It all started when I received a message. “What do you think about an all-women’s fishing outing?”
To which I replied, "Count me in."
Ashley Rae, a fellow writer here on the Northern Portal, arranged the entire outing. Within two weeks, the trip was filled with eight enthusiastic women.
The first morning, we were delayed by high winds. Our guides, Joe Pickstock of P B and J Charters and Greg Amiel of Fishing 4 Tails, went out early to find stretches that were protected enough from the wind.
It was the beginning of December, and to this day I’m still not sure how I tricked my mother into joining me. Perhaps it was because she didn’t quite know what she was in for yet.
Here were all these women, equally stoked to get on a boat at the crack of dawn in December with 50-km sustained winds ripping across the open water, just for a shot at some Quinte gold. Where had they been my whole life?
Ashley had a great idea that fishing with different guides each day would give us all the opportunity to learn more. On our first day, Lori, Jeanine, my mother, and I were with Greg on his boat. Greg wove between us rigging baits, laying out planer boards, and checking depths. The five of us dancing around the boat had such a great rhythm we eventually called it the walleye waltz.
Distracted by exchanging fishing stories, we were gladly interrupted when Greg spotted a bite. We volunteered Lori to grab the rod, and before we knew it we were on the first fish of the day. Sitting just shy of eight pounds, with great colouring, it was a beautiful walleye.
On our push back upwind, we got another strike. This time, my mom was on deck. After a few good head shakes, she got it to the boat. When it surfaced, I knew she was going to be glad she decided to join me. At eight pounds five ounces, it was certainly no slouch for her first walleye.
Whether the fish just wanted slower baits or our position going upwind was getting their attention, it appeared to be the trigger we needed. Our next push-up, on almost the same waypoint, there was another bite. This time, Jeanine was up to bat.
Giving Jeanine a run for her money, this walleye was not giving in easily. A tremendous fight and sore arms later, Greg netted the fish, and we were rewarded with another eight pounds of a solid Bay of Quinte Gem.
I was next in line for reeling in a fish, but we went several more drifts up and down with the wind, without a single bite.
The ladies on Joe’s boat, Samantha, Kelly, Ashley, and her mother Debbie had a couple of bites, but the stars wouldn’t align for them. You know you are fishing with true anglers, when they have a full day of wind burn, are chilled to the bone, don’t catch fish, but they’re still smiling ear to ear.
The next morning, we managed to get out a bit earlier. It was our turn to fish with Joe this time. The wind was still wild, but not nearly as bad as the day before. As the sun rose high, it delightfully warmed our wind burnt cheeks.
When it comes to trolling for walleye, you have to be prepared to be social. I’m typically a quiet angler, so the chance to speak with others on the water while we watched the lines was a great opportunity to get to know everyone, and the time flew by.
Halfway through another story, Joe yells, "That’s a fish!"
As Joe hands me the rod, he says to me quietly as if not to jinx it, “This is a good one.”
As I reel in, the head shakes, extending my arms unwillingly. "Yep, this is a good one all right," I think to myself. The reels line counter says 280 feet. This is going to be a long haul.
After endless reel cranks, the line counter finally reads 20 feet, I anticipate seeing it on the surface, but it fights tooth and nail to keep its head down. As I back up to bring the fish closer to the boat for Joe to net it, he steps in front of me and I can’t see the fish breach. He pauses and I see his shoulders slump. His silence slowly killing me. He takes a deep breath in and, with an exhale, hauls the fish into the boat.
With a collective and rather loud “wow” across the boat, I see just how much Quinte gold is worth.
At 32 inches long, 14 pounds, three ounces, it was the largest fish I had caught all year and my personal best walleye by 10 pounds. I’ve never been one for jewels, but with this fish, I had struck gold.