Pete with a trout

The Point Au Baril 180

For my second Fish’n Canada trip of the 2019 season, I headed up to Pointe Au Baril Ontario, just north of Parry Sound, during the last week of May. I learned a lesson on this trip, one which I will share with you now.

IT PAYS TO KNOW THE REGS

I am usually “pretty much” in tune with the various fishing regulations across the country. However, it is sometimes hard to keep up with all the subtle differences and new changes. On this trip, I thought the pike and walleye opener in the Pointe Au Baril area of Georgian Bay was the usual Northern Ontario opener—the third Saturday of May. That would put me in the perfect position on our shoot calendar to get to the fish as soon as possible. Upon arrival, though, a guide working with Pleasant Cove Resort reminded me that pike and walleye opened on the first day of May in the area. I missed it by three weeks. And that is huge when it comes to early season pike! Of course, I was told, “You should have been here during the first week, Pete… the fishing was fantastic!”

Yeah, yeah, yeah!

Since I’m up there and with my new fishing buddy Steve Niedzwiecki and it is a set time, we had to deal with it.

Long story short, we caught tons of pike—and even a few walleye while targeting the Pike—but none were big. We saw some decent fish up to about 15 pounds (and one close to 20). But we could not convert them into biting. It was strange and it was frustrating. But it was typical for that time of year.

FISH PATTERNS

Let me tell you a bit about pike movements in the spring. As soon as the ice goes out, many pike in the area you are fishing are ready to hit into the shallows (they have been staying in the vicinity for at least a couple of weeks under the melting ice). Once that ice blows out and the water temperatures hit the desired pike temperatures, these green monsters are in for a good time, so to speak.

Shortly after the spawn, the fish start to recuperate and are now starting to prowl the shallows looking for a snack or two. That’s called perfect timing.

The next stage in a spring pike’s year is to get the hell out of that area, go somewhere (lord only knows where), do a big recoup, and then head back into their summer eating haunts. Some go back to the shallows (usually the smaller fish). And some head to deeper weed beds or rock structures (Georgian Bay fish).

We were there during that “lord only knows where” period. Incidentally, they don’t bite well during that time either!

By the end of our pike fishing, we only had small fish to show. Not good for a Fish’n Canada episode.

WHAT TO DO

How do you salvage a fishing trip if you’re not getting big fish of your desired species? You change gears and do a complete 180, that’s how!

Steve and I had heard about the great rainbow trout fishing that takes place in the Parry Sound harbour. It’s a unique fishery in that there are both stocked rainbows, along with “escapees” from a local fish hatchery that raises trout in pens right there in the bay. It’s an amazing sight, seeing all the pens and the whole operation.

Some time ago—or so the story goes—one of the fish rearing pens broke open, releasing 40,000 rainbow trout into the Sound (what is a Sound, as in Parry Sound?). These fish are often referred to as escapees. It happens all the time, especially in British Columbia. I’m not sure the exact reasons why, but it happens. Fortunately, it creates a put-and-take fishery, much like MNR stocking programs. Is it a bad thing? I’m not sure. In any case, many anglers take advantage of it. Including Steve and me on this trip.

Since Parry Sound is only a 20-minute drive from Pleasant Cove Resort, it was a no-brainer for me and Steve to give it a go. With the pike fishing in Georgian Bay being shut down, the change was as simple as “my name’s Cupid, not Stupid.”

Now you must realize that the water in Parry Sound covers a vast area. It’s much like a big open lake that can turn nasty in no time. We were fortunate on this day as it was calm—or, as they’d say on the east coast, “flat-ass cam”.

We fished around both Depot Island and Sawdust Bay. Both areas are gorgeous big-water fisheries. The landscape here is beautiful with high, tree-filled banks and dark, deep water.

HOW TO CATCH ‘EM

Electric motor trolling with our Motorguide XI5 was our initial way of finding the biting and active trout. However, once we started seeing them dimple the surface of the water (as well as outright jumping), we knew we were in the right areas. In fact, once we were in an active zone, we stopped trolling and started casting small minnow baits. I’m talking small. The problem we had was we were mostly equipped with pike and walleye gear; not the best setups for trout. With that said, we made do with the lightest spinning gear we had. Luckily, we had some light line with us. So we simply tied on 6-pound fluorocarbon leaders to our existing lines and it made the presentation less visible to the fish.

END RESULT

As fate would have it—and since the fish gods must have taken pity on Steve and me—we ended up having an excellent day trolling and casting for these acrobatic little rippers. After I missed my first three fish by having my drag set too tight (good lesson to be learned as these fish have soft mouths), we proceeded to lay the smackdown on a bunch of rainbows. This was one of the craziest rags-to-riches fishing experiences I’ve ever had.

If you are heading to Georgian Bay for early northern pike, get there as early as you can. Trust me, there are some giants in that water.

If you can’t make it in early May, then wait until about the second week of June when everything settles down.

Lastly, make sure you trailer your rig from Pleasant Cove for at least one day and try for some Parry Sound escapees. You will not regret it!

Pete Bowman

2 Replies to “The Point Au Baril 180”

  1. Somebody was not listening but don’t panic. Repetition has many benefits to the wayward fisherman.

    In the animal kingdom there are creatures that hunt in packs. Others prefer a solitary lifestyle, marking and protecting their territory. Fish are no different. Many species form schools for protection against predators, while several are lone hunters of the deep, like the shark.

    It would be logical to assume the Muskellunge falls into the lone hunter category. This behemoth prefers to be scattered around a specific water body marking and protecting it’s territory, even from us wayward fishermen. (Only amassing for spawning purposes.) They are not actually evading your offerings but in a sense guarding their home turf out of aggression. Specifically on the rare occasion when they do take your bait, it may be their last resort to rid themselves of the irritation. That little pea sized brain telling the fish “If it won’t leave you alone, EAT IT !!

    Here are a few very important facts you should always be kept in mind when hunting down these brutes of the abyss :

    1) Muskies move most during spring. Fall is the next most-active season. They are least active during summer. Muskie movements do not vary much by time of day during spring and fall. Fish were more active at night than at dusk or dawn or during the day during the summer.

    2) As might be expected, movement decreases as water temperature rises. Movement increases as water temperature decreases.

    3) Muskies were more likely to be found in open water in spring. Next popular place is wood cover such as fallen timber and brush; then come plants; and finally bare shoreline. In summer, they used open water, wood and plants equally.

    4) During the summer, muskies moved to the warmest, shallowest water of the lake. The fish are typically forced higher in hot weather as oxygen levels in deeper water become too low to support life. Yet, even though cooler water with enough oxygen for them was available slightly deeper, the muskies chose to stay higher in the water column. Muskies were likely there to chase food or to use cover, such as weeds and rocks.

    The larger Muskie were not actually evading your offering but were scattered around the specific water body you happen to be fishing while guarding their hunting and spawning territory. As you see, most successful “Musky” anglers troll their baits while covering a much larger area. Hunting down the hunters by paying them a visit in the own watery home. Going where they live not where you think they should be. Timing is the key. They wait for no one.

    Now, to Depot Island at the south end of Parry Sound and Sawdust Bay to the north with some very interesting phenomenon in the process.

    The surrounding waters of Deport Island as Pete has stated contain many “fish farming pens”. Whether they belong to the Ontario Government or Aboriginals at the nearby Parry Island First Nation Indian reserve it is best to steer well clear of these obstructions at all times as per the the Fisheries and Oceans Canada Laws, Regulations and Policies.
    https://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/aquaculture/management-gestion/regs-eng.htm

    Also of note, there is an underwater (submarine) power cable as indicated in the Canadian Fisheries and Oceans Chart #1 of Symbols and Abbreviation Terms for Nautical Charts. It runs from Depot Harbour along the north shore of Parry Island to the Long Island area. It will not show up on any of your electronics so, I would suggest you stay clear of this area also.
    http://fishing-app.gpsnauticalcharts.com/i-boating-fishing-web-app/fishing-marine-charts-navigation.html?title=Rose+Island+to+Parry+Sound+boating+app#14.8/45.3164/-80.1110

    Now let’s jump up to Sawdust Bay for a moment. All seems safe here. There are at least five “Hot Spots in the are as indicated by the asterisks (*). Three of these beauties in Sawdust Bay itself and two more off the nose of McIlray Island.
    http://fishing-app.gpsnauticalcharts.com/i-boating-fishing-web-app/fishing-marine-charts-navigation.html?title=Rose+Island+to+Parry+Sound+boating+app#14.8/45.4033/-80.1158

    It would make no never mind where Pete and Steve were holed up in this area as the “Structurally Sound” aspect of this location obviousl satisfied their desire for “bows”.

    Just remember all you Guys and Gals, don’t always rely on your electronics to keep you safe out on the water. Reading up on Nautical Charts of the areas you want to fish and their meanings is your best bet.

    For further information you log on to Canadian Hydrographic Services at https://geoportal.gc.ca/eng/Maps/Viewer/9 or call 1-888-247-5465

    So, PLAY SAFE !

  2. EXTREME DANGER !

    Upon further study of the Parry Sound basin itself, I have found numerous areas where underwater (submarine) power cables are a serious factor when it comes to fishing in those sections.

    Anchoring in or around any of the following areas is extremely dangerous:

    Mowat Island
    Spectacle Island
    Green Island
    Wigwas Island
    Horse Island
    Hailstone Island
    Johnson Island
    Middle Island
    Loon Island
    Loon Bay
    Collins Bay
    Blind Bay
    Grave Island
    Goat Island
    Huckleberry Island
    McIlray Island
    Elizabeth Island
    Mary Island
    Three Tree Island
    …and thousands of other islands and bays out to Georgian Bay.

    As I have mentioned previously, “Do not always rely on your electronics to keep you safe out on the water. Reading up on Nautical Charts of the areas you want to fish and their meanings is your best bet.

    For further information log on to Canadian Hydrographic Services at https://geoportal.gc.ca/eng/Maps/Viewer/9 or call 1-888-247-5465

    Your life will depend on it !!

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