Be sure before you start that you have a fishing permit. Attach your permit sticker to your Outdoors Card and then you'll be legal.
There are several ways to better your chances at catching a fish. I haven't read any books on fishing and don't watch television shows about fishing, but what I have picked up are a few tips:
- Fish notice shadowy shapes on the banks, so sit low if you can, or stay by a tree, and above all try to reduce your noise-level and movement.
- My friend Matt told me a rather clever tip - if you're not catching after a few minutes in one location, move to another. Obvious I guess, but human nature as it is... just a few more minutes here, I'm sure one will bite...
- Fishing on the lee shore (i.e. the side of the shore where the wind blows off the woods and into the water) will increase your chances as the fish congregate to eat the insects that blow from the trees into the shore waters. They're more apt to go for your lure in these circumstances.
- Throw your lure near holes in the water floor, near boulders, exposed roots, or floating vegetation.
- Fish like to stay close to objects in the water - they feel safer there from larger predator fish.
- When the fish bites, yank the hook so as to set it deep. The last thing you want is for the fish to get spooked and drop the hook on the way up to the surface.
Once you've caught said fish, take it out to the shore. Bonk it on the back of the head with something heavy to end it quickly (i.e. terminate with extreme prejudice) and remove the hook carefully.
It is now time to clean your fish. It's easy. You'll be done in a minute. You can scrape the scales off if you'd like, but I don't bother. Make the first cut by inserting your sharp knife into the vent in the belly of the fish right in front of the anal fin and slice out forwards towards the gill region. Watch your fingers. Split the gills' central connection.
Now take out the intestines, liver and other internal organs from the gut cavity - a quick wipe with a cloth will achieve this. Cut out the gills too. Once mostly clean inside, just give the insides a rinse and wash out any blood that you can see. See, that only took a minute.
Now - getting the fish ready to cook depends on how you want to cook it... If you want it whole, you could just stuff it with aromatics (juniper and blue berries etc...), wrap it in leaves and place it in the embers of a burned down fire or just throw it on a grill. You could cut it up into pieces and make a fish soup with it.
My preferred way to is to grill it over an open fire. To do this, I open it up from the belly with my knife and remove the backbone, ribs, head and tail - leaving just a flat double fillet with the skin on. Remove the fins with deft cuts from your knife and mind you don't get poked - they can be sharp and slippery. You can remove the ribs and bones just before removing the backbone by slipping your thumb from just behind the head and drawing down between the meat and the rib cage all the way down the length of the fish.
Without a frying pan, you can make a simple frame. Slip 2 or 3 debarked deciduous branches (coniferous sticks are resinous and this will leave a poor taste in the fish) about the thickness of a pencil into opposing holes on the edges of the fillet. Then slip this all perpendicular through a thicker split branch - split about 12 inches down the shaft. Bind one or both ends as needed with split spruce roots or twine. Push the shaft of the supporting stick into the ground or brace it with stones, and position the fish close enough to the fire.
Shortly you'll be able to settle down to a meal of fire-braised fish. Mmm.
Looking forward to my next trip into Algonquin Park to catch a fish or two.