How do you start a long weekend and celebrate our countries birthday? Like so many weekends through the years Georgian Bay outer shoals is where you would find us. Sometime my wife and I and several friends would load up the pontoon boat with all the ultra light rods, the BBQ, snorkeling gear, a cooler full of ice and cold drinks and hotdogs, marshmallows, and lots of water. On one of those perfect flat sunny days we would head to the Umbrella Islands, the Westerns, Pine Islands, or any number of groups in the chain of 30,000 Islands.
The pontoons would be just plowing under all the weight and what would take 30 minutes in my bass boat took 2 hours on the barge. But we didn’t care because it was going to be a twelve hour day and we would not return until dark. The sun would get so hot on the deck you would have to stick your feet in the water every now and then. When we finally arrived at our destination we would anchor and dive in the crystal water and as your hands cut through the first few feet you could feel the heat leave your body. As you swam down the water would get cold and you could feel a shiver and an panic to turn up for warmer water. You break back up through the surface and you really felt alive.
Most of the time there were smallmouth scattering from the initial plunge. We would grab a rod with a grub and walk along the shoals and catch a fish every cast. It was magic. After a long day of snorkeling, fishing, eating, and sun worshiping, it would be time for a magnificent sunset and as the orange ball disappeared and that purple splash of last light hit the ski it was time to head back. You could feel the temperature drop and as we cruised through the shoals inland to the cottage just the moon on the shoals and pine trees was the only guide. There was no GPS back then just the instinct of hundreds of trips. By the time we tied up to the dock it was black and we stumbled and kicked stones and branches in bare feet back to the door because someone forgot to leave a light on again.
There is no more cottage or pontoon boat but I’m constantly trying to replicate one of those memorable days. Today was a mission to video by boat, land and air what I see when I’m out there. With a new hector drone and every piece of equipment I own, Roy Adams and I headed for the bay at first light. We launched at Penetang and cruise up the bay to the gap.
As I put the throttle down and took a short cut inside the marker turning out for the open bay we crossed a sand flat. On my new charts with one foot contours I could see we were supposed to be in 12 fow but as we flew over the flat we felt a click like my prop just had a conversation with a rock. I didn’t think anything of it and everything seemed to be fine so we kept going headed for the Tomb.
The plan was to video using the Hector Drone from one end of the Island to the other. We were doing it from the boat for the first time and Roy’s piloting skills allowed us to shoot from anywhere. It was a little nerve wracking because we had no idea what to do if something fails other than watch a couple of thousand dollars sink. But the take-off was perfect and Roy had the bird doing exactly as we panned. He would bring the quad back and land it in my hands perfectly. If it was me flying we would have taken out 40 seagulls and a couple of bass.
This is the north end of Giants Tomb Island
Now it was time to make a 15 minute run back in and search for some big deep water pike. When we started the motor and put it in gear there was a strange vibration. I’ve felt this before, just before reaching for my visa card. We lifted the motor and the prop had a ding. We didn’t think too much of it and once the boat was on plane it was smooth again. We get back in and start casting the shoals but the smallies were suicidal and we couldn’t get away from them. Finally we pull up to a shoal with no bass and Roy casts an inline spinner and as it comes back to the boat there is a long broad fish cruising behind. The first pike of the day was over 40 inches but unfortunately it turned off with no interest.
We decide to head over to where there was a nice sub surface shoal so we start the motor and cruise slow but on the way to the other shoal there was an unmarked shoal about 100 ft long that came within inched of the surface. We fished it with no success and then tested the drone again and took some pictures. When you are staring at water level these shoals are beautiful but when you look down from above they are magnificent.
We encountered several shoals that are not on the new charts but I think they are still on the old ones. Some are marked as rocks but are surrounded by deep water with no contours and no depth colour. Be very careful out there and if you don’t know where you are going stay in the channel.
Navionics provides a feature that allows some sonar units to record the depths and save to your chip. If you upload the info, fresh accurate charts will be available within days. Many anglers don’t like to do this because they have to give away their spots but in some cases its a matter of safety and I would urge anglers to send in what they can, not just on Georgian Bay but Simcoe as well.
We found a little Island with a couple of trees and one of those perfect ambush ledges and as I throw a swimbait on top I see a huge black crack in the rock start to follow. It followed all the way to the boat before finally rolling off. This pike was huge but had no interest in eating but was just curious. A few minutes later another big fish follows us in at a faster pace but still no hit. Then we get back into the menacing bass. It just had to be the day before the opener. We would have caught 100 fish. But instead we had to leave every spot that had crazy smallies. We found some deep weeds and that produced a 30 inch fish but then the bass moved in again. We decided to go and shoot some more video.
We gave up on the pike and cruised over the hole to look for trout or salmon but we didn’t see a single mark. After making several stops for aerial work and some images it was time to head in. Now my prop is really vibrating and as we pulled the boat out and spun the prop we could easily see I bent the shaft.
So it’s a long weekend of not fishing and the first bass opener I’ve missed as long as I can remember. I had a family function anyway but a few casts in the morning would have been perfect. There will be lots of perfect days on the bay to come.
Here is some more images of the area