Sunday, May 22, 2016

5 year old Rowan's 1st Kayak Fish of the Year

On Saturday morning my youngest son Rowan and I headed out to Bloomfield to see if we could find any sign of the Shad running.   American Shad, or the poor man's salmon as they are known are a member of the herring family and make their annual run up our rivers to spawn each Spring.   I wrote an article about Shad where you can learn more here in our local Ossekeag publication.

Anyhow, while we weren't successful in finding any shad through the morning, this was Rowan's first paddle of the year.   After trying out padding the Ocean Kayak Tetra 10 kayak last Fall, Rowan is now of the mindset that he is old enough to paddle his own fishing kayak.   Typically I would place him on a footstool behind me in the Old Town Predator 13, an ideal kayak for such an outing, but apparently he believe's he has outgrown it!

On Saturday there was little wind or current to deal with, and the distance we needed to paddle was minimal, so it was an ideal outing to let Rowan do a little test run and see how he would do.   Naturally Rowan is going to need to practice his paddling technique, and build up a little strength, but for what we wanted to accomplish on Saturday he did fantastic!

If you have a young child like Rowan here who is just 5 years old, consider introducing them to the sport.   There may not be many fish caught on the first outing, but that really is secondary to the kids being comfortable, feeling secure and safe, and getting out to try new things.    I would be happy to demo this or other kayaks I have to people here in my area of the province, and offer guided fishing services which can include parent/child outings.   So if this does interest you, by all means, feel free to let me know!

Interesting to note, Rowan also put on his own life jacket (inside out but fully secured), baited his own hook, and basically did everything himself.   By the end of this summer, he may be able to go it on his own with minimal supervision when the conditions are ideal.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Kayak Fishing the Miramichi

The Miramichi is world famous as a salmon river and for good reason.   It is a majestic place and those I know who have had the pleasure of fishing there all speak wonderfully about it.   However salmon fishing may not be the #1 attraction for the Miramichi river much longer.   The striped bass fishing there has taken off in recent years to the point where it may rival or even exceed the salmon fishing in popularity.

After my friend John Cail (IPop) and I left the Pokemouche we headed to Miramichi this past Friday.   By 6:30 we had our campsite set up and were ready to launch our kayaks to see what fun we might have.   Visions of catching 100s of striped bass and large ones (30 - 40 inches) or more had us giddy with excitement!

Ipop started catching stripers almost right away while it took me a little while to find a lure that worked.   A friend on Facebook had suggested to me that blue/red color combinations that had been working for him and sure enough, the blue seemed to do the trick.    I put on a blue jig head with a while Berkeley squiddo Gulp body and almost instantly started catching fish.   Blue swim shads, and even white jig heads with a silver/blue soft plastic body also proved to work quite well over the weekend.    Really though, once you find a school of stripers, I suspect that pretty much anything would work!

On Friday night I managed to catch 16 striped bass with my biggest coming in at 23", which is a perfect keeper size in this river.    We kept that one striper and that night IPop cooked it up using his 'striper bites' recipe which was amazingly delicious!    I have to give a plug here for the fantastic Mantus Snap On Light which is mounted here to one of my paddles, an amazing camping light with tons of great features!  

On Saturday we met David who travelled to the Miramichi with friends from Montreal and wanted to give it a try in kayak.  Despite me not being able to speak French very well, and David's english being only a little better, I was able to outfit David on my Ocean Kayak Big Game 2 and he loved it, catching many stripers though the day.    We didn't have an easy time of it however as it rained (often heavily) for about the 6 hours we were on the water and then the wind picked up pretty strong for much of the remainder of the day.    Still though, I ended the day with another 35 stripers landed in the kayak, but I was still searching for a big one.    

Finally Sunday came and we had to be on the road heading home by noon, so we got up early enough to be in the water by 6:45 wanting to find a big fish.    We had heard that big stripers were being caught further up river so we started paddling that way.   An hour into that paddle we realized that we wouldn't be able to make the desired spot, still out of sight, so we turned around and paddled back towards Beaubears Island where we had been catching Stripers the past 2 days.    Turned out the fishing there was insane Sunday morning.   In just the 2 hours we had fishing that location, IPop and I landed almost 50 between us, with IPop catching one he believed to be at or above the 30" range!

We ended the trip with the count being IPop: 80 stripers, Joe: 75 stripers.     IPop landed the only fish over 24" as he had something like 5 in the 24 - 32 inch range and my biggest topped out at 23.5".  

The Miramichi is a ton of fun if you like lots of action.   There really is no other place like it around here where one has a reasonable chance of catching 100 fish in a single day.   However personally, I'd rather catch 2 or 3 stripers in the 36" or bigger range than 75 stripers less than two feet long.   I want to hook into that monster striper than is going to tow me and my kayak a mile or two before I'm finally able to land it.   For that type of fishing, the Saint John and Kennebecasis Rivers may be a better place to try.   Hopefully I get that experience this Fall when the striper fishing picks up locally and the average size is north of 30"!

Where not to stay in Miramichi

After a day of fishing and camping on the Pokemouche River, John Cail (IPop) and I headed back down to Miramichi to take on the most famous river in the province and see what we could do Striper fishing.     Every year we see dozens of pictures plastered over Facebook of people holding up their stripers from the Miramichi so it was time we joined in on that party!

$135 for IPop and I to camp here 2 nights
Our day started off on a bit of a sour note.   We had planned to tent at the only campground that I know of that is adjacent to the river, the Enclosure Campground.    I did read some relatively poor reviews on Trip Advisor which turned out to be pretty accurate.   When checking in, the owner joked about wishing the burn ban was over so that she could sell firewood which should have been a clear indication as to what would come next.   When came time to check in she insisted we would need 2 campsites.   I was skeptical but paid the expensive fee for 2 tent sites for 2 nights of $135 and we went to find our sites.  

Turns out the sites themselves are quite nice and the grounds crew were busy caring for the property cleaning up leaves and such.  The site were clean and spacious, with ample parking, a picnic table and firepit.   There was way more room than we needed for our two small tents, the Jeep and the trailer.   It was silly to have to pay and not use a second campsite.    I went back to the owner after we set up our tents telling here that we clearly did not need 2 sites, but she waived me off saying 2 tents means 2 sites, that is "their policy".   I guess if a family of four wanted to stay there with the 2 kids in their own tent, the family would be required to book 2 sites.

The bathroom that is there to be shared among the 20 lots in our section of the campground left a lot to be desired.   It had 1 grimy shower, no stool for people to sit on to put on socks or shoes, or sit and wait in what I assume must be a busy place during busy season.   Entering and exiting the campground proved to be a bit of a pain as well thanks to the gate that guests going in and out has to physically open and close which is tremendously annoying.  

After fishing in the rain for most of Saturday, we had a lot of wet clothes we wanted to dry and their laundry was also not working.   Apparently that should not have been a surprise given the reviews they received on their pool.   Facilities maintenance doesn't appear to be one of their priorities.   One of the ladies from the kitchen noticed us checking the laundry and was very kind to let us dry some clothes in their dryer.    Thank you very much for that.

All in all I would say the staff that I had seen at the Enclosure campground do an excellent job but due to management and their policy of caring more about how much they can take in versus the customer experience I can't imagine I'll ever go back.  

Pokemouche Kayak Fishing

Whew, what a crazy four days!   Together with fellow kayak angler John Cail (IPop), I took off a few days from work to travel across to the North Eastern side of New Brunswick to explore the new-to-me waters of the Pokemouche river and then down to the famous Miramichi River to kayak fish for striped bass.

The Pokemouche starts off as a rather large river that looks more like a lake in parts.   Fishing for trout is popular there with 99% of people appearing to troll in boats.    A special Thank You to Gaetan whom we met at Long Lake last year for inviting us up to give the Pokemouche river a try.   Gaetan is one of the few who does his fishing there in kayak, though I'm sure as more and more people notice him fishing, others will be sure to follow!

Unfortunately, as with much of the fishing around the province, the early Spring threw off the expected fishing schedule on the river.   These early weeks in May typically would have fantastic fishing with water temperatures around 5 degrees.   Over the past weekend, the best fishing had already passed with temperatures around 10 degrees, meaning many of the trout likely had already moved a bit further up river.   I guess that is something to keep in mind for next year should we go back; pay attention to the timing of the Spring and plan accordingly!

We fished the Pokemouche, padding about 10 km each way in what started off as beautiful conditions.   As the day wore on, the wind picked up till finally we were faced with a daunting headwind on the way back.   We didn't catch any trout in the Pokemouche, but we certainly got our exercise in!  

The final 500 meters required a tough crabwalk perpendicular to some very strong wind and considerable waves which was a ton of fun!   I love playing in rough conditions in my Ocean Kayak and Old Town fishing kayaks as they were designed to handle it.   Gaetan has a high end Jackson kayak so he was able to make the crossing safely as well.   Lots of folk in boats and from shore who haven't seen fishing kayaks like are around today all thought we were nuts!  

Knowing how to navigate windy and rough conditions is a skill all kayak anglers need to learn as the wind can come out of the blue and in open water that can lead to some intense situations!   Of course, knowing what your kayak can and cannot handle and not trying to exceed those limitations is vitally important as well.

On Friday, after trying again on the Pokemouche for a few hours, we packed up and headed to the Miramichi... details on that adventure next!