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Spring Smallmouth Bass

In 2021 Ontario instituted an early catch and release bass season in Fisheries Management Zone 20. Having made an abrupt, emergency trip east I hadn’t really been aware of it and to be honest, wasn’t in any mind-set to consider what may be open and pack the appropriate fly rods. This was a pack the carry-on and get the hell back here situation. With a couple of unplanned weeks at the cottage I figured if there were a few nice days I might break out some of the tackle I leave there and do some gear fishing for panfish with my nephews. After purchasing my fishing license for the season and cruising the regulations I came across the early bass season which piqued my interest.

My youngest nephew Ronan getting after the sunfish.

The weather didn’t really cooperate, being April and all, I didn’t hold hight hopes, it wasn’t until the end of my stay that the water temperatures started to climb. The last day of the month and it was shirt sleeve weather, the water stretching to 52 degrees and bass had started to come into the shallows. With the sun shining and ever so slight of a breeze there was an inclination that the lockjaw of the previous few days may be broken.

Quinn getting after it in the bow of the canoe.

Over five sessions or so we had only caught a tiny sunfish and one scrawny little northern that was quickly released since it was out of season. With my brother-in-law out in the only boat we had in the water, my nephew Quinn and I headed out for a little tour in the canoe. Coming over a rock shoal we started seeing big smallmouth bass darting everywhere. There was no doubt that it was time to stop and do some exploring with our rods. Tying on small rubber swimbaits, giving them a slow, steady retrieve it quickly became apparent we’d found the meal ticket.

Catching spring tankers on gear, it may not have been my fly rod, but it was still fun.

My first fish was a brute, probably over the four pound mark and strong. The cold weather played to our advantage, taking away some of the smallie’s fight and limiting their airtime, meaning we landed more than we lost and they were all beasts. Smallmouth bass are an annomoly in the fish world, breaking the trend of the females being the largest. Undoubtedly these were males coming to hand, all healthy with fat bellies, but no indications of being pre-spawn quite yet. In the end I caught two football shaped bronze backs while Quinn schooled us all, landing five along with a sickly looking clam. While the reason for my visit had us all in a melancholy mood, it was nice to smile for a bit with a sweet, spring day of smallmouth bass fishing.

See you on the water or the mountain.

-Matthew Mallory


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