Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Easter Weekend Sturgeon Fishing

During Easter, we are typically dealing with a mess of snow, slush and ice here in New Brunswick.   The river is still in the midst of trying to thaw out and the only kayak fishing we can do is in our dreams.   However this year, with the mild Winter and early Spring, I was able to get an early start on guided kayak fishing for sturgeon.

On Saturday I hit the water with a pair of friends from Fredericton, then a day off on Easter Sunday, leading to another day on the water with three more friends from Moncton.    Wouldn't you know it, the best weather of the weekend fell on Sunday, but what can you do!

Saturday we got out at a brisk -3 degrees and it eventually warmed up to about +2.   Combined with the wind, it was a pretty chilly day, marked by the continuous freezing up of the top eyelets on our rods.   Normally I wouldn't have stayed out very long, but Nathan and Pat are pretty hardy guys, and the temperatures didn't phase them at all!

On Monday, it was a little warmer, and as the day wore on became downright comfortable as the wind stayed down and the temps got up to about +6.   If the sun broke through it would have been downright balmy!

Overall close to 100 sturgeon were caught between myself and the guys that I took out for their first sturgeon fishing experience.... which is a remarkable number!

Here are a few videos captured from over the weekend of Nathan, Jeff and Cliff.  

Friday, March 25, 2016

The evolution of the Sportsmen Shows in NB

I have been asked a few times recently if I will be present at the New Brunswick Sportsmen's Show again this year. Last year I held a booth to promote the sport of kayak fishing, the kayak fishing derbies and the sport of sturgeon fishing. As you know, these sports are extremely popular, especially here in the Saint John region. Unfortunately I opted not to be there with a booth this year as the costs of a hotel, transportation, food...etc for three days and such was more than I could justify doing out of pocket. Plus, I'd have to burn a vacation day!

My booth at the 2015 Show
I did offer to do a seminar on either kayak fishing and/or sturgeon fishing, and was told a few times they would get back to me on scheduling, indicating at the time a likelihood that they would have me as a presenter. Unfortunately, I never did hear back from the organizers, and only discovered that I would not be presenting when the schedule was eventually released. There goes a wonderful opportunity to promote these two great sports to a large and diverse audience! Instead of having myself or someone else speak to these topics, a couple of very qualified Bass Pro pro-staffers are going to be making their presentations multiple times during the weekend. Bass Pro has come in as the big sponsor of the event, with the seminar stage named after them...etc. so it isn't a surprise that Bass Pro representative are being allotted considerable presentation time.

I can't fault Bass Pro for wanting to dominate an event like this, if I were them I would want to have my brand splashed over everything too! However is this good for the show? I hear that many of the locally owned vendors who helped make the show what it is are either pulling out or scaling down because of the presence of the big box stores. In other regions, these big stores are not permitted at their sportsman shows. Take Toronto for instance, look though the exhibitor list here and notice the number of small business, and the lack of the big names.

(Edit by request March 27) Another event on our province will take place in September when the Sussex Fish and Game Association is gong to be resurrecting on a their  Atlantic Hunting and Fishing Expo where they will initially look to the smaller outfitters and businesses who have been involved with them in the past.   They will also look to grow their event by inviting new vendors, groups and organizations pertaining to hunting, fishing and the outdoors.  

As consumers and the target audience for these shows, I encourage you to attend them with an open mind, and then see what you think. Whether you like or do not like way they are run, let the organizers know! Your feedback will make all the difference in years to come!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Looking to get your next fishing kayak?

Here in New Brunswick on the East Coast of Canada, we look forward to April as the traditional month when the weather finally turns a corner and conditions get to where we can comfortably get out for a paddle without having to wrap up in 7 layers of clothes.  So naturally, with the growth in popularity in the sport of kayak fishing many folk are now thinking about getting involved.   I have heard recently from a number of people looking to invest in their first fishing kayak and have lots of questions as to how they should go about choosing the best ride for them.

Just with purchasing a vehicle, I would say the number one rule in choosing your next (or especially first!) fishing kayak is to try before you buy.   Try more than one model of kayak if you can, and more than one brand.   That way you can get a feel for the differences between different styles of fishing kayaks and develop an appreciation for those features that appeal the most to you.

You are going to need to set your price point.   The cheaper box store kayaks, can be had for under $1000.   There is certainly nothing wrong with getting one of these boats if that is where your price point needs to be.   Many days of enjoyment can be had on these kayaks.  However these kayaks are generally not built to be used outside of calm slow moving water, such as a lake on a nice day.    To safely handle the ocean or windy conditions in open water, you really want to invest in a kayak that was built for it.

The cheaper box-store makes of kayaks typically are made from less durable materials (thinner, cheaper plastics) and will not offer the performance or comfort of the mainstream brands.   Personally I wouldn't let anyone in my family take a $500 Pelican kayak out on the Bay of Fundy or attempt to cross a big lake in strong winds, but I would be comfortable with them fishing for pickerel in Kingston Creek or on the Hammond River.

lf you want to get a quality fishing kayak that will perform exceptionally well in a wide variety of conditions and will last you for many years, be prepared to spend up to $2000 (with taxes), That being said, the resell value of a quality brand of fishing kayak is quite high.   You could have one for several years and turn around and sell if for just a few hundred less than you had paid!    In all honesty, you really do get what you pay for!

Of course, not all fishing kayaks are created equal, and there is no one fishing kayak that is just right for everyone.   There are significant differences in styles, strengths and weaknesses from brand to brand and model to model.   You may know someone who loves their particular model of fishing kayak, however if you try it you may find it too heavy, small, slow, unstable, uncomfortable, or perhaps just too much for what you are looking for.   Not everyone needs a fully equipped fishing battleship afterall!

Here in the Greater Saint John region I can recommend two avenues of in person research you can do.   First is to hit the facebook page for the Greater Saint John Kayak Anglers.    This is a group of (at the moment)  over 90 people active in the sport who are more than willing to offer thoughts and opinions to anyone with questions about different makes of kayaks.   During the year we have several outings and if you wanted to get out and give kayak fishing a whirl, several members of the group would be happy to assist, perhaps helping to find you a loaner fishing kayak for the day.

Another option would be to give me a call or an e-mail.    I can take people out for either a full or half day of guided kayak fishing, bringing a couple of different of models of kayak with us to try out.    An afternoon or day of kayak fishing would really help you appreciate not only the kayak itself, but also the types of accessories and rigging you may want to do on your kayak after the purchase.  As a nice bonus, guided fishing clients that wish to purchase an Old Town or Ocean Kayak model of fishing kayak can get a discount off the regular price of these boats from our local retailer Outdoors NB!  

If you weren't interested in doing a guided outing, I could still meet you here in Quispamsis and show you all of the kayaks I have in my mini-fleet, perhaps even meet you at nearby Meenan's Cove beach for you to do a short test ride.   We would be able to talk through topics such as hull design, intended use, capacity ratings, layout.... etc.   All things you need to keep in mind when choosing your next kayak.

For those not in our area, seek out a retailer who would allow you to do a test run.    Eco-Logical Adventures in Oromocto would be one such store.   If you choose to go with a store that doesn't offer test runs, then be sure to understand their store policy on returns in case you purchase a kayak you end up not satisfied with after riding for an hour.    This again, is something you need to keep in mind when looking at box store kayaks.

Hopefully if you are one of those looking to get into the sport, I've given you something to chew on here.   This is a sport that will open up possibilities for your fishing adventures you have never imagined, so I strongly encourage you follow through and give it a try.   It is something you really won't regret!

Monday, March 21, 2016

More Winter weather and what it means for sturgeon fishing

With only 4 more days to go till Good Friday and my first scheduled guided fishing outing of the year, Mother Nature is 'blessing' us with what is hopefully the last blast of Winter.   Apparently she didn't get the memo that as of this past weekend we are supposed to be officially into Spring!   This week is going bring more sub-zero temperatures before we finally crack into positive territory on Friday and the outlook for beyond Friday is pretty good.  

View from my home office this morning
This is actually a great thing for us sturgeon anglers who haven't been able to get on the water yet this month.   The water temperature itself is still very cold, probably nearly as could as it would be in a normal year when the ice would still be present.   Despite having the ice melt off a few weeks back, the temperatures haven't gotten very much above freezing lately, more often than not below freezing, especially at night.

With the water remaining quite cold, it means the sturgeon's body clocks are hopefully right where they should be for this time of year.   The sturgeon will all still be huddled together in their wintering holes not feeding but waiting for the temperatures to take an upswing.    Once the water hits a certain temperature our sturgeon will essentially 'wake up', start feeding heavily and begin to head out through the Saint John river system.  

April 26, 2014 - Personal record 54 inch sturgeon
Last year. a brutal and very long winter, sturgeon were being caught in healthy numbers well into May in sturgeon alley.    The year before we were catching many, including some huge ones, right at the end of April.   This year, hopefully the fishing will remain hot through the duration of April and perhaps again into the first week or two of May.

I have bookings now for every single weekend from this coming Easter weekend through to the end of April, but if you want to get out for a guided kayak fishing adventure for sturgeon in this coming month, let me know.   I may be able to fit in individuals with another group, or if you have a group of 3 - 5 people, we can look at a week day to get out.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Gear up for Stripers

Striped bass fishing is here in New Brunswick has captured the hearts of anglers across the province From the world famous Miramichi River, to the Fundy coastline, and on over to Reversing Falls and throughout the Saint John river system, striper fishing has become an immense draw.   The popularity of this fish has grown with anglers to rival smallmouth and salmon fishing!

Coming up in late May, the Miramichi Striper Cup will take place again on the Miramichi River and is once again expected to draw about 150 boats plus dozens of more anglers participating from the shores.   Hugh prizes including a new boat package, large cash prizes and thousands of dollars of prizes in items will be awared.   Talking to organizer Jeff Wilson this past weekend at Bass Pro, he mentioned the winner of the boat package (random draw) was a 16 year old last year!   Unfortunately for anglers like myself, kayaks and canoes are not going to be permitted at the event due to safety and insurance concerns.

For anyone looking to to stock up on gear for the coming Striper season you want to look first at your reel.   The reel is where you really want to concentrate most of your investment as it is by far the most important tool for any striper fisherman.   Striper fishing is done in salt water, and these are big and strong fish.  So you need a reel that is protected against the salt, and provide the strength needed to muscle in these big fish.   A quality reel will last for many years when maintained, while a cheaper reel will be vulnerable to giving out after a season or two, especially if not properly maintained.

Penn salt water spinning reels are a #1 choice for this type of fishing.  Penn makes only saltwater gear and is well known in the industry for producing top quality products.    They offer several lines with one their top models being Penn Sportfisher V series.   The SpinFisher V line of reels provide a top quality option at what may seen to be a high price, but is actually quite affordable considering you can expect to have this reel for many years longer than the cheaper competition.

The Spinfisher V reel is lighter than you would expect considering all that it provides, casts extremely smooth and is water tight protecting the drag and gears from any salt penetration.   The drag system is so strong that you might see a big striper straighten your hook or break your line before it is able to spool you.   The spool is anodized and even features capacity rings showing when you go from full down to 2/3 and then 1/3 full, so that you know, if a striper is taking line, when to start cranking up the drag.

For kayak anglers like myself, I recommend the 3500 or 4500 model which comes with a 7' rod in the combo.   These are light enough to cast all day, and still offers huge drag for a small reel - 20 lbs in the 3500 model.and 25 lb in the 4500 model.   The line capacity is plenty sufficient as well able to hold about 180 yards of 40 lb braid.    A kayaker could enjoy a whole day of 'sleigh rides' with this reel and never worry about the reel's ability to hold up to the workload!

This guy towed me around for 15 minutes!
For those in boat the 5500 or 6500 model offers additional line capacity and combined with the option of a 7' or 8' rod, giving you lots of casting distance from your ride.    For all of those who fish stripers from shore, the 6500 model reel is available paired with a long 10' rod, allowing you to make very long casts out to where the fish are waiting.   The 5500 series and 6500 series also bump up their drag capability to 30 lbs, providing ample stopping power!

To get your Spinfisher rod here in the Greater Saint John area, Doiron Outfitters is where you want to visit.  Not only do they carry a full lineup of Striper rods and reels from Penn as well as other brands, they have by far the largest assortment of the most popular striper lures in the province.    If you do plan to head to the Striper Cup in April, you absolutely need to visit Doirons and pick from the dozens of swim shads and other striper lures that are popular on the Miramichi!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Planning my Mid Life Crisis Road Trip

This July, right around my 40th birthday I'll be packing my fishing and camping gear into the Jeep and heading onto the road for 2 weeks of fishing and camping.   As planned today, it is going to be an amazing series of fishing adventures throughout Southern Ontario and Quebec!    My locations are not set in stone just yet, so if you have any advice on alternative locations or would want to join me at one or these camp sites, then be sure to let me know!

Starting on July 15th, I plan to leave home and drive to a campsite a little outside of Trois Rivieres.   Perhaps Camp Lac Bellemare, or Camping Lac Saint-Michel on the Riviere St. Maurice.   I will spend the 16th there (my birthday!) enjoying a day out in the kayak seeing what new species I may be able to find.

On the 17th I'll hit the road again making my way just North of Peterborough to fish with Mr. Ben Martin of Outdoor Action Ontario on Stoney Lake and Clear Lake.   There we will work on a little project that Ben has in the works to promote kayak fishing in Ontario.   We will fish and film for a few days there, and then again a little further west on Pigeon Lake while camping at Emily Provincial Park.

On the 21st, I'll start making my way back East, stopping first for a few days at Fitzroy Provincial Park where I'll get to fish on the Ottawa River.  Hopefully I'll find some gar or channel cats while there!

I'll leave Ontario on the 24th to hit a few provincial parks on Quebec.  First I'll visit Réserve faunique des Laurentides a little North of Quebec City.   After a few days enjoying my time there, I'll then head to another provincial park - Parc national des Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie.    There promises to be lots of amazing kayak fishing adventures to be had in these parks!

Finally on July 30th, I'll be ready for a good sleep in my own bed and make my way back home, hopefully with lots and lots of great memories, video and pictures to share!

Well that is the first draft of my plan.  If you see any issues with what I have laid out here, or can suggest alternatives that may offer a better experience, I'd love to hear from you!