I worked both days last weekend, and I'll be working both days this weekend. Today was just too nice to be sitting in the office twirling my thumb while I'm waiting for cells to grow.
I decided to go home at 2:30pm and tried to get to the Islands by 4pm. However, the world was working against me...
1) By the time I actually got home, it was already 3:15pm and I would be pushing it for the 4pm ferry.
2) On the way to the ferry, there was a subway delay. In fact, there were a smoke emergency in one of the subway station and all the trains had to turn back from Bloor Station. There were some shuttle bus running so I thought it wouldn't be too bad.
3) As we were waiting for the next shuttle bus, a taxi hit another car right in front of our stop. I could only guess that the taxi driver was probably looking for passengers. With the accident, it blocked the intersection and there was no chance a bus would be coming in the next 20 minutes.
So I walked the 3.4km to the ferry dock on a packed Yonge St. during rush hour...fun...no...it wasn't fun...I was often stuck behind people who loved to stroll slowly on a busy sidewalk...I felt like screaming "Fish are waiting...get out of the WAY!!!"
One good thing did come out of this walk. I bumped into a friend I haven't seen in 2 years and I was happy to hear she has now found a job downtown after completing her Masters degree.
Anyways, I got to the ferry dock about 10 minutes before the ferry left. Phew.
Finally, at 5:30pm, I got started fishing. I always rig up on the ferry so I can immediately start fishing at my spot.
Today, I was determined to hunt for bowfin. I rigged up with 8lb test, a #10 circle hook and a whole crawler. The first couple of areas didn't show any bowfin. One area had a mat of dead leaves on top of 6" of water. On this first pass, I didn't get any hits poking the worm through the leaf litter. I'll talk more about this a little later.
When I came to the corner of this bay, I saw a large bowfin sitting right under a large downed branch with many smaller branches scattered about. It was pretty difficult presenting the nightcrawler to the fish...nevermind how I was going to pull the fish out of these snags if the fish decide to bite.
Now...a little on sightfishing bowfin. I noticed that if I can sneak up on the bowfin before it could see me, I have a much better chance not to spook it. I saw the bowfin as I was coming from its tail end side. The bowfin probably haven't seen me yet.
As I lobbed the nightcrawler gently into the water, barely making a ripple, I maneuvered the worm slowly and finally got it within 2" of the fish's head. For all intensive purposes, this bowfin looks like the one I cast to 3 times the last trip to the Islands. It was a big male and it looked very similar. I was prepared for this fish to take some time to hit, if it would even decide to hit. I squat as low as possible and tried to get comfortable, ready to squat there for at least 5 minutes.
About 30 seconds passed when the wriggling worm started to garner some interest. At first, I saw the dorsal fin raised a bit. Then, there was a slow undulation, then pause. A couple seconds later, the fish head pointed down toward the worm and in very slow motion, the fish crept forward. With its nostril literally touching the worm, the fish paused there looking at the worm. Suddenly, the worm wriggled a little more and I could see the dorsal fin wave in excitement. The fish gingerly picked up the back end of the worm, then in another gulp took the whole worm in. This entire time, I was shaking with adrenaline and my heart was pounding a mile a minute!
Finally, I came to my senses and just tightened the line. OH CRAP!!! Here it went! The fish immediately swam right into all the fallen branches and I now had a tough situation on hand. Luckily, the fish kept going and it didn't really tangle into any branch. I just lightened the drag a little to the fish can swim around. Finally, it slowed down a little and I tried to pull it back throug the snag.
I just want to make a note here how important it is to trust your gear. I have complete confidence in my reel, line and rod. I've pulled 15lb carp out of fallen branches before with the same setup. All you really need to do is gently and steady pull back to EASE the fish back through the branches. Yanking or horsing the fish will likely end up with a pulled hook or a snapped line. A gently pressure often works better.
So I tried to ease the fish back out. I got the fish back into the snags when it decided to run again. This time, one of the branches fell off. I started pulling steadily again and got it almost out except for one large branch. The fish decided to run again but this time it ran sideways, and in the process, it helped me to actually clear the large branch! Finally the fish was in the clear. Phew!
Okay...now we have to get down and dirty. The fish was refusing to be landed. Every time it was about 6" from the net, it would twist, turn and run off 20 feet again. This took place about 6 times when I finally tired it enough to net it.
All my previous bowfins where females. This was a big male! I figure it was around the 27-28" range based on the size of my net hoop. There was no one around so I took a self portrait with the self timer. My camera is great for most part...except focusing on the subject with the self timer...sigh...
There were some time vortices aroudn me...very trippy
After releasing the fish, it sat right back down on the bottom pretending to look like a branch again. Can you see it?
As soon as I put on a new worm, I saw a cruising bowfin right next to the one I caught. I tried to toss the worm at the fish but the fish wasn't interested at all.
About another 50 feet away, I thought I saw a dark shadow lying almost next to shore against the rocks. There was a shadow cast on the water so it was difficult to determine if it was a fish or not. I tossed the worm away from the shadow and worked it back to where I would guess the head was positioned. About 10 seconds passed when I saw the fin waved. Yes, it's a bowfin! I was right!
The fish moved forward and I couldn't see my worm anymore. I thought the fish had taken the worm so I pulled tight to set the hook, but the fish immediately spooked and jetted off. The fish must have just sat on top of the worm. It was hard to see with the shadow what the fish was really doing.
I worked the other side of the way where I had never seen a bowfin...and not surprisingly, I didn't see one there today. So I finally crossed the bridge and made it back to where I started. It was then I noticed this dead pike right by shore. It looked like something had already eaten the head and part of the body since part of the spine was cleaned.
I walked back to the area where there was a mat of floating dead leaves. I poked the worm around any openings and thought I had worked the area pretty well. I thought I was moving rather quietly until one foot landing spooked a fish under the mat and it took off! This fish was about 20 feet from me, yet it was able to feel the very light vibration made by my stalking steps.
I was really creeping about this area now. I was stepping even gentler and I was going about at a crawl pace. Surprisingly, another bowfin about 20 feet ahead of my direction of travel was spooked. This one took off too. Darn!
I worked the entire side back to where I caught the bowfin and saw none. I kept working forward until I was about 30 feet from the spot where where I spooked the bowfin with the hookset. The low sun angle really makes sightfishing very tough as there were now shadows all around and there was hardly any light into the water. The surface glare was also exaggerated since the light angle was so low. As I was slowly moving forward, I spooked a bowfin that was sitting right by shore. It was only 10 feet from me and I couldn't even see it.
I started to work my way back since it was almost time to leave. In a pile of branches where I had already check 3 times, I saw the head of a bowfin poking through this 4th time. As I put aside my backpack and extra carp rod, I slowly crept back toward the water. I couldn't see the bowfin head since the fish had now swam out into the open. It continued to slowly swam away until my casting motion sent it running away. That fish had seen me coming the whole time. Man, they are frustrating sometimes.
By about 7:15pm, it was impossible to sightfish for them. I decided to call it a day.
I was really happy to land my first bowfin of the year...but the number of fish I spooked suggested that I'm still not stalking these fish quiet and stealthily enough. I gotta work even slower and look ahead much further in the future.
Last edited by MuskieBait; 04-18-2012 at 10:17 PM.
Hm...interesting Dave. It's surprising how much it can change in a few hours! I know there were at least 5 individual fish (the one I caught, a rusty looking one, the smaller one I spooked with the hookset, and the two under the floating leaf litter.
There were two other fish that I didn't get a good enough look...they could be individual fish or they could be the same fish I saw previous.
I wonder if they sit out deeper when the water is cold. In the afternoon, the shoreline water is also warmer after a day of heating so perhaps they take advantage of all the warm water and to soak up the sun themselves. Too bad it's so hard to sightfish for them in the evening...their metabolism should be higher at that time and they may be more willing to bite...
Unfortunately, Torontonians don't know how to react to cyclists...I had enough issues with Toronto pedestrians that I eventually gave up and just pace my bike behind them until I can get an opening (This is for Lakeshore when there are stretches where cyclists and walkers share the trail).
Wow, some beautiful looking fish Ken, congrats. Season opens here tomorrow but there is still lots of ice on the rivers and a couple of feet on the lakes. Will be a while before i get my boat in the...