BY GORD ELLIS
Each year, when September rolls around, my mind starts to wander. After months of feverish fishing trips, I start to switch gears. Early fall is when hunting mode fully kicks in. Sure, there’s still great angling in the fall, especially for muskie, steelhead, walleye and bass, but with the hunting season relatively short in comparison to fishing, my focus come fall is on game.
But I’m betting that many of you hunters have been in situations where you could have fished, or would have if you’d been prepared. On moose hunts, fishing is a nice mid-day diversion after a full morning stomping through the swamps. Getting on the water is like cleansing the palate. By afternoon, you’re refreshed and chomping at the bit to go after that bull again.
Fish also add variety to the hunt camp menu. On my annual moose hunt, fresh fall walleye is a major source of protein for the camp. And getting geared up for fishing during a hunt really doesn’t take much preparation.
For starters, you’ll need a compact rod and reel, line, and a selection of lures. On hunts, I generally pack a two piece medium spinning rod with a basic reel loaded up with 10-pound test. Something built to take punishment, like an Ugly Stick, is a good choice for hunt fish trips. A two piece doesn’t take up a lot of room, and spinning gear is the most useful in a number of situations. A second rod as back up is nice, but not necessary. If space is a concern, there are some great three and four piece pack rods out there. Many pack rods are a bit on the light side though, so make sure there’s some beef in the butt. Hook into a 20-pound fall pike with a little buggy whip pack rod and your fall fishing will be over quick.
For most fishing (walleye, pike, bass etc.), I’d recommend sticking with a selection of basic lead head jigs and some twister bodies. It sounds too simple, but jigs catch everything and are really easy to store. I usually bring about a dozen each of one-quarter, five-eight and half-ounce jig heads and about 60 twister bodies in yellow, chartreuse, white and orange. In lakes with pike, I always tie on a foot long steel leader. You’ll simply land more fish and lose less tackle with a steel leader, and it’s actually easier to handle “eater” walleye by grabbing the leader and lifting them in the boat. The less tackle you have to worry about, the better.
Ok, now that I’ve radically lightened your tackle box, I’m going to mess things up. I really recommend bring a portable fish finder on any hunting trip that could include fishing. Why? Because in the fall, the majority of walleye, bass, perch, and even pike hang around reefs and drop offs. Sure, you could fluke on a spot, or maybe someone has been kind enough to throw a jug on a reef, but don’t count on it. When time is an issue, I don’t want to go searching blind for my supper. Use rechargeable 12 volt batteries to power the portable unit and bring a couple of them. A couple buoys will also help you mark hotspots. If it’s not too windy, I leave them on the reefs until the hunt is over. There is rarely anyone else fishing come October, at least in my experience.
Also, don’t forget to throw in a few tools that will make your life easier on the water. A pair of needle nose pliers, a hook hone, a fish glove, jaw spreaders, slime towel, ruler, and stringer are all helpful. Keep in mind that regulations, seasons, and bag limits vary across the province, and you should never assume that regulations will be the same as you’re used to. If you have any doubts about fishing regulations, check with the MNRF district of?ice that’s the closest to were you’ll be hunting.
Fishing may only be an after thought during a fall hunt, but it’s worth the time to be prepared. Nothing goes better with fresh moose tenderloin than a plate of fresh Ontario walleye.
And don’t forget the seafood sauce. Nothing goes better with crisp walleye!