(If you would like to listen to this interview online CLICK HERE)
T.J.: Hi, everyone. Welcome to this edition of Todayís Catch. Today, we have Aaron Shirley, the Executive Producer of Getting Hooked. Itís an Internet television show right now, and weíre gonna talk to him today. Weíve got some questions from our users, and I got some questions for him myself. Maybe weíll just get him to introduce himself and tell us a little bit about his show.
Aaron Shirley: Well, thanks, T.J. Itís a pleasure to be on here, by the way. Iíve been a big admirer of your web site and everything, and you do a lot of great stuff there.
Pretty much, Iíve been fishing since the age of 9 hardcore; I mean, Iíve been out there several days a week every week for years, and I started guiding on the Niagara River, as a lot of people know me as a guide on the Niagara River several years Ė about six years ago, and I had a lot of fun at it, and I just wanted to go in a different direction. I wanted to go into television.
A lot of people have a dream, and I just decided to do it, and I met up with Barry Pringle years ago, and we decided to do it together, and itís been pretty good so far for us. We have an online fishing show. It runs full length. Itís kind of a neat concept. Had the idea a few years ago in 2002, and the Internet just wasnít up to speed at the time, but now, it is, and itís starting to really come to play, and itís a pretty neat idea.
T.J.: Well, thatís interesting. Do you think the Internet is good for fishing or is it bad for fishing or both? Any opinion on that?
Aaron Shirley: Well, thatís a pretty interesting question, T.J. Let me start off with the good. As you know, the Internetís a great place for information, and fishingís no different. Itís just a tool that people can use to learn about fishing, techniques, all that kind of stuff, so the Internetís excellent for people, especially beginners, who get out on the Internet, and they can do a lot of research on certain techniques for certain species or whatever they want, so itís an excellent tool.
Now, the bad side of that is that Ė and this has been very controversial, especially Ė obviously, you must, as a person who holds one of the best forums, in my opinion; you must see this once in a while, where some people will be excited to catch something or a lot of fish, for example, in a certain area or a certain spot, and they get on the Internet, and they let thousands and thousands of people know how much success they had in a very specific spot, and what that does is that draws a lot of attention, obviously, from hundreds of anglers, and they all kind of invade that spot, and itíll never be the same.
I mean, you just get too much pressure on that one spot, and thatís kind of the bad part about the Internet, and if people were to just kinda pose more general locations as opposed to very specific locations, it would be a little bit better for that particular fishery that theyíre posting about, so it does have a lot of benefits, and it does have a downside as well, and thatís been a very controversial issue.
T.J.: Well, I think a lot of people are realizing that when they do post the pictures of themselves with fish, itís pretty funny some of the things that have happened on my message board; the lengths that people are willing to go to now to make sure that people donít know where theyíre fishing, so maybe thatís changing, and maybe that will improve as well with time.
Okay, weíre gonna get into your stomping grounds now. I got some questions. For example, hereís the first one. So, Aaron, how would you rate the Lake Ontario Niagara Wildlife Fishery? Do you think itís getting better or worse or about the same?
Aaron Shirley: Well, thatís a good question. It depends where on Lake Ontario and what kind of timeframe youíre talking about, but if youíre taking the example like Dave Quinney, I think itís just as good today as it was before.
Itís quite a different fishery, so you have to really adapt your techniques to these conditions, but as far as the Niagara River goes, 10, 15, 20 years ago, the river didnít have a lot of walleye in it, and due to efforts from the Niagara River anglers Association, theyíve done a great job of reintroducing walleye into the river, and then theyíre actually flourishing in the river now.
Itís difficult fishery, but there are a lot of fish down there, and I think itís much better today as a result of the Niagara River anglers Association.
T.J.: There have been many more reports of lower Niagara musky. Do you think this is a new trend or do you think this is just a case of them getting reported more often?
Aaron Shirley: Thatís another good question.
T.J.: Iím just full of them today, arenít I?
Aaron Shirley: Yeah. Well, I tell you, I havenít really talked a lot about the lower Niagara River muskies, and Iíve kind of kept that pretty quiet, and thereís only been a few people I know that have been targeting musky on the lower river, and itís nice because itís just a very small area, and we try not to let too much pressure get out there, but there is a healthy musky population there, although there are a lot of juvenile fish.
What happened is, I think - to answer your question, I think itís a mixture of both. I think that more people are catching them, and this is due to a lot more people targeting walleye on the river. Musky and walleye hang around in very similar areas, and the people targeting walleye are incidentally catching muskies.
And, as a result, more muskies are getting reported. Now, as well, the juvenile muskies in there seem to be Ė there seem to be more juvenile muskies in the lower Niagara River, which is a great sign for the future because that means that theyíre doing their thing. Theyíre naturally reproducing down there, and it shows a lot of great signs for the future health of the musky fishery, so I think itís a result of both.
T.J.: So, lately, the Niagara has been losing more and more shore access for fishing. Is there anything anglers can do to curb this?
Aaron Shirley: Well, I wasnít actually aware that there was more shore access being denied to the anglers on the Niagara River, to be quite honest, but if that is the case, anglers really have to be heard. They have to band together, and thatís the most important thing that anglers can do in that type of situation.
Iíve personally seen shore access being removed in areas; letís say, for example, on Bronte Creek, and itís very disheartening, and you really have to band together as anglers and put a little pressure on the government or the Niagara parks or whoever is involved in that regard; I mean, really banning together and getting a bunch of groups together to send off letters to the government agencies will really help; I mean, just having a voice.
T.J.: Thatís interesting. Okay, I got a user that is kind of a newbie for fishing walleye in the Niagara, and heíd like to know if thereís one thing that youíd recommend as a starting point, a place to start.
Aaron Shirley: A starting point for walleye in the Niagara? Well, let me just say youíre gonna have to have a lot of patience. The Niagara River Fishery for walleye is probably one of the most difficult fisheries Iíve ever had to tackle for walleye.
Iím not sure of the exact reason. I think a lot of it has to do with the clear waters and the amount of boat traffic on the river, but a good starting point would be putting a lot of time in the water; I mean, just getting out there and trying to figure out the fish.
Thereís a variety of methods to do work, and keep in mind that the changing seasons really dictate the presentation; for example, worm harnesses work extremely well, but thatís a summertime presentation. Jigging ducktails aggressively; same thing; itís a summertime presentation.
Throwing crank-baits; thatís a great springtime presentation. You just really have to put in your time and figure out where and when you need to basically deliver certain presentations. A lot has to do with baitfish.
If you find good schools and quantities of baitfish, and this is one thing Iíve learned on the Niagara River, itís especially key in the Niagara; that if you find good populations of baitfish; for example, alewife move in to spawn at a certain time; shiners move in to spawn at a certain time, and if you can concentrate on those populations of baitfish moving in to spawn, youíll target walleye because theyíre gonna be right there, eating those baitfish.
T.J.: Thatís pretty interesting. Hereís a gentleman thatís looking for some advice about running some body baits on three-ways on the river. He says he knows itís done, but not many people talk about it. Do you know anything about this?
Aaron Shirley: Yes, I do. Youíre right. Not a lot of people talk about it. It is a technique that does work very well. Basically, youíre running like a bottom-bouncer. Itís a very typical system for walleye, running about a four-to-five-foot leader fluorocarbon off of that bottom‑bouncer and tying on a little snap and a wrappler or a storm or a longy bomb or whatever you wanna use.
Lots of beets work well down there and just rolling around the bottom, and you canít use your big engine because youíre trolling too quickly. You have to use an electric trolling motor; go into slack-water areas off behind points, areas where thereís minimal current or at least slower currents.
They donít hang out in a really fast water, so you have to go to those other areas and kind of troll along the shorelines in a very slow presentation with an electric trolling motor and maintain contact with the bottom, and it is a great presentation. Make sure youíre marking bait on your sonar, and you will hook up with walleye.
T.J.: Okay. Thatís good advice. Thereís a new technique for a bunch of people, Iíll bet. Okay, I got a user that wants to know if you ever trolled a river.
Aaron Shirley: Absolutely. Itís a great technique on the river. I donít troll too much for a certain species, like trout. Most of the trolling I do is either for musky or walleye, and both excellent techniques, all flat‑line. Itís very important if youíre gonna be just flat-lining, not using a bottom-bouncer; to use a deep-diver.
When I use, for example, the last question that I just answered; when youíre using a bottom-bouncer, it is important to use a floating type of lure, but when youíre using just a flat-line type system, itís very important to use a deep-diving lure, one thatís gonna get down near the bottom, for the most part, for walleye.
For example, at nighttime, I do use higher-riding lures, a foot to three feet under the water surface, even over 20 to 30 feet of water. The fish do suspend and move right up to the top at nighttime, and I do troll the river quite a bit, and itís been very successful for me.
T.J.: Interesting. I got a gentleman, whoís looking to know are there any largemouth bass in the river or do they not like going upstream?
Aaron Shirley: No, to the contrary. There are a lot of largemouth in the river. Youíll find them along slack-water areas along shore in the weeds. The lower river; youíll find some largemouth along those areas, but more prominently, the upper river might have a better population of largemouth, and I havenít really targeted the largemouth too much up there until a couple years ago when I was out with Barry Pringle.
And he opened my eyes up to a little bit more, in terms of largemouth. Most of my efforts were concentrated on musky up there, and there is a really good population of largemouth up there. Even though the waters are gin clear, you can catch largemouth on shoreline timber and in shoreline weeds in as little as one to two feet of water.
You just have to really get along the shoreline and start casting and proper baits; little worms, big worms, jig and pigs, jig and craws, that kind of thing, and really work the area. Spinner bates are another good presentation that works well for largemouth, and just spend a lot of time on shoreline. In the edge of wheat‑beds, as well, are a good option on the Niagara.
T.J.: Sounds like good advice to me. Letís see here. Hereís one about, a little bit more about fishing in the river in clear conditions. How do you decide when youíre fishing the river in clear conditions if youíre gonna run a full spool of mono or a braid with a flora lead?
Aaron Shirley: Well, generally, that usually requires the presentation that Iím using. Letís say, for example, Iím targeting steelhead. I prefer, myself: I mean, this is a lot of matter of opinion, but myself; my opinion and my preference is to use straight mono when Iím running baits for steelhead.
I just donít like braid for steelhead on the river. I just feel that the steelhead are just way too strong, and they just Ė anyone whoís fished steelhead know they go acrobatic and they go crazy. They can spool off a lot of line, and you need that shock absorption on the whole spool.
Now, when Iím fishing for bass or trolling for walleye, for example; I do like a braided line with a flora-carbon leader. It really helps, especially when you have a lot of line out. It really helps you to feel any little tic, whether you have a weed on the line or whether you get a bite from a walleye; they do, notoriously, bite very lightly, and that braid will help significantly in detecting those bites.
T.J.: So itís more like a species question.
Aaron Shirley: To me, it is more like a species-type question, but more geared toward the presentation as well, but, generally, yeah, more toward the species. I really like the mono for the steelhead and for smallmouth and walleye and stuff like that, and even musky; I like the braids with a flora-carbon leader, of course. The waterís just gin clear, and it really does help a lot.
Not only that, but the flora-carbon leader does act as a bit of a shock absorber, so if you do get a musky; for example, and itís head shakes very violently, it does have a little shock absorption there.
T.J.: Weíll witch gears here. Iíve got some different questions for you now. What are your thoughts on the upcoming year class of King Salmon in Lake Ontario? My user says the last couple of years, he thinks the average size has been down, and he thinks with the warm winter, do you think youíll produce a bigger class size this year?
Aaron Shirley: Well, thatís a challenging answer, very challenging. To be quite honest, Iím not so sure that the warmer extended season will result in a larger class of salmon this year. I think thereís just so many variables on Lake Ontario that itís really difficult to make any accurate predictions.
For example, the baitfish decline; there has been a huge abundant decline in alewife on Lake Ontario that itís got to have an effect on the size of the salmon. I think a lot of cormorants might be feeding on alewife, as well as other fish, like perch, and that could be something that is not allowing the salmon to grow quite as large.
So itís a very challenging answer. All we can do is really kind of feel out whatís happening in the spring, and that might dictate a little bit more of whatís gonna happen the rest of the season. If the fishingís good in the spring, thatíll usually dictate a good season all over.
T.J.: Of all the fish youíve caught in the Niagara, which fish stands out most in your memory? Do you have a specific adventure you remember?
Aaron Shirley: Wholly crap! Iíve caught a lot of great fish in the Niagara. Iíve been very fortunate to be able to fish a body of water such as the Niagara. Itís a tremendous fishery and full of tremendous fish. Right from my biggest walleye ever; was a 14-pound walleye, and even though I fished the Bay Equine, it was caught in the Niagara River; 14 pounds, and, well, Iíve caught lots of great fish.
But I think the single-most fish that stands out in my mind would be a musky. The musky I caught on the Niagara was about 45 pounds approximately, about 52 inches; nice, big, girthy fish, and that was a very special moment, and Iíll definitely remember that fish for my lifetime.
T.J.: Thatís pretty cool. Okay. We understand you had an ice-fishing experience with Don from Ice Guys last year, and that was somewhat new to you. Did this open up your eyes to a new realm of fishing in the winter?
Aaron Shirley: Yes, absolutely. I had a fantastic time out there with Don, just excellent. As most people know me; I fish the Niagara all winter, and although the Niagara is a phenomenal fishery, itís been very challenging over the last few years with muddy water and everything, and just getting out and doing something different like that was just absolutely phenomenal. I had such a great time.
I didnít have any idea you could do so well for whitefish, and I had no idea they could pull so hard and fight so hard. They almost fight like a steelhead. Itís great. Most of the ice-fishing Iíve ever done is just getting out, doing a little bit of perch-fishing or crappies or whatever, but I really, really enjoy lake-trout fishing and fishing for whitefish out there, and it really did open up my eyes to a whole new realm of fishing, and I plan to do a lot more, thatís for sure.
T.J.: Super. That sounds pretty good. I have yet to get out with Don, but Iím looking forward to doing that as well. Okay, I got a couple of little irreverent questions here. I got a comment from a user that says that Jimmy is the greatest angler ever. Where did you guys find him?
Aaron Shirley: (Laughter) Jimmy Dodd Ė heís a great guy. We actually met him through the Rapala Pro Staff. As most people know, we work with Rapala, and we met him through the Rapala Pro Staff, and we just kind of hooked up with him. Heís a tournament angler, and heís a really good tournament angler. Donít let his little hillbillyish accent cool you. Heís really an intelligent guy, and he knows a lot about bass fishing, and heís won some tournaments, and weíve learned a good deal from him. Heís a hardcore angler, and Iíve just Ė just tournaments; he fishes all over the place and all winter, so heís just a great guy, and we met him at one of the trade shows through Rapala, and we decided to get out and do a little filming with him and his friend, Chris Giles, and theyíre super guys, and we enjoy getting out and fishing with them, thatís for sure.
T.J.: Excellent. I got another user that wants to know Ė this is kind of funny, I guess. What do you feed Barry before the shows?
Aaron Shirley: (Laughter) Oh, gees, I donít have to feed him anything. That guy is like the energizer bunny. I swear, he never runs out of energy, that guy. Heís just super-charged all the time almost. Heís either super-charged or he just crashes. Itís one or the other. Itís nowhere in between.
T.J.: I know what you mean. Iím very much like that.
Aaron Shirley: Sometimes, I wish I had some Valium to give him, I tell you.
T.J.: All right; thatís great. Can you tell me a little bit more about your Bronte Creek restoration project? I know youíre involved in that.
Aaron Shirley: Yes, I am. Myself and a good friend of mine, Tony Bolger, started heading a project on Bronte Creek to help the creek out a lot through the Credit River Anglers Association. The Credit River Anglers Association is a tremendous group, an organization.
Theyíve done a lot of great stuff with the Credit River, and several years ago, they took on Bronte Creek in the 16-mile creek, and a gentleman by the name of Brian Morrison was involved in that for Bronte Creek at the time, and lately, the last year or two, heís been more involved with other projects, and, basically, the last ten years, Iíve seen Bronte Creek degrade further and further every year, and Iíve always Ė itís very disheartening; I mean, it used to be such a phenomenal fishery.
We could go there and catch all kinds of fish, and the creek used to be very healthy, and every year, I keep bitching about it, and they never do anything, so this year, I thought; you know what? Iím gonna actually do something about this, and I talked to my friend, Tony Bolger, and John Kendall at the Credit River Anglers Association and decided to do something about it and worked with government agencies to try and rehabilitate the creek and get it at least back to a state where itís even half of what it used to be.
It really requires a lot of work, and weíre hoping that a lot of people are gonna come out and help us on workdays; maybe some off-enders will be able to help us out as well. That would be really appreciated.
T.J.: Well, we can definitely get the word out with this interview; thatís for sure. All right, well, weíre gonna wrap it up, but I have one question Iím gonna start asking all my guests that I didnít put on your little list of questions here before weíre done. Tell me your favorite fishing joke. Iím all about humor. I love to laugh, and I got a few, but I was wondering. Do you got one off the top of your head youíd like to share with me?
Aaron Shirley: My favorite fishing joke Ė well, one, in particular, does come to mind. I heard it years ago, and I really enjoyed it when I heard it, so on the spot, Iím gonna have to think about it here.
Okay, thereís a man and a wife. They rented a cottage up north, and the man wakes up in the morning, early in the morning, and goes out fishing in his 14-foot aluminum boat; comes back, and he goes for a nap while his wife comes out and reads, so one day, the man gets up in the morning, gets out there, does a little bit of fishing; comes back, goes for a nap, and his wife decides to take the boat out, park it in the middle of the lake and read her book.
So sheís out there reading her book, and along comes a game warden, and the game warden says, ďExcuse me, maíam; do you realize youíre fishing in a restricted area?Ē And the woman says, ďNo, I didnít,Ē but Iím not fishing. And the game warden looks at her and says, ďWell, maíam, Iím sorry, but you do have all the equipment onboard, so Iím afraid Iím gonna have to charge you.Ē
So the woman looks at him and goes, ďYou charge me with that, Iím gonna have to charge you with a rape.Ē And the game warden says, ďWhat? I never touched you.Ē She says, ďNope, but you do have all the equipment.Ē
T.J.: Now, Iíll have to keep that one in mind when Iím fishing with the wife, thatís for sure. Well, you know what? Iíll tell you what. Itís been an absolute pleasure, Aaron. If anybody wants to check old Aaronís web site, itís www.gettinghooked.net. I know thereís lots of good stuff on there. Itís been a real pleasure talking with you today, and I really appreciate you coming on.
Aaron Shirley: Well, thank you. Itís been a pleasure talking to you too, T.J.
T.J.: Take care.
Aaron Shirley: You have an excellent web site, and I look forward to getting on your web site and viewing all the great posts. You have an excellent forum and lots of great members.
T.J.: Well, thanks a lot.