Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Back from our fishing expedition to Gouin Reservoir in northern Quebec.

Joe and I had a good (not great) week at one of Caesar's North Camps fishing for walleye and northern pike. This was a new cabin/area on the reservoir for us and we had some difficulty finding the pockets that held large numbers of walleye but succeeded in locating at least one area that held enough to keep us interested.

Being one of the southernmost cabins, there were also more boats from other camps/outposts than we were used to. What was strange/different was being asked (in French) by some of these other fishing parties where they might find the walleye. A clear indication that we were not alone in our quest. I blame the relatively poor fishing on:
1) the lunar phase (A waxing moon culminated in a full moon on our final day.),
2) the wind (Strong winds out of the south and west passed over a vast expanse of open water creating whitecaps and 2-3' swells--so strong one day (we called it "Windsday") that we were not able to get out 20' boat with its 20hp motor out of our protected cove. We were forced to fish in more protected areas or risk water sloshing over the transom.)
3) the rain (Lots and lots of rain--we had only one day without any rain and several periods where it was a veritable monsoon with walls of rain cutting visibility to 10-15 yards--if that. Luckily, we did not get caught out in those!

It was also clear that some of these folks--if not the vast majority--did not fly in to the area but used a boat launch somewhere reasonably close. One does not show up in a 25' fiberglass boat with a 175 horsepower engine if one has flown into a "wilderness" cabin!

The cabin in which we stayed was snug and warm. It had bunks for four people, a hot shower and indoor toilet, propane stove (with an oven) and propane refrigerator. (A veritable antique of a fridge but it served its purpose even if the freezer was very, very slow to actually freeze anything.) We only had one leak from all the rain and that was, thankfully, in the kitchen area and not the bedroom.

The few from the dock looking west. The Cabin Cove was a long skinny cove protected from the strongest wind/wave action by a pair of sand bars on the south end. It stretched about a half mile from those sand bars to the back end to the north and provided some pike fishing.

The 20' fiberglass boat with its V-hull and 20hp engine was a workhorse as we ranged far and wide in search of the (mostly) elusive walleye. We went about 4 kilometers to the west, 5 kilometers to the east and 3 kilometers to the south shore of our area of Gouin Reservoir. Caught some fish in all areas but, as I said earlier, never found the huge concentration we were hoping for. Perhaps they were around some of the exposed islands a kilometer or so out in the Big Water where we just never felt comfortable anchoring.

We would fish a couple of hours in the morning before heading back to the cabin for lunch and a break--and, hopefully, to clean the morning's catch. After lunch we would head out again, usually in a different direction, for another four or five hours of fishing then back to the cabin for dinner. If we didn't stay out too long in the afternoon, we would go out for another two hours or so in the evening. We usually caught something on each of our forays.

A stringer of walleyes and one pike. That's me in this photo.

Joe with the same fish.

Any walleye we took had to be between 14 and 20 inches to be a keeper. We caught a few shorts and several that were too long. The largest was 22" and weighed 5 lbs. The walleye were our primary target and supplied us with two of our dinners. They also filled some freezer bags so we could bring home our limits of eight walleye each. We caught a total of 60 during our stay.

Pike were also on the list and we would go trolling or cast to weed beds in the many coves along the shores. For us to keep a pike it had to fit the 25-30 inch slot we established. (I don't think there's an actual legal size, but those were our standards.) We caught lots that were smaller (12-20 inch fish) and three which were over 30 inches. The largest was a 34" that probably weighed in the 7-7-1/2 lb range. We did have to harvest a 31" that weighed in at 6-1/2 lbs. It was severely injured in the landing/unhooking process and would not have survived if released.

Our licenses allowed us to take up to 10 northern pike each but we ended up bringing home just three of the 40 fish we caught.

We established a clear division of labor. Joe did all the cleaning of fish, food purchasing and cooking. Joe also did most of the fish catching. I did all the packaging of fish, cleaning (dishes, etc.), and driving--whether it be on the road or water. The 620 mile drive up took about 13 hours including a brief nap along the way. Heading home was just about 12 hours (no nap). And we got through Ottawa with no trouble at all. That's a first for us in some 18-20 trips we've made to Caesar's.

There was a nice fish cleaning station set up in the shade of a fir tree that included running water to clean the table and fish as you worked. Skins and carcasses would go back into the lake or out onto the sand bars. The gulls (herring gulls and ring-billed gulls) and a bald eagle would clean up those. We primarily used the lake as our disposal but our neighbors were feeding the gulls so when they left....

Putting the remains as far from our cabin as possible assured us that no bear would come nosing around. Even so, the one night we put the skins and carcasses on the sand bar to watch the gulls squabble and the eagle swoop in for his share, there was a bear on the beach a half mile or so from the sand bar.

Being an avid surf fisherman, Joe has lots of experience in fileting and skinning fish. His tools of the trade include two sharp knives and a steel to keep them that way. A can of Deep Woods Off can be a necessity if the mosquitoes and/or black flies are bad. The other thing that's a "must" is that can of beer. Sometimes that one can can become two if it's been a productive day on the water.

Saturday evening, we got things prepped for our departure on Sunday. Everything in the cabin got squared away, our paper/plastic garbage got burned as per instructions, the floor got swept, and all our gear--fishing and otherwise--got packed up. We had bee told to expect Ollie between 7 and 8 AM Sunday morning.

When we woke at 5:30 AM everything looked good. The cove was glass. It was overcast but not raining.

By 6:00 AM there was a slight breeze out of the south--the direction from which our flight would come.

By 6:30 AM it was raining steadily and by 7:00 AM it was raining hard.

Our flight did not arrive between 7 and 8 AM. We sat out on the porch and read while we waited--and waited. Joe ran out of reading material. I had found a tome by Tom Clancy and FredrickM. Franks called Into The Storm. It's about the actions of General Franks and the Army's VII Corps leading up to and during Desert Storm. It's very interesting and very long. I started it Windsday morning and was up to page 500 before the plane finally arrived to pick us up.

Joe made another pot of coffee and we sat some more as it continued to rain. We ate some left over kielbasa for lunch. And sat watching it rain.

Finally around 1 PM the rain stopped. Not long afterwards there was the sound of a plane flying from the south--the first we had heard all morning. During the week there were a dozen or more planes flying within earshot--except for Windsday.

At 1:30 PM Ollie's Cessna set down on the Cabin Cove and taxied over to the dock.

Ollie hopped out and apologized for being late as it had started raining at Clova at 6 AM and never stopped until around 1 PM. Two new fishermen got out and they unloaded their gear from the plane. They had packed the plane the night before in anticipation of an early departure!

While Ollie did a quick post/pre inspection and orientation for the new comers, Joe and I moved our gear to the dock so it could be loaded. When Ollie got everyone squared away, he and Joe loaded the gear as I went over the map with the new guys showing them where we had had some success during the week. We were in the air heading back to Clova by 2:00 PM.

At Clova, we quickly deplaned and got our gear into the truck. Ollie was loading the Cessna AND the Beaver with another crew that would be heading out. (He told us he had at least five crews that were supposed to be going in/coming out. He and his third string pilot--number two was in the bush refurbishing a cabin--would be in for a busy afternoon!)

The Cessna back at the Clova dock.

Ollie's Beaver at the Clova dock.

We had flown out to the cabin a week earlier in the Beaver, known as the Workhorse of the North. What a beautiful plane! It amazes me that they actually stopped production of the de Havilland Beaver back in 1967 after just 1600 had been manufactured. Now, almost 50 years later they are THE plane of the back country and deservedly so!

By 2:30 PM we had the Tundra gassed up and were on the road south with plenty of memories and a cooler filled with fish filets.


Rev. Paul said...

Excellent narrative & nice pics.

By the by, the Beaver is popular here, in large part, because the wings are so broad that if it lose power, the pilot has little trouble gliding to a landing spot.

JDP said...

Looks like beautiful country and you got to go fishing! It does not get much better than that. My Dad and I used to talk about doing a fly in fishing trip but never made it. The closest we came was fishing on Lake of the Pines in East Tx when we got to watch 6 sea planes land in front of our lodge and tie up at the dock.