Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Associations for 2014!

Well it looks like I'll be starting 2014 out on solid footing with 2 great companies welcoming into their fold as an angler representing their group and products. As part of these fine groups of anglers I hope to both grow as a fisherman, and to help contribute to their organizations with my own experiences, reviews, photos and publishings.

Bass Gear Online offers some shirts, sweaters and hats along with some great gear including lures from Anglers Choice, Rods from Denali, a great product to protect your rods from 'The Rod Glove' and sunglasses from Numa Optics. I really look forward to trying out some of the items here this year! I already have a Rod Glove and have to say it's a great product to not only protect the rod, but to help eliminate tangles when transporting rods.

The second group that has welecomed me into their fold is the Adventure on the Water group. This opportunity came by way of an e-mail I sent to Old Town. Both my kayak and canoe are Old Town models and both have been fantastic angling boats this past year and will be for many years to come. Old Town is one of several great brands geared towards Kayak Fishing that are part of the Adventure on the Water group put together by Johnson Outdoors Watercraft Inc.

I look forward to representing these groups in 2014 both in my daily angling activities and when I take part in the numerous tournaments around New Brunswick. Hopefully I'll be able to contribute a little something to the prize pool in some of the tournaments by way of these groups and give back as best I can to the angling community!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Unexpected December Fish!

Well the weather was beautiful today for December with temps a little above freezing, and no wind.  So between the weather and the fact that high slack tide was scheduled for about 5 PM, I decided to give it another go.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get on the water till about 5:45, which was about an hour after high slack tide, and 45 min after dark, so I both missed the prime fishing time, and I had to once again try to figure out my favorite spots in the dark which is never easy.

The current was very strong, the water high, and after the thaw from last week's snow there was a lot of debris and plants floating by, which all made for rough sturgeon fishing conditions.  Nevertheless, I gave it my best shot and ended up with 1 Tommy Cod and 1 34 inch sturgeon.

So I can now say that I have caught sturgeon, in December, in kayak after dark!   Better than staying home and putting kids to bed!   I'll have enough of that this weekend when Anna is out of town and I'm home alone with the boys and the dog and cat!    

Firepit tomorrow night with the boys?   Hmmmm.....

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Stay dry, stay happy!

When kayak fishing, one cannot help but get water upon oneself.  Wether from splashing from the paddle, from fish that you land, or of course.... from mother nature!   When you are out on the water, you do not want to lose enjoyment by being uncomfortably wet and cold.   As such, it only makes sense that you invest properly in the correct type of outerwear to protect yourself.    Especially when you find yourself kayak fishing in Canada in November and December, sometimes late at night when the temperatures dip down below the freezing mark!

For someone like myself with a sit inside kayak, the most obvious thing to keep out the water is the spray skirt.   I purchased a stretch nylon Seals Skirt for my kayak online.   This skirt is a little difficult to get used to putting on the kayak and getting into, but once settled in, it is very comfortable and also adds to the stability I feel when on the water.    I do not typically use the skirt on a pond or the Saint John River on a low wind, sunny day.   But should I venture out into the Bay of Fundy, or if I go out knowing I may run into rain, I'll definately use the skirt.

I have several Scotty rod holder's added to my kayak with one of them being underneath where the spray skirt covers.    To account for this, I went to a local drapery store (Albert's Draperies) where they added a grommet to the skirt so that the rod holder would fit though.   This worked out fantastic, as I get to use both the spray skirt and my rod holders at the same time.

Now aside from the spray skirt, then next obvious thing you need to keep warm and dry is good outerwear.   Anna was good enough to get me an excellent waterproof jacket and pants from  Cabela's this past Christmas.   This fantastic blue jacket can be seen in many of the pictures here on the site.   It does not let any moisture through, is a great wind blocker, and is loose enough around my arms and shoulders that it does not impede my manouverability even with 6 or 7 layers packed underneath.   I have even worn it above my life jacket in the kayak and stayed comfortable.

A friend with a sit on top told me his only problem with the kayak was that water would come up through the scupper holes and soak into his seat, getting his bottom half wet and cold.    He was quite uncomfortable apparently fishing sturgeon with me in November.   I would be too if I were wet!    The Cabela brand pants Anna had given me would have worked wonders for him.    These pants again are comfortable, 100% water proof, and yet I can wear tights, long underwear, and lined splash pants under them, and still be comfortable and warm in the kayak. 

 Now the real kicker with this pants is their durability as evidenced by having sturgeon laying on them on my lap several times.   Sturgeon have sharp bony protrusion that have given me many cuts on my hands this summer.  Yet they have not once cut these pants!  I would have expected most waterproof pants to have several nicks in them by now, but not these Cabela's pants!

Wearing these Cabela products I have never once found my clothes under these items to be wet in the slightest after kayaking and fishing in the rain.  

Finally the last piece of outerwear you need to make sure you invest in is a good set of waterproof gloves, especially when the weather gets cold.   During the summer months, I found gloves were really not something I ever thought about.  But once October and November hits and you are out there after dark, you want something to keep your fingers happy.    I picked up a couple pairs of 'Ice Ninja' gloves from Canadian Tire which work great.   These gloves are light enough to not get in the way of handing my rods/reels, and I can put my hand in the water to grab out a fish without getting my hands wet.  I just need to take them off once in a while to work on my lure/bait, which isn't a big deal.

The last tip, moreso for winter kayak fishing, is to get those sticky strip toe warmers.   While they don't make your toes warm, they do help keep them from getting cold!

So if you are getting into the sport of kayak angling, trust me, invest in a good set of rain proof outerwear!   Water resistant will not cut it... you want waterproof and durable!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Fishing with the kids

I'm lucky enough to have two boys, and truth be told it's the boys that reignited my love of fishing the past few years.   Having fished as a boy myself from the time I could walk, I wanted to see if my boys would love it as much as I had.   Well, turns out they both took to it right away with a passion that only kids can have!

Before I had either the kayak or canoe, I would take my oldest, Fynn, to the public dock in Hampton, NB. This is a well known family friendly place to throw out a worm and catch white & yellow perch, sunfish, smallmouth bass and even the odd catfish or pickerel.   I've heard of people catching sturgeon there, but I don't imagine that would be common. 

Here is a very excited Fynn wearing my fishing vest holding his very first Yellow Perch.

I would sometimes also take my youngest, Rowan, though he would only play with the worms!    I guess 2 is too young to get him fishing!

In the summer of 2012, as I do most summers, I took the boys back home to Newfoundland.   My Dad has an ATV so we took it for a day trip into the woods where Fynn again had a chance to try for some fish.   We didn't catch much that day, but Fynn was able to reel in a baby brook trout.

This past Spring, once we had the canoe, it was time to get the kids out on the water.   In May, while it was still pretty cold, I took Fynn down the Kennebacasis from Sussex to Hampton, camping along the way outside of Norton on the side of the river.   Fynn had a great time, and we even caught a nice size small mouth bass along the way.   By the end, he was an exhausted pirate as you can see here!

Rockwood park did a fishing tournament for the kids earlier this summer and I took Fynn and Rowan out in the canoe.   99% of people were there fishing from shore, while Fynn, Rowan and I paddled around the pond.   They were certianly the center of attention! 

Here, Rowan instead decided to hook one himself, reel it in, and take it off the hook... all before I even realized he had a fish on, as I was fooling with the anchor at the time!

Typically now I take Fynn and Rowan out in canoe to Kingston Creek, NB where the pickerel are pleanty.  We have also caught perch and sunfish out there, and have seen sturgeon jump also.

Finally the best time I've had fishing with the kids so far has been when I took them home to Newfoundland this past summer while the food fishery was on for cod fish.   Two days in a row, the boys jumped out of bed, full of anticipation, at 5 AM to get ready to be in the boat for 6.      They couldn't wait to go with Poppy out to catch some fish in a boat!

 Cod fishing is typically done with a jigger on a strong line, but I brought out a rod with 10 lb line just to see what it would be like to hook a cod on rod and reel.  The cod were plentyful and the boys had a wonder time.   Both Fynn and myself used the rod to bring up a few cod, and Rowan had a great time making friends with every fish we brought in the boat.

Cod do not fight at all, they are just dead weight.  So to bring them up on the rod you just raise the rod, reel as you drop the rod, and repeat... essentially just lifting the fish.    So while these are big heavy fish, Fynn was able to bring them in himself... though it took him about 4 - 5 minutes each!

Here you can see Rowan has a hold on a cod fish which he fully intends to take home as a pet.

Later, once the fish are back at the dock to be cleaned, Rowan is sitting off in the back quite upset as we won't let him keep a fish!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Last kayak fishing trip of 2013

Well we got hit with a bit more snow than I had hoped for, but thankfully Chris Hardt has about as little sense as I, so we went fishing anyway!    Afterall, it isn't often you can say you've gone kayak fishing while the neighbour is snowblowing his driveway!

Once we got to the launching point and in our kayaks it was surprising comfortable.   That is once we got used to the slush and ice flows that we had to either navigate or bust through once in a while!

We seen a couple of sturgeon jump, and I had one hooked briefly but that was all there was to the action.   Oh well!

At least I got a couple of good pictures!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Why I Love Kayak Fishing in New Brunswick

After growing up fishing for trout in streams and ponds in Newfoundland, I had no idea what I was getting into when I started fishing from Kayak in New Brunswick. The vast variety of fish available to be caught here, and the different approaches one has to take was somewhat mind boggling to me!

Given this, the only real way to experience all that is offered to the angler in New Brunswick is to get out there in kayak and see what you can do. Wether it is fishing in the wilderness in and around Loch Alva for huge Lake trout, braveing the rediculous currents and danger around Reversing Falls for Striped Bass, getting the heart pumping in the Bay of Fundy for mackerel, flounder and possibly sharks, or just relaxing while sitting back and waiting for a 4 foot sturgeon to take your line and spin you around, you can do it all in a single kayak! Heck, in the 2 paddler's tournaments that are held each year, you have to target as many species as you can in one outing and need to catch 6 - 10 different types of fish to fishing near the top!

I have yet to target all of the fish that are available to be caught in New Brunswick. Muskie are out there which I hope to catch one of next year, and I've only been in the Bay of Fundy once but haven't caught anything. So my bucket list still has a few species left!

But I have had a few memories I'll never forget! My first night fishing just on top of Reversing Falls, Saint John was with John Caile (aka IPop). John has been around about as long as anyone as has forgotten more than most of us will ever know. So this first night I was following his advice for several hours near Reversing Falls with no signs of a fish, when right about midnight I get a hit on a 6 inch silver rapala. I have never had a fish feel so strong! What a rush! My drag was set at max which was 12 pounds on my baitcaster (using 40 pound braid). I managed to get the striped bass pretty much next to the kayak fairly quickly... not realizing how to fish for stripers. As I was considering reaching for the net... he decided to take off! Whirrrrrrrrr...... My drag had no effect and my kayak was basically moving with the current towards the falls as if I had a motor on the back pushing me along! Heart racing, knuckles white, I was just hanging on for the ride! Then after a minute or two, the stripers rode me right into a bouy, and then he was free.

I did try about 6 more times in that spot over the summer, but have never since gotten a bite there. All is not lost for stripers though. Once night fishing for sturgeon with John, I hit what I thought was my 6th or 7th sturgeon. This fish spun my kayak one way, then the other for several minutes. Expecting a 45 inch sturgeon, I was pretty shocked to see that it was a striper when it finally breached the surface! Thankfully I have a pretty large folding net that I carry on my kayak, which really helped land this beauty! My first striper is something I'll never forget!

The paddling tournaments in New Brunswick are weekends that every kayak or canoe angler in Atlantic Canada should mark on their calendars. Not only are there a ton of great prizes, including a sit on top angling kayak donated by the very generous and supportive Ecological Adventures, you get to meet a ton of knowledgable and friendly anglers, and have a great social time as well. Those weekends are so much fun the fishing is a bonus! This past year being my first, I finished middle of the pack in the Oromocto tournament, and 6th out of 18 in the Hamton tournament. Next summer with a full year under my belt, and a lot more tricks up my sleeve, I'm aiming for top 4 in both!

Another tournament suited to paddlers is the Shad tournament in Chipman in the Spring. This past year I tried it having never fished for Shad or Salmon (they are similar) before. The weather was awful being cold, wet and windy. The current was insane, and I had a very hard time of it. I did actually manage to hook two shad, and both times they jumped clear out of the water giving me a lot of excitement. Unfortunately, I had never had to 'fight' a fish before that has a soft mouth like a shad so both times I was too aggressive and pulled the hooks from their mouths. Next tournament I'll know better! I did however contribute by rescuing a kayak that has tipped over. Only a couple inches of one tip of the kayak was showing above water. I cut the end of my 200 foot anchor line, and after 4 passes, finally was able to secure the line to the kayak without myself tipping over. Then I was ableto get the line over to others on shore who then was able to drag the capsized kayak back to land. The fellow that tipped, an older gentleman was very lucky as he was out without a life jacket and could have been swept away.

A goal I have in 2014 is to take the kayak, load it with some camping gear and what I need to fish for a few targeted species, and paddle into Loch Alva to camp and fish. We intended to do that last year, but the weather and the schedule didn't work out. I'm hoping to take the boys camping/fishing in canoe as well on a shorter, less risky trip, but to be honest, the 4 hour paddle to Loch Alva and fishing for lakers and brook trout is really what I'm looking forward to in 2014!

Anyhow, those are some of the memories I have of this past year in kayak. It has been a wonderful year of new experiences and learning and I really can't wait till my kids Fynn and Rowan are old enough to head out in their own kayaks fishing with me. Fynn has already asked when he can have a kayak with a rod holder!

How to fish for Shortnose Sturgeon in New Brunswick

This year has been very much a learning experience and I've learned a ton, especially with sturgeon fishing at our local hotspot called "Sturgeon Alley". After spending many hours with limited to no success and talking to others, I've finally figured out the tricks to make a sturgeon hunt as successful as possible. These hints are what I have found to work for me, they are not intended to be seen as a lecture on the right way versus the wrong way to fish. I certianly have seen others in boat fishing sturgeon with different techniques than described here with success, so one size may not fit all!

Here are a few of the sturgeon I've caught in the last few months. Even Fynn, my 6 year old has caught a couple now as well!

Recently I've had afternoon's or evenings in kayak where I have landed 5, 6, 10, and even 16 sturgeon in a few hours! With sucess rates like this, I know I must be doing something right.

My technique is to use a medium/heavy rod, and a low profile bait caster reel spooled with 40 pound braid. The braid is very likely far stronger than I'd need, but I'd rather strong versus weak just in case the very rare large Atlantic is lurking out there. For a 6 or 8 foot fish you want to have a strong line! Also, the scutes on the sturgeon are very sharp. If you hook one, and he is a fighter, he could very well rub your line across his body and if your unlucky, cut the line! Finally I like to use braid as it has no stretch and that is quite useful here for setting the hook.

Check out how sharp these protruding bones are... they could easily slice a 15 pound mono line!

Anyhow, at the end of the braid, I use a fairly strong snap swivel, and then about 3 feet of 40 pound mono for my leader. On the leader I use 2 hooks, the first at the end of the leader and the second about half way up. For hooks I use 3/0 or 4/0 red mustad hooks.

The key to sturgeon fishing is to get the bait down to the bottom, so I use the snap from another snap swivel to put a pair of 1 ounch triangle weights onto the braid above the snap swivel. This lets the weights slide freely up and down the line and doesn't affect the sensitivity of when a fish is taking the bait.

Once your line is rigged up you want to get some nice juicy nightcrawlers on your hooks. Now, you can basically throw your line out, let it sink, and then let the waiting game begin.

So up till this point, everything I have said is bascially common knowledge for anyone who has fished for sturgeon before. So now for the hints.

First, make sure to completely cover your hook. Sturgeon have next to no eyesight and use those catfish like hairs under their nose to sense their food. If they sense the metal, they are less likely to go for the bait... at least that's my experience.

Another key one that most people don't do is to have 2 hooks on the leader. I have actually caught 2 sturgeon this year, without hooking them at all, but rather lasoo'ing them! The 2 hooks somehow have twice wrapped around the sturgeon and hooked back around the leader effectively making a noose! Typically the 2 hooks help to really increase the number of fish you jig through the fin, nose, back.... etc, but being about to catch a fish without hooking them at all is great for the fish! You could have 3 hooks, but then your really going to run through your bait fast, and you could get more in tangles than makes it worth it. 2 works great for me.

Next, tight lines! Keep the rod in your hand and keep the line tight. You want to really feel for any fish nibbling, swimming by and knocking into the line and so on. Sturgeon can bite hard, but they can alse be amazingly soft. You may have your bait in the sturgeon's mouth and not even realize it unless you are holding the rod and feeling for it.

Related to the last hint, don't cast far. I never cast more than 5 or 10 feet from my kayak, and often times just drop my line directly under me. The less line you have out, the more sensitive your line is, and the better you can set your hook.

I find the best time to fish is the 2 hours before and after high slack tide. I typically don't even bother outside that window anymore. So when is high slack tide at sturgeon alley? About 4 hours 10 minutes after high slack tide in Saint John according to this website: Saint John Tides.

Now here's the key hint... don't wait for a bite! If your line has been out for 2 - 3 min, lightly lift the rod from horizontal to 45 degrees. If it brings up into something solid, lift it hard up to 90 degrees and then start reeling! I would estimate about 1/2 of the sturgeon I've caught this year have been this way. By doing this, and especially with the pair of hooks on your leader, you really increase your chance of setting the hook in a fish that is sucking the worm off softly, or jigging one that is sniffing around but not biting. I've caught 48 inch sturgeon this past couple weeks that I never knew were there till I did exactly this trick.

If you are like me and fish from a kayak, you may have a moment of panic if you hook a big one, get it next to your kayak and think... what now? What you don't want to do is lift it out of the water by the hook. I lost a potential 48 incher just that way the other night... DOH! What you want to do is grab the line with you hand (wear gloves), and get your rod back in a rod holder or out of the way. Then manouver the line so that the stugeon's tail is within reach. The scutes (bone protrusions) are not sharp back by the tail and he is not at all slippery so it's easy to get a good grip. Get a hold of him at the tail and lift from there as your primary point of leverage, then lift the line as well as you need. I have found even for the 4 foot sturgeon, I have little trouble getting them into the kayak once I have hold of the tail.

Finally my last one, is use 2 rods. In sturgeon alley you are in tidal water and are allowed several lines in at once. I like to keep one rod in each hand, feeling at all times for any activity and periodically raising one rod then the other in hopes of hitting a fish. This is why I really like the low profile baitcasters; they are lighter on the arms and easier to operate with 1 hand until you need to reel one in.

What's really fun is when you end up with a sturgeon on both rods at the same time as happened here. Note, for both of these fish, there were no bites, just a random hit from raising the rod:

Anyway, I hope this has been a fun read for you! Let me know what you think and if you have any success with these hints!

Oh, and if you want to keep a sturgeon, keep in mind the minimum size is 120cm or 47.25 inches total length. To measure a sturgeon for total length, lay him down flat on his belly, and fold the tail down sideways. Then measure from the tip of his nose to the end of his tail. Sturgeon are considered endangered so I don't know why there is any limit at all. To be honest, I did keep one this year, and made use of internet research to figure out how to fillet and cook it. After soaking it in brine for 3 hours and then smoking it on my Big Green Egg for another 3 hours, I have to say it tasted excellent! I may keep one a year, but that will be all I ever keep, and then I'll cook it for a meal with fellow anglers and their families to experience, cutting down on the total number of sturgeon we keep in total.

Memories of 2013

2012 was our family's first real summer of fishing in New Brunswick. Mainly it started with me and my kayak learning from others in New Brunswick about fishing here for perch, smallmouth bass, trout, pickerel and so on. Anytime that we could I would take my boys out fishing with me.

Here we see my youngest Rowan, who had just turned 3 holding a small perch that he had hooked, reeled in and taken off his hook all by himself!

This is my oldest Fynn showing off his first pickerel caught at Kingston Creek in canoe early this past summer.

Obviously both boys have inherited a joy for fishing and both want to get out with me in canoe as often as they can.

Aside from getting out with the two boys, I also partook in several fishing tournaments for the first time in my life. Every one was a unique and learning experience. From rescuing a sunken kayak in the wind and rain and extrememly strong current up in Chipman (Shad tourney - Salmon River), to paddling all day in canoe with a new friend and my dog in a pickerel tournament, to winning the early bird prize in the NB Paddler's tournament, it was all a lot of fun and times to remember.

This year I managed to catch white perch, yellow perch, trout, eel, catfish, small mouth bass, suckers, sunfish, pickerel, sturgeon, a striped bass,... and probably more than I can't remember.

The one fish that I have really taken on an expertise with is sturgeon. I'll post seperately about my sturgeon experieces and what I've learned. With 71 caught on the year (61 in kayak), and 16 in my last kayak trip alone, I've really gotten a knack for them and feel I can offer a lot to others that want to get out and catch their first sturgeon.