I got out for some ice fishing last Wednesday afternoon on Crappie Bay on the Ottawa River at Petrie Island–it was February 5th. It was panfish I hoped to catch through the ice. Crappie Bay holds black crappie, bluegill, pumpkinseed and yellow perch. I brought wax worms for bait and an array of rods and reels fitted with bare hooks and tungsten jigs. I felt a little apprehensive as the memory of my last ice fishing expedition to Crappie Bay came to mind. It was a debacle! Everything that could possibly go wrong did. I will spare you the details as it is a long story, but trust me; the ice fishing expedition was a disaster. Also, I had the newly installed drill on my ice auger. I learned from my hunting buddy Mike that the previous drill I used is the wrong model. The old drill lacked the torque to power the auger to break through the ice adequately. With cautious optimism, I set out on the ice to see what fortune would bring.
I am not a competent boatman. It may be that I have so little experience operating motor boats or I lack the aptitude for operating outboard moters. It may be a combination of the two issues. I got a painful reminder this morning while out for a solo fishing expedition on the Rideau River between Manotick and Kemptville. Buoyed by the successful outing with Doug and his son Landon last weekend–we caught lots of panfish, perch, sunfish and a white crappie and had are really good time–I had high hopes for my fishing trip this morning. I stopped by Sail Ottawa earlier in the week to shop for tackle to fish for crappie. I needed a bigger tacklebox before I left Sail.
While at Sail I looked over some fish finders. I remember seeing one in action several years ago when I went fishing with a neighbour on the Greater Rideau Lake. While I typically like the old ways when it comes to fishing and hunting, I thought I might give it a try. I checked out various brands of portable fishfinders online and found the Garmin Striker 4 Fish Finder with Portable Kit to my liking. Even better, Canadian Tire had them on sale! I paid for the Garmin fish finder online and picked it up at Canadian Tire the next day. Mika helped me assemble the kit–I am not very good at assembling gadgets that come in kits. I looked up tutorials on YouTube to learn how to operate the new fish finder. One aspect I like about the Garmin fish finder I bought is it has a GPS also. The only thing about the new fish finder I found iffy was the suction cup mount for the transducer. Though I viewed a video on how to mount the transducer on the transom of a boat, I wondered just how reliable such a mount could be.
I decided my fishing expedition this morning would be more prospecting than fishing. I intended to try out the new fish finder in hopes of finding good fishing spots for future outings with Doug and his boys. Crappie were my secondary objective; I had high hopes I could find a school of crappie using the fish finder and catch a few with the new tackle. I searched thoroughly for information on the ecology and habits of crappie, and tactics for successfully fishing for them. I found plenty of videos on YouTube featuring seasoned fishermen offering tips on crappie fishing. I found reports on the main range of crappie in Ontario waters, and the stretch of the Rideau River I fished this morning looked good. I was keyed up and set to go. Still, in the back of my mind, the nagging thought “what could possibly go wrong” lingered. My preparations were so careful this time, “surely everything will go smoothly this time,” I mused confidently.
I picked up my boat at at about 7:30 am and stopped on the way to the W.P. Taylor Conservation Area to add more fuel to the gas tank for the outboard motor. I arrived at the boat launch in good time and as I hoped it was nowhere near as busy as last weekend. I loaded my gear into the boat and carefully attached the transducer for the Garmin fish finder to the transom. I got the boat into the water easily enough. I spoke briefly with an elderly gentleman fishing from the dock. He is visiting his son and grandchildren. He is from Waterloo. On board the outboard motor roared to life without any trouble. I set out for the spot where Doug, his son Landon and I got into panfish the weekend before. I turned on the fish finder and it worked. Everything was going fine, then things abruptly went off the rails.
As I noted in the opening paragraph, I do not have a wealth of experience operating motorboats. I cannot explain what happened but suspect I got something wrong in trying to set the outboard motor for shallow running. Suddenly, the outboard motor tipped up with the propeller almost out of the water and the bow pointing up high out of the water. “This is not right,” I thought with a note of alarm. I hit the kill switch and as the boat drifted adjusted the outboard motor. It took some doing, and my inexperience was not an asset. Eventually I got the outboard motor sorted out. It started with one pull and when I put it in gear the boat moved forward with the bow level on the water. “Great,” I thought, then I heard the sickening “clunk” of something caught in the propeller. I hit the kill switch and to my horror saw the transducer somehow came unfastened and got caught in the propeller. Upon closer examination the transducer survived but the mount and suction cup were torn off and lost.
There I sat on the Rideau River, my prospecting mission over before it started. Rather than give up and return to shore I decided to proceed with my effort to find and maybe catch some crappie. I motored on to the lee side of an island in the channel. There were brush piles and stumps in weed beds. It looked worth a try. Jigging with a bobber, I hoped, might land me a crappie. Turns out my optimism was misplaced. My first cast at the edge of a weed bed ended with my jig, artificial bait and leader taking up permanent residence on the river bottom. Fine, I picked up the anchors and moved to the spot where I caught several panfish with Doug and Landon the previous weekend. I replaced the bait, jig and leader and tried my luck a while. Nothing took the bait.
While I was out on the river I motored up to the other side of the Highway 416 bridge as I heard this is a good spot for pike and walleye fishing. It may be but the area is a fairly broad expanse. I anchored in what looked a likely spot as any and cast a few lines using a Black Fury lure. All I caught was weeds. After a while I moved back close to the spot where I jigged unsuccessfully for crappie. This time I had a few bites. I think it was sunfish or perch. Nothing took the bait. I decided to call it a morning at 11:00 am.
On the way back to shore I came upon a pair of terns perched on a buoy. The birds posed for me and I got some nice photos of them. I recovered the boat without incident and safely returned it to the garage where I store it. In the end, it was more a crappy day than a day of crappie fishing for me. I had a mishap with my new fish finder and did not catch any fish. In spite of today’s misfortune, I remain determined to try again. The challenge now is finding a way to safely mount the transducer to the transom. That and see if someone more seasoned in operating motor boats can give me basic instruction in the technique.
Posted by Geoffrey
Set out this morning as planned for a second fishing expedition with Doug and his young sons. There was a slight change of plans as Doug’s younger son, Tristan, was due at a birthday party he did not want to pass up. This time the fishing expedition consisted of myself, Doug and his older son, Landon. I loaded my gear into the Jeep and left to retrieve my boat from the garage I rent shortly after 7:00 am. I was due to pick up Doug and Landon at 8:00 am. I had time to stop and grab a coffee and doughnut at Tim Hortons on the way to the garage. This time I made sure to notify the owner of the garage I would be coming for the boat this morning. When I arrived at the garage, happily, the driveway was not blocked by a parked car, as was the case the last time I came to retrieve the boat. I hitched the boat trailer to my Jeep and installed the new trailer lock.
I arrived in good time, about fifteen minutes early. Doug and Landon were still getting ready for our fishing trip. Tristan showed me a Lego vehicle he assembled the night before and told me of the birthday party he would attend later that day. I gave Doug some ground venison I brought for him. I still have plenty left from last season’s buck, more than enough to share with friends. We loaded Doug’s and Landon’s fishing gear into the car and were on our way shortly after 8:00 am. Our destination was the W. A. Taylor Conservation Area on the Rideau River, not far from Manotick. There is a boat launch and parking lot among the amenities at the conservation area. In addition, from what I found in searching online, this stretch of the Rideau offers good fishing for small fish, yellow perch, sunfish and crappie. These species of fish are easier to catch than the larger game fish such as pike and walleye. I thought it would be fun for Landon to catch a few perch, sunfish or crappie for this outing.
We stopped on the drive to the conservation area at a bait shop where Doug bought two containers of worms. It was on the way which was handy. When we arrived at the conservation area and found it is busy this time of year. There were several vehicles with boat trailers parked already and we waited as two men launched Seadoos ahead of us. The boat launch is concrete and angled, making it much easier to launch and recover boats. Doug and I had the boat in the water in no time. With our gear and everyone on board in their lifejackets–no one rides in my boats without a life jacket on–Doug started the outboard motor. It quickly sputtered out and refused to turnover despite repeated pulls. Dread welled up initially until I noticed the gas line had disconnected from the gas tank somehow. Doug reconnected the gas line to the tank and this time the outboard motor roared to life.
I asked Doug to handle the outboard motor. This way he could supervise and Landon could have a turn driving the boat too. We sped along the river toward Kemptville and stopped at the tip of an island. We anchored the boat and tried our luck with worms as bait in a weedy shallow. Nothing took the bait and we thought it must be too shallow and weedy for the fish we sought. We pulled up the anchors and moved to the other side of the island to a deeper and less weedy stretch of the river. Here we caught a couple of small perch and sunfish. Some of the fish were so small we did not notice we hooked them until we reeled in our lines.
Once more we pulled up the anchors and moved into deeper water where there were few weeds. Doug and I cast a few lines with lures, hoping to have a pike or walleye strike, but nothing obliged us. I caught a small crappie when I switched to a worm on a hook. We turned back and went to the island where we started; only this time we anchored a little farther from shore. I tried jigging with a worm on a hook in the water just off the boat and quickly hooked a sunfish. I released the sunfish after unhooking it. Surprisingly, as my unbaited hook dangled in the water, another sunfish bit and was caught. Doug, Landon and I then had lots of action jigging for small fish in this spot. Landon caught some nice sunfish. Doug caught some sunfish and perch and I caught a nice crappie.
Things went smoothly as we fished until late in the morning. Still, I found using a spinning reel as tricky as ever. I swear, my hands feel like hooves when I try to cast and reel in the line with a spinning reel. I had a few snags–nothing I could not sort out on the spot, luckily. I think I should probably try a spincast or baitcast reel in place of a spinning reel. When we were finished for the day, Landon drove the boat back to the launch.
Recovering the boat went without any difficulty and on shore we spoke to a man who told us there is good fishing for pike and walleye in the stretch of the river just beyond the Highway 416 bridge. We noted this for our next expedition. Doug decided taking the boys individually works well. It is easier when he can focus his attention on one of his boys at a time when we are out fishing. Next time we head out on the Rideau for some fishing we will bring Tristan and alternate between Landon and Tristan as the season progresses. We had a very good day on the river and I look forward to more fishing expeditions this summer.
Posted by Geoffrey