Sixty Years of Fishing on the Chateauguay River

By John A. Viau

Publié le 29 août 2016

Eric McComber with a 14 1/2 lb walleye he caught in the Chateauguay River near Ormstown on August 9th, 2016.

©TC Média Gracieuseté

My long and illustrious fishing career on the Chateauguay River began a bit over 60 years ago when my Mom and Dad rented a camp for the summer on the farm of Donald Fiskin near Howick, Quebec. Mr. Fiskin’s farm was located on Route 138 about 3 ½ miles from the little village of Howick and about 30 miles south west of Montreal.

At the time Donald was farming the land and milking a small herd of 8 dairy cows.  To supplement his rather meagre income he had built four summer camps and rented them out to people from Montreal for their summer holidays. He also had a small wharf with 3 wooden rowboats which his guests could use to try their luck at some fishing in the Chateauguay River which flowed right by his farm.

When I told Donald that I would like to try my luck at some fishing but didn’t have a fishing rod he lent me one of his, gave me and my parents a lecture on boat safety, made sure we would wear the life jackets that were in the boat and pointed to a spot about ½ a mile upstream where an old tree was sticking out of the water, and said “try there, it’s a good spot.”  He told us to go dig some worms behind the barn for bait and wished us luck.  After a hasty dinner and a half an hour of digging night crawlers, we were off.

It took Dad about half an hour to row up to the tree.  We tied the anchor rope to an out thrust limb, and I started to fish. It wasn’t long before I had my first bite and what a bite it was.  The fish literally about tore the rod out of my hands.  I hung on to the rod for dear life and tried to reel in the huge Smallmouth Bass that had engulfed my night crawler and was now heading downstream at break neck speed. Dad hurriedly untied the boat and started to row as fast as he could to stay as near to the fish as possible so it wouldn’t strip all the line off the old reel. After about 20 minutes or so the fish started to tire and I managed to get it close enough to the boat for Dad to grab the line and haul it into the boat.  Later we found out it weighed 4 ½ pounds. Dad rowed back up to the old tree and tied the boat to the limb and I baited up and threw the line overboard and to my amazement I immediately had another hard bite.  After a thrilling pulling match that lasted 4 or 5 minutes I managed to land (with Dad’s help) a beautiful Walleye of about 3 lbs. Bait up as fast as I could, throw the line back in and before the sinker hit bottom I had another nice fish on.  After another spirited fight I had myself a beautiful pike of about 4 lbs. Dad said “let’s head home and ask Mr. Fiskin how to clean them so we can fry them up for supper.”  I readily agreed and we were off back to the farm.

On the row back about half way we encountered a Mr. Clark, who was renting the camp next to ours, rowing upstream with his rod propped up between his legs and resting on the back seat.  He told us he was trolling with a big Red Devil line and he hoped to catch himself a pike for supper. Suddenly a huge fish jumped out of the water almost opposite our boat with Mr. Clark’s lure hanging out of its monstrous mouth.  Mr. Clark managed to grab his rod just before it flew overboard.  But all to no avail for at that very instant the line parted with a sharp “twang.”  The musky had sheared it off just about an inch away from the lure.

Mr. Clark was swearing to beat the band and looked pretty darn unhappy about the whole affair when with a mighty splash the musky jumped completely clear of the water shakings its head wildly trying to rid itself of the lure still imbedded in its bony jaws.  And that was the last we ever saw of it. That afternoon of fishing got me hooked for life on fishing and more particularly fishing on the old Chateauguay River.

In a few years time I was still spending my summers at Donald’s farm and I now had a little 3 Horse Power Elto outboard motor and was king of the river.  Now I was mobile and proudly started to explore for miles upstream and down. I soon learned all the best places for Walleye, Smallmouth Bass and Pike.  Musky were harder to pin down but over the years I finally found some of their hangouts. Many things have changed over the years on the old Chateauguay River and yet many things have remained the same.

One thing that has changed dramatically over the last 60 years is that the Pike fishing has deteriorated dramatically.  During the 50’s and 60’s and in the first part of the 70’s you could go out for an afternoons trolling and catch your limit of 6 fish usually in about an hour.  If you practiced catch and release it wasn’t uncommon for 2 fishermen trolling together to catch over 50 Pike in an afternoons fishing.

My best day ever Pike fishing on the Chateauguay River Mervyn Spedding and I caught a total of 68 Pike from 12 noon to just after 5:30 p.m.  We released all but 2 big ones of about 8 lbs. each.  I don’t think we ever caught the same fish twice because we started out trolling at Donald Fiskin’s farm and trolled all the way down towards Ste. Martine to where the English River empties into the Chateauguay.  Today you could troll all summer long and maybe catch 3 or 4 pike.

Smallmouth Bass fishing has always been spectacular on the Chateauguay and that hasn’t changed.  Find any of the small rapids on the Chateauguay and fish either above or below the rapids and even right in the rapids as well.  You’ll catch Bass after Bass.  My best day Smallmouth fishing on the Chateauguay River was July 2nd, 2004.  I boated and released from 8:00 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. 48 Bass and from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. another 61 Bass for a total of 109 Bass.  Sounds almost unbelievable doesn’t it?  Let me assure you the story is true.  In this case I might possible have caught the same fish twice or even 3 times.  Also many of the bass were quite small, some under a pound but there were 2 dozen or so over 3 lbs. and 1 about 4 ½ lbs.  None were weighed but I’m a pretty good judge of weight. Every Bass was caught in and around 2 different sets of rapids about 3 miles from my house in Ormstown, where I now make my home.

The 2 lures I was using were a small “S” size Canadian Wiggler - one in a silver color and one red.  The technique was to cast the lure out, let it sit absolutely still for 2 or 3 minutes and then start reeling rapidly and then repeat the procedure until you’ve completely retrieved the lure. Not to brag or exaggerate but I can truthfully say that I have never gone fishing on the Chateauguay River for Smallmouth Bass and not caught my limit.

In a next edition we’ll talk about fishing for Walleye and Musky on the beautiful Chateauguay River.