Just got back from a nice trip to the beautiful Haliburtons in Ontario and had a chance to get out on the water in search of Largemouth Bass. This area is synonymous with great angling opportunities for not only Largies but Smallies, Muskie, Walleye, Trout etc. My story though gets very interesting when talking species.
Setting the stage, I was fishing a rather large weedbed with friend and aspiring angler Trevor Forbes (he’s catching on quick) and my boys, with all of us having limited success. Small fish were around but it was slower than we expected when all of a sudden I popped one close to 4lbs… Trev grabbed the net but just as he did I saw 2 really nice followers. I told him to drop the net, not worry about my fish and “everyone dunk your Senko’s straight below the boat”. Of course nothing bit but shortly after I landed my fish I saw another straggler or follower if you will, but this fish was different… very different!
This newly spotted creature was bigger than the Bass and I mean a LOT bigger… probably 12-15lbs however the most prevalent feature to stand out was its color… this big daddy had a reddish hue with orange markings on it’s head… I swear!
In fact this fish looked so different that not only did I doubt my normally pretty good fish vision with ID, but I had all hands on deck look and tell me what they saw. Now Trevor and my boys combined don’t have a whole lot of solid years identifying fish but they do see colors and shapes… and we all agreed, this weren’t no Bass… or any other gamefish in Ontario waters.
The bright beast showed itself one more time and again we were astonished… hell we even dropped Senko’s to the big red devil but no way was this puppy eatin’ our plastics. We finally went back to the cottage.
The next morning Trevor and I both thought the same thing… let’s see if not only can we pop a Largemouth but investigate the area to see if we can get another bead on Big Red… guess what… It was in almost the exact same place… showing itself every now and then.
Now my wheels started to turn. I pretty much surmised that this was some sort of invasive species… probably a Koi (just a guess) of some type dropped in the lake by some unassuming innocent pet lover; wait did I just say that, I meant some moron that doesn’t know Carp from Crap!!!
Now I’ve gotta’ catch this dude, somehow!
Of course since I was in the Haliburtons I left my Carp gear at home, my only realistic option was to try live bait or snag the beast, but here’s my problem.
Let’s say I did snag a Koi Fish and it hit the media “Fish’n Canada Host Snags Invasive Species… First Time In Canada: Keeping Haliburton Clean and Pristine”!!! It would all be great to the positive thinkers “way to go Bowman, you ridded our beautiful lake of an alien”.
But we all know that’s not the way things happen now-a-days. The Nay-Sayers, the Do-Gooders, the Tree-Huggers… “That so called fishing pro snagged that beautiful fish… hang him by his feet with circle hooks in down town Haliburton” they’d be yelling, a proper “poacher-lynching” for that Bowman guy.
Quite honestly… I don’t need that crap.
So, what to do.
I jumped online to seek out the closest MNR office and gave them a call… what the heck.
Essentially I was looking for confirmation that I could indeed attempt to snag what I deemed as an invasive species… but I wanted it on paper or at least a verbal.
After leaving a couple of messages, to my surprise I had a call back the next day. Now if you know our MNR and especially the cut-backs, this is a very quick response of which I was very pleased.
I told them my scenario and literally asked if it was ok to try and “stick” this fish but after a few seconds of silence the answer was both surprising and very encouraging:
MNR “Pete are you going back tomorrow” he asked
Pete “I can, no problem”
MNR “Let me get a boat gather some gear and grab a couple of nets”
Pete “ Are you kidding… that’s awesome, see you tomorrow!”
The next day I met 2 MNR staff at the boat launch and quickly took them to the area of the fish.
Their first move was to have me go in with my electric and see if the fish was still there. The problem was, there were lots of clouds in the sky and a bit of chop on the water… not good for sight fishing.
After 3 or 4 minutes sure as H, there was Goldie. I yelled confirmation and they told me to try and catch it… however I wanted. Problem was though, I didn`t have the right gear. I tried live worms but that was fruitless… tons of Rockies and Pumpkinseed.
I dug around for trebles but I knew it wouldn`t work in that wind etc. so I told the team to come in and drop the net… by now I knew exactly where the fish would be swimming.
The MNR dropped the net in the perfect area… money in the bank!
After about 15 minutes the lift started.
First came the Rock Bass… lots of ’em
Next came the Largies… 3 small ones in a row
Next came the Sunfish… lots of them as well
By the way, Ontario`s MNR are passionate about all of our fish species… every single one was released alive and the same care was given to a 3” Sunny as it was to the Bass. I was very impressed.
But how bout’ my big glow fish???
Nothing! Couldn’t believe it! Everything was perfect!
It got late in the day and my new fishing buddies had to get back to the office to sort all of their gear but they encouraged me to try at least one more time for the big aquarium escapee. If I caught it, I’d drop it in my live well, give them a call to find a meeting area, transfer the fish into their possession and then their biologists could go from there.
I returned 2 more times to the scene of the crime and… nothing… are you kidding me???
On my last outing I got there just as the sun hit the tree-line on a perfect Ontario morning. There was a warm mist on the water, I had a thermos of coffee constantly flowing and an absolute perfect vantage (and conditions) to see the big red piglet. If it was there I was 100% confident that I would see it.
The beast had vacated the area. My heart had sunk, it’s been a long time since I spent that much time on any fish let alone one that I honestly didn’t even know it’s real identity! I was devastated. I guess I should have taken the chance on that Haliburton Lynching
I’ve got a feeling it swam into the net but somehow escaped, felt the danger (apparently they are very smart) and peeled off into newer weed pastures to graze, probably never to be caught and put in its proper place… an MNR bin for study!
People of this great country heed this advice; please use our natural resources with common sense. You know better than to take a Goldfish, a Koi, a Neon Tetra and symbolically release it in praise of the fish gods or whatever… AND if you know of someone on a lake, river or stream that has pet aquarium fish, inform them that it is unethical and illegal to release those pretty little creatures into the wild, cause if I get another chance, Mr Koi or whatever the hell that was, is going to feel my wrath… and at least 1 prong in its butt!!!