Sunday, July 11, 2010


Best Fishing In Years

What an opening day. We came back with the big bin stuffed with big fish. Best opening ever for me. My two chinook fought so hard that I had illusions of much bigger fish battling every inch of the way. Surely I would win a truck or a boat or, at least, bragging rights for the day.
The picture taken by the great Toronto photographer Dick Loek doesn't even show all our fish.
We caught about 190 pounds of fish in just over three hours--seven chinook between 20 and 26 pounds each, two salmon around 12 pounds, (one a coho, and they're smaller than chinooks or kings) and two small beauties which taste great with a little butter and tender care.
Just imagine all the bargain eating! My local store is selling wild Pacific salmon at $6 a pound, so we had at least $800 worth of eating. And yes, you can, and I do, eat fish from Lake Ontario and other Ontario waters. There's a good government booklet spelling out the safety issues.
Ordinarily I would detail the weight of each fish. Yet when you catch so many, and as columnist Joe Warmington wrote in the Sunday Sun, at one point we had three fish on at the same time, it all blurs into a slippery haze.
But I do recall that Warmington once again didn't even catch a cold. And he was being assisted by OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino, a great friend of Warmington's, and a great fisherman, or so he tells us. so even the long arm of the law didn't help.
So Joe's not in the picture. Loek did take one with Joe out front holding one of the baby beauties, but somehow that doesn't seem to have survived.
That's Walter Oster on the left, the chap who runs the derby down to every last hook. He also heads the convention centre and the sportsmen's shows and takes time out for exotic fishing trips for wonders like the peacock bass of the Amazon. And when you get a big fish on and fight it for 30 fatiguing minutes, Walter stands at your elbow and gives you 30 minutes of advice.
Next to Walter is Bob Dickson, a businessman who was so excited about the charter that he couldn't sleep. His two salmon were the biggest fish of his life and a tribute to how he managed to ignore all our advice, even mine.
That's me in the middle with the fish that gave me the toughest fights of my life, and while I'm hardly an expert, I have fished around the world.
The woman is the rookie minister from Brampton, Linda Jeffery, who has just been in charge of the sprawling Ministry of Natural Resources since January. She got a little help (it's surprising how men rush to help a pretty minister, even hugging her to anchor her) but her fish was far from the boat, and she had to crank and crank and crank.
Then Fantino ( on the right in the picture) got a fish on. Then I did. When I pulled my fish close, I found everyone concentrating on making sure the politician in charge of the ministry dealing with Ontario fishing landed the biggest fish of her life.
Then everyone helped Fantino, who, believe me, doesn't need any aid from anyone. He always gets his man...I mean fish. Last year, the commissioner and I had fish on at the same time and he came over and bodychecked me to get more room. (Yes, I lost the fish.)
Vito Cirone, the charter skipper, kidded me about how a retired editor is ignored on such occasions, then deftly netted my first fish of around 21 pounds.
I've fished every derby and already the fish are bigger than we used to get early in the summer. Ten salmon bigger than 30 pounds were boated opening day. And the Sun has always been a loyal sponsor. (Warmington didn't have that in his column. In the old days, one of the stalwarts of our promotion department, like Linda Ruddy and Pat Surphlis, would have been giving him heck before breakfast, but even Pat is gone, thanks to the dummies of Quebecor.
The Sun has always had fun with the derby. Years ago we arrived back at the dock to find a Sun photographer and a $20 Canadian Tire dingy. I was told that our chief photographer, Hugh Wesley, had decreed that the shot for Page One was me floating in the dinghy and holding up our catch. Of course what Wesley really wanted is me falling out of the flimsy craft into the lake and sinking with the fish. I outsmarted him and didn't sink, so my picture was on Page 3.
Fishing is a great break from reality. No wonder it's the top recreational activity in the province.
For example, Jeffery said it had been an awful week for her. Two police forces had to be called to protect her when activists and ratepayers swarmed her Brampton office just the previous day, irate at a development. Fantino, grumbling gently that he really was always working, had to fly out on Sunday to deal with upset natives in northern Ontario. (My problems with cottage plumbing/outboards were tiny by comparison, but a fishing breather is always welcome.)
Generally fishing has long periods of no activity with lots of fibbing about past catches. And then when you do get a fish on, everyone, especially Oster, warns you direly of what will happen if you don't bring it in. Typical fishing barracking! But this year we almost didn't have time for that.
It seems the salmon in Lake Ontario are so big this year you don't have to exaggerate your catch. And they're so many salmon out there that I think even Joe Warmington will finally manage to catch one.