Ice Fishing And Catching Smelts Without Hooks

smelts for februaryCasey contacted me yesterday morning to see if I wanted to head out to Shediac Cape for a few hours of ice fishing. I had been out getting a shot of the sunrise when he called but he left a message and I caught him before he left.

Last time we were out it was a calm day and close to zero so it was pleasant on the open ice but yesterday was a bit windy and that can take the fun out of things pretty quick for me so I was glad we had access to a fish hut.

ice fish huts
Love how some guys paint their ice fishing hut

When we arrived at Shediac Cape there were 4 or 5 guys already drilling through the ice for some ice fishing but they didn’t stay too long once the wind started whistling. A couple of the guys had been there longer as they already had about a dozen smelts on the snow.

They didn’t last long once the wind picked up to the whistling point.

walk straightBefore I was too far from shore I snapped a couple of photos of the shoreline. That’s when I noticed that our path out on the ice looked a lot like we’d been drinking or that maybe we were blindfolded and then sent out of the ice. Very staggered trail.

I don’t know about Casey but I felt like I was walking in a straight line.

Casey was hauling a small sled behind him to hold the things he wanted to bring with him.  I had a big cooler that held everything I wanted plus it makes a great seat.

Had The Right Rig This Time

The last day we were out I was using a rig that had hooks that were just a little too big for these smelts and was catching zero smelt with it. Casey on the other hand was catching smelts one after the other. That was until Casey gave me one of is rigs and I started catching some smelt myself.

Yesterday we were using the same rig which Casey had setup with the smaller hooks.

Basically the rig starts with a red piece of yarn at the top with a couple of tiny baited hooks about 6 or 8 inches apart followed by another piece of red yarn at the bottom of the rig. A little bell weight was attached to the end to help the rig drop in the water and to keep the rig hanging straight down.

Clear View of The Bottom

found a flounderI like the idea of having an ice hut to use, especially if the weather is nasty of it’s too friggin’ cold. But another big reason for me is being able to see down the hole to the bottom of the bay.

When there were no smelt in the area we could still watch the minnows and at one point we even saw a flounder come in for a closer look. We teased him a bit but couldn’t get him interested in the bait although he was interested in the weight on the end of Casey’s rig.

Would have been nice to get him on a piece of yard so we didn’t hurt him so I could take some close up photos.

Another thing I like about being in a hut is being able to see how the smelt react to the bait and how the yarn attracts them.

By the time the action stopped we had 22 smelt and all but 2 of them were on the red yard. Never had a hook near them and they wouldn’t let go of the yard so we could lift them right out of the water and into a waiting bucket.

It Was A Chilly Day Not To Be Catching Muskie

ice crystals on green leafI really don’t do well in the cold anymore which may be partly to do with blood thinners or other meds I have to take but I try not to let that stop me from going fishing if the opportunity presents itself.

An example would be yesterday when Casey took me muskie fishing on the Saint John river at Oromocto. It was minus 2 but seemed a whole lot chillier when we were on the water with the wind blowing. But we knew it was going to be a chilly day.

Knowing that I wore lots of layers of clothing which started with two pair of socks, long johns, T-shirt, heavy shirt, sweater, winter coat, a thick scarf, my toque and a pair of gloves. I brought the rest of my wardrobe in a carry on bag just in case I needed to put on more layers of clothing.

My gloves didn’t last long as I took one of to pull weeds off my lure and the wind flipped it right in the drink. We were trolling so we had to turn around and retrieve it. So glad Casey had an extra pair of gloves.

Every had one of those times when you know you’re going down and there is absolutely nothing you can do to stop yourself? Me too and yesterday was one of those days.


Casey pulled his boat up to a spot that looked like a good place to take a leak but it was a bit deceptive and looked solid. However when I jumped off the front of the boat both feet sunk into the mud but the rest of me was still moving. I was going down and it wasn’t likely to look pretty, pretty fun looking would be more like it.

Now if that had been Casey I would have gotten a picture of it even before I stopped laughing.

So glad I didn’t hurt anything more than a tiny bit of pride. My winter coat was just long enough to save my butt from getting soaked. One bare hand sunk into the mud and it was freezing.

Let’s Tally Up The Fish For The Day

We were trolling for muskie and never seen or felt one all day however it was a fun day and plenty of pictures of trees, clouds, water and planes were taken.

While we were trolling for muskies and got close enough to the shore that I could make a few cast I would and managed to catch two pickerel.

sunrise through the side window of Casey's truckJenny and I had our Thanksgiving dinner Sunday and so did Casey. So Monday Casey and I went pickerel fishing at French lake.

The temperature was moving between 3 Celsius and zero which presented us with a lot of fog on our drive.

The fog was heavy in places but most of the drive the fog wasn’t an issue. We did drive through one section of road that was so fogged in I had to sit on the hood of the truck and cut our way through it.

When the sun came up we could see the fog light up with a yellow orange glow but couldn’t see the sun.  At one point I could see the sun through the fog but had to try to turn enough to get a shot of it through the back driver’s side window.

sunrise through the side window of Casey's truck
Foggy TransCanada New Brunswick Morning

French Lake In The Fog


There are trees along the side of the road leading to the boat launch and deer love munching on apples so we were looking for some whitetail deer. We were not disappointed as they were just crossing the road heading back into the bush again.

Casey's truck at the waterI got out of the truck so I could get a couple of pictures of Casey backing his boat ‘Casey 10’ to the water. It was definitely the strangest looking launch point I’d ever seen and looked more like Casey was going to drive off a cliff going backwards.

I couldn’t see any lake or trees, just fog with that endless look to it.

I walked down to the water where I could only see a few yards from shore. out onto the lake was hard on the eyes as the fog was lit up by the sun and such a bright white. Couldn’t see anything other than a 10 or 15 strip of water along the shore the rest was just fog.

sun fog waterWhen we arrived at French lake we couldn’t even see the water for the fog. I walked to the edge of the water and could only see about 20 or 30 feet out into a white wall of fog.

The air was calm and kind of cold so I was glad I my winter clothes but it was always a different kind of beautiful. The sun was trying to break through the fog so it made for some great photos.

The huge fog bank sitting on top of us was great for photos but hard to see any distance around us so I’m glad there was little to no boat traffic.

Best Fishing Day of The Year

First I have to say this year was a pretty cool year of fishing for me as I caught my first striped bass and my first muskie. Now having said that I had the best day of fishing as far as numbers and size of pickerel.

100_0425As you can see by the blood on this pickerel they were most aggressive and made no hesitation in striking our baits.

I tried getting the bait out of this guys mouth but he wasn’t about to give it up. From this guy on we worked as a team removing hooks so that pickerels wouldn’t be harmed.

Just like in humans when there is water and blood there always looks like more blood than water.

I think it was less than 15 minutes and both Casey and I had our first fish in the boat. Casey got his fish first which is always the goal when we first start out for the day. Then it’s a matter of numbers and size.

Casey caught the next pickerel which was bigger than the pickerel I had just landed so it was time to pack up and go home while Casey was in the lead with first fish, most fish and largest fish.

In no time he was up to 5 pickerel to my single pickerel. That’s when he said he was going to kick my ass fishing. The challenge was on and I don’t like to lose a challenge. From that point on my focus was on knocking his fish of the hook before it got in the boat.

My biggest pickerel of the day was less than an 1/8 of an inch off 25” but Casey caught one that was right on 25” and earned biggest fish of the day.

casey 25 inch pickerel
Casey’s 25” Chain Pickerel

By the end of our day of fishing French lake Casey had landed and released 23 fish. I may not have measured up for the biggest fish of the day but I did manage to boat 35 including the biggest perch I have ever caught.

release a bassAfter a week of rain it was so nice to see and feel the sun again. I was also great to get out fishing with Casey. It’s always a good day, even if the fishing is slow.

Sunday turned out to be a beautiful day, even a bit hot for the end of September but the skies were high and bright with zero clouds to block some of the sun. Made for a tough day of muskie fishing.

The little smallmouth bass in the top left images was the catch of the day. The only catch of the day actually and it was caught on the end of my rod so I got first fish of the day, biggest fish of the day as well as the most fish of the day.

We were trolling close enough to the shoreline that I was able to make some casts close to the bank and trees. I pulled a chain pickerel out of the weeds but then it stopped. All I got to see was his shape.

Casey had a nice fat smallmouth smack his bait and then jump out of the water. He hit the water and stayed on for about 4 seconds. It would have kicked my bass’s ass.

So it wasn’t much of a fish catching day but it sure was a purdy day.

Rivers of Fog

fogI don’t care to drive through fog but I do love to see fog. Not sure why but I’ve liked it as long as I can remember.

Sunday was a foggy morning in the low lying areas but we didn’t drive through any fog. The fog that was visible as we were driving was either off the road or above the road.

The fog in the image on the left was right across a bridge we drove under.

Below is a picture of the fog over the river as we drove past Oromocto. I never seem to get a shot up close of fog like this because we are usually included in the fog. Nice to see it over the river like that.

Fog on the River at Oromocto

Canada Geese Sounding Off In The Fog

canadagooseI looked down over the dam as we drove over it and there was no fog but above where the launch point was it was so foggy you couldn’t see the other side.

There was no fog onshore and so quiet I’m sure we would have heard a bird fart. The quiet is always something is special in a world made up of so many noises.

I was taking a few more pictures and enjoying the silence when it was broken by a loud HONK and then another and another. Next a Canada goose came out of the fog. Ten seconds later a second goose emerged from the fog then another and finally a forth Canada goose came out of the fog. They were all spaced about 6 or 8 feet a part in single file.

I guess the honking was so they wouldn’t loose touch with each other.

canada geese in the fog

It was only a few minutes and that towering cloud of fog just disappeared except for right along the shoreline where the tree were blocking the sun. Love casting into spots like this.


Saw a lot of scenery and a great day thanks to Casey and his trusty boat.

September 19, 2013 Landed And Released My First Muskie

my first muskie
Caught And Released My First Muskie At 61

September 19, 2013 is one of those days I will smile about every time I remember it and yeah I will probably tell total strangers on the street about it. Why, because it’s only once you catch that first muskie and I was lucky enough to catch a 31 inch muskie and not a 24 inch one. So it became my first muskie and my biggest fish ever, in more than 50 years of fishing.

OromoctoCasey invited me along for a day of muskie fishing on the Saint John river at Oromocto New Brunswick. We have fished here together before and I have fished with Jamie here. The  Oromocto area is such a pretty spot, especially once Autumn has arrived on the scene.

This day most of the trees were still full of green leaves so the ones that were starting to change really stood out.

Like this tree I saw when we were getting ready to launch the boat. One red tree in a sea of green leaves.

One tree out of dozens has made the change to Autumn colours.

Eagle Eyes Staring Back At Me

baldheaded eagle on Saint John riverWe had a fantastic day with calm water and not a cloud in the sky other than a few wispy ones that gave no shade at all.

I put my sun hat on to keep too much sun from frying my brain, again. My new hat also helps keep the sun out of my eyes better than my ball cap does.

There were a few bald eagles around but they usually take off before I’m in position to get a good shot however today we were able to get a bit close.

There were two of them on this limb but one took off before I was able to get a picture of them both. All I got of that first eagle was a shot of his tail feathers as he flew up river to another tree.

Casey slowed the boat right down as we approached and went right under it. So glad the water was calm so we weren’t bobbing around at all. I took a lot of pictures as we approach and went under the eagle but it never moved.

Each time I take a picture the view screen goes blank so for just a second each time I thought the eagle was going to dive out of the tree and knock me over backwards.

Oh, Did I Tell You I Caught My First Muskie?

lunch breakWhen my friend Roland would be fishing he would use sentences that started with ‘Did I Ever Tell You…” or “Have I Told You Today…” Well I was saying that to Casey for the rest of the day. Glad the didn’t duct tape my trap shut or tell me to take a bus home.

I moved to New Brunswick from Ontario 30 some years ago but never learned that we have muskies living and breeding in New Brunswick waters. Since I learned that fact I have wanted to catch a muskie so it’s been on my wish list.

I have now checked that item off my list and now I will focus on catching more and maybe some that are bigger than my first.

Here are some pictures from our day on the Saint John river.

oromocto bridge reflecting on water

I must have taken 30 pictures of this bridge over the course of the day. It just looks great from so many angles and the reflections in the water always look cool.

IMG_6714 IMG_6697

I love going fishing during the work week as there is usually less boat traffic on the river. This day was perfect with hardly any traffic. We did see a few other fishermen on the water, like this guy who looked like he was in the tropics. He must be out a lot and needs to protect his healthy skin.

red bass boat

They were on the other side of the river so I zoomed in on them. We didn’t talk so I have no idea if they were catching anything or not or even what they were fishing for. When he was casting it looked like he had smaller lures so I’m guessing he was fishing for chunky smallies.

water planeWe saw this plane circle and prepare to land on the water. I took a couple of pictures and then clicked record. I had the perfect angle for to watch him come in and land.

Again the water was calm so there was no bouncing around.

Just as he was about to hit the water he disappeared behind some trees. Oh man what a drag we weren’t on the main river at this moment and I didn’t realize it. So it kind of looks like he just crashed in the trees.

tree with red leavesWe didn’t catch a lot of fish, just a fat little smallmouth bass and of course my first ever muskie at 31 inches. Did I mention that before? Ha Ha

All too soon it was the end of our day and time to pack up.

I thought I would end with another tree that has changed colour before all its neighbours.

My First Opportunity To Fish Striped Bass

ship skeletonFriday was my first day striper fishing and I was so excited to be going I didn’t get much sleep. I slept fine until about 2am and then it was mostly awake so finally I just got up at 4am. Not unusual when I go fishing.

I have wanted to fish for striped bass for more than 10 years and had an opportunity to go to Rexton with Casey for a day.

I was thinking this was my first time fishing at Rexton until we got there and I recognized a church and an old ship skeleton. Then I remembered we came here ice fishing for smelts. That was my first time catching smelt as well.

About 15 minutes from the launch Casey hooked his first striper and it looked like it was going to be an exciting day. It was 14 inches and smacked the bait like it was 20 inches.

striped bassThe next striper was about an hour later and that was Casey as well with a 17 inch striper. Love Casey’s new rubber net so easy on the fish as well as easy getting the hooks out of the net.

I had my camera at the ready so we could quickly snap a picture and then get him back in the water as it was catch and release only.

Just a couple of seconds on the measuring board and right back into the drink.

striped bassIt was an hour and three quarters later when I caught my first striper, ever. I love how hard they strike for their size.

There was no hesitation when he smacked my plastic Storm bait, he nearly swallowed the entire bait. The fact we were fishing barbless made it easy to remove the hook and release it. He was 14 inches and a scrapper. A nice experience.

My second striped bass was bigger than my first but not as big as Casey’s second striper so I just let him go without taking another picture. Our day was rather slow but we did both get two striped bass and enjoyed the beautiful day we had.

I didn’t think about my garden all day.

foggy bridge

We didn’t see many clouds all day. Very clear skies except for this shot of a bridge with a huge fog bank behind it.

IMG_2220Can’t beat getting an online message at 5AM asking if you want to go fishing. Well as long as I don’t have plans I can change and I didn’t. Casey had checked the weather forecast and decided that this day was the best fishing day left in the week.

It worked out perfectly for me because Jenny and I had rented a car for Thursday and Friday so we would have been unavailable.

We were on the road before I even knew where we were headed but I didn’t really need to know. But when Casey told me we were going to Colwell’s Warf I was quite happy with that choice. Such a beautiful place to enjoy a day on the water.

Had a pickerel strike in those weeds but he didn’t hang on so no first fish yet.

Nothing But Blue Skies Do I See

All the way there and for a little while on the water it was clear skies in all directions and not a bit of a breeze. The water was a mirror. So glad I had my new sunglasses with me again as it really made a difference to my eyes by the end of the day. My wide brimmed hat kept my brain from frying as well and that’s always good. I need all the grey cells I can keep.

As soon as Casey backed away from the launch I cast into the weeds and had my first strike right away. Guess he was ready to make a commitment as he stayed in the weeds and didn’t strike again. So I grabbed my sunscreen and plastered it all over my bare skin.

Lot’s of weeds and pencil reeds, my favourite kind of spots.

IMG_2256It wasn’t long before the temperature rose to a noticeable degree and I began to sweat a bit. That’s when I realize how nice it is to have my new wide brimmed hat.

We started seeing the odd cloud and before we realized the sky was full of clouds, just not right over head.

We saw a huge cloud that kept getting close to blocking the sun but seemed to take forever to move between us and the sun. Instant relief but then the wind picked up and for the most part the calm water I love fishing so much was gone.


What!? That’s An Island

As I was casting along the shoreline weeds for pickerel or bass Casey said he was looking for the entrance to the pond in the middle of the island. I had no idea we were moving along the shoreline of an island. Must be a pretty big island.

Sure enough a few minutes later there was a channel leading back into the island. There were plenty of pickerel in the channel which went back a long ways before we could get to the water on either side of the channel. What a beautiful spot in there. Dense weeds made it hard to get anything out of there. I need a fishing rod with a stiffer backbone and definitely stronger line for pulling them out of those weeds. Still had a blast watching how crazy they can bee.

Jim Gets The Most Fish Of The Day

sun beamI missed a pickerel within a minute of launching so I missed the opportunity to get the first fish while Casey was distracted.

Then I hooked into a nice pickerel and had it within an inch of being in my hand when it decided to make a run for it and managed to get off the hook. Missed a second opportunity for the first fish.

Finally on my third attempt at getting the first fish I succeeded so that’s two days we’ve been out that I got the first fish of the day.

Casey was keeping right up with me but once the clouds moved in I watched for signs and as you can see in the photo above the sky opened and showed me where to cast. A few times like that I had the lead. Most fish of the day goes to me as well.

We saw a few bigger fish hitting the baits in the weeds but didn’t get them to the boat. The only two we did measure were the same size so it was a tie for biggest fish of the day.

The final score for this day, 1 perch each, 11 pickerel for Casey and 17 pickerel for ME.

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