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Bayside days

Since the previous blog entry I've been checking the fish traps on a daily basis. I have two fish traps - the other has entrances on both sides, and the other is heart shaped, with only one entrance. At first I placed both the traps at the mouth of the bay, where the waterway is only a few meters wide. The next day the other trap was empty, and the other had a pike in it. Ah, the first catch of the season! The next day I smoked the pike, and went to check the traps. Again, there was one pike in the other trap. But it felt bit like cheating - isn't it too easy to catch fish in this narrow strait when they are just reaching their favourite spawning places? So I let the pike go, and replaced the fish traps. Like, if it was a real survival situation, this would be an ideal place to set a row of fish traps. But for me it isn't that much about the amount of fish caught - it is more about spending time outdoors, and learning more about how fish behave here on this lake.

I still don't know exactly when is the best season for pike spawn. I remember reading that they start as soon as the ice is gone. And I've heard some of my neighbours saying that, too. But somehow I think that this applies on a smaller lakes. Here the situation might be bit different, as there is a bigger lake from where the pike head to shallow bays to spawn. I assume that the season might be bit later here. But how do I now? The best way to learn is to spend a lot of time down by the bay, each spring making observations. Also, I remember reading that younger pikes start first, and older ones come after them. So, even when it seems that the main season is over, it might still be time for a big catch.

Well, about a week ago I was checking the fish traps on a late evening. Nothing in them, but I heard pikes splashing nearby. I wielded a hand net and walked towards the sounds. In the twilight there still was enough light to see the pikes - they splashed around in the foliage. I removed my boots and waded in the ice cold water, slowly and carefully placing my foot not to alert the fish. Sneaking I got closer and closer, until they were in my range. I made a quick scoop with the hand net, and it was a perfect hit - only that the net got stuck in the thick foliage, and fish could escape by just diving through the foliage. No luck this time! I remember Sami saying that it is possible to catch them with nothing but bare hands, and in this case it might have been a better method.

I had packed some food with me. I had chopped onion and lamb meat, together with crushed buckwheat kernels. I had mixed them together, and wrapped the mixture with tin foil. I made a small fire and placed the wraps next to the fire. The night was getting dark when I enjoyed my meal. After eating I wished I had packed some more clothes with me, and equipment for cooking morning coffee. That way I could just have slept outdoors. But since it was getting cold, I headed back home.

There have been some rainy and windy days. Nothing in the traps, but I've seen pikes in the shallow waters. They are pretty alert, as the often dart away when I'm just walking near the water. So, they are not only sensing the movements of water, they are also observing what happens above the surface. So, I don't know how much the weather affects pike spawning behaviour - are they waiting for a warm day with little or no wind? Are they waiting for the water to get a little bit warmer? Do they care if it is raining? Are they more active in the morning, or around the noon, or in the evening? Well, again I placed the other fish trap into the narrow strait, but this time the entrance is facing towards the bay. I reasoned that set this way, it will catch those pikes who are already done with their spawning, and are heading back to the main lake. One day there was a dozen of perches in the trap. I let some of them go, and kept the biggest ones. At home I fried them on pan, and ate them for an evening meal.

Today I had a free day, and it was warm and sunny. I went to the bay at around 3 pm. When I arrived I could hear pikes splashing here and there - seems like the season is not yet over. There was one young pike in the other fish trap. I made a fire, cooked coffee and roasted the pike. While waiting for the pike to be roasted, I slowly drank coffee, watching and listening. A couple of mallards swam near the opposite shore, foraging for food. Frogs were croaking, but there were no pikes splashing - maybe they have more active hours, and then they rest and get active again by the sunset? All the birds were busy singing, the roasted pike was tasty.

I paddled around the bay, and spotted occasional splashes here and there. But I wasn't exactly sure if those splashes were because of pike spawning - it could be some other activity, too. Couple of times I saw a lone pike slowly swimming around, navigating in the foliage. Was he looking for a partner? How actually do they find each other? By scent? Or might some of those occasional splashes be signals, designed to attract partners? I slowly paddled up and down, wishing to spot more of fish movement. Couple of times I saw smaller splashing caused by roaches catching insects on the surface. This made me think - what if some of the pikes are already done with their spawning, and then they hang around hunting for the roaches and small perch? If that is the case, would it then be possible to catch them with a line and a hook? I remember reading that the pikes don't eat anything during the spawning season, but after that they are very hungry. But I don't know if they start eating already here in the shallow waters of the bay.

I decided to try walking on the shore. I went up the bayside towards the main lake, but saw nothing special. On my way back I spotted some active splashing in the foliage. Very slowly I waded into the water, step by step sneaking closer. I could see some fins, and the dark shapes of pikes. When they stopped to rest, I stopped too, trying to be as careful as possible. When they continued, I took another step closer. Now they were within my range, and this time it seemed that the foliage wasn't that thick, so I launched a scoop of the hand net. I pressed the hand net downwards, and as there was something moving inside the net, I quickly secured the catch with my hand, grabbing a pike. It wasn't particularly big one, but still - the first active catch for this year! This one I decided to keep, it will make a meal for tomorrow.

After a succesful catch I went paddling again. Some splashing here and there. But who does it always feel like they are somewhere away? If I spot splashing somewhere 40 metres away, and when I paddle there, they are already resting - then they are alert, and dart away as soon as I start approaching. So, would it be a better strategy to pick a good place, and patiently wait there? After all, this bay is rather big, since all the shoreline is a good spawning area with a lot of foliage for cover. Well, of course I could read books or ask other people how they do this, but somehow I prefer trial and error =) Just trying to spend some time by the lake, trying different methods, and learning more each year.

Anyhow, it seemed that the pikes got more active before the sunset. Couple of times I tried to sneak closer to them, but they escaped before I got close enough. After some circling around I spotted big splashing. Carefully I paddled closer to inspect - and indeed, these were big pikes spawning. They were busy with their business, and since I was in my boat I decided to try slowly paddling towards them. And, actually, I got pretty close. I tried to scoop them with the hand net, they didn't get time to react, but the hand net hit the foliage and got broken. The pikes escaped. So, apparently, this hand net was not designed to be used like this, the structure was not strong enough. It would be tempting to use a trident, but that is allowed only in the autumn. In the autumn it is done in the dark night with a bright lamp - often the fish get confused by the light, not knowing which way to escape. But now in the spring time when they are active and often alert, using a trident would cause a lot of wounded pikes swimming away, and that doesn't sound like a good idea. So, better just learn to catch them with bare hands, and try with different kind of hand nets.

I spent some more time, walking up and down the shores, just observing - are there some places with more frequent splashing? Do they get more active after the sunset? It is times like these when I wish I had even more free days - it would be so nice to pack some raw materials, and spend a day or two by the bayside, just doing handcrafts and observing, checking the fish traps and trying to actively catch some fish. Well, but anyhow, it was extremely nice to have this half a day down by the bay. The weather forecast says that tomorrow will be rainy. And after that I have two extremely long days of work.

Earlier today I took the sheep hide away from the tanning solution, and gently washed it. Next it needs some processing, like beating or stretching - or both. Maybe I can do that tomorrow.

Twilight after the sunset
Twilight after the sunset
Coffee being cooked, a pike being roasted
Coffee being cooked, a pike being roasted
My house and the Takalahti bay on a map
My house and the Takalahti bay on a map
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