Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Northern Pike Enter Columbia River

Here is a piece I wrote about yet another invasive species, the northern pike, entering the Columbia River.

Predatory species moves into river

By Jim Bailey - Trail Daily Times
Published: November 18, 2010 5:00 PM

Northern pike ‘potentially’ trouble, says B.C. ministry

The Columbia River holds a variety of native and non-native species of fish but one particularly nasty predator has invaded, an ominous sign for the burgeoning trout fishery.

As their name suggests, northern pike are more at home in places like the Yukon, Northwest Territories and northern B.C., but within the last three years, have become familiar sights in the Columbia as well.

“Pike are native to B.C. but only in the northeast, Fort St. John country,” said Jeff Burrows, senior fish biologist for the Ministry of Environment. “They are an invasive fish (in the Columbia), they’re predators and competitors, and can also bring in new parasites so, yes, they are potentially a problem.”

The pike have infiltrated the Columbia from a number of reservoirs on the Pend d’Oreille and while not yet abundant, there are most likely to increase.

“I’ve talked to Washington state fish biologists and they’ve noticed quite an increase in Box Canyon, a reservoir (on the Pend d’Oreille) upstream from the border, so no doubt there will be more,” said Burrows.

The river has already suffered invasive predators such as walleye and smallmouth bass that threaten native species, so the presence of pike is an added menace.

Golder Associates’ fish indexing program for B.C. Hydro conducts annual fish sampling surveys in the spring and fall and have caught a number of pike during their studies.

Three years ago, the research crew thought they observed a northern pike but did not capture it and last year, they nabbed a juvenile pike in the upper section near Robson, said Golder biologist Larry Hildebrand.

“This past season, which just ended about three weeks ago, the crew captured, I believe it was five (northern pike),” he said.

While it is still early, the presence of a new top predator introduced into a system whose species have never had to evolve to adapt to the presence of that predator, will likely have some implications on certain species, he added.

As far as fishing for pike, some anglers have already hooked into the voracious invader including Freedom Fishing owner Ken Apps, who recently caught what he estimates to be a 10-pound pike.

“Between the squawfish, the walleye, the bass and now the pike, there is always concern not just for the rainbows but the sturgeon fry as well,” said the avid fly-fisherman.

The Trail man is not only worried about pike predating trout, he is also concerned about the increased competition for food sources.

And according to a bizarre fishing regulation, it is illegal to fish for bass or pike in the 50-kilometre stretch of river between the Hugh Keenleyside Dam and the international border. Any caught incidentally must be released.

“As good as the trout fishery is getting here, to have another predator introduced and leaving it just as a catch-and-release fish, all that’s going to do is allow it to establish . . . It has the potential to be an incredible detriment to the rainbow fishery which the Columbia River is known for,” said Apps.

According to Burrows, the regulation is meant to discourage people from moving alien species into native trout habitat in the first place. But if the pike population increases, the ministry may implement an exemption similar to the walleye quota of eight fish per day.

“I think our approach is we’re going to wait and see if it gets worse. Right now they’re not common enough to be more than a rarity and not of biological consequence.”

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Trout Lake weekend

Like the swallows to Capistrano or the monarch butterflies to Mexico, so the Leishman family made their annual pilgrimage to the rocky shores of Trout Lake on the weekend.
Actually, it was my wife's family's first such camping trip to the lake but who knows - it may be the first of many to follow.
We gathered there to celebrate Bob's 50th year of stalking the earth with revelry, reminiscences, refreshments and of course a good dose of fishing.
Flying black ants were everywhere this weekend and of the two fish I retained for dinner, the one was stuffed so full of the insects, they were coming out of its mouth.
Amazingly I caught most of the Gerrard rainbows on an olive woolly bugger or similar fly trawled just below the surface. They averaged about 20 inches but I did lose one monster at the boat.
The weather was hot and the water relatively calm all weekend, surprisingly there was no evening rise.

While not fast and furious, the fishing was good, and the entertainment and company even better.

Happy Birthday Bob.

Great food, good wine, okay fishing and a ton of laughs - fabulous time.
Thanks for a great weekend everyone.

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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Spring fly fishing is hot in cool Kootenays

I haven't had much time these past few weeks but I did manage to make it out to Summit Lake and Champion Lakes recently.
Two weeks ago, I met Julius from Grizzly Bear Ranch and a few of his guests for a day of fishing on Summit Lake. I arrived two hours prior to our arranged meeting time and so put those minutes to good use.
Generally, I don't have much luck on Summit until the afternoon but this day I anchored off a shoal at about 10 a.m. and proceeded to catch a dozen fish in the next two hours. Most were caught on a bead head-leech pattern but a few on chironomids.
Once I met up with the party, I took Patrick, an author and ex-bureau chief for the London Daily Telegraph, into my boat and got him into a nice 16" rainbow almost immediately. I also landed one shortly after that and then the trout went into lock-jaw mode and I could only coax two more to the boat the rest of the day.
Still not a bad day.
My good friend Colin visited me this past weekend and we had a great time catching small rainbows on Second Champion Lake Friday. The lake is at much higher elevation than many other local lakes, and you can tell by the long skinny trout that they hadn't much time since ice-off to pack on some weight. By June the fishing should be excellent.
Check out this video of a classic How "Not" to release a fish:

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Spring Chironomid Fishing - nothing like it

photo: chironomids pumped from trout's stomach

Lakes are open which means targeting rainbows with tiny chironomids can be the most effective way to catch trout. I headed to Rosebud yesterday with visions of huge triploids caught in past years. (see chironomid section of Etomology at http://www.fly-fish-bc.com/ )

The day started slow with no wind and a hot sun beating down. I rigged up with strike indicator, chironomid and a small split shot. I anchored at a favourite drop-off in about 18-ft of water. I set the indicator to allow for 16-ft of leader and cast out two rods.

It never fails, you look away from your strike indicator and look back only to see it bob to the surface signifying another missed strike.

This happens more times than I care to admit - occassionally if you twitch the line in a little the trout will return and take the chironomid. That's how I landed my first Rosebud rainbow.

After that the action improved as I caught another one right away then missed two and caught one more. It wasn't a bad day but I've had days when the action is so constant I had to stow the second rod and just fish one.

I was on the lake for about three hours before I packed up to get in a round of golf before dinner.

I can't wait to return - it's only going to get better.

Also, I have an article in BC Outdoors this month, entitled "A Fly fisher's Guide to Catching Bass" - It features a photo of a huge bass caught by Kyle Bartsoff, 10-yr old son of friend Mike. Not that he caught it on a fly but the fish is giant, so had to include it with a healthy dose of poetic license.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Columbia River Rainbow Trout,

This past Sunday Mike and Dave invited me on another outing, this time a trip up the Columbia River on Mike's Starcraft fishing boat. The day called for rain and it looked like most of the day to be inevitible, however, it held off. The fishing stayed as cool as the weather for the first part of the day. Up near Fairfield we could see large rainbows in the shallows but they were too busy spawning to pay attention to our offers. Dave and I sent cast after cast, and after one initial strike, they ignored us completely.

Down river we went, checking out various spots. Dave had one fish on ever so briefly. Mike, tired of watching us lose fish, pulled out the meat rod with weighted 3-way and worm and cast into an eddy. 30-seconds later, literally, he'd hooked a beautiful 5-lb doe, played and released her unharmed.

The two of us fly fishers were getting desperate. Finally, after I lost another one, Dave connected and pulled in a beautiful 3-4lb buck. What a relief. It had only taken the two of us almost four hours to land one fish - Mike had done it in less than 5-minutes.

An hour later, Mike and Dave had both caught another. The sun was setting, darkness loomed, the air chilled but we could still see trout rising. I knew I was down to my last few casts. Dave gracefully let me take the open bow, after reminding me how he had caught a couple already and seeing I had caught nothing today I might as well have one last shot at it, and what kind of fly-fisherman did I think I was and that I should consider changing the name of my site from fly-fish-bc to no-fish-bc...etc,etc...

Well, as Dave remarked, 'There is a God' though cruel, he does show some mercy - after a good drift I felt the tell-tale thud of a strike, set the hook, and was into a nice doe. Finally, the drought was over. In the last week I had lost three fish outright and missed a half-dozen. As Mike tailed it, I breathed a sigh of relief, admired the beautiful Columbia River rainbow, took a couple pics then released her into the dark water.
Thanks guys for a great day. Click on the Link below to see a video of the trout that broke the streak.
Dave entitled it "There Is A God - Jim's First Fish"


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Monday, March 15, 2010

March 15, 2010

The weather has been incredible for March so I took advantage of a couple friends and headed out to Kootenay Lake to trawl for some large Gerrard Rainbow trout. Dave and his Dad, Rudy, Mike and myself left early for the lake where Dave's 'Trophy' fishing boat awaited. Once we were rigged and loaded we sent out four lines, two on downriggers and two on the surface. In winter you have to fish slow, like 1.5 mph - trawling is not the most exciting way to fish but is the most effective on large lakes like Kootenay.

By most accounts it was a slow fishing day for everyone. We had one fish on which I promptly lost. It hit, I grabbed the rod, set the hook - perhaps too vigourously - the trout ran, jumped a few times, then was gone. According to Dave and Mike it was a big fish, 15 lbs or so. It broke off shortly into the fight, and for the rest of the day (and who knows how much longer), I had to endure the pointed verbal barbs of Mike and Dave. "Yes, I thought I knew how to fish too..."

I apparently need more practise, so this afternoon I headed down to the Columbia River. The day was similar to the previous day, sunny and warm. Last week I managed a nice rainbow caught on a nymph pattern but when I saw large adult stoneflies floating by en masse and trout rolling, I tied on a stimulator dry and threw to the most recent splash. Sure enough the trout rolled over my fly. I hooked him good, the rod bowed then went slack. I cursed and knew immediately it had broken me off. That was a nice trout. I lost two more that day. Needless to say not a great day but I count them both as good days. Anytime the sun's shining and you have a rod in your hands, sharing stories, laughs, an a few cold beer with friends - well one could do worse.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

New Article: Casting Spells

My article entitled "Casting Spells" is out in the recent addition of Canadian Fly Fisher Magazine. It's another version of my trip to Coughlan Lake, Yukon courtesy of Wilderness Fishing Yukon. This is a great fly-in-fishing outfit owned and operated by my friend Bernard Stehelin. Check out Bernard's site at www.fishingyukon.com I highly recommend it.

Just added a new fly pattern to the Fly Patterns Page. I used Biggie's Crayfish pattern as a bass pattern on local lakes. I found out that it is not only
great for bass but I also landed this huge rainbow on it fishing local waters on the first day of February. Click the address below for the recipe.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

To Cozumel in Search of the White Fox

Albula Vulpes in Latin means white fox and it is the taxonomic name for bonefish. Bonefish reside in the warm tropical waters of the Caribbean and Africa. They are a streamlined torpedo shaped mass of muscle and speed that cruise the flats in often less than a foot of water searching for shrimp, crab, clams, smaller fish and other items.

Two weeks ago my wife, Natasha, and I headed south for a weeks vacation and a hidden mission to persue and hopefully catch the powerful fish. We asked our local tour operator, he of course had a guy with a hundred years experience, state of the art equipment and guaranteed fish. It was pricey and he demanded cash up-front which always leaves you a bit suspicious and worried in foreign countries known for misleading the odd tourist. I paid it without a second thought.

As promised the guide met us at the pre-arranged place - a 19th century catholic church near the town square at 5:30 AM. We jumped in a taxi van with our guide and another fishermen and his guide. A 20 minute ride later we were at the north end of the island at a dock with many beached 25-foot fiberglass flatfishing boats. Not quite state-of-the art, I mean don't expect the canopy-covered, elevated-decked-sloops of the Bahamas, but they were effecient in shallow water.

The sunrise that greeted us was magnificent. We motored past Isla Pasion and poled our way over the shallows into a lagoon. The wind blew hard and I knew it was going to be a tough day of casting. Our guide, Adolfo, readied the gear - handing me a 9 1/2-foot, 8-wt fly rod with a shrimp pattern tied onto the tippett. It was decent enough but I can't stand it when I get a fly reel that has a right-hand wind - that's just not good or smart.

In any case, I took the rod eager to make my first cast. Adolfo explained in his broken English and my shattered Spanish to look for mud clouds in the shallow water. These indicate bonefish activity as they dig for crabs and other invertebrate embedded in the sandy bottom.

That was not an easy task. With the wind and a pair of non-polarized sunglasses which I had picked up at the last minute from a streetside vendor, I could barely see the surface let alone what lay below the chop. It was a disadvantage, however, Adolfo identified areas immediately, pointing vigorously at spots where fish had been feeding or cruising. Occassionly, he'd grab the spincaster launch it out into the sea and hook up within seconds. Natasha gladly played these fish to the boat before release.

I did have many hits but missed most of them. After catching and releasing a few Jack Crevalles and amber jacks, I managed to hook a bonefish. The fight was amazing for its size. I thought I had hooked at least a 5-lb bonefish the way it tore line, but when I played it to the boat it may have pushed 12-inches if you stretched the tape a bit.

We had a great day though. The north end of Cozumel is a beautiful if not pristine area. We only saw a few boats all day, we're greeted by a stunnning sunrise, decent fishing and a blissfully relaxing day of fishing the flats in pursuit of that cunning white fox, the elusive bonefish.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Happy Holidays Everyone - Thankfully they're over

I'd like to wish everyone a happy New Year and hope all have a brilliant and successful 2010.

Sadly, I had neither the time nor inclination to fish in December. Between work and Christmas and the obligatory cheer one is compelled to indulge, the month held no time for fishing. However, I did make it down after New Years to fish the Columbia on a surprisingly warm Sunday afternoon. As you can see, one fish at least cooperated.

I am looking forward to 2010. We start by visiting Cozumel, Mexico at the end of January for a week. Look forward to some flats fishing and maybe a deep sea excursion.

I have also posted a new set of photos on my gallery page entitled 'East Kootenay Streams'. Check out some pics of arguably the best fly fishing country in the world. http://www.fly-fish-bc.com/Photo%20Galleries/Photo%20galleries%20pg.html
If you'd like more information just email me or leave a comment on my blog.
Warmest Regards for the New Year,