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.
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.
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!