In the last Tales column I was just about to fly down to Florida with my wife, Sandy, to bring the truck and boat back home but, before we started the long trek towing the rig home, I thought we’d get in one last Florida fishing fix. As it turned out it wasn’t my last Florida fishing fix because I did fly down for a few more days of fishing but I’ll talk about that in a bit. Let’s talk about what happened on this trip first.
We decided to jump around a bit and fish some different places. I don’t like to fish the same body of water very often – I’d rather jump around and fish as many bodies of water as I can. That’s always been a fun thing for me to do. It doesn’t matter if it’s lakes I’ve never been to before or places I’ve been to in the past, I just like to fish different places. Given my druthers, it wouldn’t hurt my feelings if I was on a five-day holiday to fish five different lakes. To me that just makes it fun and interesting.
We were staying with our friend Mike Jenkins, from Burlington. He and his family had a house rented for the winter in Cape Coral and he had invited us to stay at his place. Our daughter Kristin was flying down the next day to meet up with us and when she arrived I decided to take her fishing in the phosphate pits at Streamsong Resort for a day. While we were there she caught her personal best largemouth, which weighed in at over six-pounds, on a Berkley General stickbait. It was pretty exciting to see her crank in this big fish on a spinning rod as it bulldogged under the boat and made a few jumps. Mission accomplished! After our day of fishing Kristin stayed with us for a couple of days of relaxation before flying back to Toronto.
The next day we went over to Lake Okeechobee for some more fun fishing. We didn’t get any real big fish but we caught some decent ones in some of the areas that still had some clear water available. This year it seems like much of Okeechobee has been stirred up from a hurricane that was down there. A lot of the weeds, reeds and other vegetation got ripped up and it still hasn’t grown back. When it does get lush again the weeds will filter the water, making it clean like it used to be, but while we were there it seemed like only limited areas of clear water had fish available in them.
Then I joined up with Will Kooy, from Ontario, and Mike Jenkins and the three of us went out for the maiden voyage of Will’s new Ranger Z520C. Will and his family had towed it down for a vacation and he was excited to get it out for its first time on the water. We met in Fort Myers and the three of us drove to the town of Clewiston and launched. We fished the South Bay on Okeechobee and caught about 30-plus bass in about five-hours of fishing. We didn’t get and real big ones but we had a lot of fun fishing the shallow lily pads and hydrilla. After fishing with Will and Mike I headed down to Streamsong Resort again to fish some of the pits for a couple of days before it was time to make the journey home to Ontario.
After getting home I packed some ice fishing gear and set off to the SnoBear Migration in Gimli, Manitoba, on Lake Winnipeg. This annual event brings SnoBear owners from all across North America out to sample the great walleye fishing on this massive lake. My two biggest walleye on that trip were 26 and 29-inches long and I caught them on a Johnson Rattlin’ Scout spoon tipped with a minnow.
Professional walleye angler Ted Takasaki was at this year’s SnoBear Migration and he did a talk on the Friday night for all of the attendees. It was great seeing my old friend there and catching up with him. It’s been a long time since I’d run into Ted.
After a couple of days of fishing I had to catch an early morning flight back to Toronto on Sunday to hang out at the Columbia booth at the Toronto Sportsmen’s Show. As always, I met a lot of keen anglers there and I certainly heard lots of great fish stories.
Then it was up to Georgian Bay with the SnoBear in tow to meet up with guide JP Bushey and my friend, John Whyte. JP guides all over the province and he’s got the lake trout dialed in on Georgian Bay. We ended up catching a lot of lakers as well as a bonus ling that was the biggest one JP had seen caught this past winter. JP wanted to keep it as his father’s birthday was coming up and he was keeping some ling for the birthday. I’ve never personally eaten ling, but I’ve heard that it is an excellent eating fish.
Then it was back home for a week of work. After that I decided to fly down to Florida just to do some fun fishing. Tournament angler and friend Robert Greenberg, from Ottawa, was in Florida and he invited me to come and fish with him. He had a boat down there so I thought, “Why not”. So I booked a flight and flew down to Fort Myers. Mike Jenkins picked me up at the airport and we spent three-days fishing with Robert.
On day-one we decided to fish on Lake Kissimmee. Although the wind was blowing at around 25-miles per hour we still managed to catch a number of bass. We targeted windblown points around the arrowheads and scattered hydrilla. Our two biggest fish that day came on a swimbait and a chatterbait. It was a lot of fun getting out there and trying to figure out how to catch these fish on a windy day.
The next day we went to Lake Garcia, a rather small lake which is actually a flooded orange grove. This lake is very intricate because you can actually see the rows where the trees were once planted. You have to be careful when you’re running the boat out there because there are several ridges where the trees used to be. We caught a lot of bass that day, including a handful of three-plus-pound fish. The action was steady and the fish were biting on swimbaits, chatterbaits and stickbaits. It was a beautiful day and we had a lot of fun. The next day we decided to fish the canals in the city of Okeechobee that connect to the lake. We went out for a few hours and managed to catch some fish, but nothing to write home about.
Then it was back to Fort Myers, as I had a flight to catch that evening. Well, as it turned out, my down and dirty trip to Florida turned into a little bit longer of a trip. Keep in mind this was the second week of April and southern Ontario had just gotten pummeled by a snowstorm. Before going to the airport I had talked with my wife and she suggested that I stay in Florida because of the weather conditions at home. But, being bull-headed, I went to the airport anyway.
When I got to the airport Mike said that I should check on my flight and he would wait for me. Wouldn’t you know it, my flight was delayed. There was another flight that had been delayed for five-hours that was just taxiing out when I got there. I wasn’t sure how long my flight was going to be held up so I decided to blow it off and Mike and I went to P.F. Chang’s for supper. We enjoyed a nice meal and later that evening I checked to see if I could get a flight back to Toronto in a day or two.
As it turned out the flights were rather expensive and it was hard to get out with all the different cancellations, so we kicked back on Sunday. On Monday we met up with my brother Wayne, who had just got down to Florida, and we fished out of a little 12-foot aluminum boat in the phosphate pits. We ended up catching a number of bass up to six-pounds that day and had a lot of fun fishing out of the small aluminum jon boat. The next day I caught the first flight back to Toronto. The day after I got home I had a meeting with Ontario Tourism, then it was back to the grind to get some production work done that week.
We had a surprise dinner party for friends Leo and Kathy Capobianco. Their two daughters, Stephanie and Gabriella, had arranged it and it was pretty funny. We were sitting in the restaurant and Leo and Kathy had no idea we were there. They thought their daughters were just taking them out for supper. We were all sitting at the table with the menus up to our faces so they couldn’t see it was us. When they got to the table, Kathy said to the person seating them, “No, we’d like our own table”. That’s when we pulled the menus away from our faces and they realized it was us. It was pretty funny and a great start to a fun evening.
Then we did a little white wine tasting for next year’s Izumi white with the Between the Lines folks here at the office. I think we picked a real winner for the next bottling. And then it was back up to fish with JP Bushey on Georgian Bay again. I wanted to do an ice fishing/spring ice-out show with him based on the lake trout we had caught earlier through the ice. Well, within an hour or two we had more than enough fish to complete the show. The fish seemed to be averaging much bigger than the ones we caught through the ice. We had several fish in the eight to 10-pound category, we had a few double headers, and we caught more than enough fish on camera to complete the show. We ended up going for pike for the last three-hours of fishing. We caught a lot of them but, unfortunately, no big ones so I’m not sure how much of that footage will make it into the show.
Then it was back to get some more things done around the office before heading off on my annual trip to Wisconsin, with my friend Derek Strub, for the Sturgeon Bay Open. This bass tournament draws some of the best bass anglers from the U.S. Midwest, Manitoba and Ontario. It’s always a big field and there’s a fully rigged Ranger/Mercury bass boat for first prize. Our best finish at this event was third place – Derek and I did that in the first year we fished this prestigious tournament. This year we were gung-ho to do well.
As it turned out, this year’s tournament had record catches, but we ran north when we should have stayed south. We wanted to get away from the pack of boats that were all fishing less than a mile away from the blast off in Little Sturgeon Bay. Picture a shoal, or an extension of a point off the shore, that’s about five to seven-acres in circumference with about 70 of the boats on it. You would definitely hit boats wherever you were casting, they were that tight. As it turned out, that was the hotspot in this year’s tournament with loads of five to seven-pound fish caught in that area.
If I’m not mistaken, there were eight fish over seven-pounds caught over the two-day tournament; a five-fish limit of 29-pounds and change was leading after day one. There was an 8.67-pound fish caught on day two.
We averaged one fish over five-pounds on every day of our four-day practice, both north and south of the tournament site. During the tournament we caught one fish over five-pounds each day but, the bottom line is, if you weren’t fishing in the crowd you weren’t going to cash a decent cheque. We ended up 42nd out of 125 boats, with just over 43-pounds of bass for 10 fish. If Derek’s calculations are correct, we were the fifth best Canadian team. If that’s right we’ll be back on Team Canada next year as the top five teams get to represent their country. We were on Team Canada last year but didn’t do so well so we didn’t make it this year. If we do make it back on onto the team next year we’ve got to pull up our socks. Two bad years in a row is not cool, especially if you are as serious as Derek and I are about our tournament fishing.
As I wrap up this Tales from the Road, things will really start to get busy for me now. We’ve got three new boats in that all need to be rigged: a 19-foot Ranger aluminum multi-species that we are putting the new Mercury 175 V6 four stroke on; we’re waiting on a new Mercury 250 Pro XS V8 four stroke to go on a 21-foot Ranger and we’re also waiting for a Mercury 300 Pro XS for a 22-foot Ranger fibreglass bass boat. Next week I’m off to the Bay of Quinte to fish with the folks from Mystik and some Canadian Tire prize winners for walleye and pike. After that I’ve got a pretty full schedule of tournaments, shooting next year’s episodes of the Real Fishing Show, doing some work with Ontario Tourism. It looks like the summer will be non-stop traveling for me – but I wouldn’t want it any other way!