I keep pretty busy year ‘round but when spring rolls around everything really kicks into high gear. This spring started off with some perch ice fishing in March on Lake Erie. It’s not every year that Lake Erie is fishable through the ice but this past winter was an exceptionally cold one with at least three to four-feet of ice on the big lake. My brother, Wayne, and I met up with Erie aces Mike and Sue Watson and their friend, Josh Davies. It took a while, but once we found the perch – in about 50-feet of water – it was game on. We easily caught a few hundred of them with some real jumbos mixed in.
It’s always nice to get in some late-season ice fishing so near the end of March we loaded up the SnoBear and headed out to Lake Winnipeg for the 2014 SnoBear Migration. Our friend Steve Chantler, and his son, Cole, joined us on this trip. Steve offered to pull our big SnoBear trailer with his GMC diesel truck and boy could that thing haul! That truck towed the trailer all the way to Manitoba like it was nothing. It was a lot of fun meeting other SnoBear owners and seeing how pimped-out some of their machines were. They were decked out with everything from wide screen TVs to coffee makers to custom tackle storage. You wouldn’t believe some of the things we saw. One guy from Manitoba even dragged a wood burning hot tub, which used lake water, out onto the ice. The reason he did this is that he had seen one of my shows where I was interviewing Ron Balzer, the president of SnoBear. At the end of the interview I said to Ron that the only thing a SnoBear didn’t have is a hot tub, so this guy decided to build one and bring it out on the ice. I ran into and old fishing friend of mine from Winkler, Ed Martens. He had his ice shack out there and, between him and his neighbour, they cleaned and cooked up a walleye feast for the group of us that was fit for a king. Overall it was an excellent few days of fishing. Everyone caught a bunch of fish and there were a few big ones as well, including an 11-pound and change giant that I got.
After the SnoBear Migration we loaded up and headed into Northwestern Ontario’s Sunset Country to tag up with my Real Fishing Radio co-host, Gord Pyzer. I had mentioned to Gord that I wanted to do some multi-species ice fishing so we started off the first day catching some walleyes and some incidental smallmouth. The next day we targeted trophy pike – and I mean trophy pike. The fishing was slow but we still ended up landing a pike that, according to the length x girth equation, worked out to 31.68-pounds! It was the biggest pike that I’ve ever caught in 31-years of doing the Real Fishing Show – either in open water or through the ice. It was caught on a quick strike rig that we had set up on an HT tip-up. When we were pulling the fish up it kept getting wedged on the ice, which was a good four-feet thick. We ended up using the telescopic pole that we use for our underwater Go Pro camera to push the line and eventually we got the nose of the pike into the hole. What an amazing fish! Gord certainly has the Northwest Ontario fishing dialed in! Overall it was a great trip to Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario and it certainly made the 24-hour drive home seem short.
Speaking of Gord Pyzer, Gord flew into Southern Ontario a few days later to work with me on our syndicated Real Fishing Radio Show. After we got the shows done things really got busy. I had to do a number of interviews, including one with Mechanical Business magazine. Then I was a guest on the Humble and Fred Sirius Satellite Radio show. It’s always a lot of fun and a lot of good laughs when I’m on their show. After that I went to the Chase the Dream fundraising gala in Woodbridge for young Chase Galea. It was a very successful event for a great cause. Next was the Home Hardware Show in St. Jacobs with the folks from OFF! to meet a bunch of the dealers. After that I attended a fundraiser for cancer at the Paradise Banquet Hall in Woodbridge that my niece, Mariko Izumi, was involved in. It was quite an event. The night had a Las Vegas theme and they got everything perfect – right down to the showgirls! The next day we headed to Uxbridge for the annual Huck Finn youth fishing day that we support through our Kids, Cops and Canadian Tire Fishing Days program. As always, it was a very successful event with tons of folks catching plenty of fish. From there we immediately went over to Wooden Sticks Golf Course in Uxbridge for the Match the Hatch charity golf tournament in support of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters.
After the golf tournament it was time to get the boat packed and head out for a video shoot I was doing with the folks from Columbia Sportswear in Oklahoma. I spent the day after the golf tournament packing and we finally got on the road around five at night. We drove as far as Indianapolis that night and the next day we drove into Springfield, Missouri, to meet up with the folks from Camillus Knives for dinner. We have a new line of product coming out with these folks that will be introduced at the ICAST show in Orlando, Florida in July. You’ll be hearing a lot about these new fishing tools later this summer.
Then we were off to southern Oklahoma to meet the Columbia people at a friend of mine’s place on a small lake on the Oklahoma/Texas border. The folks from Columbia were ready to go when we got there so we met for dinner and the next morning we got right at it. I shot a number of fishing tip video clips for their website and social media pages that day. Krystl Tonkin, the public relations person for Columbia, and her production crew joined us on the shoot. We had a lot of fun and once we got the work done we even managed to catch a bunch of big largemouth bass. Krystl showed me that she definitely is an angler as she ended up catching some pretty big bass in a few short hours of fishing. We ended up staying for an extra day to shoot some video for my TV show. I’m working on a swimbait-themed show that will air in 2015 where I’ll be using them for largemouth, northern pike, walleye and lake trout. I’ll also be doing an article for a future issue of our magazine on the effectiveness of swimbaits for multiple species. I ended up catching some pretty good largemouth for that show and article before it was time to head back to Ontario.
Literally two-days later I was on Lake Erie with Derek Strub and Paul Michele from Navionics. We launched out of Buffalo and hit just a gorgeous day on this May outing. The funny thing is, we only saw three or four other boats out there. By the end of the day we had caught 39 smallmouth bass, 15 jumbo perch and 9 walleyes. The absolute hot bait of the day, without a doubt, was the Johnson Thinfisher. It’s a blade bait but, unlike many other blade baits, this ½-ounce gold coloured bait is a fish catching machine for a couple of reasons. Number one, it has an incredibly great vibration. We were letting it sink down and then lifting it up a foot or so, with just enough of a lift to get vibration, and then letting it drop down again and so on. Number two, it doesn’t foul your hooks. A lot of blade baits foul up as they’re falling where this one seems to drop fairly true. It doesn’t turn around so the hooks don’t get caught on your snap or your line. It is the absolute coolest blade bait that I have ever used, bar none, and I’ve used probably six or eight other brands over the years. The guys with me were blown away by it. After I started wailing fish on the Thinfisher they were begging me to let them use one. It’s always nice to add a new lure to your arsenal and this one is definitely going to be with me for life.
Then it was time to get home, sort my gear and get packed for my annual trip to the Sturgeon Bay Open bass tournament in Wisconsin with my fishing buddy, Derek Strub. This is the sixth year that Derek and I have fished the Sturgeon Bay Open together. It’s a great tournament that attracts a full 200-boat field of some of the best smallmouth anglers from the Midwest, Northwestern Ontario and Manitoba. Even though every year is different, the fishing is usually off the charts. When we got over there it was pretty windy and cold, there was still some ice on the shore, water temperatures were in the 40s and the fish were a little bit sluggish. Despite the conditions we still had a pretty good practice. On our best day we had about 28-pounds for our heaviest six bass, which is the limit in this event. What was amazing was the exceptional walleye fishing we had out there. We caught probably 12 to 15 walleyes, all in the 6 to 10 ½-pound range and the hot lure was, once again, the ½-ounce, gold, Johnson Thinfisher. That bait is an absolute walleye catching machine. To tell you how good it was, while we were fishing in about 10-feet of water Derek and I spotted a walleye. Derek lowered a Thinfisher onto the bottom, about 3-feet away from the walleye, and that walleye came over, flared its gills and sucked the lure right in. We were getting into so many walleyes that at one point I caught three on three consecutive casts. On the fourth cast I lost one and Derek caught one. What a fishery! I wish we could have just stayed and fished for the walleyes but we had to move on because the smallmouth just weren’t where the walleyes were. On day one of the tournament we got to our first spot only to find that the water had muddied up. In practice it was crystal clear, but now the visibility was about six-inches. We fished around and all of a sudden I got one about 3-pounds on a 3/16-ounce jighead rigged with a small Havoc Beat Shad swimbait as a trailer. We ended up catching 30 to 35 bass on small swimbaits rigged on jigheads in a 40-yard stretch of water. Our technique was to let the swimbaits sink to the bottom in anywhere from 6 to 10-feet of water and then slowly reel them in so that they were just ticking bottom. We ended up finding another school of bass and caught another 30 or so fish from it. All in, we ended up catching about 70 or 80 fish on day one and weighed in just over 28-pounds for our 6 fish limit. We were sitting pretty good and looking forward to day two.
The next day we weighed in 6 fish for just under 28 ½-pounds, thanks to Derek, who definitely had the hot hand that day. He put a whooping on me and caught a lot of big fish. That’s the cool thing about team tournaments, it doesn’t matter who catches them, as long as one of you do. In this case it was Derek who had a stellar day and helped us wind up in 11th place overall.
After the tournament it was time to head home for the annual Fishing Forever fundraising golf tournament at Turtle Creek Golf Club, just outside of Milton. This year was another big success with a lot of fish caught in conjunction with the golf tournament. Each golfer got to fish on a couple of designated “fishing holes” and each fish caught counted as a stroke off of their golf score, up to three per golfer, per hole. Our team’s putting was a little off but our fishing was bang-on and we got our three strokes off at each of the fishing holes. I’d like to thank all of the people who came out and supported this event and made the day as much fun as it was. I can’t wait for next year! The last, but not least, of my spring trips started with a nice, short drive to Cochrane, Ontario. When you drive as much as I do, an 8 ½-hour drive is like going to the corner store for a loaf of bread. Two truckloads of us headed up to Cochrane, hopped aboard a Cochrane Air Services Beaver float plane and flew into Kesagami Wilderness Lodge. It was great to spend some time with Charlie McDonald, who has been the resort manager there for the last 19-years and who I’ve known since the ‘80s.
We had a group of friends join us on this trip and everyone caught a lot of fish. One of the highlights was that I got to spend three days with my old friend, Bruce Leeson. Bruce and his father, Denny, fished the bass tournaments back in the early ‘80s so I’ve known them for a long time. They also operated a salmon charter service on Lake Ontario for many years. After Denny retired he ended up guiding at Kesagami for over a decade. Sadly, he passed away last year but he truly lived a full life. To spend time with Bruce, who I’ve known forever – heck, our kids grew up together at tournaments back in the 80’s – was great. It was so much fun to spend time on the water with him, especially since the fishing was bang-on. The biggest fish that Bruce caught was a 44 ½-inch pike that he got on a walleye jig while using a spinning rod rigged with 8-pound test Berkley Trilene XL line. My biggest was a 41-incher that hit a Berkley 4 ½-inch Rib Shad swimbait that I was fishing in the pencil reeds on a 6/0, weighted, weedless hook. The fishing was absolutely incredible and you could literally catch as many pike or walleye as you wanted. To give you an idea of how good the fishing was, two of the guys in our group fished off the dock on the first evening and caught a combination of over 60 pike and walleye in about an hour and a half. John Ward, from Camillus Knives, and Don Scott, from CRC Canada, decided that they wanted to fish off the dock on the last evening of the trip and they caught about 25 fish in about 35-minutes, including each of their personal best pike of the trip. They got a 43 and a 41-incher off the dock along with a number of other pike and walleye. The fishing was so good that we got enough footage for an episode of the Real Fishing Show on the first day we were out. After a while we put the cameras down and just had fun catching fish after fish after fish. It was one of those trips that was just way too easy. If you’re looking for a fly-in fishing adventure that’s not hard to get to, and offers some of the best pike and walleye fishing there is, you should look up Kesagami Wilderness Lodge. The wonderful staff, great meals and top-notch guides make it an all-around winner. Well, that’s it for now. Have a great summer everyone, and stay safe on the water this season.