River catfish and leopard frogs

Welcome to Week LXX 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.

It was a Saturday in early September, with a Saskatchewan Roughrider game scheduled for television at two. So a quick morning trip was the plan, with a plan to be back by about 2:30, that way I could watch the game on DVR and fast forward through the commercials.

Indian Point on Crooked Lake seemed like the ideal destination. I wasn't looking to clean a bunch of fish for the freezer, but did want some fun fighting a few fish, and it is a spot where pike are usually looming, at least early and then again late in the day.

We get to the spot about 9 a.m., not crack of dawn early, but not bad for September, and like usual the pike are cruising a weed bed off the east side of the sand point which extends out into the lake.

Within an hour I've landed, and released eight nice sized pike, most taking to a Len Thompson Fire Tiger, and most hitting on the far end of a good long cast, so that meant a nice tussle on the retrieve.

And then the pike's interest waned.

Over the next two hours only two bothered taking a variety of offered lures.

One lure, or more specifically lure type I need to mention here are the weedless offerings from Dardevle. These spoons are fitted with a singled fixed hook on the underside of the lure. Pointed back toward the hook point is an apparatus that prevents most weed from catching on the hook, yet is springy enough that when a pike chomps down on its expected dinner, it still gets hooked.

The lure comes in a variety of weights, and paint offerings, the usually successful red and white, the increasingly go-to fire tiger, and the red five of diamonds among them.

Every tackle box needs at least a couple of lures that allow you to more aggressively fish weed beds, and the Dardevle line certainly allows that, and are recommended as a lure with a specific purpose in mind.

The better half managed a couple of toss back walleyes and a perch, or two, but nothing to exciting.

We decided it was perhaps 'Rider time.

Then as we are driving out of the lake the better half suggests we might turn left at the junction and head toward Grenfell, rather than right to Melville. She reasoned the highway had to cross the Qu'Appelle River, and that meant a bridge, a possible spot to fish, and a chance a channel catfish, a species known to call the wash-water grey waters of the Qu'Appelle River home.

The bridge is only a couple of miles south, and it's obvious more than a few people have walked down the highway right-of-way to the river's edge to fish.

We follow suit.

As I walk to the river I immediately notice the grass underfoot is an active place. Two or three tiny garter snakes, smaller than a pencil, slither quickly into hiding.

I've always been fascinated with snakes, and garter snakes as the only native species we see this far north, there are rattlers in the south of the province, they have piqued my interest.

Now in the case of the ones along the Qu'Appelle River I have no idea exactly what species they were, as I understand there are three in Saskatchewan; the Western Terrestrial Garter Snake, Plains Garter Snake and Common Garter Snake.

I'll be honest here, I couldn't tell one from the other if they were lined up side-by-side, but I love seeing them. Garter snakes are maligned and feared by many, but they are great at reducing insect and even mouse populations, so I'm a big fan.

On the shore I am soon fishing, a jig with minnows in the grey water, but am also quickly distracted.

There is a leopard frog sitting on the bank.

I am off to the car for my camera, and spend the next half hour looking for Leopards and taking pictures.

The Leopard frog is striking in its green and black markings, the inspiration for the Len Thompson frog back lure.

As a youth on the farm near Tisdale they would be occasionally found around the old dug out, and more seen at Tobin Lake and related fishing spots.

Frogs should be of interest to us all these days as they are an indicator species regarding the health of ecosystems. From the number I saw along a small stretch the Qu'Appelle it appears to be doing well.

For those unfamiliar with the species Wikipedia states "The northern leopard frog is a fairly large species of frog, reaching about 11 cm (4.3 in) in length. It varies from green to brown in dorsal colour, with large, dark, circular spots on its back, sides, and legs

"Northern leopard frogs have a wide range of habitats. They are found in permanent ponds, swamps, marshes, and slow-moving streams throughout forest, open, and urban areas. They normally inhabit water bodies with abundant aquatic vegetation."

According to the same source, "this species was once quite common through parts of western Canada and the United States until declines started occurring during the 1970s. Although the definitive cause of this decline is unknown, habitat loss and fragmentation, environmental contaminants, introduced fish, drought, and disease have been proposed as mechanisms of decline and are likely preventing species recovery in many areas. Many populations of northern leopard frogs have not yet recovered from these declines."

Amid the photo session with the frogs, the better half gets a hit. It's a nice four-pound channel cat, much like my first one last summer. I'm happy to see her get her first this year.

Then she gets another small one, and releases it.

I'm less happy since she is out catting me.

But the day still goes well.

A fledge of mallards wings down the river right in front of us.

A heron does the same.

It is becoming ever more evident this is a vibrant ecosystem, and I'll admit the writer/reader in me is thinking about Tom Sawyer on a river and daydreaming a bit like I did when I was still a youngster.

A couple of muskrats come out of hiding and swim the river looking for food.

And a turtle swims by. I stand to get my camera, it dives and is gone.

I never saw wild turtles growing up. I assume we were beyond their normal range.

So I go researching a bit.

A University of Regina page explains "the large snapping turtle and the smaller but more numerous painted turtle occur in the rivers of the Missouri drainage and in large permanent ponds in the southeast. The painted turtle occurs as far north as the Saskatchewan River and Duck Mountain. Both are opportunistic feeders, taking fish and other live prey, plant material, and carrion."

If you have not seen a painted turtle Wikipedia describes them. "The painted turtle's shell is 10-25 cm long, oval, smooth, and flat-bottomed. The color of the top shell (carapace) varies from olive to black. Darker specimens are more common where the bottom of the water body is darker. The bottom shell (plastron) is yellow, sometimes red, sometimes with dark markings in the center. Similar to the top shell, the turtle's skin is olive to black, but with red and yellow stripes on its neck, legs, and tail. As with other pond turtles, such as the bog turtle, the painted turtle's feet are webbed to aid swimming.

"The head of the turtle is distinctive. The face has only yellow stripes, with a large yellow spot and streak behind each eye, and on the chin two wide yellow stripes that meet at the tip of the jaw. The turtle's upper jaw is shaped into an inverted "V" (philtrum), with a downward-facing, tooth-like projection on each side."

Amid the wildlife I have managed a few keeper walleye, the better half doing the same. By 4 we have limited out on them.

But it's not the walleye that are the story here in terms of fish.

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I have slipped under the bridge when she announces something big on the line.

I scramble back over the rocks and arrive in time to grab the leader and pull in a huge cat, at least for us, and this river. It weighs in just north of nine pounds. It's big, her third of the day, compared to my zero. She's all smiles.

I momentarily wonder if being out-fished that bad is terms for divorce. I determine it's unlikely it is, but I am pretty sure it should be.

All right I was pretty happy for her too, and besides it still means I get to experiment in the kitchen, which I'll write about here one day I am sure.

And now back to the Qu'Appelle.

We have our limit of walleye and her cat, so we are off home, until I wonder if the pike are back in the mood at Indian Point.

In retrospect I realize I had unknowingly come face-to-face with a question fisherman on good days must face, 'when have I caught enough fish?'

In this case I'd battled some feisty pike, enjoyed a day surrounded by a vibrant ecosystem, and caught 16 fish in total. The better half had notched 14.

Yet I said let's try Indian Point again.

It was fishing greed and the gods of pike, perch and all fined critters responded with 90-minutes of casting, changing hooks, casting some more, all without so much as a swim by nibble. If that was not a clear scolding to tell us 30 fish in a day was enough, I'm not sure what it was.

But it was still an incredible outing, in a couple of great little fishing spots, on a warm fall day, and life just doesn't get much better than that.

© Copyright Yorkton This Week


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