24-Hour Fish-a-thon with the Ottawa River Keeper

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The 24 hour fish-a-thon organized in partnership between Blue Fish Canada and the Ottawa River Keeper went as smooth as could be expected. Weather was calm, water conditions were stable, media showed up on schedule, volunteers all contributed as promised, and no one got hurt. About the only thing that could have been better was the fishing (LOL). In spite of that, we still managed to capture and release 12 species of fish from the Ottawa River within the boundaries of the city of Ottawa over a 24-hour period from a single boat.

Segment One — 8:00-11:00 a.m.:

John Anderson from the Ottawa River Musky Factory and Hallie Cotnum from CBC Ottawa Radio jumped on board my Ranger Fisherman 620 along with my right hand for this project, Jason Cox. My guide dog Moby was also with me throughout. Lots of room for all. We started with a blast up the river that completely reconfigured Hallie’s hair for radio, and then began casting large Muskie plugs. Four rods, four baits, eight treble hooks, and 24 hook points, but in spite of our raising three fish and one actual bite, no fish in the boat. Tons of fun though, and Hallie gave stellar coverage including an 8-minute edited radio piece she recorded on the boat.

Segment Two — 11:00-3:00 p.m.:

This second segment had Rob Jackson from RJ and Birdy Outdoors aboard for a session of Gar hunting. It’s truly a visual sport in that you first need to spot these torpedoes in the shallows and then present specially modified baits within inches of the Gar’s face. We had a ton of fun stocking these predators from the bow of the Ranger and some success as well with the largest caught measuring about 35 inches. The Ottawa River Keeper camera boat was following us, but I don’t think they had it easy given the stump fields RJ had us threading in pursuit of these shallow water fish.

Segment Three — 3:00-7:00 p.m.:

This afternoon segment was intended to be the easiest in that we were to pursue panfish (e.g. Sunfish, Crappy, Bluegill, etc.). Our featured guests included Yvonne Brown from Fishing 101 for Women, Meredith Brown the official Ottawa River Keeper, Meredith’s son Charlie, the President of the Ottawa Fishing Club David Mingie, and another three folks from Ottawa River Keeper. Two boats, nine fishing rods, perfectly calm sunny weather, and we could not buy a bite. I had a Perch on with my first cast, and that was it for us all. The lesson in Segment Three was fishing is no guarantee of actually catching.

Segment Four — 7:00-12:00 a.m.:

Yanick Loranger of Ottawa River Guided Fishing came aboard to see about putting us on some Walleye and catfish. Successful on all counts, including more Perch and first appearances by a Sauger and several other panfish species. We didn’t venture far from Oziles Marina for this as there are boating hazards in the area, and we didn’t want to take the chance of a night time rescue. I found funny the total dependency Yanick and Jason have for light. They really struggled in the moonless black-out conditions in spite of the ever-constant anchor light at the stern.

Segment Five — 12:00-5:00 a.m.:

For me this midnight to first light segment was the most difficult. I could not sit down without slipping into sleep. Having started the day before quite early already, the segment signified my going 24 hours without sleep. Joining Jason, Moby and I on the boat for this portion were two fine local brothers who are well regarded as top-shelf anglers – Anthony and Andrew. Our goal was Bass and Pike or anything else that lurks in the dark. Turns out our experience with the panfish earlier the day before was to continue. Finally though, after the four of us casted all manner of baits continuously for five hours, we managed to boat a couple decent Smallmouth Bass just as the sun was breaking over the horizon. Mission accomplished!

Segment Six — 5:00-8:00 a.m.:

Our expert angler for this final segment was Nigel Touhey, well known and respected tournament angler. Also joining us aboard the Ranger was Sarah Freemark from CTV Morning television along with her videographer. Prior to shoving off from the Oziles doc, Nigel took me aside to say that he had been scouting the water the day prior and was worried about the fish not cooperating. Yup, new all about this little issue already. But, Nigel came through, found us a stretch of main Ottawa River channel that was about 25-feet in depth, and most importantly, held fish that bit. Bass, Perch, Rock Bass, Sunfish and Bluegill all made their way aboard the boat on the end of Sarah and my lines. Between catching fish, we broadcast seven live TV segments for a total of 16 minutes of coverage. A great way to end the fish-a-thon.

Results:

Out of the 85 various species of fish that call the Ottawa River home, we contacted, caught and released the following species:

1. Muskellunge
2. Walleye
3. Saugeye
4. Largemouth Bass
5. Smallmouth Bass
6. Channel Catfish
7. Long Nose Gar
8. Rock Bass
9. Blue Gill
10. Pumpkin Cede
11. Black Crappy
12. Yellow Perch

All were released alive and well.

For more coverage of this event:

Ottawa River Keeper Blog: http://www.ottawariverkeeper.ca/11-species-of-fish-caught-in-24-hours/

CBC Morning news coverage: