Happy Canada Day! I hope you had a great long weekend and were able to get out and catch some fish! The Mrs. and I managed to grab a campsite at the new Pinehurst Lake campground. I haven’t been to Pinehurst before but a few friends recommended it as a place to catch some big pike and walleye. As is usual in Alberta, the weather was unpredictable – the forecast called for rain the whole weekend but thankfully the rain was intermittent and warm.
I launched the kayak early on the first morning and as soon as I left the dock the wind whipped up some 2’ waves and whitecaps. I’m pretty experienced in my kayak and I can handle some rough water but the two foot swells and whitecaps are my limit. I quickly tucked tail and headed for camp.
Later that evening, as the wind died down, I managed to get out with the setting sun. There is a small beach off the campground and it’s a short walk with my kayak on a cart down to the water. Just one of the numerous benefits of fishing from a kayak is that I can launch it from pretty much anywhere. Just off of the beach, the depth started to drop off quickly and I was marking fish right away. The surface water temps were starting to warm and that usually pushes the walleye into their typical summer patterns. I found most of my fish between 18 and 30 feet of water. I won’t fish deeper than 30’ for anything other than lake trout because of barotrauma. If you don’t know what barotrauma is, Gord Pyzer goes into detail in this great article:
Most anglers know one of the staple ways to catch deep summer walleye is with a jig and a minnow. But I’m not a fan of using bait on a kayak, it’s tricky to keep properly and the bait tends to get everywhere. In the hot summer sun minnows thaw out and get mushy in a hurry. It’s not a big deal in a boat where you have a cubby for everything, but in a kayak things tend to be kept in your lap. Trust me when I say after a few days of this, all your gear smells like rotten minnows. I know the solution is to just keep them cold but I don’t often pack a cooler, so I just avoid using them. Instead, I rely on Gulp Alive minnows. I’ll admit they don’t work as well as the real thing, but they stay on the hook a lot longer and my clothes and kayak don’t smell at the end of a long day. So I threaded the fake minnow on a ⅜ oz jig and got to work.
The very first fish I hook up on was a beautiful 23” walleye. Over the next two hours I managed to pull in at least a dozen walleye, a few were over 20 inches and the rest ranged from 8-18. A pretty healthy mix for any lake.
That exciting evening wasn’t meant to last though. The next few days were a real grind. Between the wind and the rain I was only able to get out a few hours at a time. I explored a couple kilometers up and down the west shore and found a lot of great fish holding structure. At one point I marked a dozen fish on a drop off, I threw everything I had in the boat at them but I couldn’t buy a bite. It didn’t occur to me to take a screenshot so you will have to take my word for it. I mentioned in the beginning that the campground was new. I think it would be accurate to say it’s one of Alberta’s newest campgrounds. The signage was brand new, the tree lines were freshly cut, even the gravel at the campsites was still soft under foot. It’s also a unique campsite in that although it seems like a park, it’s a provincial recreation area. A lot of families brought their ATV’s and SXS’s and were exploring the trail network in the area. You might be tempted to think all those vehicles made the fishing experience worse but you’d be wrong. The campsite was pretty quiet for Canada Day long weekend and the ATVer’s were very respectful.
I had a great time overall, and if I can hook into quality fish like my first few walleye on every trip, I will definitely be heading back soon.