Friday October 24, 2014

Freezing on a July fishing trip

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Welcome to Week of ‘Fishing Parkland Shorelines’. Like most of us I am a novice fisherman, loving to fish, but far from an expert. In the following weeks I’ll attempt to give those anglers who love to fish but just don’t have access to a boat, a look at some of the options in the Yorkton area where you can fish from shore, and hopefully catch some fish.

A very cool weekend came and went with limited fanfare, as Saskatchewan’s annual summertime Free Fishing Weekend  was marked this past Saturday and Sunday.

Everyone, including visitors to the province, free to fish over the July 12-13 weekend without having to buy a licence. Free Fishing Weekend does not occur in national parks and anyone planning to take fish out of the province must purchase a licence.  All other fishing regulations apply, including possession limits and reduced limits on some lakes and rivers.

It’s one of those great little ideas that makes so much sense you would imagine every jurisdiction would do it.

While there are some obvious benefits for visiting tourists, I doubt many plan holidays to be in the province just to toss a lure without buying a license. If you are on holidays and like to fish, the cost of an out-of-province license would just be part of the holiday budget.

But for people within Saskatchewan it’s a major benefit.

The weekend is one where people can give fishing a try without going through the process of purchasing a license.

No one likes the idea of handing over hard-earned cash to try something they have no real understanding whether they will enjoy or not.

I know from experience with one of my other passions, disc golf, people are at times reluctant to purchase actual golf discs to try the game. They opt for a cheap throwing disc from the local store and those are not suited to disc golf, so the experience is not good and they turn away from the game.

Fishing of course is a passion too, one instilled in me as a youngster by my father and I don’t regret it for a minute.

But if I was 30 and never tossed a hook, the chance to go out with a bud on a free fishing weekend would be a great incentive to try the sport.

It is also a great opportunity for new immigrants to Saskatchewan to try fishing.

Not every country has the sportsman tradition of fishing and hunting we do. Arrivals from countries around the world are now showing up in our province to fill the growing need for workers and a free fishing weekend is a great way to introduce them to the leisure activity.

It would be a great group activity for organizations who help immigrants settle into life in our country.

That is one reason it would be nice to see the weekend get a bit more promotion leading up to the actual weekend.

I know our newspaper received a release on the weekend dated July 10, two days before the weekend, and impossible for a weekly newspaper to do anything with, in terms of passing the information to our readers.

“With nearly 100,000 lakes and rivers, Saskatchewan is one of the most impressive fishing destinations in the world,” Environment Minister Scott Moe said in the release.  “The Free Fishing Weekend is an excellent chance for people to enjoy fishing in some of the province’s beautiful lakes and waterways.  It is also a weekend to get visitors hooked on the great scenery and fishing opportunities Saskatchewan offers.”

The release did offer up some interesting statistics.

“On average, more than 200,000 people fish in Saskatchewan each year, including more than 40,000 out-of-province anglers.  Almost 70 different species of fish inhabit the province’s lakes, rivers and streams.  Northern pike and walleye are common species throughout the province.  Yellow perch are abundant in south and central fishing zones.  Northern lakes teem with walleye, Arctic grayling, northern pike and lake trout,” it related.

Now regular readers will know I’m just a common shore fisherman and  while I have access to these pages via my career, I am not an expert on fish, or fishing. The fact I get skunked a bit too often to be funny, is testament to that.

But all that said, I have to say I was in no way aware there were 70 species of fish in our province. I would have guessed a couple of dozen, based on the range of sport fish,  half of those introduced since no trout species are native to Saskatchewan, nor are bass.

I’d add a couple of sucker species, and probably guess at a few species of minnow in our waters, but 70, I would never have guessed (but I am contacting the ministry to see if they can provide a list).

As for my own experience on the weekend, well fishing-wise it was not exactly great, albeit I imagine it will be a little excursion my son and I will remember.

It’s Saturday eve and I’m occupying a spare room at my son’s as we deal with the fall-out of seepage in our basement suite. He’s out, as 25 year olds are apt to be on a Saturday night, so I do a very modern thing and Facebook him that if he wants to head out Sunday morn to wake me.

I was actually expecting him to opt to sleep in, but he didn’t.

So we grab the gear even as the wind blows. I momentarily argue with myself over whether to take my old Yorkton This Week bunny hug and finally decide to stuff it in the fish pail in case I need it.

We head north on Highway 9, not sure if we will still be taking a few detours, but find the highway open all the way.

I also saw more water north of our city than I could imagine and that’s nearly two weeks after the actual rain event. It’s little wonder the damage occurred that did given the sheer volumes of water.

Our destination is Stoney Lake south of Margo, primarily because it is one spot that was least likely to be severely hampered by the storm.

The trip out was sunny, and while sad in terms of looking at the sparse crops and high water in every slough, the day held the promise of being nice fishing.

We arrive. I step out of the truck and marvel at the whitecaps on the lake.

I also grap the old bunny hug and am glad I stuffed it in the pail. The wind has the bite of coming off a late spring snowbank.

The wind is more or less in our faces.

It was going to be a challenge to cast,  but we were there and went to work.

I throw out a Len Thompson Fire Tiger. It flutters in the wind and drops far short of a normal cast, but I get a strike.

Few things are more satisfying than a first cast catch.

It’s a moderate-sized pike which does me the kindness of thrashing free of the hook right at the shoreline. It was going to be released anyway and that saved me getting my hands fishy right away.

Well actually it saved me touching a fish all day.

We cast into the wind and frankly froze for an hour. Honestly it was colder on the shore at Stoney Sunday than the frigid day ice fishing in the Lake of the Prairies Tourney. At least that day I was bundled against the cold. Sunday the bunny hug did not cut the wind and it didn’t help that, about ever third whitecap splashed onto shore with the force to send a shower my way.

We finally opt to head down the road to Pelican. The lake being on the other side of the road would put the wind more or less at our backs, and the spot we fish is in a ditch, the road acting as a wind break.

It is a bit more comfortable fishing, but no fish.

Soon our minds are thinking of a hot plate at Raymond’s Restaurant in Canora, and less about fishing.

Adam and I decide we’ll give Stoney 25 casts each again, and if we are still fish-less, it would be off to Chinese food.

My 25 casts were just a test of my endurance for cold and my ability to flutter a hook into the wind.

Adam, on his 25th cast, lands a pike.

What are the odds of a first cast fish for me and a last cast fish for him, and bubkus in between?

Well I’m not enough of a mathematician to tackle those odds, but needless to say it has to be rare.

We of course had our licenses, but had we been on the free-weekend we certainly wouldn’t have done much to impact the fish population at Stoney.

Now I wonder, if that was my first experience with the sport, would I have fallen in love with fishing as I did?

Who can say for sure, yet few things are as exciting as the tug of a fish taking to a lure and on the first cast — that’s simply SWEET!



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