MALLORYTOWN, Ontario, Canada – Ignore the calendar.
For a local group of dedicated bass anglers summer arrived six days before Friday's official first day of summer. Because of new bass regulations for the 1000 Islands Region of the St. Lawrence River by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, for those anglers summer arrived last Saturday with the opening of bass season in southern Ontario.
Many of those anglers joined Tamaqua businessman Tom Banditelli at Caiger's Resort, located on the St. Lawrence just three miles east of the 1000 Islands Bridge. For more than 50 years he has been fishing at Caiger's and has since become a partner in the business.
"In previous years bass opened the fourth Saturday of June in our area," Banditelli said. "And when I say "open," I mean fishing for bass – period.
"Fishing regulations in Ontario prohibit targeting bass in the preseason, and even catching a bass by accident while fishing for Northern pike can be considered "targeting." To avoid any problems, if we happened to catch a bass while pike fishing, we moved to another location no matter how well the pike were hitting.
"Having the opening the same weekend as New York State makes sense because a lot of anglers like to move around on the river. This way, as long as you have a New York and Ontario license, the river is open."
Among the regulators at Caiger's for last Saturday's opening of the bass season was Rich Balliet of Nesquehoning, who like majority of anglers fishing out of the resort practices catch-and-release. By the end of the day, he and his partner had put an even 70 bass in the boat.
Veteran guide Doug Amos said the late spring should keep the bass shallow for several weeks, meaning that finding bass should be relatively easy even for first-time visitors to the area. In all likelihood, the bass should not move into deeper water until late July.
"Bass are traditionally going to be found in the shallows when the season opens, even when it was the fourth Saturday in June, but their exact location will change from year to year," Amos said. "It is also important to pattern the movement of bass in the spring because there are times they will be found in deeper water off points if they are using channels to move from one location to another before moving closer to the cover along the shore.
"Another thing is know what these fish want, and as much as I favor soft plastics like Senkos, flukes and tubes, stickbaits like the Rapala Minnow, seem to be what they want. These baits also allow you to cover more water to locate bass, and then, switching to the soft stuff allows you to finesse the fish."
According to Ontario officials, bass populations in southern Ontario have responded favorably to a trend toward a warmer climate, and the early arrival of spring warming means that bass are spawning earlier, and longer growing seasons increase the growth and survival of bass, particularly in their first year. In addition to opening bass seasons earlier, the ministry is extending the bass season by two weeks in Zones 18 and 20, and this change will provide some early-winter angling opportunities while also ensuring a consistent closing date of December 15 for all three zones.
In Southern Ontario, air temperatures in spring, summer and fall have generally increased since the 1970s. This has resulted in a longer ice-free period for inland lakes and the Great Lakes.
Since bass spawning is linked to spring water temperatures, earlier spawning has been observed. When combined with warmer fall temperatures, earlier spawning results in a longer "growing season" for bass.
This is particularly important for bass in their first year as more bass are able to reach the critical size for first-year survival, and the result has been stronger and more consistent year-classes in much of the bass range in Ontario. Climate projections for southern Ontario suggest that the warming trends will continue, which should provide favorable conditions for bass.
For information about fishing in the 1000 Islands at Caiger's Resort, call Tom Banditelli at 570-668-5066 or access the website at http://www.caigers.com/; for more information about catch-and-release fishing on the St. Lawrence River with Doug Amos, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.