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Hello All,

I am pleased to announce that my new photographic portfolio website has now launched. This new site will feature all of my images, in specific categories dependant on specie, activity, etc. Simply click on the drop down menu and browse the images you are interested in.

For those that love wildlife, fishing, and hunting scene photography, feel free to check out all of the images on my latest offering.

Home Page

Home Page

Click here to be directed to the site: http://www.JustinHoffmanOutdoors.zenfolio.com

Yours In The Outdoors,

Justin

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Hello All,

The following video was shot during my recent trip to Nova Scotia. Jamie Stewart of Waleaha Charters (run out of Ballentyne Cove) was gracious enough to let me tag along on a fishing adventure for Great Blue Fin Tuna. These fish average 700lbs and can reach speeds of over 40mph! For those looking for extreme thrills and massive fish, give Giant Blue Fin Tuna a try. There really is no other experience like it…

Good Fishing,

Justin

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Hello All,

I look forward each summer to a visit from my good friend, Christine Cope. Working as an MP in Cold Lake, Alberta, doesn’t afford us the time we previously shared in the boat, but our yearly adventure is always ripe with laughter, a bunch of fish, and good memories.

Choosing to fish the same Eastern Ontario lake we did the year before, we launched at 8:30am to sunny skies and a high temperature. We headed off to fish some flats, chucking cranks, jigs, and spinnerbaits. A few fish came over the gunnel, but for the most part, fishing was slow.

As the morning wore on the activity levels changed. We began pulling fish from under docks, slop, wood, and pads. Of course, Christine pulled out her signature lure – a wacky rigged soft stick bait – and I became the spectator in the boat sitting on the sidelines. (OK, I had too much pride to switch and stuck with my obviously losing pattern!)

Christine began pulling largies from the flats, off the weed clumps, and what seemed to me, out of thin air. The really cool thing happened later in the afternoon, when two nice smallies fell prey to her presentation, sitting in less than 6-feet of weed-strewn water. These fish fought like stink and were definitely cool to see!

We ended the day with a mixture of 28 bass….and a few delicious beers at the local pub.

Here’s looking forward to next years visit and more bassin’ fun, Cope Style.

Good Fishing,

Justin

(click on images to view full size)

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Hello All,

With the warm weather of today, and with an itching to find a spent antler, I headed out with camera in hand for a day of shed hunting.

Conditions varied at my favourite hiking spot. Deep snow in some spots, bare ground in others, and miniature ponds scattered amongst them for good measure. Regardless of the terrain, wearing only a t-shirt and having the sun shine on my face sure felt great.

I have certainly had a fascination over the years for finding a deer antler. But, for the many miles  I’ve walked in the woods, a shed I have yet to spot. The signs were excellent on this outing – dozens of deer trails, plenty of scrapes, and scat everywhere.  Sadly, after 5 hours and 8.6 kilometres of working the brush, I came up empty handed.

Deer Trail

Deer Scat

I was fortunate to spot this fella, although with the diminishing snow and him still clad in his winter coat, it wasn’t all that hard. For his sake, I hope it changes quickly.

Snowshoe Hare

I also spent some time photographing birds today. Many were camera-shy, but I was able to capture a few decent shots.

Cedar Waxwing

Black-capped Chickadee

Hairy Woodpecker

With the warm weather forecast, open water fishing is just around the corner!

Enjoy the Outdoors,

Justin

(click on images to view full size)

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The spring heralds in new beginnings for those in the fishing fraternity.  Making the change from ice gear to open water tackle and portable huts to fishing boats always feels like a time of renewal.  And for many, taking that first cast for a freshly-awakened walleye or pike has become a rite of passage as the season unfolds before us.

But what about the saucer-shaped ‘gills that flood the shallows during this time – eager to bite and pugnacious fighters to boot?  Often overlooked, these brilliant-coloured guys hold fast a favourite place in my heart, and promise steady and excitement-filled action, while also biding your time before bass season begins. And the bend they can put in your rod will most certainly surprise you.

Location

Spring and early summer signifies the spawning period for bluegills, and will usually begin when the water reaches a temperature of 67 degrees F.  Depending on your provincial location, the particular week or even month can be varied, but often falls in May or early June.

As the spawning urge grows strong, ‘gills will congregate in shallow water, oftentimes in large groups, sometimes numbering several hundred.  These areas are most often sunny back bays, with a firm sand to silt bottom and sparse vegetation and wood strewn about.  The water they prefer is clear, and the depth will generally range from one to four-feet deep.

Bluegill nests are easy to locate, and resemble a six to 12-inch saucer-shaped depression. These are generally lighter in colour than the surrounding bottom structure. Once fish flood the shallow for their yearly ritual, they become very aggressive and fairly easy to catch.  But intersecting the spawn can be hit and miss, as the window for action usually lasts only a couple of weeks. Once it is over, it doesn’t take long until they disperse and seek the shelter of deeper water.

Fish can be found in the shallows before the spawn actually takes place, gathering and schooling in ultimate preparation.  I’ve stumbled upon groups of huge numbers at this key time, but this was only possible by carefully checking the lake and seeking out areas that held the right ingredients. Two weeks later and the area was completely void of ‘gills.  (The largest schools I have found came during 2008 on a lake in Ottawa, during the first and second week of May.)

Sight Fishing is Key

One of the most exciting aspects to ‘gill fishing is the reliance on your vision.  Sight fishing is the name of the game for catching these fish, yet comes into play the most in terms of locating them.  Cruising along shallow bays while scanning for schools of fish, or the tell-tale nests, is the number one weapon you have at your disposal.  Bluegills will often stage at the surface or slightly below, so “spooking” them as you make your rounds in the boat can often give away their location. Once a productive area is determined, identifying the biggest fish and casting directly towards them is your best bet.

Sight fishing allows you make visual contact with the fish you intend to catch.  It will up your catch rates, and put an exciting aspect into your day.  Keep in mind that spawning largemouth (if applicable) will often be shallow at this time of year also, yet not necessarily in season (check your regulations).  Sight fishing will allow you to pinpoint your quarry and alleviate the chances of inadvertently hooking a wandering largie.

It goes without saying that a quality pair of polarized fishing glasses should always be worn – without them and you might as well be fishing blind.

Tools of the Trade

Ultralight gear is paramount for success when targeting bluegills.  Choose a rod between 5.5 and six-feet in length, with a spinning reel that sports a smooth drag.  In terms of line, four-pound test clear mono will do the trick, or a Fluorocarbon line in the same line strength.

Various lures will work well for ‘gills, but I’ve found that small jigs produce best.  Tinsel tails, tube jigs, and curly tails all work well, and micro size is key (one to two-inches max.).  I tend to choose the lightest jig I can comfortably cast to give the most natural fall through the water.

Partner up your jig with a slip float, especially when fish are low in the water column. I like to set the float so that my jig is positioned slightly higher than the eye level of the fish.   For fish cruising just below the surface, go with just the jig, as this will up your chances of getting bit. It will also lessen the chance of your float startling these high-flyers.

Bright-coloured plastics and jig heads seem to attract the most attention from bluegills, with gold, silver, white, pink, and chartreuse being excellent choices. It pays to experiment, as some days they will definitely favour one over the other. Don’t overlook natural hues when the bites become hard to come by, and a spray or two of a commercial fish scent can often turn the tables on those finicky fish.

If you really want to add an element of excitement to your day, toss mini-cranks for some explosive topwater action.  Not only is this a good choice if they begin shunning the jigs, but it can really get the heart pounding.  Always cast cranks a few feet past the fish, then bring your lure towards it.  Casting directly at fish will generally spook them.

Keep Some for the Pan

Not only are bluegills fun to catch, they fight extremely hard on light equipment.  Their flat, saucer-shaped bodies are ideal for bulldogging and making quick runs, a quality that always surprises a newbie ‘gill angler.

One of the best aspects of this sport is keeping a few for the frying pan.  Bluegills are very prolific, so bringing some home with you will do no harm.  A seven or eight-inch ‘gill can offer up some decent-sized fillets, and the sweet taste of this succulent meat will keep you coming back for more. Do respect the catch limits that are in place and keep some of the smaller guys to help ensure that the quality fishery can continue.

Take some time this season to scrounge up some hard charging ‘gills. I guarantee that these multi-coloured guys won’t disappoint.

 

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Hello All,

Happy to announce that Charger Bass Boats has partnered with Go Power Sports (Portland, Ontario) for the Ottawa Boat and Sportsmen’s Show.

We will have a Charger 496 on display and will be more than happy to answer any questions – and of course – put you in your own brand new Charger boat!

Charger 496 (20 Feet 6 Inches)

Stop by the Go Power Sports booth (#1800) and meet the Charger Team, including Dave Chong, Ben Woo, Dale Minicola, Shawn Carson and myself.

See what all the fuss is about….and how a Charger is able to give you more bang for less bucks than our competitors can.

The Ottawa Boat and Sportsmen’s Show runs from February 23 to 26 and is located at 4899 Uplands Drive.

Charger Multi Species SUV 190 (19 Feet 4 Inches)

For more information:

Ottawa Boat and Sportsmen’s Show

Go Power Sports

Marine Central

Charger Boats

 

See you at the show!

Justin

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Hello All,

Being in the fishing industry, I am given the opportunity to see and test many of the latest lures, tackle and accessories. Some cross my desk that are quickly dismissed, while a select few really make me take notice. The Joe Balog’s Goby Replica is one of those baits.

Realism and attention to detail is apparent at first look. Each lure is hand painted and poured and are hand crafted from real goby samples by one of the leading swimbait manufacturers and taxidermists in the United States. You honestly would swear this bait was alive!

While fishing the Western Basin of Erie in the mid 90’s, Joe Balog observed smallmouth bass spitting up gobies by the dozens, rather than their normal diet of crayfish and shiners. It was evident the bass preferred the easy-to-catch, high protein exotics to their native forage. At that time, Balog developed the first ever goby bait, the Drop Shot Goby. But after a few years of fishing with the bait, even with the incredible success of the technique, Balog theorized that there had to be a better, more realistic way to mimic a goby to the bass. Over seven years later, the Goby Replica was born.

The bait is heavy and hugs the bottom, just like the real thing, and can be fished in water upwards of forty-feet deep. It lays at rest upright, balanced perfectly on its pectoral fins. Those same fins lightly kick when the bait is moved, just like a real goby.

The Original Goby Replica weighs one-ounce and measures four-inches in length. It is available in five colours to match goby phases and different water bodies.

These life-like lures appeal to trophy smallmouth and largemouth bass, walleye, lake trout, pike, muskies and more. This is one lure I can’t wait to put through its paces this coming season!

Please check out Goby Replica for more information and ordering instructions.

 

For those that aren’t aware of the history of the Goby and their introduction to the Great Lakes, here is some background information, compliments of The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters:

Distribution

Gobies belong to a large family of fish represented by many species throughout the world. Two species from eastern Europe, the round goby and the tubenose goby (Proterorhinus semilunaris) were introduced to the St. Clair River in the late 1980s. It is believed that both species arrived in North America after being transported in the ballast water of ships originating from eastern Europe. In the fall of 2005, the Ontario government amended the Ontario Fishery Regulations to make it illegal to possess round goby and tubenose goby alive.It is also illegal to use them as bait.

After being discovered in the St. Clair River in 1990, both round and tubenose gobies have been found in Lake St. Clair, the Detroit River, and Western Lake Erie. Round gobies have also been found throughout much of Lake Erie, Lake Huron, Lake Ontario, southern Lake Michigan, and western Lake Superior. It has been found in Michigan’s inland waters and recently in inland Ontario, at Trent Severn Waterway (between village of Hastings and Healey Falls), Rice Lake, the Pefferlaw River and Lake Simcoe at the mouth of the Pefferlaw River. The round goby has completed their dispersal throughout the five Great Lakes in less than a decade, a dispersal almost as fast as the zebra mussel. It is believed that the isolated Great Lakes populations on Lake Superior were transported by intralake ship ballast water transfers from the St. Clair River area.

Impact

Round gobies have become extremely abundant in the St. Clair River, Lake Erie and parts of Lake Ontario reaching densities of more than 100 per cubic metre of water. In some areas they have become an annoyance to anglers due to their habit of stealing bait. The round goby is an aggressive fish that can spawn several times each season. These characteristics, combined with its abundance and relatively large size, mean that the round goby will probably have an impact on native fish species. The smaller tubenose goby is not as abundant and widespread as the round goby and should not have as much of an impact.

Although it is too early to tell what impact the round goby will have in the Great Lakes, changes have already occurred in the St. Clair River. As round gobies have flourished, the abundance of the small, native, bottom-dwelling fish such as mottled sculpin and native logperch (a small relative of the yellow perch) has declined dramatically in the river. Similar changes are expected to occur where the round goby becomes abundant elsewhere. It is not clear what this will mean for larger fish species, but it could affect their feeding habits. Round gobies have also been observed feeding on the eggs and fry of sportfish and may impact on these populations. Although walleye and other predators are feeding on gobies, their populations have continued to expand despite this predation.

Prevention

Although anglers and boaters can help to prevent the spread of gobies to inland waterways, there are no known ways of eliminating gobies from a large open system such as the Great Lakes. Gobies, like many other exotic species are here to stay. Although some predators are feeding on gobies, it is unlikely that they will significantly reduce goby numbers. The proliferation of zebra mussels and quagga mussels in the Great Lakes provides an ample food supply for the round goby, and they will continue to expand their range in the Great Lakes. Early detection of isolated populations may help slow or restrict the spread of round gobies. You can do the following to prevent the spread:

* Learn to identify round gobies and if caught, kill them. Do not throw them back alive
* Do not use round gobies as baitfish
* Dispose of bait properly: Do not release bait into the water
* Always drain water from your boat, livewell, and bilge before leaving any water access
* Never dip your bait bucket into a lake or river if it contains water from another water source
* Never dump live fish from one body of water into another body of water

Yours In The Outdoors,

Justin

(click on images for full-size versions)

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