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Ontario Fishing Network

Volume 7,  Issue 3 - March 2007

Five Things To Try This Season
by J.P. Bushey

Open water fishing is just around the corner! Before every new, open-water season starts, I normally set an informal list of things I want to try. Some items on the list quickly turn into time well spent, some don't, and others longer to bear fruit. At any rate, listed below are a few ideas that have really worked out well. With any luck, one or more might work for you, or get you thinking of a list of your own.

Fish A New Spot Every Day.
It doesn't matter if it's a local pond small enough to spit across or a huge lake or river system. On big water especially, there are more potential spots than you could learn in ten lifetimes of exploring. Every trip, go in with the goal of checking and learning a new one. Even if it turns out to be a dud, you've still helped yourself: you've eliminated a piece of the puzzle. You can at least move on. It's like the old saying about carving a bird out of a block of wood. The bird's already in there, all you're doing is removing the wood you don't need. You might use maps or GPS to lay out new routes to explore, or it might simply be a matter of pulling up and checking areas you've blown by trip after trip. I've done both. Some spots that look awesome on paper turn out to be poor, and vice versa. Some of the best spots I've located are ones I picked against a map's advice. With even the quality charts always remember, they're very broad strokes at best. Not only with respect to depth, but rock formations, weeds, cover and spot make-up overall. You'll never know just how good that shallow point is until you bounce a lure down it or actually inspect it with your graph or polarized glasses. I have no doubt that the best spots on the waters I fish are yet to come. And the really good ones we fish were a result of checking them out and taking a little risk now and again. In the dog days of summer especially, peak periods of fish activity (depending on the lake type or species) might be limited to certain windows during the day or night. Whenever possible, use 'downtime' to hunt around. The only way to know if a new area is a winner is to return and work it over once conditions get better.

At Least Once, Fish Your Favorite Spots One Hour After Dark and One Hour Before.
You can learn a ton about a lake by staying out after dark or arriving just before daylight. On water that gets heavy fishing pressure or recreational boat traffic, these might well be the best times to fish anyway. Insect life, plankton, crustaceans, diving birds and forage are at their peak activity levels. You've got an excellent shot at good fishing and learning subtle predator-prey details that can help you a lot. Stuff you can easily miss at midday when the activity dies off or spreads out and the lake gets busier. On smallmouth lakes, check shallow shorelines with rock rubble using a powerful spotlight. Some will be exploding with wandering crayfish while others are quieter. It's amazing how spots bristle with life in the dark. Juvenile rockbass and sunfish appear out of nowhere, and so do a range of larval insects, like caddis. At some times of the year, you might spook a few walleyes, a muskie or bass in there, too. Night fishing on Georgian Bay one June, we pulled into a cove on the deep side of an island about 11pm and were soon surrounded by thousands of skipping, splashing baitfish. One stuck to my crankbait on the way in. It was an alewife. They were spawning in there in huge schools. Any guesses which general area produced our biggest lake trout, walleye and pike and smallmouth of the season over the next couple weekends? Forage species like smelt and herring also do their spawning after dark. Areas that draw these migrations are worth knowing about. Just like fishing a new spot as mentioned above, definitely make time to check some of your favorites after or before dark whenever your fishing schedule permits. Obviously use caution and common sense when you do it. I find when it's dark, my other senses really heighten too. The action of your lure or its sound gets magnified in your hands or ears, and any little ticks that might be a high spot on a rock pile or weed patch seem to jump right out at you. I pay closer attention to my graph when trolling in the dark, too.

Meet And Fish With A New Partner.
Man, has the Internet ever made this easy to do! A lot of the people I've met in the online fishing community are not only great fishermen, they've also become lifelong buddies. If you've got something new you want to learn about, chances are good that a reputable and willing teacher is an email away. Meet up and get out there! This is a great way to safely learn new water or learn a new method. Want to see how to fish for rainbows with a Dipsey Diver on the Great Lakes? What about learning how to flip for largemouth? Contact the guys with the good reports. 'Trip Sharing' is a great way to learn. Maybe Mr. Great Lakes wants to learn about fly fishing or whatever it is that you happen to specialize in. Trips will follow, and so does learning and friendship. Playing Guide for a day or two is lots of fun, and being guided is great too. No money changes hands in either case, and you both win. You can read all the articles and watch all the TV shows you want. Nothing will teach you how to do something like seeing someone do it and then doing it yourself. You're going to find that most people love to teach, and love sharing knowledge.

The One-Bait Day.
Along the same lines, is there a bait, lure or technique you want to master? Take a day or two and just rig up with it and it alone. Nothing teaches better than practice and experience. Just like eliminating marginal water in the opening tip, what's the harm in a fishless day if you've still learned the ins and outs of a new way to fish? It's time well spent. Maybe it's lipless crankbaits for bass and pike, maybe slip bobbers for walleye or learning to downrig for lake trout. Set out with the goal of learning as much as you can. The overlap between presentations and the fish that will respond to them is huge. While throwing that lipless crankbait, you might not catch largemouths in the shoreline weeds, but with that lure in the water all day and no others to swap it for, you might try fishing it deeper down a rocky island and hit a big pike. Success is success. Always remember a huge percentage of the baits and techniques we use aren't species-exclusive. The best ones are versatile, capable of being used in different ways and for just about any type of fish. If there's something you want to get good at, push yourself to learn as much as you can about it. This takes time. In lots of cases, you might miss the target species you're targeting but luck out with another. No harm in that. The temptation to cut learning short can be pretty strong when you can pick up another rigged rod or reach into a tackle box. For me, big, soft plastics like the Bulldawg for muskies and are the challenge. I clip one on and fish it. I've caught everything but a muskie on them and my confidence is there. I plan on devoting more time to them again this season.

Reevaluate And Upgrade Tools in Your Boat or Tackle Kit.
Specifically, the tools you use every day on the water while fishing. Pliers, jaw spreaders, hook files, measuring devices, knives, split ring pliers, hook-cutters, stringers and flashlights are all dirt cheap when compared to the cost of most other fishing-related items. Tools that are rusted, broken, dull or lost all together aren't going to do you much good when you need them. In the boat, I keep them all in the same place every trip. And I have spares on hand at all times. This kind of gear takes up next to no space, so it's easy to store. But also easy to misplace! Sturdy, well lubricated pliers are one of the most important. Kept free of rust, they're easy to use with one hand for un-hooking fish or fixing lures. Same deal with knives. I have one handy at all times and it's razor sharp. Office supply stores sell packages of box-cutters for next to nothing. They're cheap, razor sharp and excellent for neatly trimming knots, modifying soft plastics and all sorts of stuff. They're all over my boat, and I have at least one in the pocket of every fishing sweater or jacket. A big, foam bobber or chunk of wood dowel tethered to your pliers or jaw spreaders will keep them safe when they wind up overboard. They will. Small, tight-sealing tubs work great for storing your day-to-day fishing tools. I keep them tucked away between trips, but they're always set aside (in the same spot on the boat deck, too) every time the lines go in. Having to dig around for the right tool can be messy and tough on fish, too. Forgetting the pliers might seem like nothing after remembering to top up the gas, charge the batteries, the bait and the lunch. But what do you do when you've got a deep-hooked fish in the net or worse yet, a hook in yourself? Or, have you ever tried replacing a 7/0 treble hook onto bait in December with no split ring pliers? Make sure you've got the tools, make sure they work, and know exactly where they are.

And that's about it. Everything you do on the water is for one singular reason: enjoyment. If there's anything you want to try this season, I say go for it. The thrill is the hunt. Learning something new, meeting someone new or just getting the most out of an old reliable is what makes fishing what it is. Learning, teaching, experimenting and being prepared to take a gamble every now and again really enriches the whole process. There's still lots of ice left and that's the good news. A few more fish to catch in the March sun, and a few more long nights to plan and organize for your best season yet.

Ice Fishing Perch Pointers
By Tim Allard

Searching Out Springtime "Gills
By Justin Hoffman

Five Things To Try This Season
by J.P. Bushey

Fishing Showcase
Marcum Underwater Cameras!

By Sandy Turk


Outdoor Writing School

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