FISHING WITH YOUR GRANDCHILDREN By Bill Kilfoyle
There are some things that should be passed on to your grandchildren - like the fun to be had in an afternoon of fishing. I’m thinking of kids, say 6 to 11 years old. I can still remember the first fish my daughter caught - and so can she!
We are going to go fishing for small ones called pan fish - sunfish, rock bass, perch etc. We are not intending to eat them - it’s catch and release. Now there are places around Ottawa where you can go to catch pan fish: for example, off the island on Island Park bridge or in the rapids behind Carleton University. But all seasoned fishermen know that if you want to have good fishing you have to go on an “expedition” - and kids understand this. You can’t just fish in your back yard. You have to pack a lunch and set out by car. That’s why I am proposing a trip to Nicholson’s Locks on the Rideau River between Burritt’s Rapids and Merrickville with a side trip to Merrickville for ice cream and maybe a canoe ride and swimming.
But first things first. This after all is a fishing trip so you will need a rod, a line, and some hooks. A bamboo pole with a string and a hook will do the job but why not invest in a small spinning rod and reel so you can look and feel like serious fishermen. I checked out fishing kits for kids varying in price from $13 to $26. There were good choices at Canadian Tire. Le Baron at Stafford Road, Bell’s Corners, 613-596-4415, is a full service sports store that had good kits too. By “kit” I mean the rod, the reel, and a plastic box full of hooks, lures, and floats. Now most of extras will never be used but they will give the young fisherman that good feeling of being ready for anything.
The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters also offers a package of information on fishing for young people. I have not checked this out but it is free for the asking. Go the web site www.familyfishingweekend.com
The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources also has a good web site for fishermen with useful info for our kind of expedition. www.mnr.gov.on.ca/MNR/fishing/ Check it out.
Basically what you are going to do is put a small hook on the line, attach a float or a bobber a couple of feet up from the hook, put your worm on the hook and toss it all in the water. You can use artificial lures but remember we are dealing with young fishermen with short attention spans and worms are the one thing that will guarantee fast and continuing action. I recommend taking the barb off the hook. It is just so much easier to release the fish. It’s also a good idea to take along a small pair of needle nosed pliers to help remove hooks that have been swallowed. Also use the pliers to break off or flatten the barb on the hook.
Try to minimize the time a fish is played to release a fish keep it in the water as much as possible while removing the lure. Tell your kids that to hold their breath while the fish is out of the water. When they run out of breath it’s a good sign that the fish has to go back in the water fairly soon. Wet your hands before picking up a fish and hold the fish gently behind the gills. When removing a hook use a long nose pliers to grasp the shank of the hook. Working gently back and forth until the hook is free.
But enough: this and more is in the “Catch Fishing” booklet.
A word on legalities. Panfish ( defined as sunfish, blue gill, rock bass, pumpkinseed, yellow perch, crappie, bullheads ) are in season from the last Saturday in April to November 30, so no problem there. There is, however, the little issue of licenses. You can purchase these at Canadian Tire Stores. Le Baron also sells them. There are some important exceptions to the license requirement. If you fish in Ontario during the period July 8 to 10 (2005) no license is required. This is Ontario’s contribution to National Fishing Week July 2-10. And here is the best exception of all: if you are under 18 or over 65 you do not need a license. So this should cover most grandfathers and young kids. If you are unfortunately enough to be under 65 you will have to get a day license or better still an Outdoors card which will allow you to fish for three years. Being over 65 I don’t have the price on these but they are quite reasonable. There is a “ conservation” category for these cards which is cheaper and the best deal for our purposes. “Conservation” just means you can keep fewer fish per day than under a standard card. Call 1-800-387-7011 for more information on all these licenses.
There is that very remote chance that you hook in to and actually land a lunker fish which you would obviously take home not only for the bragging rights but for the family to eat. You may have heard that you have to be careful of residual toxicity in larger fish ( mercury, DDT, and bad stuff like that). If you are just talking about just one fish that you have caught on light tackle you have nothing to worry about. If you need to know more about this because, miracle of miracles, you have just caught, say, a half dozen two pound large mouth bass then pick up at the sports store the “Guide to Eating Ontario Sport Fish”. Look up the Rideau River. This publication is free of charge. You can check out the same information at the Ministry of Natural Resources web site mentioned above.
Directions OK, so much for the prologue: how do we get there?
Head south on Highway 416. About twenty five minutes south of the Queensway (417) take Exit 42 (sign says “Dillworth Road , County Road 13"). Turn right on CR 13 and go less than a kilometer to a T junction. Turn left on CR 5. Continue on this road past the Rideau River Provincial Park on your left. Shortly after the Park CR 5 turns to the left but you continue straight ahead. You will see a sign saying “Burritts Rapids 12 , Ottawa Carleton Rd 2". Continue on this road for about 24.5 km. Turn left at the sign for Upper Nicholson Locks. Go down the hill until you come to the bridge across the Rideau River. Just before you cross the bridge there is on the right hand side a parking spot for two cars. There is a trail that leaves the parking lot and goes up stream. Off of this trail there are a number of access points to the river. Depending on water levels there are a number of places where you can stand on the flat rocks and cast into the rapids. This is very picturesque area but because of the fast flowing water here you have to be careful of really little kids. But before you try this spot check out a couple of others.
Cross the first bridge with the car. Just on the other side notice the huge nest for ospreys perched on top of a tall pole. This huge nest was inhabited with young ones in June of this year (2005). An adult osprey has a wing span of approximately 54 inches so they are not hard to spot!
As soon as you cross the second bridge, which is over the canal, turn right into the parking lot. Park the car and check out this area. This is a pretty picnic area and the kids can fish in the canal. This is a good spot for younger children. There is also the fun of seeing how the boats go through the locks. You can walk over the locks to the north ( river) side of the canal and go for a walk up stream to the spillway. There is some good fishing there but once again it is probably best for older kids.
There is one other excellent spot very close by which is worth checking out. Leave the parking lot and turn right. In a few hundred feet you are at County Road 23. Turn left and go for no more than half a kilometer. Turn left at the sign for Lower Nicholson Locks. You will have to park your car and walk down the hill. There is a very nice picnic spot at the downstream end of the locks and there is good fishing off the wharf. This would be my favourite spot for younger children. It is quiet and your picnic table or picnic blanket can be just a few feet from where you young friends are fishing in relatively still waters.
After some fishing you can head west (i.e. turn right) to Merrickville on CR 44. After about 17.6 km you will see the turnoff to Merrickville which by then is only about 5 km away. Go to the main intersection in Merrickville. It is the only one with flashing lights. Some things that might interest young people are the Block House at the north west corner of this intersection, but let’s face it, this is a museum and it will be of more interest to grandparents. You could also go straight ahead to get to the Canadian Recreational Canoe Association (CRCA) national centre but let’s leave this until a bit later. Remember this is a day for the kids. So turn left at this man intersection and go down St. Lawrence Street ( the main drag) for about a block until you see on the left hand side (east) side of the street the Downtowne Ice Cream and Candy Shoppe. Get the ice cream and then return to he main intersection and turn left on Main Street West in the direction of the Canoe Centre. (You’re heading west, or if compass directions are not your forte then you’re heading up stream). Continue past many shops and restaurants until you come to the end of the street. You will see a sign pointing straight ahead for the CRCA. This is an interesting shop for older guys but the interesting thing for kids is that you can rent canoes. They have a variety of canoes, a few of which are very stable and very appropriate for kids. You get the paddles, life jackets, bailing can and life line all included plus a short lecture on boating safety. The Rideau river is very wide here and not that interesting but a short trip up river can usually find some ducks and geese. You could paddle downstream but as this is where the big boats congregate I wouldn’t advise this unless you are a good canoeist. At the Canoe centre there is a small beach with floating rope barriers for kids to swim.
That’s it. Time to head for home. Finding your own way back is part of the adventure.
Good fishing and good expeditions - and pass it on.
Bill Kilfoyle June 29, 2005
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