By day, Jake Bowles is welder and fabricator. And pretty much all other times, the Courtice, Ontario native is a reeler.
Following in the footsteps of both his parents, Bowles has been fishing ever since he was old enough to hold a rod. Like most of us, he started just throwing out a line and hoping for the best. But then he started to specialize.
And with Bowmanville Creek — a stream where lake-run rainbow trout spawn and return to Lake Ontario as steelheads — in his backyard, it’s no surprise that Bowles got hooked on trout fishing at a pretty young age.
Although Bowles still regularly chases steelheads and big lake trout, another fish has recently captured his attention: Muskies.
The St. Lawrence River system, of which Lake Ontario and its feeder streams are a part, is widely known for its trophy muskies. And Bowles has caught the fever.
Over the last four years, he’s been passionately chasing these water wolves in lakes and rivers, and even through the ice.
He has a full-time job and chases muskies and trout — both of which take a lot of patience and effort — year-round. How does Bowles do it?
“I make time for fishing,” he says. Clearly.
His favorite muskie hunting grounds are Rice Lake and the Otonabee River that feeds it in east-central Ontario. When he hunts muskies, Bowles looks for them in scattered weeds, in 8 to 10 feet of water.
“They don’t go where it’s too weedy because they need to see and attack the bait that swim by,” Bowles says.
He also finds muskies under docks along the river banks. The muskies use shadows from the docks as camouflage. Then they can easily dart out and ambush passing prey.
Because of the waters he fishes, Bowles doesn’t troll for muskies, preferring only to cast. And hooking a muskie can take a lot of casts.
“You may spend two days fishing for muskies and not even get a hit. But you can’t get discouraged.”
One of the reasons muskie fishing can be such a grind is the size of the baits you’re throwing. In the waters where muskies live, there aren’t usually any other species that will chase a 9-inch glider bait.
Bowles doesn’t typically use baits that big, though. He prefers one or one-and-a-half ounce spinnerbaits. He tosses them toward the cover and then reels in quickly, keeping them just beneath the surface. Casting and casting, waiting for that hit.
And the hit is the reason Bowles fishes for muskies.
“They hit it so hard and so suddenly. If you’ve been casting with no luck for a while, when the hit comes it almost startles you.”
And then the fight is on. Muskies are renowned for the fight they put up, often dislodging hooks and breaking lines in their frenzy to escape.
Bowles’ biggest muskie to date is 40 inches, but he’s had much bigger fish get to the boat, only to lose them at the last minute.
But he doesn’t get discouraged. “You just have to grind it out until you figure out where they’re laying. And then flip ’em something they want to eat.”