Fishing during the month of May here in the Ontario Kawartha’s Northumberland region is truly an exciting time of year for any angler. The trees are finally starting to show their leaves, birds are returning from their southern seasonal residence and the lakes and rivers seem to be buzzing with fish activity.
This particular trip was no different. Aside from the nasty approaching cold front we were seemingly caught directly in the middle of. Let’s take a trip back to the previous weekend… A weekend that yielded beautiful warm weather, moderate winds and great company from a couple of very old friends.
We had planned to target Pike during this trip but upon launching the boat I quickly discovered that I had forgotten to load my two carry on tackle bags. The bags that literally contained ALL of my Pike fishing arsenal. We made due with what we happened to have tied on and landed half a dozen nice Pike before deciding to venture to the other end of the lake to check “the spot” in hopes that the Crappie had moved in.
Now.. Most of you have caught crappies.. And in most cases they are in numbers in shallow back bays this time of year. A pile of cookie cutter fish in the 10-12″ range with the occasional 13+ incher. Always a great time! This particular lake is different. The fish behave the same for the most part. Suspend in the basin during the ice season, stage prior to spawn and move shallow when the time is right. But they are not in the big schools that we are spoiled by in most other lakes in the region. They are in pairs here. Pairs or at best 2 males and 1 female. And they are massive!! Every single one of them have the biggest set of shoulders I have ever seen. Average fish is 15″ in length and two inches wide at the shoulders. And they get bigger with fish in the 16 and even 17″ range! That’s right! I said it! 17 inches of leviathan crappie! I can remember the first time I ever saw one.. It was paired up with an 18″ largemouth bass cruising in “the spot”… I did a double take! I naturally assumed initially that it was also a bass given its size and proximity to the largemouth it had befriended. “That’s a crappie!!” I said loudly. My fishing partner at the time questioned my comment until we saw them again. Just cruising around the area. Literally the biggest Crappie I had ever laid eyes on.
On this day.. They were “in”. And by that I mean they were present in “the spot” in numbers. We eased in fan casting the area with very light and small plastics when it happened! I set the hook into what felt like bottom until the head shakes started and up came her head and body to the surface! A THICK 15+ inch female found the bottom of our net to which both of my old friends jaws dropped and almost in unison they said “that is the biggest crappie I have ever seen!” The Talons were deployed and we continued to fan cast the area landing PB after PB all the while loading the live-well in an attempt to not spook the targets. A day none of us will soon forget. After posing for a few photos we promptly released each and every one in the exact place we removed them from in an effort to preserve this anomaly. I’m not averse to keeping a few fish for a meal but believe me when I tell you. These were not eaters. These were breeders for a very small and fragile population.
Needless to say we planned to come back the following weekend to further enjoy these monsters before they evacuated the area. And wouldn’t you know it. The night before our trip back to slab town played host to the first BIG cold front of the season. I’m talking about a 15 to 20 degree swing in air temp which yielded wind, rain, and a decrease in water temp of approx. 10 degrees.. Shallow fish and cold front do not mix well! So.. We decided to give it a shot. A day on the water is better than a day of work right?!
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Off we went.. Questioning our decision from the get go as the wind and rain seemed to worsen as we reached our destination. Not to mention the temperature also seemed to be dropping even more so. We made our way to “the spot” only to find that the fish had seemingly left the area. Insert sad face. Until! I spotted one hugging bottom at the base of an emergent Lilly pad. After quite literally swimming my bait in front of her face for what seemed like an eternity she finally tentatively accepted the offering and she was in the net. This led us to believe that our methods from the previous weekend (fan casting and swimming plastics) would not suffice this time around. The fish were relating to available cover and tight to the bottom. This brought me to quickly tie up a rig that I typically use for Smallmouth bass fishing during the tournament season. A drop shot rig. I knew this would allow me to place the bait with precision in and around the newly emergent lily pads in the area that seemed to be holding the fish. Not only was I able to place the offering exactly where it needed to be, but I could also impart action to entice the strike while pounding the bait directly on the spot instead of making the fish chase. They wouldn’t come to me, so I went to them! And boy did it pay off!! This was exactly what the Dr ordered! Fish after fish hit the deck nearly matching the performance we had put on the weekend prior! The ability to stay back off the fish and place the offering on their nose and leaving it there was just what they needed.. Just a little extra time to have a look and cruise on up for the take.
Don’t stay home on the nasty days! Get out there! Enjoy this beautiful region! And change your approach to match the mood of your targeted species! A drop shot is a fantastic choice for pressured or neutral fish everywhere. Don’t be afraid to use it on all species!
Spring in the Kawartha’s Northumberland region is a magical time of year for anglers. After packing away the ice fishing gear, multispecies anglers like myself are constantly watching conditions to anticipate their next bite. As the ice disappears and the water starts to warm it is as though the entire lake comes back to life within those first few warm days of spring. At the same time the nearby
‘Continuing to notice the subtleties of the technique we were using, we were watching the fish hit the bait while it was falling. A quick rip and pause was the deal and we took full advantage, filling the livewell with eaters and releasing a few big slabs.”
great lakes tributaries begin to rumble as the spring steelhead migration begins. It truly is an exciting time to be a fisherman!
With the abundance of long awaited angling opportunities, I find myself facing decisions about how I will make the most of my time on the water. Do I throw the boat in and invade the shallows in search of slab crappies? Maybe the pike are on a hot jerkbait bite?! And I hear the steelhead are smashing nymphs… the choices!!!
“We tried changing colours, depths, weights and anything we could to try to dial in the bite. But we did not catch fish, in fact we were watching the big slabs swim up to our bait and blatantly refuse! It was frustrating to say the least”
It was one of those warm sunny days of spring that I decided to go out in pursuit of crappie. My partner and I slowly and quietly drifted my boat into the shallow bay where I suspected to find our targeted species. We were not disappointed as we could see their ghostly silhouettes sitting among the mats of thick weeds and dead leaves from last fall. We had a typical panfish float style setup.
Nothing too fancy, just a little tube rigged under a light bobber. We cast amongst the vegetation and watched as our floats sat still. We tried changing colours, depths, weights and anything we could to think of to dial in the bite. But we did not catch fish, in fact we were watching the big slabs swim up to our bait and blatantly refuse! It was frustrating to say the least.
Our success changed drastically when we abandoned the float, and began casting light plastic baits into the weeds. The fish were interested in the horizontal presentation, and were much happier to chase and smash the fast moving bait, than they were to eat the spoon fed option under the float. Continuing to notice the subtleties of the technique we were employing we took notice of the fact that the fish hit the bait while it was falling. A quick rip and pause was the deal and we took full advantage, filling the livewell with eaters and releasing a few big slabs.
The fish turned out to be more active than I had anticipated, and it was nice to dial in the bite, however I couldn’t help but feel like if I had an even lighter jig, it would hold the bait there that much longer…Perhaps it may have even led to a few more bites that day. Who knows? It turned out to be a great day, filled with hooksets and good times.
The next day I woke up feeling satisfied with my crappie haul from the previous day. I was in the mood to feel some weight on the end my fly rod and headed to the river in search of fresh chrome steelhead. The river was high and dirty with all the spring runoff, and although I’m sure the river was loaded with fish, I didn’t catch any.
But something happened that day while I was on the river. I was drifting my woolly bugger through a pool that had more current than usual. I noticed my fly was suspending in the water, but not getting down into the depths of the pool. As I stood there staring into the mesmerizing flow, my imagination wandered and I couldn’t help but daydream about the crappie I had caught the day before. Staring at the slow moving fly, gently falling through the water, all I could do was picture a big crappies mouth opening up to devour that fly.
“Staring at the slow moving fly, gently falling through the water, all I could do was picture a big crappies mouth open up and devour that fly.”
My fly rod was still in the truck from the steelhead adventure and was the first thing I grabbed while launching the boat the next day. I slowly crept back into the bay, and with the grace of a ballerina gently landed my big green bug into the big school of crappies. They were still hanging out in the same clump of weeds, in the same bay, just waiting for me to return! The excitement got real as I
Kypefish Woolly Buggers are all Hand-Tied to perfection on Quality Hooks. The great thing about using Woolly Buggers is that they are extremely versatile in their presentation and what source of bait you would like to try to mimic. Depending on how they are fished they can mimic: Cray Fish, Minnows and Leaches making them a great fly to use for almost EVERY SPECIES and should be in every anglers fly box! They can also be used while Fly Fishing or Float Fishing.
watched a huge crappie dart out from a clump of weeds and snatch up the big bug. Fish on!
I am not a professional fly fisherman by any means. I am just an angler that likes to have fun and catch as many fish as I can. I get a kick out of switching things up and thinking outside the box. But as the day went on, I was growing more and more in love with catching these big crappie on the fly. It was an absolute blast. The fly was the perfect bait to balance the crappies preference for a horizontal moving bait with a dead slow fall. I got bit on almost every cast for several hours that day. By the end of it, my big green bug had been pulverized and was nothing more than some loose string and a couple feathers.
“On the business end I ran floating line with a 5` lead of 8lbs test, followed by 12” of 5lbs fluorocarbon. “
The setup I used was simple, and could be done by anybody with simple fly gear. A 6 weight fly rod worked for me that day, but I’m sure you could get away with a lighter rod. It was nice to have a little extra stiffness in the rod to pull fish from heavy cover. On the business end I ran floating line with a 5` lead of 8lbs test, followed by 12” of 5lbs fluorocarbon. A handful of simple flies is all you need, I would suggest a few natural colours like black and olive, and also a few bright bugs like chartreuse or pink. Be sure to bring your fly rod along for your next Crappie outing. Give it a try! you won’t be disappointed!
Aaron Jolicouer- Exist To Fish Canada Writer. Aaron is a true multi species angler. His love for fishing has been prominent his entire life. And that passion holds true today. Aaron is an absolute Muskie Fanatic!! This is his true love and he spends countless hours chasing these true Giants.
Justin Girard-Exist To Fish Canada Writer with a pair of nice perch!
Pounding for Perch
Jumbo perch can be a very challenging, yet rewarding fish species to target during the cold winter months. Not only are they a blast to catch, keeping you entertained for hours, but they make for a tasty meal at the end of a long hard day on the ice. Keeping things simple is the key to enjoying a bent rod and a delicious shore lunch.
Where to start is always the challenge. I always like to hit my “usual” marked GPS spots but even I get caught up in over thinking perch and their habits. During the early winter months, I will begin by targeting depths of around 10-15 feet in areas that have an abundance of aquatic plant life. Perch love hanging around weeds during the early winter months because they produce small organisms that they tend to feed on, like nymphs or freshwater shrimp. If you find plant life, you will typically find some feisty perch.
Colin Booth with a handful of Perch!
Exist To Fish Canada team member and Lake Simcoe local Colin Booth has a similar take on prospecting for perch. He explains “I look for weed/sand transitions. I like to sight fish when perch are holding in shallow water (10-15ft deep) which is like picking through the bad apples to find the one you want” He continues “As they pull into deeper water, a good sonar is key to locating schools on prime locations”.
As the winter season progresses and fishing pressure increases, I typically move to deeper sand flats, in and around the 30 to 40ft depth range. The key when fishing the deeper areas is to move around or “run and gun” with the goal of being a step ahead of the schools. I will give it around 20 minutes of pounding bottom, then, if I don’t see any activity on my sonar I will make a move to another area. When moving around in the deeper areas, I usually don’t move too far to find the school, at times only moving 50 to 100 yards at a time.
Tactics & Lure Selection
Perch Pounder Rig
I mentioned earlier about pounding bottom, as this method has been key to my success out there, especially during those slower days. This technique of “pounding” entails tying a heavy weight and an old spoon onto to 50 pound braided line. Have I gone crazy? Not yet, just bear with me. When I get to a typical high percentage spot and the sonar is blank, I put my “perch pounder” down and you guessed it, I pound the bottom with it. This will create a cloud of sand and vivid vibrations through the water which will catch the attention of every fish in the general vicinity. Let’s face it, when you are laying on the couch, watching TV and you hear a loud noise outside of your house what do you do? You get up and try to find out where that noise came from and fish are no different, especially perch.
Keep in mind, you can make one of these “perch pounder” rigs with whatever you have available, there is no right or wrong way to make a perch pounder. The key is to ultimately get their attention thus calling them into the real estate below your feet.
Once I get their attention, it’s game on. This is when I show them my go-to presentation which is a drop shot rig, but instead of having the weight on the bottom, I use a small spoon like a slab grabber or buckshot spoon as the weight. And about 15 inches above that, a small hook with a bait of choice such as live minnows, maggots, small plastics or anything that matches a particular lakes forage.
Colin Booth has a very similar take on this. “I’ll use a flashy spoon to call them in, and when they show up I will work through my tackle box and try to nail down the right presentation. Small spoons, plastics or jigging style baits all have a time and place”.
Here’s a neat little trick Jamie Wilson (Exist To Fish lead writer) spoke of for live bait, particularly minnows. “If a treble hooked spoon or jigging style bait is your thing, try replacing the split ring with a tiny snap swivel. Then simply thread the head of the minnow onto the hook shank, snap the hook back into place and voila, you have a long lasting live bait rig”.
Exist To Fish Canada team member, and professional guide Aaron Jolicoeur subscribes to the idea of heavier weighted presentations for perch. He explains “Heavy-weighted baits are crucial as it
Aaron Jolicouer with a pair of JUMBOS!!
gives you the ability to quickly drop down to fish roaming below”. He continues “sonar with good target separation helps you to target the bigger perch in the school. Also, the more fish you keep under the hole, the better as this will attract numbers of larger, territorially competitive fish”.
An ultra-light spinning combo spooled with 6 pound braided line coupled with a 4 pound fluorocarbon leader will always get the job done. This set-up will have the sensitivity and feel to detect the lightest of bites which is very important. When using soft plastics, scent provides a distinct advantage through the realism of a scent trail and a blast of taste and the perception of a slime coat. Liquid Mayhem “Garlic Minnow” gets top honors here for sure as fish seem to hold on longer and often just try to swallow the bait whole.
So no matter where you are in this great white north that we live in, go pounding for some perch. Dial in the right presentation and have a blast putting some juicy jumbo perch topside.
If you ask any fishermen to give you their top 3 target species in the winter, I can almost guarantee you that you will get Walleye, Trout and pan fish. You may squeeze in pike on to that list as well. I can guarantee you that Whitefish will not make the list.
Justin Girard Exist To Fish Writer
Now, if you ask any fishermen who fishes Lake Simcoe in the winter to name you their top 3 target species, Whitefish will most definitely be on that list – this I can guarantee! Calculating the equation, thus consistently putting “white gold” top side during the winter months can be a challenge, unless you pay attention to the finer details.
When I first started fishing Lake Simcoe some 10 years ago, I will admit that whitefish would always elude me. But, the odd time I would luck out and get a fish to hit my Williams Whitefish spoon. Now I am not a spoon man, unless there is a frozen desert involved, I would rather show them a finesse presentation and hook these Whitefish with a little coaxing. It wasn’t until I was cleaning a whitefish before I realized that my efforts would pay off if I just changed my outlook and ultimately my go-to presentations.
I always enjoy cleaning fish. In fact, I will say that I love cleaning fish. One of the things that I will do is to look into a fish’s stomach to see what they are eating which is key to success out on Simcoe. You know, match the hatch as they say. What I did discover inside the whitefish was crushed up zebra mussels and round gobies, and lots of them. The other unique thing I noticed was a tinge of brown along the whitefish’s belly, which indicated that these fish were hugging the sand flats. They were not chasing bait fish or my spoon up high in the water column and that was the answer I was looking for. Clearly whitefish are relating to and forage on bottom which was the eye opener I needed.
To fool these often elusive fish, I present baits on bottom, in the sand amongst the thousands of zebra mussels and round gobies that these Lake Simcoe Whitefish are feeding on. Minnows and gobies are a staple in the whitefish diet so the goal is to closely mimic and stand out in the crowd of the tasty snacks that abound.
Two simple presentations that get the job done are both tubes and small minnow bodied plastics. Internally weighted tubes in both white and off colored brown are very effective. As far as plastic minnow bodies, a Lake Fork Trophy Lures “Baby Shad”, “Sickle Tail Baby Shad” or “Boot Tail Baby Shad” rigged on a darter style or a football jig head also can’t be beat. Both presentations can be effectively fish on bottom enticing finicky spooky fish alike. Another piece of the puzzle is scent. For this, Liquid Mayhem “Garlic Minnow” leaves a natural scent trail that can widen the strike zone and trigger more bites along with tricking fish to hold on longer.
Gear wise I spool up with 10 pound braided line paired with an 8 pound fluorocarbon leader (a swivel for line to leader connections for tubes) I’ll start by bouncing the jig a few times on bottom to create a cloud of sand to get whitefish roaming the area interested. Once I mark a school on my electronics, I hold the jig still on bottom on a tight line and monitor the fish’s reaction on my sonar. If the fish does not hit right away, I will bounce the jig lightly on bottom once or twice and hold it still. I then watch the line closely and wait for the bite. The fish will tell you what they want and how they want it, you just need to pay attention to your electronics.
Any of these jigging methods will work on any given day, you just need to adapt to each school of fish entering your zone and experiment with the presentation. If I can give you the most important tip it would be less is more. Don’t over work the jig. It’s a finesse presentation that will coax these elusive whitefish to bite.
Step out of your comfort zone, put the spoon aside and try some finesse jigging for Simcoe whiteys. Pay attention to detail and find those sandy haunts that hold forage and of course, schools of whitefish. Play safe and have fun on the frozen lakes my friends!
Justin Girard Exist To Fish Writer
Jamie Wilson Exist ToFish Canada Lead Writer Editor
Deeper fish finder is the first of its kind portable, wireless sonar, compatible with 7000+ iOS and Android devices, specially designed to find the location of fish, depth, water temperature, bottom contour and much more. Let’s see how it works on the ice!
(Deeper Fishfinder) Specifications
Bluetooth Wireless Sonar
65mm (2.6 inches)
100 grams (3.5 oz.)
USA – Lithuania
The quality and construction of the Deeper Fishfinder is very good. The ABS plastic held up to being dropped on the ice in -30C weather as well as dropped into the hole and hitting the sides of the ice when a fish was pulled through the hole. The markings on the deeper to ensure you have a proper seal were a nice addition. With a built in Bluetooth antenna and no power switches or cords to worry about makes the Deeper very mobile and versatile.
Quality Ratings for (Deeper FishFinder)
Level of Detail(1-5)
Rating (10 being highest )
The Deeper performed as advertised. Right out of the box and into the water after a quick charge the deeper was easily connected to my Ipad and Iphone. The Deeper app is easy to navigate and is full of additional features beyond the sonar screen. The sonar screen was easy to read and view without any adjustments. There is a slight delay from the Bluetooth signal about half a second but once I got used to it there was no issue. Highly accurate and clear sonar shots revealed most of the fish species with crystal clarity as well as any size hook that I used. Interference from surrounding sonars is an issue with no interference rejection options but this will occur with any sonars in close proximity.
Performance Ratings (Deeper Fishfinder)
Ease of Use(1-5)
Quality of Action (1-5)
Position at Rest (1-5)
Rating (10 being highest )
The Deeper Fishfinder is really small and light making it very mobile when hole hopping or traveling and it comes with a small protective carrying bag. The deeper doesn’t take up very much room in the hole so not having to remove it when you catch a fish is great. Also being wireless there is no issues with tangling fishing lines around cords. I would recommend a waterproof protective case for your mobile device so splashing water isn’t an issue. There is an LED light indicator to let you know when the Deeper is charged and ready to go.
Feature /Design Ratings (Deeper Fishfinder)
Range of sizes (1-3)
Rating (10 being highest )
I would use the deeper when traveling and I am unable to pack a lot of gear. It is a great option for hole hopping when you want to quickly see if there are any fish in the area and keep moving to stay on top of them. I would most likely be using the Deeper in a heated shack or hut as mobile devices don’t agree with really cold weather for extended periods of time. I will also be using the deeper from shore and in my boat this summer. The size and mobility of the Deeper is key to always being able to utilize sonar technology in situations where you might not be able to take your larger permanent sonar units. It won’t replace my permanent or large sonars but will be a great addition to cover every situation on the ice, water and shore.
(Deeper Fishfinder) Collective Final Rating
Ratings Key: 1 = terrible : 2 = poor : 3 = lacking : 4 = sub par : 5 = mediocre : 6 = fair : 7 = good : 8 = great : 9 = excellent : 10 = MUST HAVE
The Deeper Fishfinder is a great entry level sonar. Perfect for someone who wants to use sonar technology without breaking the bank. It is well built and performed as advertised. The only issue I had was not with the Deeper but with my mobile device not working in really cold weather -30C. The Deeper App is packed with options and features. I can see many applications where the Deeper will be a welcome addition to my tools to catch more fish. Anyone who doesn’t have a fishfinder the Deeper fishfinder would be a great place to start. If you do currently have sonars/flashers the deeper is a nice addition to compliment them in many situations.