Thousand Islands Open: Setting the Bar for Bass Fishing

Studying Time: 9 minutes

Summer time’s right here, and which means Bass season to anglers in Ontario. Aggressive sorts are honing their abilities. Idle anglers discussing fishing spots. All of them have one species on the mind. Smallmouth Bass develop larger and meaner right here than nearly anyplace else, making them the perfect goal. And the place higher to take them on than at Kingston’s Thousand Islands Open Bass fishing event?

Picture courtesy of the TIO

The Thousand Islands Open has been constructing an actual repute during the last 5 years. It now attracts 100 groups each summer time looking for monster hookups and, with a bit of luck, huge prizes. We spoke to event organizer Jamie Lemery to study a bit of extra concerning the occasion. We additionally discovered why that is such an awesome place to catch Bass, and how you can get probably the most out of it.

The Excellent Bass Fishery

What makes the right Bass fishery? Is it the scale of the fish, or the range and high quality of the waters they’re present in? We prefer to suppose it’s a mix of the 2, with quick access as a cherry on prime. If you happen to agree, then Kingston can be your type of city.

Too Many Choices

You solely have to take a look at a map to see why fishing round Kingston is so good. The town sits on the mouth of the St. Lawrence River, proper the place it meets Lake Ontario. You’ve acquired quick access to the open waters of the lake, in addition to the infinite again bays and rocky outcrops of the Thousand Islands themselves. And that’s only for starters.

“We’re so spoiled right here with choices,” laughs Jamie. “It’s not simply Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, it’s your entire Rideau canal system. After which round Kingston there’s in all probability 100 different lakes which are stuffed with Bass that you could possibly go to.

“I all the time joke that when a buddy calls me up and says, ‘You wish to go fishing?’ it turns into a half-hour debate on what we’re going to do, the place we’re going to go, how we’re going to catch them. Too many choices, it’s a nice drawback to have, for positive.”

Small Mouths, Huge Fish

Jamie pulls no punches when he talks about Kingston’s Smallmouth Bass: “If you wish to catch a 5 lb Smallmouth, that is in all probability the best place to take action.” He’s not kidding. Trophy fish are a dime a dozen in these waters, and profitable catches can tip the scales at 7 kilos. There’s an excellent cause for that.

“Thirty years in the past, every time there have been tournaments round right here, guys had been fishing for Largemouth. Typical weights for 5 fish had been round 18 kilos. So, good dimension fish. Then, about 20 years in the past, the Gobies confirmed up.”

Gobies are invasive fish that arrived in Lake Ontario within the ’90s. They stowed away in ships developing the seaway system from the Atlantic. As quickly as they acquired into the lake, their numbers exploded. They’ve been horrible for a lot of species within the space, however that they had the other impact on Smallmouth.

“During the last 10 years or so, the Smallmouth Bass have realized to solely feed on the Gobies. I’d say 80–90% of their weight loss program is now Gobies. They’re excessive in protein. There are quite a lot of them round. The smallmouth don’t must expend quite a lot of power to catch them. So, they’re rising larger and quicker than ever earlier than.”

Simple Entry

In fact, the most important fish and the most effective waters aren’t any good for those who can’t take pleasure in them. The Thousand Islands Open was once held in Rockport, a reasonably village some 30 miles down the St. Lawrence River. It was the right spot to start with, however because the event grew, it began to carry some new issues. 

“The primary couple of years, we didn’t promote out the occasion. We had 60, 70 groups, and that wasn’t an issue. Then, the third yr, we offered out and had 100 groups, and the village simply acquired overwhelmed. It couldn’t deal with the amount of individuals. So we determined to maneuver to Kingston”

Launching from a serious metropolis definitely has its benefits, as Jamie explains: “We had entry to a harbor for a change. We might launch and park and every part within the harbor, and off they go. It simply made issues simpler.” They wanted a spot that had good entry to the river and the lake, and was in a position to simply take care of massive teams. Kingston match the invoice completely.

An Unmissable Occasion

The Thousand Islands Open isn’t the one Bass event within the space. It’s not even the one one which Jamie’s concerned with (he runs his personal membership and sequence when he’s not busy with this one). It does have all of the makings of the right angling occasion, although: stiff competitors, nice prizes, and monster fish.

Robust Competitors

Most opponents within the TIO are native. A number of individuals come up from New Brunswick, quite a lot of Individuals go to for the occasion, however round 1 / 4 of the event is from Kingston itself. That doesn’t make it straightforward, although. Based on Jamie, “They’re in all probability the most effective anglers within the area. It’s type of the who’s who of Bass anglers round Ontario.”

Picture courtesy of the TIO

So, do visiting anglers stand an opportunity in opposition to the native crowd? Completely. It’s only a query of doing all of your homework, as Jamie makes clear. “It’s so huge an space which you could fish that I don’t suppose native data would actually assist. There’s simply so many spots. It’s a query of who’s put in probably the most time to exit and discover them.

“Persons are going to catch fish. All of them catch fish. It’s only a matter of catching fives over fours. I all the time joke as a result of it’s one of many few locations the place you possibly can catch four-pounder after four-pounder and also you’re saying ‘These aren’t sufficiently big. This simply isn’t sufficient!’ Anyplace else, it’s ‘Oh, that’s a great one!’ however not Lake Ontario.”

Each group will get to fish for 2 days. They’re on the water for 9 hours a day, and produce again the most important fish they’ll discover. After that, the sphere will get reduce in half: half the groups go dwelling, whereas the highest 50% goes out yet another time to stake their declare on some huge prizes.

Excessive Stakes

There’s a complete of $100,000 at stake within the TIO, which will get break up between the highest 30 groups. First place wins you a cool $15,000. Second and third win $12,000 and $10,000 respectively. After that, it trickles right down to $1,000 for the group that is available in thirtieth, which covers their entry price.

It’s not simply the cash persons are hoping to win, although, as Jamie explains. “If you happen to make the reduce for the third day, you get a key. That is one thing we began within the first yr and it’s actually caught on. There’s a model new boat, and everybody will get a key. In case your key begins the boat, you win the boat.”

Picture courtesy of the TIO

The enjoyable half about that is that you just don’t must catch huge fish to win huge prizes. Everybody’s had these days the place you place in your all however the fish simply don’t play ball. This provides anglers an opportunity to check their luck on land if it runs dry on the water.

Critical about Sustainability

One factor that’s instantly clear within the Thousand Islands Open is their dedication to defending the native fishery. From the second a fish is introduced aboard to after it’s launched, the occasion is about as much as try to hold it protected. For the event organizers, that is greater than due diligence, it’s a means of sustaining the waters they love.

“We’re attempting to set the bar for different tournaments that do main occasions on the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. We wish to preserve this fishery as a result of it’s so cool. It’s so good on the market proper now. However, if we hold doing what we’re doing, that’s going to go away. So we’re attempting to do every part we will to maintain it.”

Fish Out of Water

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that fish don’t do properly out of water. The stress and alter in stress put quite a lot of pressure on their our bodies. Not having the ability to breathe doesn’t assist, both. Due to that, the TIO has streamlined a system to restrict the quantity of air publicity to the naked minimal. 

Picture courtesy of the TIO

As quickly as a fish is caught, it’s put right into a tank of aerated water to get better from the battle. Again on dry land, they relaxation in a trough of water whereas they watch for the weigh-in. They’re transferred to a different tank arrange on scales to be weighed. After a fast picture, they’re tagged for scientific examine and brought to a launch boat to be put again into the lake.

The entire course of is designed to place the fish beneath as little stress as doable. Groups additionally begin every day in waves, a 3rd at a time. This cuts down the ready time for the weigh-in. And that’s simply one of many methods the event’s protecting fish alive.

Much less is Extra

One of the efficient modifications that the TIO has made is to scale back the variety of fish every group catches. Most tournaments catch 5, this one catches 4. It looks as if a minor change at first look, however it’s had a big effect on the variety of Bass surviving every year. This has a knock-on impact throughout your entire native Bass inhabitants, as Jamie explains.

“These guys are fishing the massive females. It’s the breeding inventory of Lake Ontario. You’re going to have the ability to hold them wholesome and alive a lot better if there are solely 4 fish. On the similar time, it’s a 25% discount within the quantity of fish being introduced again to the scales. Over the course of three days, that’s fairly just a few fish.”

Picture courtesy of the TIO

It is smart. Fewer fish means fewer deaths, even when some do inevitably expire. On the similar time, they’ve extra room to breathe within the tank, which retains them more healthy. And the humorous factor is that it hasn’t actually affected the weigh-ins in comparison with a few a long time again.

“Tournaments was once received with 20 kilos. Then, the Gobies confirmed up and so they’re being received with 25 kilos. Now we’re simply dropping it again right down to the place it was. You’re nonetheless going to wish 20 kilos to win, however it’s 4 huge fish in your livewell.”

Working with Specialists

If you wish to do one thing proper, it’s finest to ask an professional. That’s precisely what the TIO has been doing. They work with researchers from the Biology Division of Kingston’s Queen’s College, a few of that are eager anglers themselves. Professor Bruce Tufts, head of the college’s fisheries research, is even an everyday face within the event.

The general angle is, “You present us the science and we’ll agree.” This feeds into each a part of the event. The water weigh-in process was partly developed by Professor Tufts. They lowered their catch price primarily based on recommendation from the college. In addition they educate anglers on how you can vent or fizz fish to scale back injury from the stress distinction.

And it appears to be working. Jamie is open that they’ve made errors prior to now. Their mission is to study from these errors. No fishing event has a 0% mortality price, however they work yearly to maintain theirs as little as doable. Proper now, the objective is to maintain it beneath 5%, and they’ll hold working to decrease that quantity wherever they’ll.

Destined for Greatness

The waters round Kingston appear to be custom-built for superior Bass fishing. Between the huge expanse of Lake Ontario and the winding waterways of the St. Lawrence River, you could possibly spend your complete life fishing right here and solely scratch the floor. After that, it’s on to the opposite couple of hundred lakes inside a straightforward drive of city.

Regardless of all this, the world has historically flown beneath the radar for a lot of Bass anglers, in accordance with Jamie. “It has type of been saved a secret for the final 5 or 10 years, however as increasingly more persons are developing and seeing how good the fishery right here is, how huge the fish are, it’s drawing increasingly more tourism as properly. Which is nice, so long as we preserve the useful resource.”

And that’s what all of it comes right down to, spreading the phrase about this unimaginable fishery, whereas additionally taking steps to guard it. The Thousand Islands Open appears to be doing an awesome job at each. So whether or not you’re a Bass fishing fanatic, or only a informal angler in search of someplace scenic to moist a line, why not add Kingston to your angling hit listing?

We’d prefer to thank the TIO, and Jamie specifically, for taking the time to speak to us. We’d additionally prefer to thank Tourism Kingston for all their assist in placing this text collectively. If you happen to’re within the event or need extra details about the city itself, make sure you examine them out!