Outdoor Canada encourages anglers and hunters to improve their skills and broaden their knowledge of the outdoors. Included are fishing and hunting hot spots and roundups of the best new gear. It is Canada's only national magazine for anglers and hunters. The exclusive source for all things fishing, hunting and conservation since 1972.
Every year, I get to fish with two very disparate groups of anglers. One includes highly effective pros, including some of the best walleye, bass, trout, muskie, pike and panfish anglers on the planet. The other group is made up of recreational anglers who just want to catch more and bigger fish. The differences in their approach to fishing are remarkable, as are the results at the end of the day. Let’s just say, the pros are pros for a reason. Still, we’re all guilty of sometimes making mistakes when it comes to fishing, but some are more common—and potentially more damaging to your chances of catching fish—than others. Here are the 10 baddest blunders I see anglers make, and how to overcome them. And I should know—I’ve made these mistakes myself.
If you’re properly equipped and you follow simple safety rules, there’s minimal risk when spending time on the water in a boat. Yet every year, Canadians needlessly die or get injured in boating accidents—and often highly preventable ones.
With that in mind, and in recognition of North American Safe Boating Awareness Week (May 18 to 24), here’s a refresher on safe boating practices for anglers and hunters.
#1 TAKE A COURSE
Anyone who operates a motorboat in Canada must carry proof of competency, and for most of us who are not licensed captains and the like, that means a Pleasure Craft Operator Card. But simply passing the course to get your card isn’t enough. Operator inattention and inexperience are still major factors in boating accidents, so it’s important to actually understand the navigation and safety rules, and to follow them out on the water.
#2 WEAR A PFD
Most boaters who die on the water each year in Canada are not wearing personal flotation devices, or not wearing them properly. Even if you’re experienced, a strong swimmer and close to shore, it’s no guarantee of survival if you unexpectedly go overboard. The danger is especially severe in cold water, as the sudden shock causes people to drown very quickly—60 per cent of the country’s boater drownings occur in water that’s 10°C or colder. Whatever the case, a PFD will keep you afloat and give you a fighting chance of survival.
PFDs are a must when on a boat
#3 DON’T DRINK AND BOAT
Boating under the influence of alcohol is directly responsible for approximately 40 per cent of boating mishaps, according to the Canadian Safe Boating Council. The simple solution? Save the potent potables for dry land.
#4 BE PREPARED
Ensure your boat is equipped with the safety equipment listed by Transport Canada (see link below). Requirements vary by boat size, but even canoes must have a sound-signalling device, buoyant heaving line and bailer. Also be sure to check the weather before you head out to ensure your watercraft can handle the conditions.
#5 PROTECT YOURSELF
With the sun beaming down and reflecting off the water, anglers are vulnerable to harmful UV rays, which can cause sunburn, sunstroke and skin cancer. That makes it important to always wear sunscreen and cover exposed skin. Anglers of all ages and experience levels should also always wear sunglasses to protect their eyes from errant hooks.
From 30 to 333,000, these are numbers that Canadian hunters and anglers need to know
Centimetres needed for Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan’s famed roadside attraction, Mac the Moose, to regain the title of world’s tallest moose. Current record-holder Norway, which grabbed the record in 2015 with a giant silver moose, says it will cede the title once plans to heighten Mac are completed.
Being an angler means accumulating tackle, which you then have to organize, store and care for. This is crucial for effective fishing, because any time you spend untangling lures or hunting for equipment while on the water is time you’re not fishing. Here are a few small hacks that have made a big difference in my fishing.
I was struck twice in the past few weeks by the concept of matching the hatch. That is, showing the fish, as closely as possible, a bait or lure that looks like what they are use to eating, in order to provoke a strike.
The initial occasion was my last ice-fishing trip of the season with grandson Liam, which was to a lake where the trout gorge on rainbow smelts. It is a favourite gem that regularly coughs up lake trout that look like they’ve been spending far too much time in the local bar, drowning their sorrows in barley sandwiches. And when you land a laker here, it invariably spits a handful of baby-finger-sized smelt onto the ice.
And here is the thing: if you carefully match your lure to the exact small size, slim shape and silver colour of the forage fish, you typically do well. But miss or alter any one of these variables and your success rate plummets.
I was thinking about that when I was interviewing Lake Huron charter boat captain, Fred Wondergem for a recent On The Water Online blog about how he successfully rigged up his client last year to win the Blue Water Salmon Derby. Wondergem told me that he is seeing more and more dense schools of smelt these days on his sonar screen, and when he cleans a salmon or trout, the fish’s stomach is crammed with the sweet cucumber-smelling species. It is interesting, too, because the smelt population in Lake Huron is now making a comeback, after crashing some years ago. And the chinook and coho salmon are following the pelagic schools like wolves tracking herds of caribou across the tundra.
Look at the number of rainbow smelt crammed into the stomach of this chinook salmon that Charter Captain Fred Wondergem discovered.
Even more revealing is the fact there are other forage fish species, in both my little trout lake and Fred’s massive body of water, including ciscoes, shiners, alewives, yellow perch, sculpins and gobies. But smelt are the cherries atop the sundaes in both systems. So it pays to always match the hatch—or does it?
Indeed, I fish other bodies of water where showing the walleye, bass, trout, black crappies and yellow perch a lure that resembles what they’re accustomed to eating is not always a good, or the best, tactic. One smallmouth bass lake, in particular, where the fish devour crayfish, stands out mightily.
You’ll have fun casting a tube jig or Ned rig that matches the little lobsters in size, shape, profile and colour. But show the brown bass anything—a spinnerbait, swimbait or even a topwater lure that resembles a shiner—and they go head-over-heads for it.
It is as though they view a crayfish lookalike as the macaroni and cheese they eat every day. Which is to say that they yawn and sigh ho-hum. But show them a New York strip steak drenched in peppercorn sauce—aka a shiner look-alike—and they lick the plate when they have finished eating.
It is a case of crayfish representing what is most abundant rather than what the fish prefer. And sorting out the difference, on a lake by lake, species by species basis is often the what makes the difference between a successful day on the water and hot dogs for dinner.
Trespass laws and requirements for accessing private property for hunting vary across Canada, with Saskatchewan currently having one of the most confusing sets of regulations. For starters, the province’s Trespass Act requires land to be posted or “enclosed” before permission to enter is required (basically, enclosed land refers to property surrounded by a fence to keep in livestock). On the surface, it seems simple enough, but to add to the confusion, Saskatchewan also has separate laws for accessing private property by snowmobile or ATV, and for hunting.
Enacted in 1998, Saskatchewan’s Wildlife Act prohibits hunting on posted land. It also states that if a property is not posted, consent to access the land for hunting cannot be assumed. Further, if consent to hunt is provided, under the act the owner/occupier “owes no duty of care to a person who is hunting on the land.” Clear as mud, right?
REVISING THE RULES
In response to landowner concerns about the confusing access laws, the Saskatchewan government is considering bringing them more in line with those of neighbouring Alberta, where advance permission is required before accessing any private property to hunt. Through a public consultation that accepted input until October 1, 2018, the province asked, “Should access by members of the public to rural property require the express advance permission of the rural landowner regardless of the activity?” At press time, the results had yet to be released. [Note: Since this article was first published, the Saskatchewan legislature passed the amendments to the province’s trespass laws.]
On one side of the coin, you have landowners who feel the current system of access in Saskatchewan is more one of access unless expressly denied, rather than access if expressly permitted. On the other side, many hunters like the current system, feeling the requirement to seek permission on lands that are not enclosed would impact their ability to hunt. That’s especially the case on property owned by large corporations or absentee landowners. As more and more small family farms are taken over by larger corporate farms and more landowners move away from small towns, it can be extremely challenging to track down owners or managers to obtain permission.
Trouble begins when property is not posted
ENFORCING THE LAW
As with many changes to hunting laws we’ve seen in recent years, the proposed revision in Saskatchewan can be traced back to unethical hunters who have no respect for private landholders. The question that really needs to be asked here is, will more laws help solve the problem, or merely punish law-abiding hunters? It’s unfortunate that rather than enforcing already existing laws, we’ve become a society that believes creating more restrictions will somehow alleviate the problems, but they rarely do. Will new access laws prevent unethical hunters from driving onto unfenced properties, for example? I doubt it.
Please don’t misunderstand my comments here. I totally feel for private landowners, but I’m not sure such a change will do anything to solve their issues in Saskatchewan. New laws don’t necessarily help solve problems, but enforcement can. However, there’s been no mention of increased enforcement along with the changes being considered.
Saskatchewan landowners should also be aware that if this change comes into effect, they will face a deluge of phone calls and people knocking on their doors at all hours seeking permission to hunt on their properties. In Alberta, that very thing led many owners to close their land entirely to hunting. As a result, hunters in that province have lost many acres of prime hunting territory simply because they were following the law.
STUDYING THE CHANGES
I have no doubt the proposed changes to Saskatchewan’s access laws are being considered with the best of intentions, but it’s critical that the province also looks at the law of unintended consequences—and it appears to be doing so. The Ministry of Environment has now teamed up with the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation, Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association, Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association, Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan and Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities to commission an in-depth study of land access issues.
To conduct the study and provide a statistical analysis, the group has hired Alistair Bath, an associate professor with Memorial University’s Department of Geography in Newfoundland and Labrador. His overarching goal will be “to understand the attitudes, beliefs and behavioural intention of landowner’s access issues.” Expected to be released in August, Bath’s findings will no doubt make for an interesting read.
Alberta’s T.J. Schwanky is our Western View opinion columnist. Western View is an opinion column, and we invite constructive discussion on the issues raised here.
Cool new technical apparel and accessories designed for women who are serious about their fishing and hunting
WOMEN’S OUTDRY EX REIGN JACKET
WOMEN’S SOLAR ICE KNIT LONG SLEEVE
Here at Outdoor Canada we’ve long worn gear from Columbia Sportswear on our own fishing and hunting adventures. But when it came time to pick some 2019 apparel, we couldn’t decide whether to protect mom from the sun or the rain. So we decided to do both.
The OutDry Ex Reign Jacket (above left) is waterproof, breathable and fully seam sealed. Columbia’s OutDry Extreme material flips the script on typical rainwear, with a tough, waterproof membrane on the outside, and soft wicking fabric inside, so it never gets waterlogged. The jacket has an adjustable hood, hem, and cuffs, and underarm venting, plus zip-up pockets keep small items safe. It’s in wine berry heather (pictured), Siberia heather and charcoal heather colours.
The Solar Ice Knit Long Sleeve Shirt (above right) has a full suite of Columbia’s heat-and-sun defying technologies, including Omni-Freeze ZERO sweat-activated super cooling, Omni-Wick drying and Omni-Shade Sun Deflector, plus a comfort-stretch fabric, and sun-proteciton collar. In three geo print colours: haute pick (pictured), clear blue and cirrus grey.
As interest in pursuing wild turkeys grows, the hunting industry has once again responded in kind with a wide array of new gobbler-getting guns, loads and accessories. Here’s a roundup of just some of the latest offerings that caught our attention, especially the advent of tungsten loads.
GRAND SLAM TURKEY VEST (US$179.99/US$189.99)
Key features: Plenty of strategic storage for calls, shells and accessories; removable “sit anywhere” frame; comes in standard and extra-large sizes.
The promise: “The ultimate turkey vest on the market today.”
Outdoor Canada is pleased to present Blue Fish Radio—podcasts about the future of fish and fishing in Canada. The program, produced and hosted by Lawrence Gunther, is dedicated to sharing first-hand angling knowledge, scientific discoveries and supporting local champions who protect and enhance their waters.
In this episode, host Lawrence Gunther talks to Taylor Ridderbusch (above), the specialist on cold water Great Lakes issues for Trout Unlimited. Cold-water fish species are especially vulnerable to climate change so, as Ridderbisch explains, TU is responding with new conservation measures.
In a way, I can’t believe I actually did it. Last December I flew to Panama, and then took a five-hour van ride across the country, to the end of the road—as far south as you can drive in the country. Then, my companions and I waded down a black sand beach and climbed into a brawny super-panga open boat, and bombed 90 minutes down the coast, with nothing but mountains and rainforest on one side, and the vast Pacific Ocean on the other, finally arriving at an off-grid eco-lodge, literally carved out of the jungle. And it was all to go fishing. But it was an angling experience unlike any other: battling powerful marine fish from 12-foot kayaks.
The team at Panama Kayak Adventure calls it the Wild Coast—60-plus kilometres of near-virgin inshore fishing waters, off Panama’s spectacular Cerro Hoya National Park (above). It’s among the least pressured and most prolific saltwater fishing in Central America. And the target species are like a roll call of the most powerful and intensely sought tropical gamefish: cubera snapper, roosterfish, yellowfin tuna, dorado, amberjack, jack crevalle, trevally, plus various table fare such as smaller snappers, jacks and pompanos. And we hooked them all.
In my nine years as associate editor of Outdoor Canada magazine I’ve been to some remote and wild places, and gone after some challenging fish. Plus, I’m a very experienced kayak angler. But nothing prepared me for the impact this trip has had on my angling life. I’d call it a once-in-a-lifetime experience… except that I’m going back again this year—hopefully with a whole crew of adventurous Canadians. Here’s why this destination was so special…
(If you want to join me in Panama next winter, find out more on the final page of the story.)