Eli, a member on Roughfish.com, and I had been chatting for a bit about organizing a trip to target American Shad on the Ottawa River. Unfortunately, this spring's weather was a bit messed up and the shad did not arrive early as we hoped. However, Eli said he would try to help me to add a Greater Redhorse at the minimum. I also hope to be extremely lucky to find a Lake Sturgeon and a River Redhorse. However, the latter two targets are harder to find than winning the lottery.
On Friday, I began my drive at 06:30. With a couple of stops for food and gas, I finally arrived in Ottawa by 11:00. Another hour outside of Ottawa, I arrived at a spot where Eli had caught 3 Lake Sturgeon two weeks prior.
As I set up, Eli texted me and asked how everything was going. Well, nothing much was going at all, but Eli said there could be a lot of freshwater drum this time of year.
It was slow fishing. I got the occasional fish rang the bell on the rod...nothing really serious enough to take line off the Shimano Baitrunner. Luckily, I did get one skunk buster at about 3pm.
At about 4:30pm, I called it a session and drove back to Ottawa to grab a bite and try location #2. There was some road construction which made me terrible lost in the one way streets of Ottawa...but finally, after 30 minutes of driving round and round, I arrived. Eli said location #2 should have some sauger. I had caught sauger before...but I want to catch another one for a nice picture. However, location #2 only yield 3 cigar walleye and 1 mooneye about 14". I released all the fish without any picture...you just have to trust me LOL. Eli came by the river after work and after picking up a new car. It was great to finally chat in person. We made plans for the next morning.
I left at about 8:30pm and arrived at my friend's house where I'll stay for the weekend. I've known my friend since we're kids and it was great to see him owning a house and expecting a baby in 6 months.
Saturday morning, Eli picked me up at about 8:30am. It was a 40 minutes drive to our Greater Redhorse river. Once we arrived, we looked from the bridge and saw a small pod of Greaters in the deeper channel of the small river. Eli instructed me to cast downstream of the fish and retrieve upstream into position such that the worm would be places just an inch or two from the fish. It was much easier said than done since the river was riddled with Common Shiners, Creek Chubs, Pumpkinseed Sunfish and Rockbass. Most times, those critters were much quicker than the Greater Redhorse and they would get to the worm before I could even position the bait. After a few tries, the Greater Redhorse pod was spooked.
There was one more fish left and it was a redhorse. We thought it was a Silver Redhorse, a decent size one. With the first perfect presentation to the fish. it grabbed the worm quickly. After a good fight from the bridge, Eli netted it by the river side and I quickly ran down to join him.
Awesome Silver Redhorse!
But we're here for the Greater Redhorse. Since the fish vacated the downstream areas, we looked upstream to find a few skittish fish. At last, we finally found a few more below a weir. I made repeated attempts at them, but the fish appeared to be feeding on other things living in the algae covered rocks. They were not at all interested in my worm.
While I try for the Greater Redhorse, Eli was testing out his new telescopic Shimano ultralight with a spinner and a bit of worm to catch some minnow species. Strangely, all the fish, including the rockbass, were not very receptive of the spinner. However, they continues to taunt me by stripping my bait every few casts.
After an hour of trying, Eli checked downstream again and he saw a larger Greater Redhorse from the bridge. He called me over and I positioned the bait in perfect location after several tries. We saw the fish swam up and the lips flashed. I thought the fish had already sucked up the worm so I went to set the hook...but instead, it spooked the fish. It was likely just tasting the water for the worm and had not taken it fully. Darn! It was so close! That could have been the only shot I'll get!
I went back upstream to fish the weir. I had a perfect shot at 3 Greater Redhorse. Just as one fish was right on top of my bait, I heard Eli called for me. I had to wait until the fish ignored my bait before I ran back to the bridge. From the bridge, we could see a larger Greater Redhorse hanging out with the Silver Redhorse that I had caught earlier. It took only two tries this time to position my rig in front of the fish...and soon enough, the fish gulped the worm in and Eli screamed "Set it! Set it!"
I was slow on the draw since I was afraid to set too early...but this time, I pulled back and felt weight. The fish barely moved off bottom on the hookset...but as soon as it felt the hook penetrate, it freaked out! I was shaking during the whole fight. I had a scary moment when the fish looked like it was going to run under the bridge. However I managed to stop the fish from going under and guide it to the waiting net that Eli that put into the water. After a 45 second fight, the Greater Redhorse was finally mine!
Greater Redhorse (Moxostoma valenciennesi)...#212! It took me 4 years of trying and I finally caught it! What a journey it has been. I had checked all the rivers west of Toronto such as the Grand, Thames and Conestogo. These rivers hold Greater Redhorse, but even though I've fished there in the spring, summer and fall, I had yet to find them. Finally, this chapter can be closed.
Since these Greater Redhorse are in the river to spawn, we do not want to stress them too much. So we decided to fish another river after to search for a River Redhorse.
Eli had a few locations to try and we run and gun a few places. We didn't see much of any signs of River Redhorse. But we finally settled on a location to fish for whatever fun.
I was bottom bouncing the rocky bottom in the current while Eli fished the tail end of a rapid letting the bait sit still on bottom. I caught a few Smallmouth Bass while Eli caught a Silver Redhorse. After about an hour, we repositioned slightly downstream to fish a large back eddy. Here, Eli caught a couple more Silver Redhorse included his handsome specimen.
Eli noticed some Common Logperch on the river bottom. These fish are very common, but strangely, I've never really seen them while fishing. This was another opportunity to catch a new species. I tied on a 3lb leader and a #20 hook. Using a BB size split shot to keep the rig on bottom, I quickly attracted the attention of the Logperch...plus other fish like Pumpkinseed, Rockbass and Fallfish. Unfortunately, the non-target species were always quicker on the bait. I also had a small school of Logperch being chased by a larger Rockbass. Luckily, I noticed that there were even more Logperch hanging out on a pebbly area close to shore. After a few tries, I landed my first, second and third Common Logperch!
Common Logperch (Percina caprodes)...#213!
We had already fished late into the afternoon. With another new species added, we called it a day.
At 5:45am on Sunday morning, I picked up Eli at his apartment. We drove upstream of the spot I fished on Friday to fish the weir area. Hopefully the Lake Sturgeon is in the area.
I decided to fish a large back eddy where the sturgeon may feed. Eli said this area could also be good for Channel Catfish. It was a very slow morning with only a few quick taps, a cigar walleye and a Channel Catfish. When Eli called me to offer a fresh fish to use as cut bait, I caught a 15" Channel Catfish with the cut bait.
Eli was fishing upstream and he caught a Silver Redhorse, a Freshwater Drum, a 4lb Channel Catfish, a Mooneye and a couple of Shorthead Redhorse. However, this was considered very slow by his standard. He suggested that we should move to the other side of the river where some carp were rolling.
We grabbed some fresh worms, some cold water and some nice for my catfish. A short relocation after, we started on some very slow fishing. There were a few quick taps on the rod, but nothing too serious. At about 2pm, I found an area with a rocky flat where a school of Shorthead Redhorse had moved in. It was steady fishing for these Shortheads. Between the two of us, we caught about a dozen Shortheads in about 1.5 hours. We released most of the fish quickly without a picture since we were fishing a high bank. It took a little effort to get down to the river's edge to release the fish gently. We really didn't have time to take picture.
Eli noticed some butterflies around so he went to get a few shots. While he was shooting, his rod went off and I went to grab it. At the exact same moment, a fish took my bait so hard that my rod tipped over and was flipped out of the rod pod. I just grabbed in time before it fell into the river. While Eli took his rod, I played my fish and landed a decent Channel Catfish.
We also had a couple of fish snapped us off. There were a lot of zebra mussels growing on bottom and our mono or braid was no match for it. Both times, a good hit that completely bend the rod was followed with a solid hook up and a line snap before you can even say "nooooo".
We ended the day with a couple more Shorthead Redhorse. We did take a picture of the last fish of the day.
Initially, we were hoping to fish Monday as well. However, after two days of hard fishing, we decided to save the unfinished and next to impossible task of finding a Lake Sturgeon or a River Redhorse for another trip. I had to leave Ottawa by 12pm and it just wouldn't leave too much time to check three different locations and have any meaningful attempt at those fish.
It was a great pleasure to fish with Eli. We chat a lot about where we've fished, our experience with different species, and upcoming trips that were highly anticipated. I hope to fish with Eli again. If I can manage it, maybe I can visit Ottawa in the fall to try for some night time sturgeon fishing.
Thanks Eli for being a great local guide and my friend Jerome for hosting me for the weekend. I hope Eli can find time to visit me this summer so I can return the favour and help him add Golden Redhorse, Northern Hogsucker, Longear Sunfish, Brown Trout, Quillback and Grass Pickerel to his list