Wednesday, February 26, 2014

ICE FISHING AT THE KEY-HOLE ON GRAND LAKE

    We have had a mixed bag of weather this month here at home on Salmon River. Our snow pac had dropped to a manageable level and then we got a couple of snow events back to back that pushed the snow level up to three feet+. It's turning into one of those winters that starts early and holds on to the last bell. That's OK though, we are on the downer side of this tough Atlantic winter and in another month a lot of this bad weather will be behind us.
    In the meantime, there is lots of hard water fishing in the Grand Lake area and we have multiple species to pursue. Personally, I like fishing for pickerel, burbot and smelt. The last two species can usually be fished at the same time but for pickerel the ice fisherman must find some shallow water and weed beds. These toothy critters hang out at the edge of the weed beds waiting for some unsuspecting forage fish to swim by. Smelt and whitefish,as well as land-locks, are taken by jigging fresh bait in a little deeper water. The burbot will move into the shallows to feed in the evening and a gob of bait or a live minnow right on the bottom will take this freshwater version of the cod fish. Burbot make excellent table fare and I love having a feed deep-fried in batter with French fries. Many ice fishermen think you must use live minnows to catch pickerel but that is not the case. We proved that during the annual ice fishing tournament at the Key-hole on Grand Lake this past week-end.

    I have been fishing local tournaments for over forty years in the Grand Lake area and the one held recently by the village of Minto was one of the better ones I have attended. I haven't figured out if that's because we did so well at the tournament or if it's because of all the folks having such a good time out there on a perfect day that had temperatures running up to +7 degrees Celsius. I was particularly impressed with how many kids were there and how many doting parents and grand-parents were on hand for the fishing fun,  hot dogs and hot chocolate. The following photo shows the registration booth and the hot dog stand.
 I like to get out early and when I arrived the master of ceremonies was the only one on hand so I chatted up Mr. Glenn for a while as he got things prepared for the arriving fishermen. I've known Brian Glenn and his family all my life, having grown up in Minto and he had a brother who was my age so I know him quite well. I was impressed that Brian used his own equipment to ready the fishing area and was using his own muscle power to sand the hill. We had quite a discussion about why Grand Lake is so underutilized,  yet is the largest lake in the province and a very beautiful one to boot! Overall, I would say Brian and his volunteer helpers did a good job organizing this tournament.
 
    
 This photo shows some of the fishermen and one of the snowmen built by the kids when they got bored by the fishing. Or was that the parents? No matter, everyone was having a lot of fun and the fishing was pretty good. The next photo shows my grandson Jackson with the little perch he caught right at the start of the tournament. That was his first fish taken through the ice so he was pretty excited!
 Our team included myself, my son Curtis, my grandson Jackson, his father Gary and two young bucks, Matt Banks and Chris Pollick. Matt and Chris did a good job drilling holes and helping with the heavier work. The next photo shows Matt and Chris drilling a hole at the start of the tournament.
 It's good to have some younger guys on hand when participating in these outdoor activities because it doesn't take long for a guy my age to tucker out lugging equipment and drilling holes. We had a great team that day and it sure made the day more enjoyable having some help getting set up. This is a short video clip I made as the tournament was getting started.
 
    Some of you may ask how good was the fishing? It was that good that I hooked a fish on the first line as I lowered it down the hole! I was just checking the depth of the water when I felt that familiar tug and before I could get him up the hole he was gone. No matter. I knew he would be right there handy and I would probably get another shot at him. I was right! I had action in that hole all day long during the tournament and we were catching most of our fish in the holes around this first one. I had been told leading up to this tournament that the pickerel weren't taking well and the only chance you had was fishing with live minnows. Well, I didn't swallow this and I just stayed with my game plan and it paid off, in spades! We had action right off the hop and this continued until the last bell. The next photo shows Matt Banks with a nice fish he landed.
 This fish was 22.75 inches long and is considered a nice sized pickerel. We all caught fish and they were all over 20 in. except for the perch we caught. The fish were coming so quickly at one point that we didn't get photos of all the fish we caught but we did get a few of the biggest ones like the one my son-in-law Gary is holding in the next photo.
 We figured we would be in the winners circle somewhere with the fish we had landed but when my son Curt hooked a big one and just got it up the hole, it came off the hook. I knew as soon as I seen the fish it was a big one so I yell at Curt "Get that fish!". Curt immediately dove face first into that six inch puddle of water where the hole was and scooped the fish out of harms way. Talk about a fellow moving fast! The whoops and war cries soon followed and we were all excited including little Jack. Now, Curt and I have caught and released hundreds and hundreds of pickerel during our lives on the water and we are very good at estimating the size of these fish and I immediately said "That fish is 24+ inches long" and Curt chimed in with "I'm saying 26 inches Dad". We would find out later that someone else disagreed but I will get back to that later on. Here is a photo of that fish and please note that Curt is holding the fish close to his body as you can see by his bent arm.
 THAT is a trophy sized pickerel in any one's book! This fish was certainly the biggest fish we caught that day but we kept on fishing until the siren went to end the tournament. Our team fished hard but we took a short break for some hot dogs and beverage. We were all having a ball, including little Jackie, so when we got a moment between the action I got Mattie Banks to get a photo of my son Curtis, my grandson Jackson and myself. The following photo is the one Matt took and I'll be keeping this one in a frame.
 Note the heavy slush and abundance of water where we drilled the holes. It was pretty messy but if you had good footwear like rubber boots, you could keep dry. The registration area was like a small lake and you definitely wanted rubber footwear if you were registering a fish or getting a hot dog for a snack. The following short clip shows the registration area as the tournament was wrapping up.  I had been fishing one hole pretty steady but I had another hole nearby that I was also tending. As I stepped away from jigging my other hole, I noticed my Rod was gone and I said "That's great, a good rod taken down the hole". I quickly rigged up another rod and never thought much about it again when about an hour and a half later a pickerel took and I hauled it out of the hole. After I landed that fish I looked down and there was my missing rod with all the terminal tackle still attached! We were not only catching lots of big fish, we were also catching missing rods! What's the chance of that happening? The next photo shows Curt and I with the pickerel AND the rod I caught along with it!
 
 This was a good tournament and it was a beautiful day to be out on the pond fishing with friends and family. As the tournament was winding down we had registered all of our fish and when Gary and little Jackson registered Curt's big pickerel there were some ooh's and ahh's from the onlookers, with some exclaiming "There's your winner". It was put in the measuring box and the measurer said " That's 25 inches...no, wait we have to get this precise, it's 25 .25 " and a little cheer went up. The lady scorer then told Gary he could put it back down one of the holes drilled near the registration area. Gary obediently pushed the big fish down the hole and made his way back to where the rest of us were waiting. As he approached our group, I noticed he wasn't holding the fish and I immediately got a sinking feeling and I asked Gary where the fish was and what did it measure. He told me that they told him to put it back down the hole and that it measured in at 25.25 inches, which was confirmed by Chris Pollick who was with him during the registration. I was disappointed that he put the fish back because I wanted to get some more photos and confirm the size of this nice trophy sized pickerel. Oh well, all is good,
 so Gary and I took a short beverage break and when we returned later Matt Banks told me that a bigger fish came in while we were gone. I was quite surprised because I knew this pond only held a handful of fish that compared to the one we caught and since only about one- third of the pond was being fished, I felt that the odds of someone getting one bigger were very small. I asked Matt how big the fish was that surpassed ours and Matt replied that it was 24 inches. I made a face and said "That's not right, ours was 25.25. to which Matt replied that our fish was down at 23.75 inches. I was shocked at first and then I could feel my face getting red. This wasn't good. This all unfolded near the end of the tournament so I told Gary to go check it out and he returned and said that it was down at 23.75 inches . By this time I was getting upset and I said maybe I should go talk the situation over with the officials. My son Curtis, who had caught the fish for our team, spoke up and said "You know Dad, we had a great day out here today and Jack is sure to be in the winners circle,  so lets just let it go because we don't have the fish and we will look like sore sports" I thought for a moment and then I agreed with him. When I thought about it later I was very proud of my son for taking the high road on this issue and the more I thought about it, the prouder I got! I guess my boy was paying attention to his father when I was trying to instill the virtues of good sportsmanship over the years. Jackson ended up with second place overall and he was very happy with that placing. All he knew was that he was a winner and I got to thinking we were ALL winners on that beautiful day. The following photo shows Gary and Jackson with his plaque for second place.
 
 
As I said, it was a good tournament and it was a great day to be on the ice but I did notice a couple of things that the tournament organizers should address. There was no porta-pottie on site so women, children and old folks were left to their own devices when they had to use the bathroom. It made for a difficult situation. Also, there were no rules, written or spoken , that participants could use as a guideline during the tournament. I know this caused considerable confusion among our team members as well as others who were participating. A hand out sheet when signing up would have been very helpful or even if the rules were listed during the advertising of this event, it would have cleared up some of the confusion. I know personally, I thought it was a fun tournament for kids and seniors but I found out later that this event is taken quite seriously by some fishermen and that there were cash prizes awarded for the top place finishers in three categories. We knew none of this and if we had,  we would have done things a bit differently. I would much rather fish a tournament without any money prizes because I have seen how other contests have turned out over the years. One tournament in particular has been notorious for the cheaters who want in on the money and will do so at any cost. All this does is make for bad feelings and actually defeats the purpose of having these contests. Nothing is perfect in this world and hopefully someone reading this blog who is connected to this tournament will pay attention to these discrepancies I have pointed out and take steps to correct them.
 
Before closing, I want to show my readers a very nice piece of art work I acquired recently of an etching of a trophy moose done by Maritime artist M. Ladds. This beautiful piece of work is signed and dated by the artist and is sure to appreciate in value over time.
 I am in the process of selling this piece so it will no longer be for sale.
 
Ken and I look forward to any and all correspondence about our guide service so please don't hesitate to contact me regarding a trip to our hunting grounds or a fishing trip on any of our beautiful waterways. Until then, this is Dale Bauer saying "Happy Trails to You.....Until we Meet Again!"
 

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