After cutting the Canadian white pine
to a fish shape, talented artist Charles Weiss shapes the wood
with hand tools like rasps and chisels. Fine carving with a
power carver and sanding around the mouth, eye, tail and gill cover
follow. After sealing with shellac he brushes on gesso primer,
sanding between coats. Charles explains," Most of the fish I
carve have been released and I think are happily swimming."
Using photographs and notes from his sketchbook, he begins painting
layers of transparent acrylic paint. When he is satisfied with the
realistic colour values he signs the wood fish carving on the
tail section of the body. He then brushes on a gloss finish.
His wood working tools and bench are on a corner of his basement.
He comments on his inspiration in the Toronto area. "I've
got the amazing Lake Ontario in my backyard." He began carving
as a hobby while employed as a graphic designer. He decided,
he needed to pursue a living doing something inspiring.
Charles said "I knew two things inspired me - fish and working with my hands." I also enjoy fishing. He bought some basic tools and pine boards. Each night transforming blocks of pine into shining replicas of fish that caught his fancy. First a brook trout, then a brown trout then an Atlantic Salmon; Visitors to his woodcarving basement shop are apt to find him conjuring up images of muskellunge to sunfish. "Each piece is highly personal-my hope is that every time a person looks at the art, they're moved to remember a special place, time and fish." I've included my fish mythology images in this show at Framing Dames! A combination of a human face with fish body, sort-of-like a mermaid, expressing my caricature portraits with a fish body. Landscape acrylic paintings are added to show.
"If I had one colour to choose, it would be black. It has the greatest contrast for a fish looking up, at anytime of the day and on any kind of day."
Gord showed me a spinner that was most successful at catching muskie in the
summer. It was very worn. "It's the shine that attracts them," he commented.
I noticed that it only had large single stainless steel hooks. Gord told me that he
had thought with only two hooks it would miss some fish. He had found it
didn't and there was the added benefit of quickly releasing the fish. When
the fish are swimming shallow a spinner can be your secret weapon. Gord has
advised me to cast shallow using spinners, because you can be surprised at
how little amount of water a muskie will be in.
Over the past two years I've had the pleasure of meeting and fishing with Gord. And I hope, in the near future, to get another opportunity to visit and fish up in Eagle Lake, one of northwestern Ontario's best fishing spots and a world-class muskie lake with a 54 inch (137.3 cm) size limit.
In Eagle Lake, Gord has caught and released muskie up to 35 pounds (17 kg) and several over 40 inches (102.5 cm). Gord is devoted to releasing all muskie and has a Muskies Canada "know the difference" sign on display at his lodge.
Eagle Lake once yielded a Canadian Record muskie 59 inches (150 cm) long, 31 inch (73.5 cm) girth, and weighing 61 pounds 9 ounces (26.5 kg). Vermillion Bay lodge is a short boat ride away from the Favell Bay area where on Oct. 8th , 1940, Ed Walden was fishing a #12 Pflueger Muskill spinner and caught this Canadian Record muskie.
I had heard about Eagle Lake and over several years read various articles in a variety of fishing magazines about muskie fisherman, Gord Bastable. On Eagle Lake, an amazing muskie hot spot, Gord Bastable is known and respected for his muskie success.
For many years, Gord was a guide at North Shore Lodge. For the past thirteen years he has run Vermilion Bay Lodge with his family. (Vermillion Bay Lodge lies four hours west of Thunder Bay, by car.) Guests are first greeted by their two friendly mixed labs. And then the lanky Gord is there to show you to your warm and cozy cabin overlooking the lake. Gord and his wife, Susanne, welcome each guest like a long-lost friend.
Bucktail spinners are great lures to catch muskie. Gord stresses that the fun is watching the muskie follow a lure, he would rather cast then troll.
Gord uses a 6 ft 9 in (183 cm) fast action rod with an Ambassadeur 6500 reel and 32 -to-36 pound line. He snaps lures on to the line on sturdy 12 inch (30 cm) wire leaders that he himself makes. Using black bucktail spinners, he retrieves quickly to keep the blade from busting out of the water, anywhere from eight inches (20 cm) to just below the surface, depending on how close the weeds are to the water's surface.
In his lodge newsletter, The Beaver, he talks about how for late spawners, like muskie, when the lake is high and cool in the early summer, the muskie can be found in the shallows for longer periods. He also reports guests catching and releasing muskie up to 48 inches (120.5 cm) long. Good catches are recorded clustered around early muskie-fishing season.
On Eagle Lake, I've had some luck in large shallow bays. Look for patches of weed in deep water.
One August morning, Gord and I headed out for muskie. The air was thick with fog and a light rain was falling. The cedar strip boat Gord used for guiding rode smoothly. Usually we trolled very slowly backward, casting with the wind. We concentrated our fishing along the shores of islands.
One island we approached had a bald eagle perched on a pine; Gord mentioned this was a sign of good luck. Shortly after that we both had muskie following our lures!
Gord was having good follows on a silver-bladed, black-haired, double-hooked spinner.
I got very excited when a fish followed my lure. "Look! There's a muskie!" I yelled. Then, I pulled my lure out of the water. We both laughed about that back at the lodge.
"Use your serious muskie lures here," Gord recommended as we approached a promising weedbed. Gord is confident with a small selection of jerkbaits and bucktails in mostly dark colours. His jerkbaits all have the centre hook removed, to allow for quicker releases. Gord is fond of jerkbaits. I've seen him cast and reel these in with a jerky retrieve, a proven technique for muskie.
A standard muskie jerkbait is 8 to 10 inches (20 - 26 cm) long--the size Gord prefers on Eagle Lake. His favourite lure colours are those that look like natural muskie prey in Eagle Lake: whitefish, suckers, and yellow perch. They tend to be dark on top and light on the bottom. Dark brown top, with yellow-orange bottom jerkbaits have also worked for him.
Gord has showed me his usual retrieve. "Let the jerkbait slowly rise after casting to a likely spot," suggests Gord. "Then tap the rod tip down in quick movements." This works like a charm, if it fits with the jerk-bait's idiosyncratic action. A sweeping long movement down with the rod tip, however, is better for deep-sinking jerkbaits. In some situations, such as a heavy weed beds, Gord will wait briefly between taps.
Some of Gord's favourite jerkbaits include Reef Hawgs, Bobby Baits, Smity Baits, and Suicks. He removes the centre treble hook and files off the barbs of the remaining hooks. Gord believes jerkbaits are more versatile and effective under a broader range of conditions than other lures.
Gord has confided in me his approach to muskie structure: "There's never a place where they might not be. In fishing everywhere, however, pay close attention to small, unique structures. For example, I've had success around isolated boulders or heavy weed patches in a larger weedbed." He promised me that that is where I would see more fish.
On Eagle Lake, I've got to admit to some success fishing following this advice. It can be little frustrating when the fish don't seem to bite, but just follow your lure. I like to increase the chance of a bite from a following muskie by using a boatside figure-eight at the end of every cast.
Gord's guests humorously comment on Gord's "demo" fish. Gord can place a visitor right on top of a prime spot. Within seconds of positioning the boat, the lucky angler sees a big one following his or her lure. The next day on that same spot, that same muskie may be back for a new guest. These "demo" fish are still a thrill. Gord admits that "A muskie is likely to be seen in the same place again."
"In early summer, jerkbaits seem less succesfull when compared to bucktail spinners," Gord says. Mid-summer is better for jerkbaits. After muskie move to deeper water in the autumn, Gord uses sinking jerkbaits, and spends less time in the shallow areas.
Gord recommends fishing a structure only when you've thought about the most likely spot a muskie would be. Cast to specific areas: a flat reef, a patch of cabbage weeds, or unique boulder. Areas that a muskie might call home. Approach each structure and work it thoroughly and methodically.
While out with another fishing buddy on Eagle Lake, I had some action off a wind-swept, desolate, point (open to a Northwest wind). I was casting a tan and brown perch-like jerkbait with rattles and using a quick, but smooth, retrieve. I was the only one in the boat with this kind of lure, and suddenly muskies were repeatedly following it over a fifteen minute period. Alas, none bit, though many of these mammoth muskies lingered around the boat while my fishing buddy performed a boat-side figure-eight with his rod tip dipped in the lake. I suspect the rattles inside my lure made these muskies in the silty discoloured wind-swept water curious, but alas, it was too warm for them to be hungry.
Gord puts the welfare and future of the muskie above fishing. Muskie-fishing mania on Eagle Lake is growing rapidly. Too many anglers only think about catching mammoth muskie. They don't have the core values that make them insightful or respectful anglers, concerned for the future.
Gord has spent a lot of his time on the waters of Eagle Lake and surrounding areas. He goes out in all kinds of weather during muskie season. As he says, "For muskie, anytime is a good time."
The time he's spent on the water is apparent in his expertise and his passion for muskie. Those who meet Gord Bastable can only be impressed by this knowledge and passion.
c/o Vermilion Bay Lodge
P.O. Box Vermilion Bay
Avid muskie fisherman Charles Doering released a leviathan muskie
Interview by Charles Weiss
Many large muskies are caught in the Fall season. This past October 2006 a couple of muskies with measurements of 58 in (147.4 cm) long and a 28-30 in (71-76.2 cm) around were caught.
Another large muskie, which might not be known to most fishermen, was caught in October last year. This muskie with similar measurements was caught by Charles Doering. The 42-year-old, Plattsville-Ontario, muskie stalker caught and released a muskie that may have set a new Canadian record or possibly a world record. Unfortunately, we'll never know.
The photo and story of his giant fish appears on the Musky Hunter web site. Also it was listed as the largest musky on the 2005 Ontario Angler Awards web site. A colour photo of the monster musky was published in the 2006 Rollie and Helen's Musky Shop Catalog on page 130.
The following is his description of his catch and release of a possible-record muskie. "Is it possible in this day and age to catch an Ontario record Musky? Well I believe that there may be a chance. My wife and I were fishing in Northern Ontario the first weekend in October (we generally take a break… kids back in school, we'll sneak away on a mini retreat) we had unseasonably warm weather, peace, and quiet. Every fall we've maintained the same routine. However, this year we geared up with heavier tackle including some modified/home-made lures. We had several family vacations/fishing trips through the summer with great musky success. We started off with a 45 in (114.4 cm) musky after fishing only a couple of minutes… we looked at each other and thought we were going to be in for an incredible day. We only managed to hook one other fish…my wife Andrea had him on briefly and that was it for day one. We started out on day two very slowly not having much success. Weather conditions were much the same as the day before except the water temperature rose slightly by a degree and a half. As we approached a couple of islands, BANG! My rod went off violently! Wholly cow! I got a fish on! We've caught numerous in the low to mid 50's, so at this point I didn't expect to witness what was about to happen at boat side, we couldn't believe the girth of this fish. It truly was a HAWG! I reached over the side to hand land ( two hands across the back of the head, on each side of the gill covers) the Musky. I don't believe in nets, it sickens me every time I see another photograph of a musky with damaged fins. As I got a hold of this musky, I suddenly realized how heavy this fish was… I dang near wrecked my back lifting it out of the water for a quick photograph.
"We took a quick photo and like ALL of our musky catches, we released it quickly back into the water. Andrea and I fished for the rest of the day thinking obviously about catching another dandy, but just like day one we went without another fish. We packed up and headed for home enjoying yet another beautiful day. As we docked I excitedly wanted to get to the cottage and download the musky photos to our lap top computer. Enough with the story…. This fish measured 58 in (147.4 cm) to the tail fork and a girth of 30 1/8 in (86.5 cm). If you do the math (using the standard weight calculation formula) this fish weighed in at 65.79 pounds (30 kg)."
In an interview over the phone, Charles added that the head of this giant muskie measured from the tip of the jaw to the back of the gill cover 21in (53.2 cm). His biggest muskie bit a hybrid lure that he had created; it measured 19 inches (47.8 cm) in length and was black, green, and white in colour. The musky fought for almost 10 minutes!
Charles fishes with a Shimano Calcutta left-hand baitcasting reels spooled with 80 lb. Power Pro line on a 7 1/2 ft and 6 1/2 ft rods for casting and trolling.
Charles has been fishing muskie for years, caught his first 50 in (127 cm) muskellunge while still in high school. He has now caught seven giant fish of this size or larger while fishing Lake Nipissing, French River, and Georgian Bay. He has concentrated most of his efforts on the West Bay of Lake Nipissing. His musky fishing philosophy in these waters: "The bottom line is, these fisheries will produce big fish with the right guys fishing them."
Oh! Hello! Brother. This is your older brother. I can tell you what it feels like to catch a muskie! ‘Cause, hey! I just caught one! I’ve got a photo of it…and I’m gonna stick it under your nose. And you’ll have to fish with us sometime. Because you don’t need a fancy boat. You don’t need all that fancy equipment. I just cast off the dock in Bobcaygeon. 34 inches on a spinner bait.
This is the story about how dying weed bed edges lose their appeal to muskies. In the early fall muskie swim further from their summer spots, so a slow-rolling spinner bait is effective along drop offs beyond weed beds, shoreline walls, and narrows.
Try to fish slower and tight to edge of drop-offs. It’s easy to do. Just let the spinner bait drop to the required depth, reel it in slowly so the blades are just spinning.
Single blade spinner baits are best as they allow you to feel the constant thump during the retrieve. On the other hand, several blades on the arm of the spinner bait cause the thump to be smoother so that they may tangle up. However, they may also present a larger attraction.
Whichever spinner bait you use, its attraction is in the way the blades immediately “helicopter” as the blades spin while falling to the drop-off.
The most attractive drop-off areas for muskie in rivers and lakes occur where there is a narrow or channel from one bay to another or channels between islands. Even from a dock, shore fishing with spinner baits in these areas can be quite successful.