2020 was a year to forget on a huge number of fronts. One positive that came from not being able to go anywhere, was a little dedicated time focused in your own backyard. This was absolutely the case for me.
I am a self professed fishing purist, dreaming of a cast near the bleached granite of the Georgian Bay or the azure waters of Lake Superior. Focusing some dedicated time into my own backyard, I got to know a knew waterbody I hadn’t paid much attention to; the mighty Thames River in Chatham-Kent.
In all her glory, she travels 273 kilometres until she meets Lake St. Clair. To introduce you to the Thames River, it is slow-moving, chocolate brown and on a hot August day; a little smelly. It is completely ignored by the residents of Chatham-Kent except by anglers where it meets Lake St. Clair. Just because it looks different than the pristine river of the North, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have value. It hosts a fish community that is represented few other places in all of Canada. The southern latitude of the river gives it a climate that is similar to midwest states of the USA, and therefore allows a lot of the same species to reside within.
During the trials and tribulations of quarantine, I would myself with a lot of time on my hands. I figured I would give the ol’ Thames a try, and I’m glad I did. Enough babbling from me, I will show you some of my catches from the Thames and elsewhere.
A super weird catch from the Thames River, a massive Gizzard Shad . Rarely caught on a rod, I was lucky to have hooked into this (Dorosoma cepedianum). I had no idea what type of fish this was at first, I initially thought it was a Quillback Carpsucker. After a little looking around, I figured out the right species. I can’t imagine I will ever catch one of this size again (16 inches) when the Ontario record length is 18 inches.
Pre-COVID 19, I was on vacation in Florida. I was fishing the shore of a small lake, walking the shore. The lake is known to host Largemouth Bass, Tilapia, Plecos (a type of invasive armoured catfish). Under a cabana that was partially over the lake, I saw some skinny looking fish. Upon further inspection, I knew they were gars. With a plain hook and a piece of shrimp (very technical), I threw my bait over and got a bite immediately. When examining this fish on land, the scales looked like a suit of armour. This armour along with the mouthful of sharp teeth, don’t make it hard to believe how old gar species are. Similar gars have been around since the Early Cretaceous over 100 million years ago, roomies with the dinosaurs.
This fish was kind of a fluke. I was fishing the Pickerel River in early Spring, just casting some new Mepps lures. After 5 to 6 misses on the lure, the fish got snagged. Turned out to be this little Muskellunge. The colours on this guy were so bright, clearly he was young and hadn’t been around the block yet.
This next fish was caught maybe a kilometre from the last fish, in the Early Summer. Look at the difference old age makes, this ol’ girl could have benefited from some skin cream along the way. This fish was the biggest I have ever caught or seen. Weighing in a 20.5 pounds and 45 centimetres, this fish was an apex predator. Caught trolling in a canoe, I thought I had caught a log at first. After 5 botched net jobs I was able to secure the fish. A 20 minute holding of the fish in the water to get it back in good shape seemed like a good compromise.
This was the first kind of trout I have ever caught, a Lake Trout. This was caught up in Gamitagama Lake in Lake Superior Provincial Park, in a canoe as well. This was a great year for trolling in a canoe for me, lots of action. This fish became a meal shortly after this picture, and I could hardly believe the quality of the meat. It looked better than any fish at any supermarket. I am itching to catch another one for this reason.
To cap off 2020, I caught a Chinook Salmon in the Ausable River. This was my first fish on the fly, and I could barely even remember how to reel it in amongst all the excitement. This fish fought like nothing I have ever felt before, it didn’t try to swim away, instead it just flopped with all its energy. My first fish on the fly was one to remember, and made a great dinner.
Thank you for the continual support, maybe buy the author a beer!