A Year on the St Lawrence River – Part 1
Five years ago I had the opportunity to go out and fish the grand waters of the St. Lawrence River with Jerry Laramy of American Carp Adventures. In the first week I chanced upon a local bar. Behind this bar was this gorgeous blonde haired bar maid. Two kids and five years later, we are now married and my spending my summers on the St. Lawrence River. What a result!
My first fulltime year on the river was a bit slow. On my previous trips, the fishing had always fallen into place pretty easily due to the knowledge of the guides I was with. Not wanting to poach on old grounds where other guides were fishing, I looked to discover spots of my own.
On the St. Lawrence, a boat was almost a must for me, in order to get access to new areas and the many small islands that dotted the river. I bought a boat that was similar to the boats that I had used in Spain, which were great for the Ebro River, but I soon discovered that the vagaries of North American weather extremes meant that something more substantial was required for the mighty St. Lawrence River.
This meant, to start with, I had to find my swims via car, which limited my options greatly. My first year of fishing was slow compared to the fishing I had encountered before. Spots that I had been fishing well previous years, had not been producing at all, and I had not yet found any more fish holding areas. By September, I had only caught four 30 lb. carp, which in my book was a disastrous result.
The weather had been very humid, which had meant the loss of many carp, as well as other species of fish. It could have been the reason why my fishing was so bad, so I decided to spend the rest of the summer working in my wife’s restaurant.
One day while working at the restaurant a customer told me about a spot that had an underground river flowing beneath a busy roadway. I had previously over looked this spot as it was close to a main road and the noise levels from the passing cars and trucks were not exactly my cup of tea. Since the fishing had been so bad at that time, I thought I’d give it a whirl.
So I took trip out to the spot shortly after, and on arrival I grabbed my snorkel and mask, and dove in to have a better look at the area. To my surprise, he was right. To top it all off, the riverbed had a clear gravel bottom leading into a silt patch in the deeper water. I was chuffed because at that time the weed was a real concern. It choked up most of the river, but in this spot it appeared to be dying and only present in small clumps.
So I heavily baited up the swim, but nothing happened for the first week. As the weather got colder however, I noticed the fish starting to move in. I only had three weeks good fishing, but in that time I caught twenty 30 lb. carp and one 40 pounder.
In one session, I caught seven 30’s and one 40, but all-good things soon come to an end. The North American winter hit. One day I was catching fish, and the next it was -15 degrees Celsius! I tried to fish a couple times after that, but the wind chill proved to be far too much. It now dawned on me that I had to spend the next six months in arctic conditions with no fishing!
Wow, if you have never experienced a North American winter, be thankful. Some days it went down to -40 degrees Celsius. You could not go outside for fear of you lungs freezing up! All I had to get me through the winter was thoughts about the upcoming spring, and the fishing that would follow. The winter, I was told by the locals, was a mild one. I certainly didn’t feel it to me. The river was completely frozen, and was driving me crazy.
Spring finally arrived, and the ice was now gone. However the water was still very cold. Yet I had to fish and I had found two spots for the spring. One was a swim I found at the end of the last year, and the other was a well-known hot spot. With no one fishing there in April, I thought I would give it a go.
I didn’t catch any fish in the first week, but was encouraged to see fish crashing on the second spot. With the weather being warm and the water temperature on the rise, I decided to concentrate most of my fishing there. This area was a tributary off the main river, a beautiful sanctuary, where I was able to cast to the far bank where the margins were shallow. Depending to the depth, of the river, you could be fishing in just 2 to 4 feet of water.
On my first trip out, the weather was warm, and the skies were clear and blue. Not usually good for carp fishing, but with the sun warming the rivers cold water, it was perfect. I did not anticipate catching many fish. Last spring, the river did not produce until the end of May, and this was only the second week of April.
I had my two rods out positioned to the far side; One on a pop-up, and the other on corn, leaving both baits being balanced. With this setup my thinking that the fish would be feeding like in England during winter, very edgy.
Only two hours into the session, I received my first liner of the year. Just hearing the beep made me almost jump out of my skin. Ten minutes later, my alarms were screaming, “Fish on!” Six months of no action and I’m finally into a fish! Within seconds, it was off. I was gutted.
For months I had dreamed about my first run, and I lost it. I wasn’t down for long. 10 minutes later. I was in again. It was a typical winter bite, just shaking the tip. Without hesitation I struck, and at last the fish was on. Although the fight was not spectacular and a mid-double slid over the net, it was special. Due to the time of year, I wasn’t supposed to catch. On that day I went on to catch three more fish. Nothing big, but I was catching.
For the next week I was down to the river at every spare moment. I caught several more fish with a couple of low 20lb. I continued to fish that same spot. Usually it would be crowded, but for now it was my own piece of heaven.
The spring weather was in full effect. The flowers were budding and the wildlife was wonderful. The bird life was incredible! It makes me think about just how much the birdlife has dwindled in England.
On my next session I was still fishing the same style as before, still fishing with critically balanced baits. The fish were still not eating that much, so I only baited minimally with just the odd handful. As typical, I caught small fish, up to 20lbs. It was great fun, but I was wondering when a big fish was going to bite. There’s only so many doubles I can take.
My main worry was that a big fish would not come into the area until it was time to spawn, but that wasn’t until the end of May. That would be a lot of doubles to have to go through until then. My worries soon came to an end.
On my next session, I hooked into a fish, which I lost, but it was definitely not a small fish. The run I received was a slow, methodical take. When I hit on to it, I knew it was a better fish. It took me on a 40 yard run to the left towards some tree stumps on the far side. I had just managed to turn it when the hook pulled out. I was crushed, but still, it was a big fish.
Only 30 minutes later, I was onto another slow run. I hit it, and “YES!” another powerful fish. It took me on the same route as the other carp. Yet again I managed to stop it before the stumps. As I reeled it in, I felt good, especially after all my doubles. Could it be a 30? My heart was racing as it came towards me. Every inch of line was watched as I gained it on the reel.
Finally after an eager 15 minutes, the fish popped its head up. It was clearly a 30lb. My heart beat rapidly as the netting progressed and the fish slipped over the net. I let out a massive cry of jubilation. There is nothing like fishing, and at that point, there was not a feeling that could ever compare to that fish on that day. The first big fish of the year, what a rush!
I placed the fish in the weigh sling and the scales went around to 32lbs. As I was returning the fish to the water when I caught sight of an osprey diving down in front of me, scooping out a bullhead (A Native American catfish). I had never seen an osprey before, but to see that after catching my first thirty of the year, I felt as if things couldn’t get much better…
Nick Shattock 2006If anyone is interesting in experiencing some of this great fishing, Nick is working on the St. Lawrence River in New York State, and provides a guiding service in the area. Nick can also arrange accommodation and airport transfers for your convenience.
To contact Nick for a truly unique adventure on the St Lawrence contact Andy Shattock from Ebro Valley Fishing on: