffering from car sickness and my mom at her side. I didn't mind it at all, I enjoyed the job. Maps to me read easier than words in a novel. I was never good in English in school, but geography was my calling.

Today we have GPS which has turned the Spatially Aware Navigator into a redundant skill replaced by your cell phone or dashboard mounted GPS. Now in my older years I sometimes like to explore without my electronics. Resort to a paper map or use my sense of direction to weave my way across the Lots and Concessions of the back-roads. I fear being Spatially Aware is becoming a skill lost on younger generations.

Electronics for fishing has become heavily leaned on for navigator, but unlike a haphazard car trip across the countryside, decisive navigation on the water is as important as your car seat belt. In fact, as a captain of your vessel, it is by law you know where you are at all times even when the electronics clearly show it digitally. Marine Law enforcers pull over boaters and check for safety gear. On that list for a larger vessel is a Magnetic Compass and an updated paper navigation chart. Your electronics already shows your location and with accurate cartography to help your navigational needs. Truly what is desired is that (as a captain) you are spatially aware of your boat’s position and direction. It’s like a sixth sense for seasoned mariners.

It has been said by many of professional anglers that fishing success is like real-estate success. It’s all about Location, Location, Location. Today’s technology has given anglers the tools to efficiently narrow down the best location to catch fish.

The number one question I get from those at the dock ready to go out fishing is “what depth of water were you in?” So many concentrate on how deep the fish are, but rarely consider where on the lake the fish are located. Which way out of port are you fishing? As the morning went on, where did you find fish migrate too? Information to provide your location, it is often using a visual location on land or on a map and rarely coupled by the depth of water fishing. Spatial awareness of your surroundings means understanding… x,y (location on a map) and z (depth of water).

Spatial awareness allows the opportunity to justify how and where you fish, judge your fishing situation with other locations. They say 90% of the fish are in 10 % of the water, but I believe the Great Lakes is an even greater percentage of fish in smaller percentage of water, and unlike structure oriented fish like bass, pelagic fish are nomad. If a seasoned Mariner has a Spatial Awareness like having a sixth sense, wouldn’t you think as a Great Lakes Troller, would it not help you put more fish in the boat? With today’s electronics and technology, when used effectively, provides the information to become spatially aware.

Future Great Lakes Fishing Technology prediction.

In 2000 I did a seminar at the Strait Line Anglers Club after finishing my schooling in Geographic Information Systems. My main topic was how GPS works. At that time it was expanding rapidly and the US government stopped Selective Availability to enhance GPS locational accuracy for civilian use. I said in the seminar that in the future, our GPS units will not only have our bathymetric charting and our location on the map, but also correct the data in the map collected by SONAR. 15 years later we have SONAR Charts Live updates from Navionics.

So what is next for our future of fishing electronics… I believe we will see strides in wigitization of apps that would not only display on the hardware we mount on the helm, but also on mobile devises like our phones or tablets. Use of cloud storage of things like saved routes, Trails and Waypoints to be shared to other devices and other users. They will design electronics with emphasis on app integration between electronics like your SONAR/GPS plotter display and Down-speed display via added widgets and easy plug and play apps. Mobile devices like our phones will allow easy saving of Waypoints and control of the electronics and apps from anywhere in the boat by Bluetooth on mobile devises.

I believe our electronics will have greater insights into our use of the electronics. For an example, it might generate hotspot maps of areas that are seeing greater waypoints saved via crowd source cloud storage sharing. Not unlike Waze for driving, you will have Waze of fish catching activity. This will open up the familiarity of your success measured by your location and the location of others. Are you fishing where more fish are being caught? There was a time when SONAR was said to be “cheating” because you see the fish. Then we saw the introduction of GPS technology viewed as a tool to uncover secret fishing spots. The next evolution in trolling technology will include information sharing and insights into that information.

All the best electronics in the world will not make you a better angler. They provide you information so you can be more spatially aware as a troller. Spatial awareness aids decision making on the water. Making the right decisions will catch you more fish.

Shane Thombs
FINtastic Sportfishing

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Links and apps for your Smart Phone when fishing Lake Ontario & Lake Erie

Links and apps for your Smart Phone

Website Links

Wind Forecasting

Buoy Data

Grimsby WX station = 45139
Port Colborne WX station = 45142
Port Stanley WX station = 45132
Lorain, Ohio WX station = 45005

Water Conditions Data

Coastwatch Surface Temperatures

MODIS Satellite True Colour imagery

Environmental Conditions Data

               Solunar Clock


Wind Forcasting
Image result for Sailflow App icon  SailFlow
Image result for Windy App icon  Windy
Temperature and Precipitation
Image result for The Weather Network App icon Weather Network
Moon Phase
Simple Moon Phase Widget
Image result for Simple Moon Phase Widget App icon 
 Canal Status


Monday, September 4, 2017

Less XBoxes and more Tackle Boxes- Gamers to Anglers

It’s the last weekend of the summer and if you have a preteen- teenager- tweenager boy in the house you might also be at your wits end with the amount of screen time this summer.

George Foxworthy has the redneck jokes, but if you could change that to Parent of a Gamers jokes it might go like this.

If by Labour Day your child’s skin colour is still white as snow, you might be Parent of a Gamer.

If your son asks to get more AA batteries for the wii remotes but the grass is two weeks over due for a cut and the lawnmower needs no gas, you might be a Parent of a Gamer.

If your home internet usage is more after 2 am than at 10 am, you might be a Parent of a Gamer.

I come from a generation where gaming was first introduced. Pong, Pacman, and Frogger. In grade school I had only a few friends who liked to play video games and there were many hours burned up looking at tube style TVs and hyped up on Jolt Cola. It was a novelty though as it would be a bit of a flash in the pan and then we were back out to play doing whatever else indoors or outside.

I do think things have changed since 30 years ago when it comes to the number of young gamers, particularly young boys from maybe 7 to 27 that are to call video games a novelty with a short shelf life. Instead more and more treat video games as a decent way to pass time. Or worst yet, can be considered addicted to gaming and find friends with very similar interests.

An interesting stat compared to my childhood the 1970s and 80’s, children now spend 50 percent less time in unstructured outdoor activities. Children ages 10 to 16 now spend, on average, only 12.6 minutes per day in vigorous physical activity. Yet they spend an average of 10.4 waking hours each day relatively motionless.

A pole showed these following reasons as the top excuses why kids prefer not going outside.

• 80 percent said it was uncomfortable to be outdoors due to things like bugs and heat • 62 percent said they did not have transportation to natural areas, and • 61 percent said there were not natural areas near their homes.

Let’s not put the blame entirely on the kids, additionally a survey of Parents of Gamers showed that 50% were worried they might get hit in traffic when playing outside and 40% fear kidnapping by strangers.

Let’s instead think of Gamers as potential anglers of the future. I think there is an opportunity here if we look at it slightly different. Kids that are Gamers have what attributes? I think they are driven to find the ways to win. They will find enjoyment when they do succeed. They essentially are not scared of a challenge. If looking at fishing and what it takes to catch fish, it is about being persistent to try and catch fish. Where fishing doesn’t match up, it’s where you can try very hard, even do everything correctly, but you might not succeed. You might not catch a fish or as many fish as last time. Measuring success is not about how many levels you made to get where you are. It like starting a new video game every day.

In July I had to pleasure in having returning guests to the boat. A father and son annual fishing trip. This time, however, the son invited his friend to come along for a fishing trip. His first time ever fishing. The two late teenager boys are self-proclaimed gamers. So much so that in the past I remember the teenager arriving at the dock in the morning without sleeping after hours of gaming throughout the night. No pity we said, “fish will not wait for us, lets get out there”

This year was very interesting because his friend Steven was seeing fishing for the first time. This was like starting a brand new video game, to him. After fitting lifejackets and explaining the safety items on the boat and what to expect for fishing that morning, we motored out to our fishing grounds. In a side conversation I was told he suffers from anxiety and gaming is one of the many triggers that sets him off. Steven is addicted to gaming but also addicted to his school work. Second addiction doesn’t sound too bad right? It is bad. He doesn’t except having anything less than perfect and he works and works until it is.

His anxieties over the dangers of water, the fear of losing a fish and wondered if his inexperience will take away from the experience of others throughout the trip, had him bashful of participating fully. Having new to fishing people on a trip I try to explain that we don’t catch every fish we hook and sometimes we don’t always hook a fish to begin with. Its fishing. Measuring success is not possible. Each day we are handed a new units of measure. A big fish to one person is a small fish to another. 1 fish is a lot of fish some days, and 20 fish can be less than expected on some days. Success in fishing is not equally calibrated by measured by levels in a video game, or number of points. Maybe the lack of true measure is exactly what a gamer needs as an alternative to see success differently?

Steven’s anxiety was interrupted 10 minutes into our trip when I handed him the rod with a fish on the other end, taking line off the reel while it was in his hands. He was no longer anxious as his concentration was fully on the task at hand. The feeling of a powerful fish, the sound of the reel drag screaming for mercy was obviously like no video controller could ever simulate.

“What do I do? what do I do?” he said. We smiled and like it was already understood by the rest of us on the boat, “welcome to fishing, enjoy this, this doesn’t happen every day”. He learned quickly while working the rod and reel to fight the fish toward the boat and it was nearly within sight at the back of the boat when the line broke.

Steven had no time to be disappointed, the other downrigger rod popped up and I hand over another rod to place in his hand. This time he worked the rod like he was experienced. I wondered if the quick learning and dexterity was from gaming. Maybe a gamer’s brain is trained to adjust and learn quickly or you lose the game. He brought in his first fish an 11 lbs Lake Trout.

If you are a Parent of a Gamer, you might be frustrated, maybe even disappointed that the summer has slipped by without your son participating in constructive things. Your family vacation to the cottage for a week might have provided the much needed break from all that screen time. Consider other opportunities to try other outdoor activities. My son is enrolled in Scouts, it’s a wonderful program I recommend. It is possible to distract your son away from video games outside your scheduled summer holidays. Consider fishing, a hike in the woods, or maybe a day canoe trip. If you like to try fishing but don’t have fishing equipment or feel like you might not be able to find a good spot to catch fish, hire a guide.

Steven, along with many other young boys, that have been gamers for far too long, have many attributes that would make them great fisherman. Let them try fishing. I think it can be the needed outdoor activity to reduce curb screen time.

Shane Thombs

Friday, July 14, 2017

High Water, Fishing on a High in 2017

Environmental conditions are pivotal to providing good fishing. It’s a known fact, but describing what makes good vs bad environmental conditions can sometimes be misconstrued. Some of the most common things I hear, and my responses from Captain Obvious would include some of these:

Q: “When it’s hot out, doesn’t the fish go deep?”

A: Air temperature and water temperature are not the same. Lake Ontario is a deep lake, and yes the fish will at times go deep, but the air temperature is not the reason to go deep. Although Lake Erie is shallower, it also has enough depth to provide its own levels of water temperature comfort.

Q: “Don’t fish come up to the surface to feed during a rainfall?”

A: Sometimes, but it’s likely not the rain that brings them up in the water column. Low light conditions, a low pressure barometer and the benefit of less anglers around (fair weather fisherman) will make the fish rise in the water column. I use the word rise rather then come up to the surface. The surface water might not be what the fish want to be in if the water temperatures are too warm.

Q: “Why are the fish deep when the baitfish are seen near the surface?”

A: The large expanse of open water of the Great Lakes, fish can't hide for safety or hide to ambush. it’s a tug-of-war between baitfish (prey) and the Salmon, Trout or Walleye (predators). Some conditions provide baitfish with the advantage to avoid being eaten; other conditions provide the predators the advantage over prey. Where prey have the advantage, predators usually prefer not to use energy and rather wait for conditions that put them in the advantage. If baitfish can see the predatory fish coming, they have the advantage. If predators can sneak up on them without being seen, predators have the advantage. Low Light conditions, made by early mornings or late evenings, overcast conditions, or waves to break up the sunlight penetration, can provide salmon, trout or walleye with the advantage over baitfish.

Q:“Wouldn’t the fish prefer the clear water over dirty water?”

A: Building on the previous question, predators will usually find the advantage over baitfish when they are disguised in colour (turbid) water. In the spring, coloured water is literally the most important location factor to find catchable hungry fish. Clear water is also most often the colder water and sometimes called lifeless since most anglers will see the SONAR graph display empty and void of any life. The need for coloured dirty water becomes less the scenario in the Summer months since coloured water is less prevalent miles offshore. Instead the benefit to find green water is the goal. Green water is nutrient rich with phytoplankton (microscopic plants) to provide the foundation for a productive food chain, making it full of life as opposed to the clear lifeless water aforementioned.

Q:“The sun is out, the fish should be up sun bathing.”

A: It’s like an urban myth that seems to circulate. Unless we are talking about Carp, I don’t think I had ever seen a fish swim just beneath the surface to soak up the sun. Its not a situation on Lake Ontario or Lake Erie for salmon, trout or walleye.

Q: “How can there be currents in the lake with no river or inlet for many miles?

A: The Great Lakes are much different than a small lake or pond. We are talking about massive bodies of water with a lake surface that can be influenced by winds. Winds and waves move the water and localized winds can influence the currents of other areas not subject to winds. Three other factors are added to creating currents. 1.) Water temperatures will create variations of where the currents will move. Cold water is more dense and often slower moving. Cold water can be imaged in exaggeration as thick molasses where warmer water would have to move around it and slip past it. Vertically we see this between the warmer water above the thermocline vs. the colder water below. Horizontally you may see the smooth surface water with debris gathered alongside the colder wavy water that it meets. 2.) Point sources to add current into the lake. Niagara River for Lake Ontario is the largest catalyst to currents in the Lake Ontario. It is often referred to as the engine that turns currents in the lake in a counterclockwise direction. Lake Erie has the Detroit River at one end and the Niagara River at the other end. In three years the volume of Lake Erie is changed over. 3.) tides are minimal in freshwater but have a slight current created. It is more of a factor during the full moon in September and fishing for salmon staged to move up the river. Tides will move the water around the piers and night time glow spoon chucker’s will see the currents moving when there isn’t any wind. Less a concern for current changes in the main lake, but the tide times or Solunar gravitational pull can influence the times fish feed. Winds, water temperature differences, river water point sources and the effects of the tides are all examples of how the Lake currents are always moving.

Q: “If there’s a current, do fish like the current?”

A: They like the current to bring them food. They don’t like to spend energy fighting the current. The question can instead be asked what is the current bringing to the fish. Is the water rich with baitfish and warmer coloured water, or is it cold, clear and lifeless? Will the current not only move the water, but also move the fish to your area or away? As a fisherman, what consideration would you have to combat currents? Is your trolling speed at the depth of your presentation correct? Are there differences in bottom structure that will change or deflect the lake currents that will provide predators with an advantage to prey on baitfish that might pass by in the current?

Q: “Has this year’s high water made the fishing better?”

A: Yes and No. I think. ?!? Fishing has been exceptional this year, but its hard to say its entirely because of the higher water levels. Certainly the rising water of the Great Lakes has changed the scenario that fisherman have had to adapt. Some might say the fishing is good if they could actually get out fishing. Some boat launches are/were closed and limited fishing pressure in some areas. Some bigger boats were/are waiting for lake levels to subside to gain access to docks that are left submerged. The increased volume of water from runoff might have added a greater amount of nutrients in the lake that will generate a good growing environment for plankton and provide more fuel to the food chain and sustain more baitfish. There is also the thought that the warm winter we had in 2016-2017 along with the increase in water levels has added lots of warmer water to help the lake’s productivity. Localized fishing success as a result of higher water levels might be linked as well. The higher water levels and increased flow from the Niagara River might have changed how the Niagara River has continued to be a draw for fish into the start of Summer. When the river water usually draws fish in May and then warms too fast and fishing slows in the area, the river water still continues to draw fish well into July (thus far). That might be because of the increased water levels and water volume. Areas that seem to be great fishing spots in July have struggled to find consistent fishing, namely Grimsby has seen a slower summer start for reasons unknown to me. The fish are still subject to where the water goes and the baitfish follows. Higher water levels don’t seem to change off shore locations of fish. Whether the water is 210 feet or 214 feet in the same spot has less concern for the salmon swimming 50 feet down.

Describing how good the fishing is from one season to the next is not usually related to the current weather, but the overall climate of the season and past seasons. Cold winters and summers are bad for fishing for Lake Ontario Salmon and Trout and less concerning for Lake Erie Walleye fishing. Water levels as high as they are this year, might or might not be the reason for this year’s great Lake Ontario fishing. There are likely many other similar environmental conditions that tend to be confused with how it might make fish react and how good the fishing will be.

If the fishing is good, Make Hay while the sun shines. If the fishing is slow, When handed Lemons make Lemonaid. Environmental conditions and fishing success have very confusing outcome interactions. Get out fishing and find out if the old sayings are an urban myth.

Shane Thombs