Sunday November 23, 2014

Majestic birds catch fishing eye

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Welcome to Week CXVI 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.

Whitesand Regional Park has always been one of my go to places when it comes to local-area shore fishing.

It is close and has good access.

Well that was until this early spring. The rural municipality undertook work on the road from Theodore north to the park access, and when you add in the rain at the end of June, the grid road was a mess, make that impassable for days. There was access from the north, but I admittedly never made the trek.

So it wasn’t until the end of July I made it to the spot.

It was a hot, Thursday afternoon, so the plan was to arrive in early evening and hope the cooler temperatures would bring the fish out.

As a regional park, even with a season pass, you have to sign in. It’s important for such parks to be able to show good numbers in terms of usage. The province is fortunate to have the network of regional parks that it does.

As an example, coming from a different area of interest, that of being an avid disc golfer. There are at present about 15 courses in Saskatchewan, and about one-third of those located at regional parks.

Of course numerous regional parks having fishing as well, Cabri Regional Park on the South Saskatchewan River near Lake Diefenbaker, Eagle Creek Regional Park by Asquith, and the aforementioned Whitesand, among them.

So regional parks offer diverse recreational opportunities, and Saskatchewan is fortunate the system developed over the years.

But back to my signing in at Whitesand, where I popped into the office, signed the register, and when I turned around I spied something interesting pinned to the wall near the door. It was a yellowed clipping from this very newspaper. It was an article of fishing at the park by yours truly going back nearly two years now.

Now it’s not the first time I’ve seen one of my stories on a wall someplace. It actually happens quite a lot, and yet I am never quite sure how I, as the writer, should take it.

When you are in the newspaper business, you write thousands of words a week and over some quarter of a century on the job, it becomes literally millions of words. This article alone has accounted for some 150,000-plus words since it was initiated.

As a writer stories blur. A few stand out as being particularly interesting, or the people involved were just particularly memorable, but over the years most fade, or at least merge with so many others.

But, I also realize for people interviewed, a story will stick with them. So that is why they end up in scrapbooks, under fruit-shaped magnets on the refrigerator, or as was the case at Whitesand on a wall. It is a little humbling to say the least for a writer.

It does, however, reinforce just how important what we as journalists do. People take what we write to heart. That comes with that a level of responsibility for the writer to be accurate, because what we write lasts. The written word has a way of lasting. It becomes part of the history of families and regional parks and the community.

But, I was still there to fish, and as it turned out so where a number of others. The space along the boat launch area was not overly crowded, but there were certainly enough hooks in the water, fish had lots of choice.

I started with a Len Thompson Fire Tiger, and on the third cast had a nice pike. The same hook would get a second pike a bit later, this one a poster child for why northern pike have earned the moniker ‘hammer handle’. It was maybe two inches in diameter and 15-inches long, basically a stick.

That was it for me until late. There were a few fish taken along the shore, small, toss back, walleye.

But generally the bites that night were pretty much the realm of dive-bombing mosquitoes and not fish.

As the eve wore on, and the wind died, the ‘skeeters’ rose from the grass enmasse and attacked like spitfires. We had repellant, which apparently was simply an aperiff for these hungry buzzers. It was a constant game of wind in some line, slap a skeeter and repeat, over and over and over.

The good news was that we were given to a wonderful aerial show by a rather large flock of pelicans. I could see the flock sitting on the water to the west, and over the evening they flew in twos, and threes and fours, east down the river. They glided low over the water, would occasionally flap their large wings slowly, gaining some altitude, then roll back close to the surface, a leisurely roller-coaster flight that fisher folk could appreciate in lieu of a few fish.

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I shot a  swack of pictures, which is an amount somewhat larger than a ‘pile’ in my self-created jargon for measuring photo  shots, most blurry messes attributed to a camera the equivalent of a century old in ‘digital years, which is roughly the same time frame as dog years I think. Add old camera to limited photographic skills and low flying pelicans at dusk over water was a challenge too great.

But the effort had me thinking pelicans, so I ‘Googled’ the birds in Saskatchewan.

“The American white pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) is one of eight pelican species in the world and the only species found in Saskatchewan. It belongs to the family Pelecanidae of the order Pelecaniformes, characterized by fully webbed (totipalmate) feet and a large beak with a throat pouch,” detailed an Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan piece by Keith Roney found at

It’s no surprise the pelicans look so majestic given their size.

“The white pelican is one of the largest birds in North America, with a wingspan of up to three metres, and weighing up to 7.75 kilograms,” described the article.

The unique bill pouch of the pelican is of course what most people think regarding the big birds.

“The bill of all pelicans, unique to the bird world, has a distensible throat pouch that can hold up to 13.5 litres. The pouch is not only used as a dip net to catch fish, but acts as a cooling device when this bare skin is fluttered,” noted the article.

But the pelican is an excellent ‘fisherman’.

“Their diet consists mainly of fish, which they capture individually or through a co-operative effort: a few birds will form a semicircle and slowly swim towards shore while beating their wings and herding their prey towards shallower water; in unison they dip their bill and catch any fish that swim into it,” stated the EofS article.

I also found it interesting the pelican has bucked a sad trend of wildlife decline in recent years.

“Pelicans were reported nesting in Saskatchewan as early as 1879. In 1978, declining numbers resulted in the American white pelican being listed as a threatened species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). Through protective legislation and public education pelican numbers increased, and in 1987 it became the first species to be ‘delisted’ by COSEWIC,” related the article.

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But, back to the shore at Whitesand Regional Park, where as dusk fell, the evening also provided a glimpse into human nature.

Most along the shore were still fishing using the common pickerel rig, two bare, single hooks onto which a minnow is attached. A weight at the bottom of the rig helps with both the cast, and to hold the rigs position in the water. Cast and wait after that.

A pickerel rig is a low-cost fishing option. You can grab them for about a buck at most gear spots.

So a young boy is fishing a rig, his father nearby.

As all fisher folk do on occasion, young anglers more often, the boy hangs the rig up on a rock and is snagged.

Dad, wearing shorts anyway, and ascertaining the snag is not too far off shore begins to tentatively wade into the water tugging on the line as he goes in with hopes of freeing the snagged rig.

Soon he is in water past his knees, and soon he realizes his shorts are taking on water. It’s at this point he fishes a cell phone out of his pocket, and gets it back to shore.

Eventually he determines the rig is a bit too far out, snaps the line, sacrificing the dollar worth of gear to the Whitesand River. It was an effort to save a dollar rig that came close to drowning a cell phone I’d wager would cost more than a buck to replace.

Once back on shore, the dad delves back into a pocket, and is soon trying to smooth the wrinkles out of piece of soaked paper. I smile a little as I ask if that was his fishing license, which it was.

So it’s a good opportunity to once again suggest the license goes in the tackle box. You are not going fishing without your gear.

And yes tackle boxes often get wet from showers, or waves hitting shore, but if you protect the license in a quality zip lock style plastic bag, it will stay safe.

I’ve suggested the above previously here, but seeing the soggy license the other night made me think a second mention might be a good thing.

Oh, I should mention I caught one walleye, keep able had I been so-inclined, on a Deadly Dick lure. The fish were jumping well out from shore, and the DD-range really allows for maximum cast distance. In this case I cast to a jump circle and he hit, which is always a good feeling.

So three fish, all released, not a big eve by any stretch, although I out-fished my better half by a pair, so bonus points for me there.

All-in-all, a good night, although I do wonder, will this effort be deemed worthy of a place on the wall at Whitesand?



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