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R.R. #8
Owen Sound,Ontario
Canada, N4K 5W4

Now before I go on a rant about provincial natural resources ministries and biologists around the country, let me first state that some provinces, in fact, many provinces here in Canada have fish and wildlife departments that are doing a superb job of improving and providing angling opportunities and as for biologists, most have got their heart in their occupation and their work as well is excellent. Howís that for a long drawn out sentence?

Now for a couple of shorter sentences. The fisheries work carried out by some provinces is mediocre at best. A few biologists in important positions do more to stagnate a sport fishery, than improve it.

For instance, Iím really impressed by the efficiency of the fishery representatives in Manitoba. The manner in which they manage harvests with limits, slots, sanctuaries and barbless hook regulations is impressive. Mind you, a little more than a decade ago when I began studying the Manitoba operation, I was more than a little skeptical on their approach to protecting and improving.

The same goes for biologists. Iíve been in the fishing business for almost forty years and Iíve been associated with some of the best. The only problem being, the very best are often the ones, who while working the hardest, seldom advance to the top of their profession. At times, those with the most desire and knowledge are held back from attaining their true potential. Many are even denied the promotions they deserve. More than a few supervisors wearing blinders and fearful of aggressive, hard working bios below them at times have gone out of their way to limit not only their accomplishments, but also in turn hinder the goal of fisheries improvement.

A typical case in point was a chap by the name of Jerry Smitka and no, heís not deceased, just happily retired now from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources . Back in the early 70ís, Smitka was a young, gung-ho bio, fresh out of university and ready to change and improve angling in Ontario. At the time, Jerry and I became friends due in part for my concern for the state of fishing in the province. We teamed up on more than a few autumn coho egg stripping operations. In fact, we were also the first to track down and collect eggs and sperm from overgrown chinook up on Lake Huron tributaries to sustain and rejuvenate the Lake Ontario program. In my books, Smitka was one of the finest biologists Iíve ever been in associated with, but for years he had to over-achieve, struggle and even threaten to hold a part time position within Ontarioís Ministry of Natural Resources, let alone obtain full time employment.

Yes, Smitka finally did gain full time employment with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and the benefits that go along with the job but it was a struggle.

Since I own this page on the internet and Iím putting this page together, let me add, that in all the years I worked alongside Smitka and viewed his achievements, I also watched as other less qualified and what I like to refer to as Ďbuttí kissing biologists, do a lot less, but still advance a lot farther up the chain of command with the Ministry of Natural Resources.

Then thereís a guy named Lloyd Thurston. Thurston also now enjoys the benefits of a government pension, but I believe suffered under the restraints at the time of supervisors above him. I was first introduced to this biologist back in the 1960ís when he was almost single-handedly attempting to improve and protect Ontarioís famed Moon River walleye population.

Thurston was one of the scientists given the task of attempting to establish the ministryís much touted Ďsplakeí program. To those not in the know, the splake was a laboratory finned mule that was a cross between a lake trout and a brook trout. After years of ministry tinkering, back crossing and wasting millions of taxpayers dollars, Thurston came to the same conclusion as myself and other concerned anglersÖthe splake, backcross or whatever name you wanted to give the fish or the program, was a total bust. Lloyd was one of the few, if not the only government employee to break rank and proclaim it so. At one particular meeting on the subject of splake and its future in the Great Lakes, I sat back in alarm as a roomful of other government employed bios verbally abused and ridiculed Thurstonís assessment of the program. Here was a typical case of ministry biologists making the company look good, even though the they were wrong and the program was a disaster and also denying the fact that Thurston was right and also the only government employee in the room at the time with a backbone.

My viewpoint is simple, good biologists are the reason for well run and successful provincial fish and wildlife departments from one end of Canada to the other. At the same time a couple of bad biologists can totally ruin any provincial fisheries agencies, especially if these biologists climb their way to the top of the ladder. In many instances, a couple of bad apples can spoil the success at the district level, the regional level and even as far up as the provincial level.

Too many good biologists have been left to struggle over the years, while a couple of shall we sayÖbutt kissersÖ have climbed the ladder of personal success, while at the same time have accomplished very little over the years in the way of protecting and improving our sport fishery.

Whatís that saying about a few bad apples, spoiling the entire bushel?


The Good
The latest report from Fisheries and Oceans indicates that saltwater trolling for kings and coho will be as good as, or even better than it was last year. Those who have been out on the coast over the past decade can relate to the fact that in most cases the fishery has been getting better every year and just about every year over the past decade has been fantastic.

As noted in the past, credit for the return of the big ones, has to be given to a working relationship between the Federal Government, sport fishing interests, commercial fishermen and native groups. We also should remember that Mother Nature has given us a helping hand as well. But again, a coalition of interest groups has really gone a long way in rejuvenating the Pacific sport fishery to almost historic levels. In short, the agreements forged have led to sport anglers being allowed first opportunity on chinook and coho. The commercial industry targets sockeye, pink and chums first. Native tribes are given first opportunity for substance and a portion of the commercial catch. Thatís not to mean that commercial operators have been removed from the harvesting of kings and coho, just that they can target this species after escapement levels have been established.
Much of the better trolling in the past few years and predicted for this summer will still be the west coast of Vancouver Island, the Queen Charlottes and northwest coastline of the province above the Straits of Georgia. Make a quick click on your mouse to,,, and you can get the proper info for finding the hottest action in our portion of the Pacific. All of the noted operators are famed for plenty of big kings in the 35 to 60 pound range and for northern coho until your arms fall off.

Itís interesting to note that Manitoba continues to boast favorable reports for the coming walleye season throughout most parts of the province. Once again, hereís a jurisdiction that prides itself not only in protecting fish stocks, but also for improving and promoting their fishery. I had the opportunity to visit Knee Lake Resort located approximately 500 miles north of Winnipeg. Talk about a real fish factory, hereís a lake thatís 50 miles long, 5 miles wide, covers 50,000 acres and will produce walleye on every cast in just about any corner of the lake. On top of that, the proprietors, Phil and Liz Ann Reid have created an establishment that is second to none and also has a kitchen that pumps out the most scrumptious meals in the north for their clientele.
Last summer also allowed me the opportunity to visit what has to be one of Canadaís finest walleye fishing grounds. Itís called Sunset Country and in particular I experienced world class fishing at two separate locations.

The first operation was Steve and Evie Hartleís Big Hook Wilderness Camp located in a sportsmanís paradise 185 air miles north of Red Lake, Ontario. Situated in the middle of the 1.5 million acre Opasquia Provincial Park, Big Hook Wilderness Camp offers up some of the hottest walleye jigging Iíve experienced. On top of that, the pike just wonít stop biting and surroundings are some of the most spectacular in the country. You can fish right off the dock at the main camp or Steve will fly you in to numerous outpost lakes that offer mind boggling action.

While you are in that neck of the woods donít pass up the opportunity to fish Birch Lake Lodge thatís just a short 70 mile flight northeast of Red Lake. Birch Lake is a big 35 mile long body of water thatís covered in islands that offer up plenty of walleye habitat and also protection from any winds that might arise.

After two days of fishing and filming, it was me and the crew that gave up and not the fish. Itís no dream if youíre thinking of hooking up with more than a couple hundred walleye in a day on this lake. The northern pike fishing is also something to make the trip for as well.

It always surprises me, just how anglers in the urban regions of Southern Ontario miss out on this fishing of a lifetime. You can fly from Toronto to Thunder Bay with WestJet, take a connection to Red Lake by Bear Skin Airlines and in no time at all be wetting a line in paradise in the lands north of Red Lake.

On the subject of northern pike and northern pike fishing, I still have to rank Lindburghís Reindeer Lake Lodge as not just the best pike fishing in Canada but probably the best northern fishing on this entire globe of ours. Take for instance the location. Itís a little more than a three hour twin engine jet prop flight in northern Saskatchewan from Winnipeg. Then thereís the lake itself. It is humongous to say the least. Reindeer is the tenth largest lake in North America, contains more than 5,500 islands, covers more than 2 million acres and has a shoreline longer than 5,700 milesÖ..and itís all fabulous pike water. Oh and by the way, the fishing for walleye is pretty stupendous as well.

Finally, there are the hosts. Iíve yet to find a better pair of operators than Brian and Charmaine Simms. They run a top notch operation, that besides the fishing, offers great accommodations and food that can be described as fantastic.

The Bad
Thatís right, I did say the fishing was great in British Columbia, but please note as well that I said the trolling for chinook and coho was better than ever on the west side of Vancouver Island and in the waters of the northwest along the coast above the big island , as well as in and around the Queen Charlottes. Then again, thereís the situation with some coho and sockeye stocks returning to various tributaries in British Columbiaís Fraser River.

Word filtering out of the Federal Fisheries and Oceans is that within a decade some of our runs, especially sockeye could be extinct or at the least have their fisheries shut down totally. In this instance the reason for the Fraser river salmon collapse can be almost exclusively blamed on the Federal government who are in charge of the fishery. Iím not the only one suggesting these days that when it comes to managing these particular stocks, our federal officials not only lack the brains to protect the system, but also the backbone. For decades, these fish have been over-fished by both American and Canadian commercial netters. Both jurisdictions have almost always failed to come up with a proper quota and catch allotment. To make matters even worse, thereís now the almost annual problem of the mysterious missing salmon. Not wanting to ever be classed as a racist, instead of just a realistic, I have to admit it doesnít take a lot of thinking to realize that thousands or even millions of salmon that swim through certain Ďspecialí nations jurisdictions donít just happen to go missing or for that matter disappear into a sink hole in the bottom of the river.

If we truly want to save this world famous fishery, then letís get tough. Close the entire Fraser sockeye fishery, meaning the interception of salmon at the mouth of the Fraser by commercial boats that happen to be American and Canadian, the commercial netting in the main river by non-native and native fishermen, as well asÖ sport fishing. Letís also quit playing the racial game. Close the fishery to everyone. I think that just about everyone concerned about the condition of this river is willing to admit that no race or nationality of people should be allowed to put pressure of any type on these wild stocks. How long of a moratorium would I put in place? Letís start with at least ten years. That should give at least two cycles for all species back to the spawning grounds. Once again, a moratorium should be placed on everyone, no matter how special some of us think we are.

Thereís also the problem of the British Columbia salmon farms that dot the coast from north to south along the shores of this province. For starters, I personally love the idea of salmon farms. They provide a source of food for an ever growing population world wide. As the popularity and growth of salmon farms go, I also see the decline in the open water commercial fleet, which in turn allows more wild stocks to survive, return to the natal streams and spawn. Which also in turn leads to stronger and better runs of wild salmon.

But it seems that just about everything has a downside and thatís proving true with these same British Columbia salmon farms. Tens of thousands of fish crowded into pens create thousands of pounds of fecal matter, which in turn piles up under the nets. A saltwater critter called a sea lice, seems to just love those piles of what many refer to as salmon crap. The sea lice populate at an alarming rate, grow and in turn attack salmon, especially wild salmons smolts. The end result could prove devastating for many of our salmon stocks, especially along the north coast.

Hereís my solution. Why not move the farms inland alongside some of our larger tributaries, but not directly in them. We basin areas and divert limited amounts of water in and out of them. The solution being that we trap the nutrients and Ďsalmon crapí before it can escape back in to the main river. Impossible you say. Not really. Thereís an environmental company that Iím acquainted with in Burlington, Ontario called ZENON that has all the capabilities, including technology and equipment to do the job. In fact, if the fish operators wanted, the water going back into the system could be cleaner than the water coming in to the hatchery. We are now learning that a river also has to carry over certain amounts of fertilizer that historically has been created by the annual die-off of wild adult fish. Zenon could even recreate these special situations.

Hereís something else to ponder and it relates only to the Province of Ontario. Back about two decades ago, I had a conservation officer tell me that we were killing the cow, before taking the milk. The two of us, were looking over one of Ontarioís famed trout streams at the time. Steelhead were in the shallows attempting to spawn and so-called anglers were drifting roe bags in the faces of the fish as they were attempting to dig their redds. The C.O. was suggesting that it was wrong to angle for steelhead at spawning time and also taboo to even be carrying fishing rods in the vicinity of spawning water.

Guess what? As far as he was concerned, I honestly believe he was correct. Going one step farther, especially here in Ontario, why are we even pursuing spawning fish in streams? For the battle? Bedding steelhead are almost always in shallow water or close to it. Most spawners are also beat up, bruised and seldom capable of producing a war befitting a steelhead in its prime. How about table quality? Letís be honest, under the scales that firm, red, tasty flesh, has been relegated to soft fleshed mush, thatís hardly fit for the table. Then, thereís the all important matter of preventing a successful spawn.

There are very few Ontario rivers that can provide a spring steelhead fishery. The Bighead, Nottawasaga, Saugeen, Sauble, Maitland, Grand, Niagara, Credit, Bronte and Ganaraska are most that come to mind. The remainder are nothing more than nursery streams that should be totally protected during the spring spawning run. Thereís enough prime steelheading to be had during the autumn and winter months without killing the cow before taking the milk.

The Ugly
At this time I want to get something a little personal off my chest and Iím back to biologists once again. As I always say, there are a lot of really dedicated biologists out there in the bush really doing a great jobÖbut there are also a few deadheads, who are in the minority, but are still on the scene ruining our sport fishing potential in many areas of the country.

Hereís a perfect example. About 30 miles down the road from my office flows the Saugeen River. Now, as eastern Canadian Rivers go the Saugeen is massive. It has more than 812 miles of flow, with more than 710 miles of water that is potential fish habitat. As for actual trout habitat, letís just say the potential is unlimited. In fact, the coldwater stretches of the Saugeen could provide the best steelhead and brook trout fishing in eastern North America. That is if the Saugeen was managed properly.

In the past, the Ontario government has given this river token respect and lots of neglect. Once again, this river has as much potential of any stream in the east. The problem being, biologists and techs within the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, both at the district level and head office alike, have to take the bull by the horns, get off their backsides ( I guess I can say asses), roll up their sleeves and do what theyíre paid to doÖ.improve and protect this river system.

Lotís of steelheaders these days are bragging up the rainbow fishing in the states of New York and Pennsylvania. The Yanks on the opposite side of Erie have transformed marginal trout waters into steelhead hot beds and the same states are being rewarded with not only great angling opportunities, but tens of millions of dollars being injected into the coffers by visiting anglers.

Guess what? If our bios took the same pride and time into transforming the Saugeen River, we would have a flow that would go unchallenged as the best in eastern Canada, no the best in all of eastern North America.. Iím betting that we would not only have this system targeted by American sportsmen, but anglers from the west as well.

The Saugeen just needs a little upgrading in the form of a decent stocking program. A ten year plan should be put in place on this river. For starters, 50,000 to 100,000 good sized ( 8 inch plus) steelhead smolt should be released upstream every season for a decade. Further upstream, just as many brown trout smolt should be released. The steelhead would provide an almost immediate migratory rainbow fishery and the browns would transform the river into one of the best open water stream fisheries in the country.

Yes, there is a cost to stocking fish. But stocked fish would provide the basis in creating a natural reproducing trout fishery on the river. Even if a large enough wild population is not established, the monetary value of a world famous sport fishery on the river would more than absorb the cost of supporting the fishery with hatchery stocks.

Right now, I believe itís only biologists holding back the fishing potential of the Saugeen. In other parts of the country, itís biologists that are preventing other waters from reaching their full potential. Remember, I keep saying itís also only a few bad biologists that can harm our sport.

Itís important to remember that fisheries biologists at any level of government are still civil servants. Which means they are paid by taxpayers to work for taxpayers. Anglers should realize that we actually are the bosses and they are our employees. I hear complaints from sport fishing groups from one end of the country to the other about mismanagement by a few that, in turn are ruining fishing opportunities for thousands. Hereís a tip, get together with your fellow anglers and demand transfers or even dismissals for these deadbeats. Itís our fishery and thereís no reason in the world to lose it to a few who donít carry out their jobs properly.

Outfitter & Lodge Spotlight
Whereís the best lake trout fishing in the world? Some will say Great Bear, some will mention Slave and others may give the nod to Athabaska, but without a doubt in my mind it Kluane Lake in Canadaís Yukon. In the summer of 2004 I accepted an invitation from Brian Dack, the owner of Kluane Wilderness Lodge to test his waters and the experience was mind blowing. Not only is this lake fertile and jam packed with grey trout, the waters abound with trophies. Expect to catch average lakers that weigh in at better than 10 pounds until you arms feel like they are going fall off. Just about that time, a 30 - 40 pound trophy will take a liking to your presentation.

The surprising thing about Kluane is its size. Hereís a body of water that is small in comparison to many of the famed northern lakes. Itís the fact that this lake is so fertile and also fished on a catch and release basis. Kluane was one of the first to practice this form of conservation and itís really paid off.

Dackís operation, located 200 air miles northwest of Whitehorse in the Yukon accommodates 18 guests, where you find yourself pampered in the purple not only on shore, but also on the water. The cabins are top notch, the food is scrumptious and staff are more than just friendly. Still, itís the world class fishing that makes Kluane really special.

The worldís best lake trout destination by far!
Salmon season has arrived. In Ontario the spot to be from April til September is just off the mouth of the Niagara River. For those in the know, itís no denying that Ontario anglers owe a big dose of thanks to the State of New York for keeping Lake Ontarioís salmon fishing great, especially in the spring and early summer months. Migrating kings and coho carry out a counter-clockwise pattern at least a couple times around the big lake during their lifetime and that means that Empire State salmon provide top notch angling excitement for Canucks, especially in the waters from Grimsby to the International Border that lies straight out in the lake from the mouth of the Niagara.
One of the busiest and most successful guides working Lake Ontario is Grant Koppers . Iíve been on the river and the lake with Koppers on numerous occasions and rate him as one of the best pro operators Iíve fished with. This guy knows the lake first hand and a day out with Koppers means catching fish til your arms fall off. His fish box at the end of the day, is usually brimming to the top with overgrown kings, coho, brown trout, lakers and steelhead.

Come July and you can bet Iíll be out on the west coast of Vancouver Island chasing kings and coho. The salmon fishery, as already noted, is better than ever up and down the Islandís west shoreline. In fact, some say itís the best in recorded history as far as sport angling is concerned.
For starters I plan to visit good buddy Dave Murphy at Murphy Sportfishing far up the coast at Kyuquot, British Columbia. This is the true wilderness region of B.C. that is reached by a three hour car ride up and over the mountains through some of the prettiest territory imaginable north of Campbell River.

For those anglers who really want to experience world class salmon trolling then give this outfitter a try. How do hook-ups of twenty or more salmon in a morning sound? Remember, these are big, wild Pacific salmon. The coho can weigh as much as 20 pounds and the chinook can top well over 50 pounds. Murphy also has a halibut fishery that is second to none. Barn doors here can weigh as much as 150 pounds and average out at better than 30 pounds.
Thereís also a Honey Hole called Nootka Sound to try. Critter Cover is the place to stay and to reach drive due west of Campbell River to the town of Gold River. From Gold River itís another 10 mile boat ride to Nootka Sound itself.

At Critter Cove you can rent a comfortable cottage and get a boat as well. Here you can fish for yourself. The salmon are almost always located close to the lodge and it only takes a couple of pointers from the boss and youíre catching all the salmon you can handle. The fish here are as big as anywhere on the coast and the numbers are awesome! There are three main salmon streams in the vicinity of Nootka Sound and the region is also a salmon thruway for coho and kings heading for the Fraser and all the great rivers of Oregon, Washington and California to the south.

While youíre visiting Critter you might want to ask your hosts Cameron and Catherine Forbes for the opportunity to visit their factory at Tomic Baits. The Forbes recently purchased the operation from a good friend of mine, Tom Moss. It is more than just interesting to personally witness how the Holy Grail of salmon baits is really constructed.

Tackle That Catches Fish
What the heck, letís stick with steelhead, because thatís the season that we find ourselves in whether we live on the west coast or Ontario. Prairie anglers only have a short ride in either direction to chase the silvers as well.

Whether itís waders or wet gear Iíve learned to love what I call my Bare gear. Kirk Barton the boss at Bare originally informed me that once I tried Bare I wouldnít ever count on another and you know what? He was right. Packed away in the back of the Expedition is everything I need for any type of fishing in just about any situation.

Bare makes a great line of Ďbreathableí and Ďneopreneí waders, fantastic outerwear in the form of rain jackets and vests, something which Bare refers to as ĎlayersĎ, which are in fact a form of undergarment layers and those all important wading boots.

Check them out and Iím betting youíll never find a better set of waders than those Bares. The neoprenes will keep you comfy in the coldest of winter wading weather and the breathables are a real godsend even in the hottest of summer wading weather. Any of the Bare Jackets are comfortable, efficient and smart looking to boot. And speaking of boots..the Bare brand is the finest that money can buy.

The Bare products are so efficient and comfortable Iíve doubled up on just about every item I require. One for ready to use waiting with the rest of my fishing gear and as I said , the second set is packed away in the big Ford for any occasion that might arise.
Back in the good old days, when I could walk any stream in the country without worrying about balance, slippery rocks or creaking knees, I loved to bottom bounce for my steelhead. The boys that pounded the rivers then loved the constant tap of a bait or lead weight bouncing along a riverís bottom, then the sudden pause as a wily steelhead would attempt to sneak off with a well presented bait. Any of the old boys back in those days worth their salt actually frowned on the newcomers that came down to the river with the long rods, light lines, balsa floats and micro baits. Well, guess what? Nearly every one of those old codgers is now using those same micro baits, long rods and sensitive floats. Those rods, for the most part, are now mounted with centre pin float reels and no one makes a better centre pin reel than folks at Islander Precision Reels out of Saanichton, British Columbia.

Machined from solid block stock aluminum, the Islander Steelheader is the perfect reel for float fishing. Grab the reel and give the spool a spin. Youíll swear it has to be a set of batteries that keeps this baby spinning. With two super smooth stainless steel bearings and a weight at less than 8 Ĺ ounces, the Islander should be the first choice of every serious steelheader no matter whether you fish a Great Lakes tributary or the bigger streams from California to Alaska.
When it comes to the perfect bait for steelhead fishing itís downright impossible to beat salmon or trout roe. The only problem is obtaining roe, preparing roe and storing roe so that it does catch fish. If you canít obtain fresh spawn or donít want to go to the bother of preserving bait then remember that there have been a lot of improvements made in the artificial egg line-up of baits.
For starters thereís Berkleyís Micro Sparkle Power Eggs and Berkleyís Gulp Salmon Egg . The Berkley Micro Sparkle Power Eggs are just about perfect for drifting beneath a float. The three color choices, Chartreuse with Scales, Fluorescent Orange with Scales and the Red with Scales offers a choice for any water condition. All Power Eggs have that long lasting enhanced trout scent that means fish bite and wonít let go.

Then there are the Berkley Gulp Floating Salmon Eggs. Berkley makes the boast that Gulp Eggs will outperform natural salmon eggs and in tests prove it. Another great plus for these artificials is the fact that they are biodegradable and offer four hundred percent more scent dispersion than other scent baits. Finally they are designed to float directly in the path of hungry steelhead.
The folks at Breckís Canada have a manufactured egg that can be fished in a cluster as a sack presentation or can be separated to drift as a single. Itís the Mr. Twister Exude Roe. These eggs are soft, slimy and loaded with a fish catching scent that is guaranteed to produce fish. Right out of the package these Exudes come as clusters that make for perfect offerings for big overgrown salmon. They can also be pulled apart to thread on a mini-egg hook as single or dual baits.
Every fisherman deserves to own a great knife at least once in a lifetime. With that in mind, check out the home site for Ron Post Custom Knives. Itís too long of a tale to put on this page, but a fellow by the name of John Hayes, a site superintendent with Miller Paving Limited stopped by the office this week and brought with him one of Postís handcrafted fillet knives. Post carries a pretty fair reputation as one of Canadaís top knife makers and I plan to really put this gift to work this autumn.

Hereís a perfect Christmas gift for you, the wife, the husband or a friend. Itís also the gift or should I say knife of a lifetime.
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