Saguenay Ice Fishing Adventure - 2019

The last two trips down to southern tropical regions had really messed with my cold resistance and I had very little motivation to go out ice fishing for nearly two months this winter. That all changed when my girlfriend finally convinced me to plan our annual trip out to the Saguenay Fjord, I knew that I would regret missing out on that. So, I grudgingly found a cabin to rent and started prepping our gear for the 700' depths of the fjord. Rigging 2 setups with a "paternoster" or "palier" rig was no small task; it's a popular rig that allows you to cover a good section of the water column, with lures spaced every 10-30' along the line. I have not been able to find an English name but the Norwegians call it "paternoster" and we call it "à palier" here in Quebec.

 

The drive down to the Saguenay region is always beautiful, as it's quite mountainous and the snow-covered trees make for a lovely setting. As always, snow was piled up quite high along the shoulders of the highway, often covering road signs! Autobahn?

We started the trip with a mandatory stop at "Accomodation des 21" in the town of La Baie, a small tackle shop that sells the specialty gear needed to fish at such depths through the ice. Here you can buy heavy ice rods, 6oz jigging spoons, "palier" lures, etc. Leaving the shop, I planned to start the fishing in relatively shallow water, hoping to pull up some Greenland Cod. We explored from 30-200' without any luck and decided to switch spots after about two hours. Though unsuccessful, it did give us a chance to admire our surroundings.

The next spot was in a bit deeper water, around the 500' mark. We spent the rest of the day there and didn't have much luck, but Alex managed to pull up her lifer Deepwater Redfish! Confirmed by the presence of 8 or more soft anal fin rays.

As the sun went down, we brought up our rigs (all 500' with intermittent lures clipped on), and headed into town to have dinner at a cantine. Of course, poutine was in order! We then drove down to another section of the fjord where I had reserved the cabin to spend the night. This area is called Anse St-Jean, pictured below, I often reserve our cabin there because its village is much smaller than other ones in the region.

There aren't really any legit companies renting out cabins on the fjord, so usually I just find someone willing to rent on Facebook and go from there. This particular cabin was nicely outfitted with an oil heater and the owner provided bait for the night. He let us know that the prior clients had caught many small Redfish, known locally as Sébaste, throughout the day. We quickly baited up and dropped our rigs down to about 230'. The bites came quick and soon we were landing fish quite consistently! Unfortunately, they were all Deepwater Redfish, but we didn't mind too much because this was the most action we had ever had on the fjord.

After many more Sébaste, I had something hit hard as my lure was dropping down through the column. I knew it had to be something different; the bite was more aggressive and the fish was fighting more erratically than any of the Redfish. Pulling it up through the hole, I saw that I finally had my lifer Greenland Cod!

Most of the night essentially consisted of Redfish, and pulling up the rigs and clipping/unclipping all the lures was getting exhausting. I had pretty much given up on catching anything new and left one fish biting while I helped Alex unhook a decent Sébaste. Little did I know, the fish biting was a very special one indeed... perhaps the fish I wanted to catch most from Saguenay :o Anyway, I finished up photographing her catch, and proceeded to bring up the biting fish. To my surprise and joy, it was a Sea Tadpole!! A gelatinous fish known locally as "Jello Fish" with little to no endearing qualities, but one I had wanted to catch for a long time.

Elsa plate because we thought it was funny and because they are rumoured to be poisonous, any truth to that?

 

We pretty much ended the night at 3AM and passed out straight away. The next morning, we rose at 7AM, cleaned up the cabin, and packed our gear. One of the common fish we had yet to catch was the Greenland Halibut, or Turbot. Thus, we headed to a nearby spot my friend had recommended and set up my pop-up shelter. Unfortunately, the Turbot was not to be and we had very little action at that spot.

 

Before calling the weekend and heading home, we walked out to a deeper spot in 700' of water and decided to make one last effort. I didn't get many bites at all, but finally, as I was jigging, the rig suddenly felt heavier. I then proceeded to complete the process of reeling up all the line and unclipping all of the lures, of course the fish had to be on the bottom jig :p After all of that work, the lure seemed to get caught on the edge on the ice and the fish disappeared. But, upon closer investigation, it was actually some sort of ray that could not fit through the hole! And so ensued a lengthy process of attempting to drill a second hole with my hand auger, nearly breaking my girlfriend's arm in the process (I fell on her). Finally, the fish pulled through and I was holding a crazy-looking and very spiky fish, aptly named the Thorny Skate :)

That fish pretty much ended the trip as Alex's arm was in pain and my hands were getting dangerously close to the frostbite zone after having brought up the rig and held the fish for photos. All in all, we were super stoked with our successes and felt accomplished to have finally pulled up something worthwhile from the Saguenay Fjord!

Species List: 
Cod, Greenland
Redfish, Deepwater

Comments

Susquehannock's picture

Cool stuff. The sea tadpole really does look like a tadpole, especially with that crazy stomach.

Susquehannock

BradleyR's picture

Thanks :) It was definitely one of my favourite catches this year, you should see the video of them, surprisingly gelatinous lol.

Mike B's picture

Congrats Bradley. That sea tadpole is intense!

mike b

BradleyR's picture

Thanks :) It's not quite the arctic variety you get into sometimes but at least it's a taste of the high north aha.

TonyS's picture

that's nutty stuff.  Congrats on the cool fish in a cool place.    I think that might be one of the only places I'd consider making an actual trip for ice fishing

BradleyR's picture

My girlfriend and I like it there so much we've made an annual trip out of it. The locals are very friendly, the scenery is awesome, and the fish are very weird. Send me a message if you're ever planning to make the trip :)

Goldenfishberg's picture

Lifers are sweet. Lifers on ice are cooler than a polar bear's toenails!! Man what a cool report!! I am in the same boat as Tony that would be one place I would seriosuly consider making a trip to. Fishing that deep for crazy ass lifers on the ice sounds like my kind of fun! Great stuff as always dude! 

 

what do you use for bait? What kinds of jigs/lures do you use? What sort of line? 

Ya just Can't catch um from the couch.

BradleyR's picture

Hahaha, thank you! Not often I get to catch lifers in QC anymore either, much less on ice. The most popular bait on the fjord seems to be Smelt, which is also the main forage fish there. Some people also use Salmon, apparently it stays on the hook better but I haven't tried. Depending on the depth, I use 3-6oz glow jigging spoons at the end of my line, with a variety of glowing shrimp and squid lures interspaced along the bottom 100-150ft of line. All tipped with Smelt. Braid is a must if you want to feel anything at all, my gf used mono one year and had like 6ft of stretch in the line. I use 50lb in case something crazy like an Atlantic Halibut or Greenland Shark comes along, but you could get away with 30lb for most of the fish. 

Goldenfishberg's picture

Dang! That’s wild man and so damn cool, fishing with a rig like that sounds like a hell of an experience. The thought of catching a shark thru the ice is truly incredible and I would ruin my skivvies if it happened to me. How thick is the ice out there? 

Ya just Can't catch um from the couch.

BradleyR's picture

Maybe one day I'll hook into one, they're incredibly rare though. Like one caught every decade lol. There was 24" this year, but usually it's closer to 30+" in my experience.

uconn fishhead's picture

Seeing they rival the Great White in size (potentially >15ft and >800 lbs), I doubt you'd ever get a look at one hooked on 50lb test.  On the TV specials, they do seem to be rather laid back though, so maybe a hooked one would swim up to your hole to take a look at you.  Of course, they can't literally do that because they're almost blind.

BTW - They also are a contender for the longest lived animal with an estimated life span of at least 400 years...

BradleyR's picture

Pretty amazing species! Yeah, I think they don't fight all that much because they are brought up to the hole on occasion and I doubt the guys there are using much more than 50lb test. Maybe only smaller specimens enter the fjord? The ones I read about are about in the 10' range. Though maybe some bigger ones break the line..

IvanTortuga's picture

That is some awesome fishing right there! I am not a fan of ice fishing in the first place let alone knowing that there is 700' below me, talk about spooky. If you don't use Inaturalist we'd love to see these bad boys over there too. Fish are incredibly under represented (for obvious reasons). You talk about greenland sharks in one of your comments, have you ever hooked into one or gotten one?

edit: nvm you answered before I refreshed the page.

BradleyR's picture

Yup, I just checked it out and I see one in 2006 and one in 2008. Apparently the one caught prior to that was 11 years before. Look up "Requin Groenland Saguenay" if you wanna see pics. And yes, I try to use iNat as much as possible, observations from this trip are already uploaded :) I believe the Tadpole was only the second specimen ever posted on the site. 

IvanTortuga's picture

That's what I like to hear! And I totally forgot you use iNat, I think I follow you there and everything haha!

BradleyR's picture

Ooh, you must be "tortuga rapido" or something along those lines? Nice to sorta meet you haha

riverking31's picture

Amazing bro!

BradleyR's picture

Thanks man :)