Saturday, 21 September 2013

Fisherman in Training

I believe it is important to have traditions with family.  Something to pass down onto your children and say "I did this with my parents".  Sometimes the simplest of things are the most memorable for a child.  Popping a balloon on their birthday, getting the first piece of cake, having "wine" (spritzer water or ginger ale) with Christmas dinner.  These are the traditions that are memorable and worth passing on.

My most favourite traditions are experienced in our family vacation we take every year. 

Thirty years ago, before I was born, my parents started going to a place called Honey Harbour.  They would take my sister to Trail's End cottages and go trolling in the boat, swimming and at the end of the day they would have a fish fry with what they caught.  This tradition carried on after I was born.  We would go to Trail's End every summer, until they leveled the cottages and built houses (that they call cottages) that they charge an arm and a leg for.  After they changed, we stopped going.  We found another reasonable place 5 minutes from Trail's End, called Picnic Island.  We have been going there for the past 15 years.

Picnic Island is beautiful.  There are cute cottages all with different names.  This year we were in "Sunny Tuft" which is bright yellow.  There is a small fry hut, a grocery store and a dock gas station built on a large rock which is Picnic Island. You get to it by walking over a little bridge.

This family vacation is filled with tradition.  There are certain things we always do when we are there.
When we were at the cottage this year, it was chilly.  The first couple weeks of September usually are. so having a fire at night was a great way to keep warm, but no matter how hot or cold it is we WILL have a fire.  It's tradition.  You've got to have a fire at the cottage.  Even if it is 35C at night and you have to sit 6 feet from the fire, you have a fire at the cottage.  My husband, Dave, is a "firebug" as his mom calls him.  He constantly needs to be poking the fire.  This year, he copied a friend of ours from years ago, and melted a beer bottle in the fire.  The smile on his face made me think he was 10 again.  That silly, childish smirk of "look what I did".  He was so proud of himself.  It is pretty neat to get the coals so hot they turn white and make a little furnace to melt glass.  I guess I would have a goofy smile too if I did it.

I grew up a spoiled kid.  I will not eat anything but fresh fish.  No fish sticks for me.  The fish I eat; I caught myself, my dad filleted, has only been dead a couple hours and when I take a bite, it is only one fish, not many fishes in one bite.  People who say they don't like fish need to come to the cottage with me and my parents.  My dad will show you how fish is supposed to taste, not that crap from the grocery store.  This year, Sloan got to eat her first piece of fresh fish.  She loved it so much she basically inhaled it, saying with a full mouth, "More!".  She had awesome fish poops the next day.  Grandma got to change that diaper.  

In order to catch that delicious fish.  We need to go out in the boat.  My parents have a pretty nice fishing boat now, but we started out borrowing my grandpa's old tin can boat.  I almost fell in the water on that boat.  The chair at the bow broke (like the one in the picture - on a pedestal) and luckily I landed on the floor rather than in the water.  It was terrifying. I still sit in that seat at the bow of the boat every time I fish though.  It's tradition.

This boat is way more comfortable than the old tin can boat that tried to kill me.

This is my favourite part of the entire vacation.  Sitting in the boat with my mom and dad (and the last 10 years - my husband), holding onto a fishing rod, feeling the gentle vibration of the lure while looking out over the cottages, and islands.  I have learned an amazing amount of knowledge on fishing from my dad.  He taught me everything  I know about fishing and continues to teach me every time.  He still gets excited every time someone gets "fish on!"  The excitement of suddenly feeling a fish biting your lure, setting the hook and the fight to the boat is amazing.  My dad told me I still get "the face".

Me: "What do you mean 'the face'?"
Dad: "You get your 'IT'S ON' face.  Your "I'm gonna kill ya" face."
Me. "That's because it IS ON and I got that fucker in the boat."

Before the excitement of reeling in a fish, there are some things you need to know and do.  Here's what my dad taught me about fishing:

Test your line before you put your lure on.  I have lost a couple lures by forgetting to do this.  If a big fish or even a medium sized fish strikes on a weak line, you're not getting the fish or your lure back.  Give it a tug every once in a while after reeling in.

Get everything ready before you leave the dock. 

Don't throw the weeds you catch back into the water.  My dad told me not to do this because they will just end up on your line when you troll your line past them.  My mom's reason is far different. When I was little my mom told me that her dad would never put the weeds back in the water because they had seeds on them.  He kept them out of the water so not as many weeds would grow next year.  Maybe his small action did help to create less weeds....back then.  This small deed won't do anything these days - with seaweed on steroids - but I still put the weeds in the boat when I reel them in.  It makes the fire smell like lake water when we burn them at night.

Keep your finger on the fishing line to feel the vibration or watch the end of the fishing rod to make sure it is gently vibrating.  When your fishing rod doesn't move, it means you have a weed on your lure and you need to reel in to clean it off.  Lures are specially designed to mimic the movement of a fish.  When something gets stuck to it, it stops moving the way it was designed to and just glides through the water rather than wiggling its tail side to side.

Live wells are very handy.  On our old tin can boat we had to use a chain that we clipped the fish to and kept in the water beside the boat.  There have been a couple times where we forgot to bring the fish out of the water before we started to go faster...we didn't have a fish fry that night, let's just put it that way.  Live wells are great because you can keep everything you catch and throw back the smallest ones at the end of the day.  And you don't have to remember to bring them back into the boat so they don't become sushi.
I was on a roll!  3 Pike and a bass all in one morning!

  My husband finally caught one!  He has only caught a couple fish in the few years he has been coming with us to the cottage and this year he got the biggest one!  It was delicious. 
6.1 pounds!
The end of Summer and beginning of Autumn (around September) the fish get a little crazy.  My dad says that something just turns on in their brain when the water starts to get cold that tells them "I must eat everything that moves".  So sometimes you catch fish that you don't think you'll catch.  .....

 Seriously?  That little Bass actually thought he could eat that lure.  It is the size of him!  Fish are crazy.

This year I watched closely as my dad filleted the fish.  I have never done one myself, but one day I will.  I know the basic concept of it, I just have to practice.  Almost every year he teaches other random cottagers how to fillet a fish.  He gets really mad when people butcher a fish and waste most of the meat because they don't know what they are doing.  This year he taught our neighbour cottager how to fillet pike properly.

If you like fish and prefer not see their guts, scroll down really fast through the next few pictures.

We like to see what's inside the fish's stomach.  Nothing this time.

 We don't keep everything we catch.  We try and only keep the big ones (while following the fishing license rules) and throw the small ones back.  Sometimes we have to keep a fish because it is wounded and won't survive if we put it back in the water.  I gouged this one pretty good.  The lure got caught in it's side which is really strange.  We figure this fish had a blind eye and had to learn to strike differently.  They usually follow behind the lure, it looks like this one followed parallel to the lure.  

Oops.  Sorry fishy.

blind eye.  First we've ever seen on a fish we caught.

 I learn so much every time I go fishing.  The fish and their eco system is ever changing and in order to boat and fish the waters you need to adapt.  When we first started going to the cottage, the water was much higher than it is now.  It's scary how low the water is sometimes.  This is a boat house probably built 50 or 60 years ago, maybe more.  That's where the water used to be.

 You can see the different levels of water over the years have stained the rocks. 

10 years ago there was barely any water in between the dock on the left and the large rock island on the right in the next picture.  30 years ago, that rock island on the right would be mostly covered with water.

Up North you can see signs everywhere for stop the drop.  Water is life and we need to respect it and the creature living in it.

I have been a fisherman in training since I was big enough to hold a fishing rod.  I have learned and continue to learn so much.  I have learned to respect the water, fellow boaters and the fish we catch.  Before we eat our fish fry, we thank the fish for its deliciousness.  My husband became a fisherman in training when he joined my family.  My daughter will become a fisherman in training when she is old enough to hold her fishing rod.  It's family tradition.  That's how the Cameron's roll.  For this year, we gave Sloan a great first taste of our traditions and memories and I hope she will enjoy them as much as I did growing up.  For right now, she is more interested in the sand than being in the boat.  That's okay, she's still in training.

Grandpa dripping water on Sloan to give her the 'full experience'

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