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Archive for June, 2012

Exploring Fishing Opportunities in the Okanagan

Published on Sunday, June 24th, 2012

This past week we visited sunny Southern Okanagan, where I have not stopped by in over a decade. A good friend of ours has a cottage on the shore of Okanagan Lake and invited us to stay there for a few days while it remained vacant. I of course happily accepted the invitation as I wanted to see how the fishing is in this area. I had actually not tried fishing in this area, so I had no expectations.

Penticton and Naramata have changed greatly since my last visit. Populated with vineyards, the landscape of this region now looks more like Southern Europe. Driving through this area on the narrow, twisty Naramata Road is truly a visual treat. It’s too bad that both Nina and I are not wine drinkers, otherwise we could have taken advantage of so many interesting stops.

The view of Naramata and Penticton

Whenever we travel to a new part of this province, we always look for different wildlife that are found in the area. British Columbia is so large and its terrains are so diverse, just a few hours of driving can lead you to discovery of birds and animals which you would not normally see. Along the shores of Okanagan Lake, cedar waxwing seem to dominate the air.

Cedar waxwing

Butterfly feeding under the sun

The sky remained clear during the first night of our stay. That is quite unusual considering how terrible the weather has been this spring. I sat by the lake and watched the stars blinking away, which is a pretty rare sight if you live in the city.

The night sky over Okanagan

The next morning we woke up to flat calm condition on the lake. I eagerly set the boat up, because I knew the wind could pick up easily on a large lake such as the Okanagan. The view was pretty breathtaking from the boat. We stayed close to shore to avoid any possible encounter with larger waterskiing boats. With only an electric motor on the boat, it was better to be safe than sorry.

A bluff along Okanagan Lake

Summer cottages along Okanagan Lake

Not knowing what we would catch, we slowly trolled around with our Rooster Tails and Little Shavers. A few northern pikeminnow liked the spinner in the shallower water, while small kokanee were occasionally fooled by the Little Shaver spoon in the deeper water where they were actively feeding.

Okanagan Lake kokanee

Northern pikeminnow are plentiful in this lake. People tend to demonize them because they predate on gamefish that are more sought after by anglers, but we tend to forget these are native fish which act as natural selectors of the salmonid populations.

Okanagan Lake northern pikeminnow

A dead sculpin, preyed by pikeminnow

Just south of Okanagan Lake is Skaha Lake, where multiple species of fish are found. Prior to our trip, I got in touch with Jesse Martin, who is a Pure Fishing prostaff and a regular WFN blogger. Jesse is a local resident and fishes Skaha Regularly, so it only makes sense to have him showing us where the fish are.

Skaha Lake near Penticton

Skaha Lake Marina

Ducklings on Skaha Lake

His specialty is bass fishing and Skaha Lake’s smallmouth bass are supposed to be plentiful. We hopped onto his boat for a few hours during our third day of the visit and this fishery definitely did not disappoint us.

Bass fishing with Jesse Martin

Jesse showed us why locals know best. He pulled out a couple of dozen bass by using both topwater hardbodies and soft plastic baits. Meanwhile, I showed how much I enjoy catching and releasing by only bringing in two of a dozen fish which I hooked. Our visit to this fishery was brief, but we surely will return for more!

A small smallmouth bass

Skaha Lake smallmouth bass

During the rest of our stay at the cottage, the lake was choppier than my liking. With a 10ft pram, it was safer to have it parked on the beach when the wind blows and bigger boats are out. I still wanted to do some fishing, so we set up a couple of carp rods on the beach. I had brought along my rod holders so I could rest the rods properly on the beach. I rigged up boilies on the hair rig, which is just a tag extended from the hook.

A boilie on a hair rig

Boilies are hard scented doughballs, which are designed to prevent smaller fish from pecking them. The idea is to have a carp sucking in a boilie and hooking itself as the entire rig enters its mouth. Once the fish is hooked, it will start swimming away so it is important to have the drag completely loose.

My Shimano Baitrunner is designed for this fishing method, because it allows you to have two different drag settings. The loosened drag is set while the rod remains in the holder. Once the fish begins swimming away with the bait, I simply have to pick up the rod, turn the reel handle so the reel changes to the second drag setting for fish fighting. While you don’t get to feel the bites when using this method, seeing and hearing the drag screaming in the holder can also gets the adrenaline pumping.

Okanagan Lake carp fishing

The waiting game was in fact quite long. Good thing that we were fishing directly in front of the cabin, so we could keep ourselves occupied. For once we were able to enjoy a properly cooked meal while fishing.

Enjoying a dinner while waiting for carp

There were the odd bites but nothing grand enough to startle me. Finally at one point, when I was getting almost too relaxed in the chair, the rod tip wiggled a couple of times, followed by a powerful pull. The drag began feeding line out as the fish swam off with the bait. I rushed over to grab the rod.

Fighting an Okanagan Lake carp

The tightening of the drag did not slow this fish down. It continued peeling line off the reel for 20 more seconds. Just when I was starting to worry about losing this mad fish to an underwater branch or rock, it suddenly tired itself out. I began gaining my line back before it took another run, heading to the side where a tree became my obstacle.

Okanagan Lake carp, ready to be landed

This went on for another five minutes before it surrendered itself in the shallow water. As the fish approached shore, I could see another carp swimming beside it, which is not that rare because they have a tendency to school together. The one on the line was perhaps 5 or 6lb. I picked it up with some trouble, because unlike a salmonid, the body was so round and slippery. After taking a picture of it, we gladly sent it back so we could continue to enjoy our dinner.

Carp from Okanagan Lake

Releasing an Okanagan Lake carp

We did not encounter another carp, but I found a few more northern pikeminnow. A large one took a boilie and gave me a good tussle before the sun set. These so-called coarse fish may not jump like a salmon, but they can be just as enjoyable to play with the correct tackle.

A large northern pikeminnow

The Okanagan region offers plenty of fishing opportunities. While we were not able to experience its trout and char fisheries during our short stay, it was still very satisfying and we look forward to return for more.

Family Fishing Weekend not Dampened by Rain

Published on Sunday, June 17th, 2012

The annual BC Family Fishing Weekend took place this past weekend. Residents and visitors of British Columbia were invited to participate in recreational fishing without the need of purchasing a licence. As if it’s BC’s tradition, it rained throughout the entire weekend! Despite of the gloomy weather, it definitely did not stop people from wanting to wet a line.

During this annual festival, community events take part across the province, where experienced anglers volunteer their time to pass on the passion to newcomers. In the Lower Mainland, four popular events are usually well attended. They are BC Federation of Drift Fishers‘ Lafarge Lake Family Fishing Day, Fraser Valley Trout Hatchery’s open house, Greg Clark Memorial Family Fishing Derby and Seymour Salmonid Society’s Family Fishing Day.

This year, I dropped by Lafarge Lake to see BCFDF’s event and was surprised by how popular this event was. The rain gradually became heavier as the morning went by yet the crowd continued to grow. The organizer, Cam Aronetz, who has put on this event since BC Family Fishing Weekend was formed, sets up a special net pen where hundreds of rainbow trout are held so kids have a better chance of catching one.

We attended Seymour Salmonid Society’s family fishing day at Rice Lake as an exhibitor as usual on Sunday. This is an event that we have been involved since it was established in 2002 and it has been a pleasure to watch its growth in the past decade. Many of our website visitors came by and had a chat with us, so we thank you for all the support!

While we did not make it to Greg Clark’s Memorial Family Fishing Derby this year, I have been told by Fraser Valley Salmon Society that they had record attendance, with over 900 registered derby participants!

This year, I have the honour to become a board member of the Family Fishing Weekend Society and I look forward to offer my skills on web marketing to make these events more successful in future years.

Here are some photographs from the weekend.

Go Fish BC truck arrived at Lafarge Lake for fish release

Trout ready to be released

Lafarge Lake Family Fishing Day

Lafarge Lake Family Fishing Day

Prepping fishing rods for kids

Lafarge Lake family fishing day

Our booth at Rice Lake

Go Fish BC Learn to Fish booth

Rice Lake family fishing day

The Search for Big Rainbow Trout

Published on Saturday, June 9th, 2012

Our trip to Ruddocks Ranch last year gave us a tease on what this fishery can offer. When it comes to any new fishery, it really takes a few days to get a hang of what is going on. Last year we spent three days there and on the last day we were finally into some quality fish, but still not as big as some of the photographs that we have seen. This year, we returned for another three-day trip and were determined to find those fish in the heavier weight class.

Whether fishing is good or not, this area truly is beautiful. It’s so remote, which is hard to believe since we are only three hour drive from Vancouver. The Fraser River Canyon makes you feel so incredibly tiny. The morning view from the ranch house can never get too old.

The view of Fraser Canyon from Ruddocks Ranch

The drive to the lake is always an adventure because of all the animal encounters, even for late morning starters such as myself.  Last year we came across a black bear. This year we came across some young mule deer, which were just as curious as us. They paused and thought about coming toward us when I took some photographs of them.

Mule deer at Ruddocks Ranch

The lakeside wildlife is just as rich, when you pay attention. When the fishing is slow, it keeps this amateur photographer entertained.

Chipmunk by the lake

The birdlife at Ruddocks Ranch

Ducklings with mother duck

A loon at Onion Lake BC

Where is it going?

Our trip was once again challenged by the weather. The week before we were scheduled to leave, the forecast called for sunny days and I was of course quite excited. As the trip approached, sunny turned to cloudy, which turned to shower and eventually rain on the day we were leaving. The cool weather is never an ideal condition for lake fishing. It could turn the fish off completely and sitting in a boat that slowly evolves into a bath tub is no fun either. Nina and I brought along our good friends Carlo, Shane and Steve, who are all pretty experienced fly anglers. Steve is also a fish culturist so he was able to provide some knowledgable information on trout in this lake.

The breathtaking view of Onion Lake in BC

While it stayed cloudy, the forecasted heavy rain never occurred. We had the occasional drizzle, so fishing was quite manageable. As expected, the fish were moody. Chironomids were not really hatching so the bites were not consistent. We were able to get into the usual fish in the average size class (14 -18 inches) but the big ones were not really showing themselves. Despite of their smaller size, these fish fought as if they were twice as big.

Acrobatic rainbow trout

Rainbow trout fishing at Onion Lake

Day one ended with a lakeside dinner before returning to the ranch for some needed rest. Nina and I took our time to the lake on day two after seeing the low clouds and rain outside the window. We arrived at the lake at 11:00am and fishing had not been hot as expected, according to companions who started much earlier. Indicator fishing with chironomids was really slow so I decided to stick to stripping a wooly bugger, which seems to work most of the time when everything else fails. The result was pretty satisfying. By mid afternoon, we were able to find some beautiful rainbow trout.

Almost landed

Holding a beautiful rainbow trout

Beautiful Onion Lake rainbow trout

Another beautiful rainbow trout from Onion Lake

As the afternoon went on, we started seeing the odd much bigger fish surfacing. Carlo eventually had a big one taking him for a ride before spitting the hook. It was his last chance as he had to work on the following day.

Fighting a large rainbow trout

An hour after Carlo packed up, Steve and I both spotted a rather large fish feeding on the surface near a branch. I managed to shoot my fly out there first and after a few strips, this fish grabbed it without any hesitation. The kicks in the rod immediately suggested that this fish was in a different category. It took several robust runs and circled around the boat while I could only hold onto the rod. At one point, it dove under and the leader was caught up on an underwater branch, but luckily it swam its way out after a few seconds. When this fish surfaced, I could see that I was going to have trouble netting it. Steve quickly lifted his anchors and made his way toward me with his bigger landing net. With a precise scoop, I landed one of my biggest rainbow trout ever! Steve took his weighing scale out and weighed the fish with the net. The weight of the fish was just over 6lb. After a few quick photographs, I sent its way back so future visitors can also enjoy the same experience.

Trophy rainbow trout from Onion Lake, at last

With one infamous trophy bow from Onion Lake finally under my belt, I was ready to pack up and go home! We finished the evening early but coming back to the ranch for some much needed rest. On our last day, I did not care much about catching the smaller fish and only hoped for another big, or bigger one! Nina and I started the morning late again and we did not miss much as the weather was actually cooler than the previous days. Shane and Steve both reports the absence of activities except a few small trout. We circled around the area where I had my success, caught a couple of tiny fish before catching the sight of another big fish. It was the exact same scenario. This fish made a big splash near the branch where I hooked the big one yesterday. I swiftly and quietly made our way over, position the boat so I could present the fly to it. The first cast was just too short, but the second cast was well within its range. After about 20 strips, I felt another hard take. Nina had the video camera running the entire time, so I will leave the rest of this story to the video feature that will be available later this summer!

Despite of this year’s challenging condition, our visit to Ruddocks Ranch turned out to be another memorable one. While this is a private lake that requires you to pay to use, it can be well worth it. If you wish to fish with a group of close friends or family, then this is probably the ideal fishery for you. You can book the entire lake just for your group without being interrupted by other visitors. This leaves out the stress of getting the best campsites by a public-accessed lake and still being able to tangle with some high quality gamefish. If you would like more information, please check out Ruddocks Ranch’s website.

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