The weather this week couldn't be any more different from a year ago. Last march break we were in T-shirts on the ice while this year it's been 20 below. As I type this the snow continues to fall outside, adding to the foot we've already got in the last 24-hours.
It sure doesn't seem like spring is just around the corner. If it wasn't for the longer days, the fish would think it's still mid-winter.
Big fish continue to find their way onto the ice. With dedication, patience and effort come rewards.
My wife Kelly joined me recently, and of course she caught the big one. Kelly can jig walleye with the best of them, whether it's through the ice or in the boat. Check out this big, beautiful, dark walleye.
Another one that couldn't resist the Lindy Rattlin' Flyer Spoon
My pursuit of big winter lake trout continues. For me, these fish are the best substitute for muskie fishing. The drag peeling, rod bending runs of a wintertime laker fill the adrenaline void created by the closed muskie season. In other words, they're the biggest bang for your buck on the ice.
I've been fortunate to catch some really nice lakers lately.
I also wanted to share a product that has made a huge improvement to my ice fishing program.
The Digger Auger Carrier by Digger Anchor makes carrying your auger so easy and convenient. It makes me so much more portable and efficient on the ice now that I don't have to load and unload my auger from the sleigh every time I move.
Even though we've still got a few weeks of ice fishing left here in Northwestern Ontario, spring really is just around the corner. Check out the current issue (April 2013) of Ontario OUT OF DOORS for an article I wrote about using strutter decoys as a part of your spring turkey hunting strategy.
Also, click HERE for an on-line article I did for Ontario OUT OF DOORS called 'The ABC's of Backtrolling'.
Before open water and turkey hunting, however, the year's best ice fishing is still to come. Stay tuned for one more ice report.
Let The Good Times Roll
My spring fishing update is a bit overdue as things have been really busy around here since getting back from turkey hunting. My guiding work is in full swing and the days are flying by.
Overall fishing has been excellent, despite the non-typical weather patterns we've had this year. The ice went out really early and since then we've had everything from seasonal weather to the extremes of heat and cold. It snowed in Sioux Lookout on May 29th and now less than a week later it feels like summer.
If I could generalize the effect on the fishing, I would say the fish are more scattered than usual. Recently, I've caught walleye as deep as 34-feet and as shallow as 4-feet, and everywhere in between. Everyday is different and most patterns don't last very long.
Despite this, the catching has been very good. Most of my walleye are being caught out of 15-feet of water, give or take. The bigger fish, however, seem to be in 15-plus feet. Another pattern that is producing is the may-fly larva pattern. During sunny afternoons when the shallow water heats up, the walleye move into shallow bays to gorge on may-fly larva. It's one of my favourite patterns of the year - catching lots of walleye, and big ones too, out of 4-8 feet-of-water.
Here's one of my guests, Bob, with a typical Lac-Seul over slot walleye.
Bob and Mike toughed it out through some of the worst conditions - cold, wet and wind - but we caught a lot of fish!
Not long after they left, the weather got warm (sorry guys!) and the fish kept biting. Here's a nice one that I caught out of 18-feet on a Lindy jig tipped with a minnow.
The pike fishing has been kind of hit-or-miss lately but I have to show off this P-I-G I caught earlier in the season.
I also had a chance to spend 3 days in my boat with my good buddy Mike Battistoni hunting for big lakers on Minnitaki Lake. Minnitaki is known for trophy lake trout, but it's not a 'numbers' lake by any means. We were hoping for a couple of big-bigs but it didn't happen on this trip. The laker bite was tough and we only boated 1 fish. We covered a lot of water trolling with planer boards, dipsey divers and long-lines. We also jigged deeper areas but couldn't get on a big laker.
Here's Mike with our one-and-only lake trout.
Since I didn't get to 'scratch my lake trout itch' I hit up Big Vermilion for some jig fishing recently. The action was much better and we boated a lot of lakers jigging with white tube jigs. We caught fish from 35-feet down to 70-feet. Here's one of the better fish from the day.
Since I got home from turkey hunting I put together this video. Check it out - I think it turned out pretty well.
Coming up - a lot more fishing! I'm really looking forward to muskie opener on June 16th.
Also, the Johnson Outdoors santa arrived and I can't wait to rig my boat up with a Minn Kota Terrova with I-Pilot and Humminbird 898CX Side Imaging combo, plus a 788 HD combo on the bow.
The spring turkey hunt is easily my favourite hunt of the year. It's a great time to be outside and turkeys provide a nice balance between challenge and action. For the last 5 years I've hunted with my good buddy Jocko in Southern Ontario. Jocko and I guided together for a few seasons on Lac Seul and besides being a great walleye stick, Jocko is turkey obsessed.
Thanks to Jocko's pre-season scouting, we were set up really close to a roosted Tom on opening morning. The sound of the first pre-dawn gobble is like music to a turkey hunters ears! This gobbler put on a great show, strutting and gobbling as he rounded up his hens. Ultimately, it was his hens that resulted in his demise as they led him into our spread and I pulled the trigger at 18 yards.
It's alway a great feeling to tag a turkey and carry it out of the bush over your shoulder - especially on opening morning!
Tom number two was another fun one. We had watched him strutting in the same field for a couple nights and after some legwork, Jocko secured permission from the land owner. There wasn't a lot of bush so we had a good idea of where he would roost. We were set up at 5am and at 5:35 the first gobble confirmed we were close. This fella gobbled his head off! He came out into the field with 2 Jakes and 4 hens and locked into his strut zone. Jocko worked the slate call and one of the Jakes came over and actually mounted our hen decoy. The boss Tom didn't like this at all and came running over, covering 100 yards in no time. The old 870 roared and my 2nd Tom was down! What a thrill!
This was an old mature Tom - check out these daggers - a real limb hanger! 1 1/4" spurs.
Another great turkey hunt is in the books. I'm already looking forward to next year. A huge thanks to Jocko for his expertise, patience and willingness to share this hunt with me. I had such a great time, thanks buddy!
Here's a shot of the turkey master in action.
Coming up - the real softwater season begins. Pike and lake trout will keep me busy until walleye opener on May 19th so stay tuned!
Bridging the Gap
Every year there's a period of time between the end of ice fishing season and the start of the softwater season when there's not much going on fishing wise in NW Ontario. No safe ice and nowhere to launch a boat. This is the perfect time to check out some fishing and hunting opportunities in other parts of Ontario.
First stop, Lake Superior Provincial Park for a day on the river chasing steelhead with my good buddy and fellow guide Graham Coulombe.
The walk in was about an hour long and the trails were still snow covered. Absolutely beautiful scenery though.
Fishing wasn't on fire but we had our chances. I hooked up first but the bright chrome steelhead jumped and spit the hook. We moved around a bit and fished a few other runs but returned to where I hooked up earlier. This time around my float popped under and I set the hook into a nice little buck that hit the bank for a photo shoot.
After that Graham broke off a good fish and that was it for the action. Great day with a good friend!
Next up was ice-out Lake Trout with another good buddy JP Bushey. Every year we gamble weather wise with the timing of this trip and this year mother nature got the best of us. Parts of the lake were still iced in and we battled high winds, cold, rain and snow. We ground it out a few hours each day and put a couple fish over the gunnels and lost a few others.
Here's JP with a Laker that hit a spoon behind a Dipsey-Diver.
The next adventure was a trip with my Dad and guide Steve Piggott of Angler's Way Guide Service on the Grand River for catfish. I was out with Steve two years ago and we had an incredible day with the cats so I was really excited to get my Dad out there. Once again, however, mother nature had other plans. It was cold, wet and really windy which made it almost impossible to hold anchor. We had a few pick-ups and Dad had a couple on but both of them came unpinned before reaching the net. That's fishing!
The only catfish picture of the day was of 'Muddy' who lives in a park in Dunnville.
Next up, time to put the rods away and grab the shotguns - the spring wild turkey hunt in southern Ontario is hands-down my favourite hunt of the year. My good friend Jotham 'Jocko' Dumesnil lives near Brantdord, ON and is a turkey fanatic. He hosts myself and our other buddy Rob each spring for a week in the woods chasing gobblers.
This year was no exception to Jocko's amazing track record of putting us on the long-beards! How about doubling up with Toms on opening morning? Sure!
We had action all week, seeing birds gobbling on the roost then flying down is a sight to see. It's a very interactive and up-close hunt which adds to the excitement.
In Ontario you are allowed to shoot two bearded birds during the spring hunt and I tagged-out with my second Tom on Friday.
A huge thanks to Jocko for another unforgettable hunt!
Back in NW Ontario the ice is almost off and I'm gearing up for some more ice-out lake trout action as well as spring pike. Walleye opener is just around the corner too. What a great time of year!!
Ben Beattie is a fishing guide and outdoor writer living in Sioux Lookout, in northwestern Ontario.