MACLEAN’S LEISURE LIVING

Safari in search of the elusive pike

It took a man with knowhow to find them where they weren’t

July 23 1966
MACLEAN’S LEISURE LIVING

Safari in search of the elusive pike

It took a man with knowhow to find them where they weren’t

July 23 1966

Safari in search of the elusive pike

MACLEAN’S LEISURE LIVING

It took a man with knowhow to find them where they weren’t

UNLIKE HIS DISTANT cousin Lawrence, who has millions of fans, Frank Welk (left) is esteemed by a select group of no more than a hundred or so people. Welk owns a bakery on Ontario Highway 69 near Oastler Lake and is celebrated for (a) his crusty bread and (b) his uncanny knowledge of fishing spots. Unlikely as it sounds, these talents sometimes coincide. For example, last summer Richard Emmel, unhappily eating a city-bread sandwich, said to his wife, “Let’s go get a loaf of Welk’s bread.” By dint of hard driving they made the 470 miles from Akron, Ohio, to Welk’s store before it closed that night.

“Frank’s bread isn’t really that good,” explained Emmel, "but it’s good enough to justify a nine-hour drive to go fishing with him." Which explains why at dawn on May 14, opening day of Ontario’s pike season, Emmel and half a dozen other professional men and executives from Akron were waiting impatiently in Welk’s front yard for him to finish his day's baking and lead them “to where the action was.”

No other fishermen were on the lake. Oastler is generally regarded as "fished out” (among other rea-

sons, because every year 150,000 visitors camp — and fish — at the lake’s big provincial park). Welk serenely disregards this theory. He knows a secret “pike rock” (above) which always produces fish, And so it proved. On Randall Hagerman's first cast the line hummed off the reel. Five minutes of giveand-take netted a six-pound Great Northern, firm, fat and still fighting.

“Throw him back,” said Welk. “Wait for the bis ones — ” But he was shouted down. Thereafter the floats bobbed with exciting regularity, and pike multiplied on the stringers, at a rate of about one for every three strikes. (Pike are traditionally supposed practically to hook themselves by their voracious attack on the lure, but this does not apply when the bait is live minnows and the anglers are strike-happy amateurs.)

Presently a second boat arrived with another of Welk's guests, a trim redhead named Liz Foss. She borrowed a rod and essayed a woefully amateurish cast, whereupon the males eagerly volunieered instructions. After a few demonstrations / continued overleaf

THE ELUSIVE PIKE continued

Liz said meekly, "I think I have the hang of it." She leaned back and let go a cast that sailed halfway across the lake. Eyes popped. Liz swung again — farther. Eyes popped wider. Slyly, Welk divulged Liz Foss’s current title: Miss Outdoors Canada of 1966. But as it turned out, long casts weren’t the answer at the pike rock. The fish apparently pursue minnows close to shore, and Liz got no strikes until she dropped her line a few feet off the rock.

The sun was westering. Oastler Lake still wasn’t fished out — but the happy, tired anglers were. Cartons of pike were packed in ice, earmarked for a gala private fish-fry at Peppe’s restaurant in Akron the next night. Frank Welk shrugged off his guests’ thanks and congratulations. "You should have stayed over,” he said. "The big ones will be running tomorrow." ERIC HUTTON

Miss Outdoors Canada and an American expedition celebrate opening day with a harvest of beauties

SPORT FISHING in British Columbia is a yearround recreation or dedication, including such midwinter esotérica as skating down lake trout under the clear ice of Lac la Hache. But in summer the entire population of the province, with the possible exception of Premier Bennett and Highways Minister Gaglardi, goes fishing — young and old', man, woman and child. They are joined by about half the population of Washington, Oregon, California and Alberta, with substantial contributions from the other eight provinces and forty-seven states and a few strays from other continents. Some among these masses may be occasionals or casuals or dilettantes, but the overwhelming majority are determined, hardworking and even expert. They want fish and mean to get them.

Statistics to stagger the imagination are easily come by and usually expressed in boat-days, manhours, rod-minutes, catch per unit of effort and totally unbelievable amounts of dollars spent for

NO FRESH-WATER FISH is more famous thar the speckled trout, also known as the brooi trout. Poets and musicians have extolled its vigor, and simply pronouncing the word brings tc mind fresh countryside dotted with emerald lake: and sparkling streams.

So it’s normal that in Quebec, where lakes and streams multiply to a million, trout is the star of the fish world. It may be normal, but it’s inaccurate as well: there are no speckled trout in Quebec! Despite the loud protests of eighty thousand Quebec fishermen, the statisticians and ichthyologists are firm: what we call trout is really char. Salvelinus fontinalis, in fact.

But since eighty thousand Quebec fishermen and any number of tourist-fishermen say trout, we’ll saj the same, for in the words of humorist Louis Dupire, “When everyone is wrong, everyone is right!”

And you too will be right when, under a smiling summer sky, you head into the vast Quebec wilder-

SOME YEARS AGO, while flying my small seaplane across Labrador from Sept-lles to Northwesi River, I looked out under a solid overcast at the marshes, scattered patches of timber, grey rocks and winding eskers — a rough bit of country laced over with a network of lakes and rivers — and, thinking of the fishing that lay there untouched as yet by any angler, I turned to my wife and said, with some fervor, I guess, “Isn’t it beautiful?”

Her reply was a simple “No.”

To her it meant cold nights in a tent camp, mosquitoes and black flies, and more fish than anyone needs. She was glad we were headed on toward a comfortable fishing camp with a screened porch, a good working kitchen and comfortable beds.

Every year there are more camps, more comfon and easier access to the fishing of Labrador. Fishing that will never be quite as good again as it was then but fishing which is still far, far better than anything one can find closer to the big centres