These are the folks who contribute the most to make steelheading in Ontario as great as it is!
A Great Lake revival
The demise of alewives and salmon in Lake Huron brought something nobody expected: An explosion of native species. Is Lake Michigan next? And could a more diverse ecosystem offer protection against Asian carp and other invaders?
By Dan Egan of the Journal Sentinel staff
Linwood, Mich. — Ernie Plant's eyes get wide when he talks about how spectacular Lake Huron's salmon fishing was back in the late 1980s, when his dad would take him up north on Friday nights after his high school football games.
They'd spend fall weekends along the shore of the lake chasing the chinook that were chasing the alewives that ran so thick they even teemed in water-filled ditches along coastal roadways.
A Watershed Moment
Third of three parts
Published Dec. 7, 2014
"We never had a boat," said the sales manager at Frank's Great Outdoors, a gear and bait shop north of Bay City. "But we didn't need one."
When Lake Huron's salmon crashed a decade ago, Plant, who holds a degree in biology from Northern Michigan University, had no doubt the lake would eventually right itself and the fish would come back.
And fish did return — but they weren't the fish Plant or many others expected.
What has happened in the decade since the crash of Lake Huron's two dominant species — invasive Atlantic alewives and the giant Pacific salmon planted to gobble them up — is a remarkable story of nature's resilience. Efforts by lake managers to sustain the invasive alewives to keep the salmon fishing rolling had, for decades, pushed native species to the fringes.
But when the alewife dwindled and the salmon followed, there was an almost instant surge in native lake trout, walleye, smallmouth bass, chubs and emerald shiners.
"It all happened as soon as the alewives were gone," said Michigan Department of Natural Resources biologist Dave Fielder. "The natives started producing like crazy."
The remarkable result is that today the top of the Lake Huron food chain more closely resembles its natural self than anytime since the lamprey and alewives invaded in the mid-1900s.
"Lake Huron's fishery," said Jim Johnson, a retired biologist with the Michigan DNR, "is more stable and robust in the past four or five years than it has been in a long time."
It has everything to do with the disappearance of alewives, and little to do with Howard Tanner and Wayne Tody's grand salmon plan, crafted after alewives had over-run Lakes Michigan and Huron. Tanner said he was never interested in trying to bring back native species just because they were native. He wanted the best sport fishery he could fashion from the lakes — and for him that meant Pacific salmon.
And that led to managing the lakes in a manner that would preserve the invasive alewives for the salmon to eat.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of fishing with Robbie D of Big City Fishing, chasing down spring catfish on a smaller Lake Erie tributary. The fish were not in thick just yet but we had our share of battles with old whisker face. Some regions like the lower Grand River see early runs of catfish right after ice-out, but many of the lesser known and lesser fished waters get significant runs that are just starting heat up. Any creek or river with clay/mud bottoms and a good amount of near shore timber will host decent numbers of these fish.
Catfish fishing in Southern Ontario is an excellent filler between spring trout fishing and early summer bass opener. They are not the most glamorous fish available in the Great Lakes region but they sure will give you all the fight you can handle, and then some! These are not the little brown bullhead or mudcats that you incidentally catch when live bait fishing. These are big angry and very explosive fish when first hooked, and they don't let off until you put the clamps on them.
The average fish is between 7-10lbs but often exceed 15-20lbs. Heavy gear is the order of the day when angling for these beasts. A 9' M/H rod, a 300/3000 series reel or better, spooled with 30lb braid is an adequate set up to tame these big kitties. We use an assortment of cut-bait, dead minnows, shrimp style baits, and anything else with a heavy oily fish smell. Pautzke Nectar is an excellent bait rejuvantor for baits that have been soaking for too long, or to give that added kick. Size 3/0-5/0 hooks work well for hooking these large meaty servings, and we suspend them under a float. Split shot may or may not be necessary depending on the depths fished.
Canoes and kayaks are an excellent stealth approach for getting right on top of these fish where you need to be. Allowing you run your presentation under float with no unnatural movement as you drift down the creek or river.
Watch for the videos and more pics of this adventure coming on Big City Fishing.
So if you are already bored with pike, and panfish aren't your thing, grab your paddling gear and head out for some spring cats to fill the void, or look up Nomad Adventures for your catfish fix!
And be sure to bring extra hooks because the submerged timber rarely gives back!
Had a great time out with Rob Dankowsky of Big City Fishing this past week. We absolutely hammered the fish in a short span of just 3 hours of kayak fishing! Three huge Chinook Salmon came to the boat in the first forty minutes, followed by a smaller one. Lake Ontario grand slams were easy to come by on this trip, when just after that initial burst we had a plethora of Brown Trout, Coho Salmon and Lake Trout.
Our timing was perfect having connected with 13 fish in total. Unfortunately the warm weather has arrived and now driven the fish out to deeper water in search of baitfish. Watch for this episode to air on Big City Fishing later in 2015 or early 2016.
We now shift our efforts to cooler waters of Lake Huron and the Niagara River in search of more salmon and trout. Be sure to book your next fishing adventure with Nomad Adventures!
Air Temp: +3C @ 7am start, +8C @ 10am finish
Wind: 20km/h NW dropping to 10km/h NW
Water Temp: 40.6F @ 7am, 42F @ 10am
Fish: 3 Chinook, 3 Coho, 1 Laker, plus many more caught by friends in just a 3 hour span.
The Salmon bite was ON for Lake Ontario but only lasted a week with the warm temps that arrived over this past week.
Book your Great Lakes salmon trip this fall or next spring with Nomad Adventures before they are gone!
Fishing has improved dramatically in Southern Ontario over the past 10 days. We had our first group of the season out on Lake Ontario for some spring trolling.
Air: 10C @ 7am start, 19C @ noon finish
Wind: 20km/hr W or less
Fish: Brown Trout, Lake Trout, Coho Salmon
Baits: body baits 3-4" long
Things will only get better now until June. Be sure to contact Nomad Adventures for your next fishing adventure!
If you are kayak fishing or just paddling in water that is less than 70F, this video provides some very important information you need to know. Everyone needs to completely understand how to deal with the elements when out on big open water but knowing cold water safety is the first to learn. Any kayak anglers who spring or fall fish, especially on the Great Lakes, this is a MUST SEE!
If swimming in cooler water makes you uncomfortable, then imagine how ice cold water feels right against your skin in the spring because you chose waders over a proper drysuit.
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