Sunday, January 31, 2010


The full moon is setting as we head for East La Have via Exit12.

The line of vehicles along the road mark the spot.

Our guide,George Hirtle leaves the shoreline on a rickety homemade ramp.

Above and below: Phil Ellwood aka The Chester Foodie braves the crossing successfully. This is a recipe for fun.

There were over 50 fishermen out on the ice.

The boring part.

George breaks through. The ice is about 5 inches thick.

Fishin' and waitin'.

Winter sunrise on the LaHave River.

In a few minutes,the smelt started biting.

The Chester Foodie still has nothing for his frying pan. He was still fishing while the rest of us were catching.

George lands his first fish.

A fisherman's eye view.

It's about dressing warm. Fashion has nothing to do with it.

This fellow had the comfort of a folding camp stool.

In about 1/2 an hour we had about a dozen of the fish.

It's time to head home after the fish stopped biting.

The bridge to shore is a little more precarious now that the tide is near it's full height.

The Chester Foodie has made it ashore with his catch to cook for another day.

Jan.31'st,The LaHave River---------------------------- Another popular winter pastime along Nova Scotia's Southshore is ice fishing. In these parts it is predominantly a saltwater sport and commercial fishery. We are going to show you the recreational side of the fishery.

The fish to catch here is the Rainbow Smelt or Osmerus mordax for all the scientists out there in web land. Ice fishing was a very popular pastime in and around Chester up until about 25 years ago when the numbers of smelt drastically decreased. It is unknown whether this was due to over fishing,pollution or ignorant participants in the Spring "Dipping Season" destroying the spawn and the habitat where the fish went to spawn . Over-fishing in the Spring is more damaging as many fish can be comfortably caught with the least effort compared to baiting a hook and pulling up a single fish in subzero temperatures.
Years ago,Marriott's Cove,Goat Lake,Gold River and Western Shore were very good fishing spots. Before that there were a few good spots in the waters immediately around Chester Village. Enough history,let's fish !
We will look at the rules and important information in case you want to try it.

The first rule is to check the ice. 4 to 5 inches is plenty for safe fishing. A little bit of a work-out to chop or bore through but safety is paramount,especially if there is a large group fishing in a relatively small area. If you aren't sure about local ice conditions,test it yourself or check with a local fisherman. George Hirtle was our expert on this trip. Another important thing to remember is to find a safe spot to get on to the ice. Tides and currents do not cooperate well with ice,especially around the shoreline.
It is always polite to check with the owner if you think you will be heading out by
crossing private property.

The second rule is to dress warm. We were out in -12 Celsius weather. With no windchill factor it was bearable but cold for exposed flesh. Layering works well for this activity. Any winter wear will work. Skidoo suits and marine survival suits are excellent.Warm footwear,headgear and handwear are important if you want to be really comfortable.

Rule 3. Fishing gear. Everything from a string and a hook on up to a $100 ice fishing outfit will work. George and Phil were using "fancy" gear while ol' captainkidd used a hand-made wooden fishing stick. We all caught about the same amount of fish.

Rule4. Bait. Shrimp;cooked or raw,mackerel pieces,blood worms and sand worms are popular. We had good results with cooked shrimp. Years ago clams and even red meat were used. Some fishermen would throw oatmeal down the hole to attract the fish.

Rule 5. The official rules. The bag limit is 5 dozen fish per day per fishermen. You cannot legally sell any of your catch. In case you were wondering, Federal Fisheries officers do patrol randomly and will show up if they suspect illegal activity or get complaints.

Rule 6. Optional notes. To make life on the ice easier,many fishermen use buckets and folding camp furniture to sit on and carry equipment. Some build custom fishing boxes on blades or runners. They are great sit on and for the storage and transportation of equipment and gear.
The keenest fishermen build "smelt shacks". These are small portable huts replete with all the creature comforts of home. From heating and cookstoves to lanterns and stereos. And sometimes even better furniture. Just to be out of the wind makes a big difference for longer stays.
Other handy items to take along are a thermos and a lunch for warm-up breaks.

And there you have it. In just over an hour,we had over 3 doz. fish between us. Just enough for a good feed. In the coming days we will show you how we cooked them.

For more information on The Rainbow Smelt click here


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