Earlier this spring I was fortunate enough to have made my first trip up to Quebec's world famous fishing resort - la Reserve Beauchene (LRB). As some Fish On Line Canada readers may recall from the article that I wrote for this site shortly after the trip, the excursion was part fishing and part work. The fishing part was well - a lot of great fishing for lake trout, brook trout, some pike and walleye and plenty of hard fighting smallmouth bass.
The work involved being part of a crew headed by fisheries biologist Mark Heaton. We collected brook trout fry from Scotty Boxes (small incubation containers that would hold eggs and eventually young fry) from the Reserves' main lake - and stocked them into some of the remote brook trout lakes located on this incredible 50,000 acre piece of property in the wilds of northeastern Quebec.
We also stocked larger yearling sized brookies via portage routes to other more remote lakes. You can check out that story first if you like here original article or continue on for the adventure that took place in the fall of 2006. In Septemeber/06 when I was asked by Mark Heaton if I had saved any vacation days for some possible work up at LRB later that fall, I quickly replied that I had and when we do we leave. A month and a half later and I find myself driving up there with Glenn Anderson, president of Metro East Anglers Association (*MEA - see side bar). On the drive-up early that morning we discussed the work that would be done. "I believe our permit allows us to sample a total of 150 lake trout. We will have to catch them first of course and many should hit on topwaters. We'll then put them in holding cages, until we have enough to weigh, measure, sex . determine if they are male or female, clip the adipose fin, and then insert a small electronic radio tag within the cheekbone of each fish. We'll then scan the number with the electronic scanner and record it for future reference. If we get ripe males and females at the same time we'll collect eggs, fertilize them with the male sperm and then bring them back to the cabin to put into the Scotty boxes later that night. Then we'll turn around the next day and do it all over again with brook trout"
"Whew!" I said . "sounds like quite the process... ah you said the lake trout hit on topwaters - come on ya gotta be kidding?" I quipped. "Nope - we caught several last year on jerk baits and when it's calm and sunny they'll come right up and hit baits on top," answered Glenn. I was still skeptical however - especially about the calm and sunny part - typically I like to have a bit of a ripple and overcast conditions for topwater - at least for bass - can't say as I have ever tried them for lake trout though.
When we arrived at LRB, it didn't take us long to unpack and load the boats into the water. After the 10 minute drive to the secret spawning shoal, we quickly went ashore to retrieve the holding cages that the trout would stay in until processing. We had windy, cloudy conditions so my first cast was not with a top water but with another non-typical lake trout lure - a big willow leafed spinnerbait. "Ooh . yah, that didn't take long - this fish hit pretty hard for a lake trout", I said as I unhooked the 4-5 pounder and put her into our large empty holding cage alongside the boat. In the next two hours our crew of six caught about 60 more lake trout - all relatively the same size and a good mix of males and females - just what we wanted.
Processing fish on the two foot wide sandy beach was not as easy as the year before I was told when the crew had about 10 feet of terra firma to work on. This time however the water was significantly higher, but even though it was a little cramped on shore, the job was still done with little difficulty.
Wil holds the needle and the tiny electronic radio tag that is
inserted just under the skin of the trout's cheek pictured below.
Photo By Bruce Burt
With the hand held scanner swiped across the fish, the tag number shows up on a small LCD display
LRB's Taggart Lake was the site of the brook trout research. Here Wil (left), Glenn Anderson and Mark Heaton
collect eggs and sperm. Fertilized eggs are saved in small plastic containers with fresh lake water until later in the evening
when they will be put into Scotty Boxes
When a female trout is ripe her eggs are easily collected in the hands of a pro
When a male is ripe his sperm is also easily collected when milked by a pro of course
(Above) Evenings were spent inserting the tiny lake trout or brook trout eggs into the individual cells of the Scotty Boxes - seen in tubs here. The eggs need to remain in water and are placed gingerly into each cell one by one. If more then one egg falls out of the applicator (red ketchup squirter or turkey baster), then they are brushed into an adjoining cell with a delicate sweep of a turkey or chicken feather. Here volunteers for the evenings work include: Manon Drouin, left who works at LRB, Rob O'Reilly, sitting, a freelance writer who was writing an article about the reserve, Wil - peering over his glasses and Andrée Beauvais, the reserve's cook looking on.
Fall, 2006 LRB Research Details
During the fall, the crew was able to catch and collect 146 of the 150 lake trout that they were allotted under Quebec Scientific Collectors Permit. Of these lakers the largest was 25.5 inches and the smallest was 17" There were 89 ripe males and 37 ripe females. A total of four families, and 2,700 eggs were collected.
Last fall was the first year that lake trout for this project were equipped with electronic tags. Utilizing the electronic scanner Mark Heaton's data shows that only two fish were recaptured the following year by the 2006 crew. He explains "Even though the fish we sampled in 2005 came from the very same shoal we worked in 2006, the fact that we did not find more recaps was not unusual for Lake Beauchene. A much higher rate of recapture might very well have occurred if we were performing this research on a somewhat stressed or heavily fished public lake somewhere else. Beauchene however has such an incredible population of natural lake trout that we simply were only able to sample a small portion of the population. This accounts for the small number of individual fish we caught in 06 that were also caught in 05."
The lake trout data also tells us that they are a very slow growing fish with most of the spawning population being under 2 kg (4.4lb) in size. Lake trout over 3.0kg (6.6lbs) are rare. Of the two recaptured males, both grew 3 mm in length and were 28 and 64 grams lighter over the course of one year.
Brook trout were sampled from just one of LRB's many secluded brook trout lakes but one that is recognized as one of the primary trophy waters on the reserve. The goal was to catch 40 brook trout in order to collect up to 10,000 eggs. That goal was easily achieved from Taggart Lake as 29 were caught. The largest brookie measured 21.7 inches, weighed 4.54 lbs and the smallest was 13.76 inches and weighed just one pound. There were 21 ripe males and 9 ripe females. A total of 7 families, and 10,960 eggs were collected.
The brook trout data also tells us that they are a much faster growing fish compared to the lake trout having a definite growth curve (as shown below). Of the one male recaptured in 2006, it had grown 34 mm and 296 grams in one year. The majority of the fish start spawning at age four but there are males that come into the group at age three. Six year old fish are rare.
Here crew member Doug Forder casts with a fly under less than ideal conditions during one of the cooler days at LRB
So, what about catching lake trout on topwater?
I know many of you die hard bass fishermen are still anxious to hear if those darned adipose finned lake trout we caught tried to imitate the mighty bass by hitting our topwater baits during our stay. Rest assured Glenn was not exaggerating when he said this should happen… unfortunately for him though it was Bruce and I that got em on top. Here's what happened:
One afternoon when fishing slowed down we decided to try surface baits just to see what would happen. Bruce was the first to get bit and revealed that "I was not really expecting much after my first cast so I only half heartedly gave the Zara Spook a few twitches across the surface when it landed. The lure was just idly sitting there on the water and I was only paying slight attention because my thoughts were drawn to the beautiful shoreline that surrounded us. Out of the blue an incredible bald eagle was soaring off in the distance and I was just about to point it out to the others when … WHAM! Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye I see a four or five pound lake trout explode completely out of the water right where my lure was left drifting. There was more than the required slight delay to my hook set because of the darned eagle distracting me and all but sure enough, I landed my first laker taken on a surface plug."
I immediately tied on a stick bait of my own - a Rapala Skitterwalk and soon also started nailing lakers on top. For the next few hours Bruce and I caught at least a dozen Lakers on surface baits, some lakers smashing the lure while it was no more than a few feet from the boat, scaring the bejeebers outta me. What an absolute blast … and I must admit I found a whole new admiration for lake trout that very special day when they tried to act like God's favorite fish … bass!
The spirit of LRB bestowed moments of glory on all of us though, beginning with Andy Rubaszek whose glory seemed to last the whole darned trip as he oufished all of us in the lake trout category with his sizzling blue and silver Cleo spoon. Try as we might to duplicate his remarkable feet with our own similar baits and retrieves he sure had the hot stick that trip.
Glenn Anderson who won the group's "small" tournament by catching the smallest lake trout ever recorded in five years of doing the LRB study, demonstrated to everyone that in fact it took advanced angling skills to complete the research and data set with a sample of all sizes of fish from the study site. Glenn remarked, "Any fishing hack, even a bass fisherman, can catch many average sized lake trout here. The real skill however lies in a fisherman's ability to somehow persuade those larger trout to give the smaller ones a chance. I am still not at liberty to divulge the secret tactic I used to catch that all-time mini laker, but rest assured it is an acquired talent I have gained over the years that was desperately needed that trip in order to complete our research. However, instead of being praised by his peers for his dedication to science, Glenn endured a fair amount of "advice" on how to catch the big ones and even needed to buy everyone a beer back at the lodge later that day.
Doug Forder remarked that his highlight came on the brook trout waters as his bead-head nymph fly patterns were the first ones to produce. As the rest of the group relied upon sight fishing along the shoreline, Doug began casting into structure in deeper water. Among the three brookies his bead-head nymph produced from along one sunken log, was a large female that boiled to the surface before taking three separate runs into deeper water before she was netted. He was thrilled that his fly fishing prowess was yielding such tremendous results and more importantly contributed significant numbers of fish for the research work.
Last but certainly not least, Mark Heaton and his infamous English 15' Spey rod proved that all manner of technique and tackle can produce on LRB. He explained that this type of fishing involves a firm grip with two hands on the rod, and a systematic presentation that can easily wear out lesser anglers! When that first laker struck and Mark set the hook, we couldn't help but be thrilled for him as he was almost giddy with excitement at the thought he might be only one of a small handful of anglers who has ever caught a lake trout at LRB with this method.
BROOK TROUT OF A LIFETIME:
Glenn Anderson proudly displays a gorgeous male brook trout from one of LRB's incredible backcountry lakes. One of the most amazing features available to guests staying at the reserve is their ability to chose from one of over three dozen lakes to fish while they are there.
Guests can pick lakes that are renowned for trophy size brookies like this 4 pounder or even lakes where catching 50-75 smallmouth bass a day is commonplace. Regardless of where you go, the scenery and unspoiled wilderness abounds at LRB. Perhaps most remarkable, is that these pristine wilderness lakes are accessible by road or by portage. Fly-ins are not required!
Bruce Burt with an incredible male brook trout of his own
|Mark Heaton with a brookie caught |
while fly fishing from shore
|Andy Rubaszek with a brookie caught |
while casting a spinner from a boat
Wil with a nice, yet less vibrantly colored female brook trout he caught from one of LRB's lakes.
Barbless hooks, no live bait and a strong catch and release mandate help conserve LRB's fabulous fishery
One of the angling methods used to catch trout for the project was by fly fishing for them.
Here freelancer Rob O’Reilly (left) and Nick Pujic editor of Canadian Fly Fisher Magazine
(right) show their skills while wading in one of LRB’s great little brook trout lakes.
Sometimes the fish would come so close to shore that you could
actually see them and take a picture or two like these great brook
trout shots taken by Ace photographer Andy Rubaszek.
Keeping lake trout in a good sized cage or holding crate enabled the crew to process several fish at once. Maintaining healthy fish during these cold water conditions was relatively simple.
"I know that trout on the end of my line is down here somewhere" is what Nick appears to be thinking.
"There he is!" As Nick smiles for the camera with one of the smaller LRB brookies caught that week.
"If I lean forward any more for this photo, I’m likely to fall right outta this boat", Rob appears to be thinking here.
Over Wintering Trout Eggs
Before we knew it, it was time to go home there was one more very important job to do. Our last task of the trip was to lower the Scotty Boxes holding the fertilized lake trout and brook trout eggs into the main lake. Here the eggs will be safe from predators and a high percentage will hatch and make it to the fry stage.
Both lake trout and brook trout are fall spawners. The location for these eggs to over winter was carefully chosen; one where current will continually flow thru the Scotty boxes - and of course deep enough not to freeze. About seven months later … in the Spring of 2007, the crew will return, collect the boxes and stock the young trout at LRB.
Although we were fortunate to not have any really cold weather or snow while we were
staying at LRB, the drive home that October day was a different story. Pictured here
the usually gorgeous route between North Bay and Temiscaming, was a snowy,
slippery ordeal on our way back home.
About The Metro East Anglers Association …MEA
Three of the LRB crew are avid members of MEA - Glenn Anderson, Andy Rubaszek and Bruce Burt. The Metro East Anglers or MEA has long been involved in the betterment of the fishery in and around the Toronto area. From a humble beginning in 1995 (at the Parkview Hatchery) with the rearing of 3500 Rainbow Trout in an upwelling box, the club has grown to produce over 400,000 Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout, Chinook Salmon and Atlantic Salmon for stocking in our local watersheds annually. The club continues to support an increased membership of dedicated anglers and conservationists.
In September 2006, MEA entered into a partnership with the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters to operate the Ringwood Fish Culture Station, thus moving their home from the Parkview Hatchery to the much larger Ringwood facility which is capable of producing over a million fish annually. The main focus of the club right now is raising from egg, the entire stocking quota of Chinook Salmon for the North Shore of Lake Ontario, some 540k Chinook. As a result MEA work now, not only benefits the Toronto area but, the entire Lake Ontario Sport Fishery. MEA “Supporting Lake Ontario” is their new motto . Additionally, MEA continues to participate in a broad range of activities, ranging from the hatchery program, operation of the Milne Fishway, stream rehabilitation programs with Ontario Streams, to environmental, educational and ethical programs such as River Watch and Report a Poacher. All this and members still find time to help educate future stewards of the resource at local schools.
The club is dedicated to the improvement and conservation of our fisheries and environment throughout Ontario and works closely with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.
La Réserve Beauchêne is truly a fisherman's paradise, spread over 50,000 acres of untouched Canadian wilderness. With more than 36 pristine lakes to choose from, your most difficult task will be deciding where to begin. Outdoor Canada magazine ranks LRB as one of the top Brook Trout and Smallmouth Bass destinations in the country. However the fishing action does not stop there, you will also find phenomenal Lake Trout, Walleye, Northern Pike and Splake fishing at their five-star destination. Choose from a variety of accommodation options to suit the needs of your party, from camping to remote luxury cabins to the infamous main lodge - the Whitehouse. Guests consistently rank the food as "Excellent", and the chef will be happy to prepare your “catch” any way you like it.
La Réserve Beauchêne is a magnificent, exclusive 205.7 square kilometre territory in the high hills of Quebec. The province of Ontario can be seen across the beautiful valley of the Ottawa River. Beauchêne is drained into the Ottawa River by several distinct water-courses, the largest of which is the Beauchêne River.
Lac Beauchêne is the largest lake where the main resort is located. In addition to having several other smaller feeder streams this main lake is the confluence of two main tributaries, the Beauchêne River and Otter Creek. Together these streams drain hundreds of square miles of adjacent wilderness to the north, east and south of La Réserve Beauchêne, an immense area which, in turn, contains many other lakes helping to maintain the level of Lac Beauchêne throughout the year.
Although La Réserve Beauchêne's lakes are surprisingly close together the area is very rugged, and picturesque. The hills around the lakes range up to 550 feet in height above the lakes' surface and their various "back" lakes are found closely scattered throughout these hills but most are accessible by bush road.
To give some idea of the topography, the section of the Beauchêne River which empties Lac Beauchêne into the Ottawa River is only 3 to 4 kilometres long, but in that distance falls 230 feet.In contrast, the Niagara River over the whole of its 55 kilometre course from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario only falls 320 feet!
Lying astride the transition zone between the St. Lawrence and Boreal Forest Regions, the whole of the reserve is extremely well wooded with a broad mix of Eastern deciduous and coniferous trees. In the summer of 2006, a major twister touched down very close to the reserve wiping out a good many of these beautiful trees. Much of the forest is mature and all of La Réserve Beauchêne will strike guests as truly "unspoiled".
All of the buildings within their territory are the property of La Réserve Beauchêne and are used in its operations. As an outfitter with exclusive rights, La Réserve Beauchêne Inc. is in a position to regulate the number of its guests, both for fishing and hunting. They also regulate the trapping which helps conserve healthy wildlife populations. La Réserve Beauchêne provides an opportunity for wonderful fishing as well as the prospect of uncrowded lakes and woods for guests who come from every continent to enjoy this lovely place.
For anyone fortunate enough to ever have a chance to visit and fish LRB, you will instill a sense glory within your soul that will last a lifetime.
For more information on LRB please visit: www.beauchene.com.