The fishing season is coming to an end up here but the transition through autumn is pretty spectacular.
On Canadian Thanksgiving Donna and I headed out for a drive. Strangely we happened to pass by some of my favorite fishing spots. These shots were taken along the Mississippi River (the Canadian version). Besides the great view, it is an excellent spot to fish for smallmouth bass.
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Other that a feeble attempt right around ice out, it seems panfish have been forgotten this spring. So last night it was off to Appleton to see if we could find where the crappie were hanging out. Since past experience suggested they seem to turn on towards dusk, Bob and I agreed to meet around six thirty. Unsettled weather later in the day seemed like a good sign. We arrived to a brief shower after which things calmed down completely.
We geared up and the float tubes were in the water.
This spot is below a dam on the Mississippi River (Canadian version) where a nice bay forms. Smallmouth bass are most common closer to the flowing current alongside the dam but there are a number of places where crappie congregate in the spring. Other fish include bluegills, perch, pike, pickerel and largemouth bass – so lots of variety. Conditions go from virtually weedless at ice out to a jungle in short order. And it was clear that growth was well on making it impossible to fish some of last year’s crappie holes. Water levels are probably at mid summer levels (low) which didnt’ help either.
We quickly found fish but they were mostly out of season smallmouth bass so I moved around in search of crappie. While initially that proved less than successful, there were several willing bluegills who showed interest in my Palmered Chenille Bugger. I was introduced to this pattern last year and it has become one of my favourite searching flies. Its an easy pattern to tie and works well for panfish, bass and trout. I tie them using white, black, olive and root beer palmered chenille. Tonight the root beer seemed to be the ticket.
The fly’s bead head gives it a bit of weight so that even on a floating line it drops below the surface pretty quickly. Fishing it on a floating worked best as it would get down but by slow, steady stripping kept it from getting caught up in the weeds. The bluegills seemed to be attracted to it. They were fat and brightly coloured and always entertaining when they hit the fly. I mentioned the various fish species earlier but now can add one more to the list – bullhead catfish. After a few bluegills it was a bit of a surprise to see a small catfish at the end of the line. My first on a fly but no picture since he slipped off the barbless hook as soon as I got him up to the float tube.
Towards eight o’clock as the sun set lower the crappie seemed to become more interested in my flies – or maybe I just managed to figure out where they were located. They weren’t there on every cast but things did pick up somewhat. Past experience has included some crappie in the 12 inch range but tonight they big boys seemed to be on a diet.
Well, the first outing of the season is in the books. Despite remnant ice from a milder than usual winter, it was time to go fishing. We had being eying this particular spot for a week or so and were pretty certain the ice would be gone by week’s end. Friday came and it was time – beautiful sunny day, air temperature around 13C so we agreed to meet at lunch time. I arrived first and was a bit surprised to see as much ice as there was.
But when Bob and George arrived, we agreed this shouldn’t stop us. They owners of the house with the great shoreline location were kind enough to allow us to skirt the ice along the edge of their property. Bob lead the way with his Sportspal canoe aka icebreaker.
Before George and i were completely rigged, Bob was already fishing the ice edge.
George and I followed closely behind – he with his pontoon boat and me with my float tube.
Some might say we were pushing the season a bit but other than the fact that we were on the water 9 days earlier than last year, the motivation at least for me came from the fact that I hadn’t cast a fly rod since December – far too long. Some might also wonder what it felt like to be kicking around in a float tube in water that could have been ice a short time earlier. I’ll have to say, it wasn’t that bad. I started with a layer of polyester long johns, followed by bulky fleece lined pants and then my breathable waders. On my feet I had a single pair of socks (it was going to be two but I forgot the second pair in the truck). I was on the water for almost three hours and it was only towards the end that one foot started to get a bit cold. I suspect the fact that there was a warm sun and little wind, help replenish body heat. But there is no question the water was cold. So we made sure the life jackets were done up and tried to stay reasonable close to each other.
As for the fishing details. This is a spot along the Mississippi River (Canadian version) where there is a bit of tail out below a small dam. The area provides good fishing for a variety of warm water species including perch, crappies, smallmouth bass and northern pike. Further down river one can also find walleye but they are beyond the range of a float tube. Its a great spot to launch the float tube in the spring and summer for some end of the day fishing.
On this particular day, the fishing wasn’t stellar. We were able to locate some perch but they weren’t as active as they have been on other occasions. Nevertheless, we managed a few brightly coloured fish to top off a great day.
It won’t be long before it is prime time for crappies, followed by bass season at the end of June. Looking forward to a great season!
Doug and I had decided to meet after work for a bit of fishing. While it isn’t urban fishing, Appleton is pretty close to civilization. This means it is easy to get to but you also hear people cutting their grass so no wilderness experience here. I doesn’t hurt that you can usually find fish within access of a float tube. It turned out that we were joined by George, Sandy and Bob so it was almost starting to get crowded.
Sandy was nailing fish all night. Here he is looking for a new fly. I am not sure why since he didn’t seem to be having any trouble landing fish.
Bob wasn’t doing too bad either. Lately he has had a fixation on Humpy’s and was having pretty good success with them tonight. Notice the fine home in the background. Not a bad place to be situated. The couple living there came down to the water with their canoe and headed out for an evening paddle while we were fishing.
George spent most of his time at the far end of the bay but eventually made his way back. His electric motor equipped pontoon boat gives him a lot of mobility.
As the sun began to set the crappies started biting more consistently. There were some good sized ones that were willing to bite. For the last hour I was catching them pretty consistently on a small (probably size 12) olive micro leech. But the infamous submerged Humpy seemed to be working pretty well too.
All told, it was a great evening. The fish at Appleton aren’t exotic but in three hours I managed to catch perch, a small pike, a couple sunfish, one out of season smallmouth bass (long distance release), tons of rock bass and a large number of crappies. Not sure whether that constitutes a grand slam but it certainly provides lots of variety.