Saturday, May 31, 2014

Suckers on the Hammond

Today I hit the Hammond River again with the Greater Saint John Kayak Anglers hoping to hook into a couple shad.    I got there early (around 6:30 AM) and paddled up to the appointed fishing spot at Crowley's Hole.

With the water being very clear, we could see the bottom easily and in doing so we could see swarms of gaspereau and hundreds of suckers resting along the bottom.    Scattered through the gaspereau was the odd shad, but their numbers were only a small fraction of the gaspereau.   Catching a shad was sure to be a challange!

I came equipped with multiple rods, and many different ideas of how I might attract a shad to my hook but everything I tried failed miserably.    I did however solidify a surefire technique to catch lots and lots of gaspereau, and I was able to hook into several suckers as well.

10 kayak anglers were on the water, overall a very nice outing on a beautiful Saturday!   I can't wait to get out again!  

Oh, and once I got back to the lauch point, I got to try out my newly re-enforced homemade kayak cart.  I fully expected it to fall apart under the weight of the Predator, but it held up and I used it to bring the kayak back to the CRV!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Shad fishing on the Hammond River

The Hammond River is known as a real treasure for anglers in southern New Brunswick with many different species calling it home throughout different times of the year.   Now in late May / early June we have the end of the Gaspereau run, and the start of the Shad run. 

Both of these fish are notoriously hard to fish for unless you really know what your doing and know what bait to use.    For Gaspereau, I think I've figured out a trick tonight that I'll be testing on Saturday.   For Shad, there are Shad Darts and Shad Flies.

Doing a trial fish in preperation for our kayak angling group's outing on Saturday, I headed out with a couple members of the group (Steve and Craig) in hopes of confirming that Shad were indeed in the river.    Well, we definately found Shad, lots of them, as I seen many swimming directly under me.   Also, there were the much smaller Gaspereau swimming along side of them.    These two fish are closely related, with their size being the most obvious difference.

After trying several different colors of shad darts with no luck, and being frustrated seeing so many of them swimming under me, I tried just bouncing my lure off the ground next to the kayak.   It was an act of desperation.    Wouldn't you know it, I quickly jigged a shad!    The fish took off (my drag was set very light), swam around my kayak and eventually wrapped my line around my anchor.    I ended up waiting for the fish to tire, and then hand lined him in.   My first ever shad!    Unfortunately, as you'll see in the video, he slipped from my hands before I was able to get him down for a measurement.     I'm guessing around 18 - 20 inches.

I then kept up this tactic, trying to catch another shad.    I couldn't get one, but I did hook and catch 6 gaspereau.   The first jumped off the measuring board before I could get a picture, but I did get pictures of others.    My best pic (a bit blurry) was of an 11 1/2 inch gaspereau.

I've got some new ideas after playing around with my line that I'm going to try out on Saturday.   Hopefully I'll be able to catch (and measure) at least 1 or 2 more shad!

Here is another video from Steve Chapman who was out fishing with us on this trip.    He put his GoPro under the water and got some great footage of the fish all around us!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The 'Dad' Kayak! - Old Town Predator 13

I've had my new Old Town Predator 13 kayak now for a week, and have been able to get out in it 5 times already. Man is this kayak more than I had hoped for! Being a father of 2 young boys and an avid kayak angler, I wanted a kayak that not only offered great performance, space, stability, and storage, but also something that I could use with a child till they are big enough for their own kayak.

Afterall, time spend fishing with a kid does not count against one's acquired brownie points.... am I right gentlemen!!!!

So 3 of my 5 outings this week was with a son in tow. I've taken my 3 year old out for a short jaunt on the Hammond River where we caught a few perch and trout, then I took him out with a kayak angling group to Wheaton Lake were we spent 7 hours on the water, and finally I took my 6 year old out to "Sturgeon Alley",

I can say with absolute conviction that a Dad can take a young child out on the Old Town Predator with 5 rods, all your gear, food, and whatever else you may need, with room left over, and not feel at all cramped for space! Not that you need all those rods, but really, we all have that need for many rods!

I put a small footstool behind my seat for the child to sit on, under which a couple plano boxes easily fit. Another plano box in the handy compartment built into the back of my seat and we have lots of extra gear at hand. Between the footstool and my seat, a standard bumpboard fits in perfectly for getting those pics of fish landed.

A scotty triple rod holder placed at the very top of the rod pod gives space for all sorts of extra rods beyond what you may place in those rod holders on the 6 face plates built into the side of the Predator. Personally I put 8" tracks (some Scotty, some YakAttack) on 5 of the side plates, with the 6th reserved for a cleat for my anchor trolley. On those tracks you can put an number of arrangements of rod holders, and other such gear, and then interchange them as you wish. The combination of gear arrangements are endless!

There are bungee straps built into the side to secure your net, pockets for tools, gloves and the like, a paddle clip, and all sorts of other handy features. I love that the anchor trolley can be installed into the moulded in handles without having to drill holes for any hardware! I can actually take the anchor trolley off, or switch it to the other side should I want!

Without a child, and using a milk crate with a PVC pipe homemade three rod holder I can fit 10 rods, all my gear for fishing and camping, and still have room and stability on the Preadator 13 to stand up and fish! I can't take a child with the milk crate, but you get my drift, the Predator 13 has way more cargo space and customization options that anyone should ever ask for!

As for how it tracks and performs when paddling, it puts my Old Town Dirigo sit inside kayak to shame. Fishing with a kayak angling elder in John Cail next to Reversing Falls this past week at night, John comments that while in very fast cross current, one I put my rod aside and picked up the paddle, I basically shot off from tricky water like a rocket. I have to say, that even with the extra weight of a child, the Predator 13 is easily faster, more stable, way more nimble and tracks much better than my 12 foot Dirigo on which I've landed many a big fish with ease.

If you are a Dad looking to get more fishing time in, and would prefer a kayak over a canoe, then you really have to look at the Old Town Predator 13. Even if you don't have child responsibilities playing into your decision making, you really cannot go wrong with the Predator 13. It is a truely amazing fishing platform!

Here are a couple of short videos from the past week showing the kids making memories that no video game could ever match!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

New Old Town Predator 13 Kayak!

This past weekend I had the pleasure of taking my 3 year old, and very avid fisherman, Rowan down to Bangor to pick up a new Predator 13 kayak. He had a great time staying in a hotel and enjoying the pool, visiting the Children's Museum and of course paying is first visit to Old Town!

My fishing fleet up to this time has consisted of the Old Town Saranac 146 Angler Canoe, and the Old Town Dirigo 12 foot kayak. Both vessels are fantastic in their own way for different purposes, but I had been missing something. The Predator, with it's amazing cargo capacity, ability to hold one of my kids who are too small to have their own kayaks and amazing stability are all features that the Dirgo doesn't offer. I also wanted the ability to pee without going back to shore (lol).  I've had a great time in both the Saranac and the Dirigo catching lots of great fish, and will continue to do so. But this weekend was all about the Predator!

Rowan and I made the 3 hour trip down to Bangor on Friday, and the Saturday morning made our way to Old Town. The kayak, paddle and a PFD were waiting for me on arrival and Jeremy and others at Old Town made sure we had a great experience on site. They even let us bring the Predator to the on site demo pool where I was able to take Rowan out for a little test run on the new Kayak!

After browsing through the outlet store, picking up a few items I didn't realize I needed till I seen them, we brought the kayak out to the CRV. Obviously it's a bigger and heavier kayak than I'm used to with the Dirigo. I can pick up the Dirigo and easily lift it to the J Racks, but not so with the Predator. I think I was lucky not to have an accident on my first try in loading the Predator on the CRV but I made it! With practice I'll get the routine down, but really it is a big boat and someone smaller than me would really struggle putting it into J Racks on an SUV. I'm thinking the flatter racks is a better option for a boat like this for most people.

Finally once I got home I was able to dig a shipment I had received from YakAttack and another package with a variety of Scotty components. Now for the hard part... how to rig up the new kayak! The predator comes with several removable plates on which items can be mounted without putting any holes in the kayak, which is an awesome feature. My plan was to set each plate with an 8 inch track and then any rod holders and such that I mount will be interchangable. Also I put together my first Anchor Trolly which came out fantastic.

Also, I found that a small footstool fits neatly down right behind the seat in the Predator, making an ideal seat for a young child. My kids will love being in charge of the rods while trolling the lakes for trout!

Finally, it's time to hit the water! I met my friend John Cail at the Darling's Island bridge once the rain subsided, and out we went. I took 4 rods with me, gearing up for trout/perch/smallmouth with 2 of the rods, and then sturgeon alley with the others.

We landed tons of perch, then John landed a 15 inch striper on the Hammond near the train bridge with compeletly took us by surprise! Then out to sturgeon alley, when I landed a few catfish and a 29 inch American Eel.

All in all I had a great day on the Predator 13. I did learn a few things though. First, you want to have the seat in the lower positon when paddling from one area to the next. If it's a short paddle, then the high position is fine, but not really suitable for 'travel'. Second, the predator is difficult to keep going straight in a river with funky currents. It really seems to drift sideways with the currents. For that reason I'm going to look into getting a rudder. Finally I found that I had way too much gear positioned in front of me. I'm going to put together a rod holder to attach to a mike crate behind the seat and lose the Scotty Triple holder from the Predator. The bait board is great, and the rod holders positioned on the gear tracks works great, but having the triple holder is a bit much.

Anyhow, I really enjoyed my trip to Old Town, and my first trip out in the kayak. I am definately looking forward to taking on some stripers, muskie, shark, sturgeon and other big fish in this boat! And I can't wait to take one of the boys out with me!

Update:  I just rigged a PVC triple rod holder to attach to the milk crate and added a few more Scotty tracks.    Now I can comfortably take 7 rods and all my gear!     .... thats not overkill is it?

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Visit to the Sturgeon Lab at UNB

On Wednesday, I had the pleasure of meeting with Dr. James Kieffer at the University of New Brunswick to take a little tour of the sturgeon lab they have established there.   In this lab, Dr. Kieffer and his students study the development and behaviour of sturgeon as well as their behavioural and physiological reactions to different environmental changes and stresses.  

With me on this trip, were my two boys Fynn and Rowan.   Both boys love to accompany me on fishing trips, Fynn has actually caught a couple of sturgeon himself last Fall.    Fynn was very excited to visit and actual laboratory where scientists do experiments, while Rowan just wanted to see and touch fish!

Dr. Kieffer brought us all down to the sturgeon lab where the boys got to see all sorts of young sturgeon, and even hold one.   Rowan held, and kissed his, while Fynn opted not to hold one himself, but rather focused on all the devices that were set up to do the experiments.

There were lots of shortnose sturgeon in different containers.   There was also a room with three large containers holding strugeon all of the same age.  In one container were shortnose, the next atlantics, while in the third there were hybrids.    The shortnose and the hybrids looked basically idential to my untrained eye in color, shape and size.   The Atlantics however were much smaller and near black.    Interestingly enough, the same fish used as parents for the hybrids, were used to parent the purebreds.   Essentially the hybrids were half brothers / half sisters to the pure shortnose and atlantics.        It will be interesting to see these fish in a few years once they are bigger to see what traits show up differently in the hybrids versus the shortnose.

Once though the various rooms with sturgeon, Dr. Kieffer took us to a lab with lots of preserved fish in bottles, and skeletons of animals(including real human skeletons!).    The boys found this very interesting as well. especially the Gar and Pufferfish!    We may have a couple of future biology students on our hands here!

One of the interesting things I learned on my trip is that sturgeon do school.    This is something I often wondered.   So if you do go fishing and catch a strugeon, there is a pretty good chance there are more sturgeon around!

I also learned that there definately are some Atlantics around the Sturgeon Alley area, though very few.   Of the 70-something caught for the Sturgeon Tournament last October, there were (I think) 2 atlantics recorded and both rather small.  Those that I have been catching are probably not actually atlantics but possibly hybrids.   I will be gathering much better data in the future getting video of those fish from all angles with measurements in the pictures to ensure scale is accurate.   This information will help the folk at UNB to best determine exactly what the traits are we have questioned on these strugeon and what exactly is going on there.

We also chatted about where one would go to catch one of the BIG atlantics.   Apparently every year they find 10-12 foot (400 pound!) Atlantic Sturgeon in their nets over on the other side of the Kingston Peninsula.  I am going to have to head over there before long to see if I can hook into a fish the size of my kayak!    Obviously I won't be able to get it into my kayak, but I'd love to get it next to the kayak where I'd be sure to grab some awesome video and pictures!     There is great striper fishing over there as well, so all the more reason to give it a try!

Anyhow, thank you again Dr. Kieffer for a very education and fun time for my boys and I!   I am sure we will be in touch again soon!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Review - SonarPhone

The past few fishing trips I've had the pleasure to try out a great new product called the SonarPhone. This device, is basically a little float that acts as the tranducer for a fish finder which connects through WiFi to a smartphone, turning your smartphone into the viewer.

 The Sonarphone is very light and compact, and with a little fishing line, connects easily to your kayak so that it doesn't float away. When I wish to use it, I drop it in the water next to the kayak, which then causes the unit to 'turn on' and emit it's WiFi signal. My phone then picks up the signal, and using the App that is free to download, I am able to tell the water temps, depths and spot any fish that may be swimming underneath.

My first few times using the SonarPhone was somewhat frustrating, though that was entirely my fault. I hadn't followed the setup instructions to set a password and take the phone off demo mode! Once I realized this, and got past demo mode, things worked exactly as advertised.

I used it trolling, in choppy water and in calm water, and in all three cases, it worked very well with no fluctuations or issues.  The sensor kept it's readings steady even under what I would have thought to be difficult conditions for such a unit!

Here I am paddling with the sonar phone getting towed along next to me, and it continues to work without any difficulties whatsoever!

Right now there is only one problem I have with the SonarPhone, but that is really not something the unit can do anything about. That is the difficulty in seeing the images on my phone in the sun when wearing polarized sunglasses. I have the same problem looking at facebook, answering a call, or anything else with my phone. As long as you can see the screen on your phone however, the Sonarphone seems to be a fantastic device.

The Sonar Phone has about a 4 hour charge, which you can recharge though a simple USB cable. There are no buttons or anything else with the unit, just drop it in the water and it turns on. Take it out of the water and it turns off.

For someone with a sit inside kayak that doesn't want to go and spend $300 on a unit that has a transducer you have to wire into your kayak, the SonarPhone is really a genius little device.    You can use it anywhere, and even cast it out into the water from shore should you wish to use it that way.   It is the ultimate in mobility when it comes to fish finders.

Note, if you do wish to have a more permenant version of this device, there are options for larger boats through both a permenant mount (SP200) and a suction mount (SP300).

Interested in this extremely portable, easy to use and accurate device?  You can pick yours up at Doiron's Sports Excellence in Saint John!