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Subzero fishin’ for Fishin' Technician

I learned an interesting thing about myself last weekend. If my forehead gets cold my feet feel colder.

Fishin’ technician Mike W. Bryant hoists a large male inconnu in full spawning mode on a day that tested the limits of late season fishing as winter closes in. It was -5 C when he headed out onto the water Sunday morning. Our lines froze to our fishing rods all day as the temperature failed to creep past zero.
Mike W. Bryant/NNSL photo

The pseudo-physiological revelation came to light as I and my comrades jetted across a large, icy lake Sunday north of Behchoko at 45 miles an hour. The air was still while standing at the shore but now it was whipping the sunny summer memories out of me.

Last winter I went reef fishing in the Bahamas. The water was troubled and choppy but the guides opened up the throttle anyway as we motored 15 km across the open sea. The wind on my face was violent but pleasant in the tropical heat.

Here, on the open inland sea at -5 C the wind stabbed at the chinks in my balaclava, driving frozen nails through my brain and into my feet. It might not have been so bad had Gordie Greening remembered his ski goggles but he had forgotten his in our race to prepare for the early morning trip. So I volunteered mine so he could drive the boat while I donned my wholly unsatisfactory sunglasses. It didn’t help either that a rock had smashed the centre panel of the boat’s windscreen on the ride up.

“It was all worth it,” he said as we peeled ourselves from his boat at the terminal point of the Pike Jam far upriver. “Just getting out here, that’s what it’s all about.”

As the old saying goes, a day on the water is better than any day at the office, or in my case, another weekend day of sorting through junky boxes I had hastily packed the month before during my family’s great move to a new house down the street.

We had wanted to visit this particular area one more time before winter closed the door on soft-water angling. I would reveal its name but it is too special a place to give it up casually. At the rapids we call the Pike Jam, hordes of lake whitefish and inconnu – a true northern fish if there ever was one – stack up in anticipation of an easy meal. Also in the mix are some gigantic northern pike looking for an even easier meal of overstuffed coney.

I had low expectations for the fishing this close to freeze up but by and by, being a Northerner, there is no point holding out for sunny days to get a little fishing in when you can.

No doubt the cold was just as hard on the fish’s appetite as what was on my feet as bites were relatively scarce on this trip.

Last year, when my Dutch friend Gijs Van Straten made a pilgrimage North to catch inconnu we held a contest among the four of us camping there. After a long, punishing day catching one bruising fish after another, the competition called for the last man to hook an inconnu to make dinner.
None of our lures made it back to the boat without at least an eight-pound inconnu attached to it. The losing time was about four seconds.

Last weekend there were no big pike and the inconnu bites were far fewer. They were still plenty enough, however, and they were pleasing to behold in their fall spawning colours.

Freezing feet or not, it was nice to get out and nip a few before winter sets in and puts are minds to other things.

Cheers, check out my short inconnu fishing video on our Facebook page at NNSL online.