weekend push into Southern Ontario

For most of you guys from the Mid-West, there are species that are reasonably abundant. Living in Eastern Ontario, near the southern edge of the Canadian zone, these same species require a bit of travel. I headed south this past weekend, the targets: grass pickerel, golden redhorse, northern hogsucker.

This was a bit of a redemption trip as well. On a visit to Niagra Falls last year, I nabbed a green sunfish, but failed to get a grass pickerel. If caught, this species would complete my quest for the four North American essox. The sampling reports are solid so I was confident.

Pulling up to the creek, it was immediately evident we were in the small Carolinian zone available to us here in Canada. There was a roadkill Virgina Opposum on the side of the road. The trees were different. No birch at all, and everything seemed to be prickly.

After an hour, finally, a hit and up came a chunky green sunfish.

A while later a largemouth bass made an appearence. Then nothing, so we moved to a different spot upstream. Second cast to the edge of the weeds I had a good hit on the spinner and brought in my first ever grass pickerel...only it wasn't a grass pickerel at all....

A northern pike. You know, that plentiful, glutinous species that for some ungodly reason I could not produce for the June contest. There it was, immitating what should have been a lifer pickerel. Along with a few perch and bluegill, Michael had another pike of the same size. The creek gave us nothing else and it was time to move on. The grass pickerel remains an on-going project.


Moving further south, I was blown away by our next stop. This river is gorgeous. Rapidly braiding its way through lush trees, over a mixed pebble and sand bottom. As far as suckers go, this is probably the best system in all of Canada. Rivers, silver, greaters and shortheads are all here, along with a small population of back redhorse, quillback, bigmouth buffalo, and spotted sucker. I'm not a greedy man so I told myself the trip would be made if I caught a single golden redhorse. Wouldn't you know it, they appear to be the predominant moxostoma species at this particular spot. We ended up with five on the bank, one lost at the net, and a kicker fat shorthead. Of those, I was fortunate enough to have caught three.

First golden fell to a slinky rig bounced at the edge of main current.

The next two took a stationary bottom rigged crawler.

This walleye came close to meeting the fillet knife but I had a change of heart and released it. 

Before leaving, I did spend an hour throwing around a faithful beetle spin and was rewarded with a bonus lifer - a white bass.

Not one of the intended targets but I was very happy with this incidental lifer.

On the way out, we stopped to fill my hat with blackberries.

Next morning it was mission hogsucker. We saw a few at the first creek we stopped at, but bait presentation was made tricky by the high water, swift current, and the abundance of bait-thieving minnows.

Lifer river chub. This is an awesome looking minnow that I later learned gets to over a foot in length.

Lifer silver shiner using Ken's tenkara rod. Apparently these are endangered in Ontario. You wouldn't know it by the number of them in this creek; they were swimming in and out of my shoes as I waded.

Undeterred, we moved to creek number two. I spooked several hogsuckers before sneaking up on one directly from downstream. This was the way to do it. Stalking them from the side, they see you before you see them. Approaching from downstream, they have no clue you're there. I parked the worm as close to his snout as I could and watched him approach. The fish moved directly over the bait, settled, twitched his pectoral fins and received the worse news of his life.

Lifer hogsucker. YES!

The red bead really helps to focus your eyes to exact position of the bait as it is drifted.

Two more hog mollies followed in rapid succession before it was time to leave. They're definitely smaller than the ones you guys post. I wonder if it's got to do with the genetics of this particular population, or if bigger specimens await downstream, closer to the creek mouth.

Next summer it's third time's the charm for grass pickerel. I'm thinking night fishing with a tiny minnow under a lit float. Little bastards have to feed sometime.  




Species List:


Hengelaar's picture

Thanks for a great read!

Congrats on the lifers. Some beautiful looking streams, too.


You'll get that Pickerel next time...

Fishn sure is neat

Deftik's picture

Don't sweat it, grass pickerel are harder than you'd think! I'm still looking! Congrats on all those lifers and what looks like a sweet trip!

MichaelAngelo's picture

Eli's a freaking hogsucker ninja!  It took me a handful of trips to nab my own from this spot... and I've still to this day only caught that one specimen.  Eli comes along and nabs 3 in under 2 hours LOL.  I like the tip of using the red bead to help visualize the offering.  

A great time with Eli this past weekend.  Looking forward to next summer's adventure.  


pmk00001's picture

Nice photos and great write up!  Looks like fun man!


Glad you got to see a possum!

Mike B's picture

Yes, Panther Martin strikes again. I know where there are some grass pickerel! Or where there supposed to be anyway.


mike b

Dr Flathead's picture

Hogs that size can be tricky to catch around these parts.  Often seen, tough to catch even on micro set-ups.  Nice work with the lifers!

TonyS's picture

Nice work man!  I still haven't caught a Grassie but I can't imagine any Esox being easy to catch when it co-exists with Pike.   As for Hog size... probably has to do with river size, I don't fish any "creeks" for Hogs.  My favorite big-Hog-Sucker waters are rivers 100-200 yards across... 

Heidi's picture

Ditto on the great report and pics! Lovely goldens! Roadkill possum? You must have been near Port Asbestos - quando omni flunkus moritati ;)

"Can you pull the leviathan in with a fishook?" Job 41: 1


Eli's picture

Thanks everyone.


Pat, I was hoping (and still hope) to see a live one. 


Heidi, I didn't catch the Red-Green reference at first and thought you were refering to disgusting Hamilton, ON, which may as well be called Port Asbestos and is not too far from where we were fishing.




thanks for showing me how to catch hogsucker!!