By: Chris Shaffer
I’d never been splake fishing. Coming from The States, splake aren’t one of the more heavily stocked species. Meanwhile, I’d always wanted to experience quality splake fishing and was fortunate to meet Rich Brochu, a Northern Ontario native who’s become a friend of the Pautzke family in recent years. Brochu offered to take us to one of his favorite Ontario splake lakes to film Pautzke Outdoors, as long as he could blindfold me so I wouldn’t know how to get back on my own.
Normally, when we film Pautzke Outdoors there’s stress involved. It can be challenging to shoot a show in a few hours before moving on to the next location. We always overextend ourselves. Fortunately, Brochu’s expertise kept this trip stress free. To be honest, we had enough footage within the first 30 minutes and had caught some of the largest splake I’d seen.
We didn’t even reach the lake until roughly 2pm, were set up by three and left by 7pm. At that time, we had probably caught more than 30, if not many more. I stopped filming after the first 25, which we notched fewer than two hours in. It was probably the easiest episode we’ve ever filmed and on a lake stocked by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.
To be honest, I didn’t touch a rod. When people are catching lots of fish they want you to film them, rather than stop catching fish to film someone else. The action was nonstop. In fact, there were a few times we had three fish on at once. Doubles were common. More impressive was the quality and lack of fishing pressure. We didn’t see another angler. The splake ranged from one-pound on up to seven and eight pounds.
Brochu had one request. We were to bring the bait (he knew I had access to stashes of Fire Dye). He told me that simply dropping jigs wouldn’t gain the footage we needed. However, tipping them with live Blue, Gold & Chartreuse Fire Dye minnows and sucker minnows, or simply fishing a live dyed minnow would put us into constant action.
And, it did. Brochu (and his son Landan) keyed in on the Chartreuse Fire Dye minnows, whereas my buddy Kyle Deavers of Big Boy Fishing (who came up from Wisconsin) focused on the Gold Fire Dye Minnows. Local outdoor writer Tom Armstrong was also with us. He used mostly Blue & Chartreuse Fire Dye minnows. All the colors got bit. Meanwhile, Armstrong made a living tucking a live Blue Fire Dye minnow under the skirt of a white tube jig. They hammered this setup.
For the most part the set lines were rigged with the live dyed minnows, whereas jigging rods carried a jig or spoon (Rapala ice jigs and Kastmasters) tipped with a live dyed minnow. Not surprising, when the fish stole the minnow from the jig the bites stopped. While we lost count, we went through about 80 percent of the $50 of minnows we bought. We kept some of the fish for the grill and released the others.
Less than a week ago there was more than two feet of ice on this Northern Ontario lake. And, that was the norm with all four of the lakes we fished in the region. Hopefully there’s a few more weeks of quality splake fishing left through the ice. As always, be sure to check current ice thickness prior to venturing out on the lake.
Editor’s Note: Pautzke new Fire Dye is available at Bass Pro, Cabelas and Amazon.ca. This episode of Pautzke Outdoors will air next winter.