Back in the mid-80s, I was up in Port Elgin doing a seminar before the local salmon derby started, and I remember meeting a Charter Captain from Southwestern Ontario by the name of Jim Fleming. Since that time, we’ve spent a lot of days fishing together. Jim is one of those guys who is definitely a consummate professional. For years now, he’s operated a successful charter business. He currently runs a 30-foot Luhrs Open boat named Drifter II on Lakes Erie and St. Clair.
Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time fishing with Jim for salmon, steelhead, perch, walleye, and muskie. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad outing with Jim. Once, when he joined me on my boat catching perch on Lake Erie, we ended up catching several hundred perch. Even though a lot of his fishing is done by trolling, Jim showed his prowess with a rod and reel on that outing, catching a big catfish and a number of other species while we were fishing for perch.
I would put Jim Fleming in the “legendary” category just for the simple reason that the guy produces a lot of fish. He’s paid his dues and he has spent an incredible amount of time on the water.
Jim started his charter business in 1981, and he likes to move around with the fish. For the first part of the season, from about the third week of May until the first week of August, he has his boat at the Leamington Municipal Marina and he fishes Lake Erie for walleye.
A typical day out there with Jim is a six-hour charter but on most days he and his guests have limited out in four-hours and they’re back at the dock. There’s an incredible walleye year class on Lake Erie right now for fish that are in the 2 ½ to 3 ½-pound range, and the fishing is off the charts. It’s amazing to think that the fishing is that good, but it is. Jim’s had so many charters out there where the limits come easy—and it doesn’t get much better than that.
As the season progresses, say from the second week of August until the end of October, that’s when Jim goes to Lake St. Clair and targets muskies. He bases himself out of Cove Marina at Lighthouse Cove at the mouth of the Thames River where it enters Lake St. Clair. I’m not sure that another person in Canada, if not the world, has had as many fish landed on their boat as Jim has. I asked him how many muskies he and his guests have landed over the years, and he figures somewhere between 8,000 to 10,000 fish. He had many years of catching and releasing over 600 muskies in a three-month period.
When you start talking numbers like that, it’s hard to comprehend. There’s an old saying that a muskie is the fish of a thousand casts. I’m not sure how that relates to trolling, because when you troll you can cover miles and miles of water without casting at all. When you start talking about the numbers that Jim has caught over the years, I’m not so sure that it would add up to quite the analogy that folks use when they talk about casting for muskies.
There’s no question that Lake St. Clair is an absolute muskie factory. For years it’s been one of, if not the top, producer for numbers of fish, including some good-sized ones.
On my last outing with Jim, we caught and released a number of good-sized muskies in a day and a half of fishing. We caught muskies up to 50” long, a number in the 40s, and a bunch of smaller ones. It’s so normal to go out with him and catch numerous of muskies in one outing. The size may vary, but one thing for sure is that Jim definitely produces fish.
The other thing I would say that makes Jim Fleming him a good, competent, and trustworthy Charter Captain is the fact that he will tell you if the conditions aren’t good. I’ve fished with a lot of guides and Charter Captains over the years, and I’d say he’s about as honest as I’ve ever seen. If the conditions aren’t right, he’ll tell you it’s not worth coming down. If the lake’s muddy or there’s a lot of floating weeds, or whatever the reason may be, he’ll tell you that it’s going to be slim pickings out there. He’ll try to postpone the trip and reschedule with you for a time when the conditions are better. And that’s what I like about him—he’s very transparent on what the conditions are and what the fishing is like. Jim tells it like it is, and that might be one of the main reasons I’ve fished with him so many times over the years.