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Aux Outardes River Pike
There is no end to the number of great new fishing spots in Quebec's Aux Outardes River. The cold clear water offers fantastic trophy pike fishing.
Located in Québec's boreal forest 200 km north of Baie Comeau Québec, flows a slow wide river called the Aux Outardes (In french it means river of canada geese)
The Aux Outardes river is a long river of more than 480 kilometers or 300 miles from its source on the Otish Mountain to the outlet at the Saint Laurence river near the city of Baie Comeau. This river systems holds lots of good trophy fish opportunities from lake trout, brook trout, lake whitefish and of course World class trophy pike fishing on the fly.
We will be discussing the upper Outardes 4 reservoir for this report, located 60 miles West of the Manicouagan 5 reservoir (Manic 5) The Aux Outardes River has approximately 60 miles of fishable pike water. The Outardes 4 reservoir below is about 120 miles long and 10 miles wide with about 120 islands, many secluded bays and beautiful shorelines. There is no end to the number of great new fishing spots. The cold clear water offers fantastic trophy pike fishing.
This tremendous body of water offers lots of diversity of various underwater habitat ranging from rocky points, steep rock drop offs to sandy beaches and countless calm bays. Water depth on the river system is from 4 to 25 feet and for the reservoir 35 to 250 feet. With all of its various structures and large population of whitefish and other baitfish, it produces trophy pike not easily matched elsewhere in Quebec.
I have been fishing this river system for the last 15 years from early May to late October and have put a huge amount of time into unlocking some of its best kept secrets. Who would have known that this fishery would have produced so many large pike of 40+ inches and this in a river system not a lake...?
The gear needed for this fishery is quite basic compared to other fishery here in Quebec.
Anything from 7 to 9 weight is recommended, remember to bring the fly rod that best matches the flies you will be using. For smaller flies a 7 weight will do but you will be handicapped if you want to try to cast long streamers or various poppers and even large rabbit strip flies. That's why I recommend a sturdy 9 to 10 foot 8 to 10 weight fly rod as the best choice to handle pike of all sizes and to be able to cast all type of pike flies.
My personal choice is a long Gatti FR 3PA 11 foot 8 weight and for a shorter rod the powerful FR 3PA 9 foot 9 weight.
A good balanced fly reel that matches the rod with a good drag system and lots of backing is very important. These pike are fast runners and very strong fish. Many times these brutes will bring you deep into your backing. We are not talking lake pike here but a stronger river dwelling pike with a lot more power.
My personal choice are Gatti #3 anti reverse large arbor fly reel or the STH Turbine Disc LA.
There are many types of fly line makers and all are good for the job. The type that I prefer is rocket tapered lines in floating, intermediate and sink tip lines. For deeper holding pike sinking lines type 1 to 4 will do the job quite well.
My personal choice is an intermediate line for wet flies and WF floating lines for surface action flies.
Leaders & Tippets
Pike have lots of razor sharp teeth and when targeting huge trophy pike I always suggest using some kind of steel wire of around 6 to 12 inches. The length of the leader should be around 8 to 10 feet on the floating lines for surface flies and around 7 to 9 feet on sinking flies or lines.
My personal choice are Surfflon or Tyger leaders of 10 to 15 pounds
You can read more about pike leaders here.
Everyone knows that pike will hit almost any fly that you cast at them, but some are better than others - depending of course of where you fish. My fly boxes are always filled with lots of large streamers, bunny strip flies, various diver patterns, clousers and deceivers. Hook sizes are from 1/0 to 8/0.
My personal choice are large streamers like the red eye smelt series 4/0 to 8/0.
Spring fishing usually starts late May to mid June for river fishing and mid May to mid and late June for lake or reservoir fishing. We will here on the river aspects of this pike fishery, which is a little different than lake tactics.
This season usually starts 2 to 3 weeks after ice out (May 1st here will be used as the ice out date). If this date is different in your location, as a rule of thumb add or subtract the difference in dates to get a approximate idea of prime time for pike activity.
The river is very variable to look at when targeting large pike. We have to look at structures, flow, available food and cover.
The best place to start searching is to locate areas where the sun will warm up the water. These will be found near shallow shoreline with large rocks sticking out of the water, along grass lines or even flooded river banks.
Fish need to warm up to better metabolize. Also various bait fish will be present to get away from the current and also feed because the warmer water has more aquatic insect activity, and this will help attract baitfish or other foraging fish that the pike will prey on.
The spring is also known for the large sucker runs. They head up the tributaries of all rivers to spawn and pike eat lots of suckers. So outlets of small tributaries are sure shots at a trophy.
During the sucker run large streamers in the 4 to 8 inch range should be used. Water clarity should determine what colors to use. Purple and black flies for very murky water, bright colors with lots of flash in clear waters. Also try oversize bunny flies in the very popular chartreuse and hot pink colors. A great choice for large trophies.
Sight fishing in the spring is also quite popular. The flowing water being tea stained but often pretty clear makes targeted fish are very visible and easy to find. A good pair of polarized sunglasses helps a lot and should be part of every fisherman's bag of tricks.
Mid June to late July for the river and early June to mid July for the reservoir
The Aux Outardes river being a slow moving water, warms up a little slower than the surrounding reservoir bays so the trophy fish will stay longer and give us great summer pike fishing.
Most pike will move to deeper pools throughout the river system, but also seek out cold springs and outlets of small cold tributaries. These locations should not be overlooked.
An intermediate or slow sink line will help locating fish that are usually in the 6 to 15 foot depth range. Large floating flies like poppers, mice and frog patterns are also very good and pike this time of the season will explode out of nowhere and often pound the surface fly many times. For this type of fishing you will need a floating line.
Late July to Late October
Fall fishing especially late fall fishing is well known for very aggressive trophy pike on the prowl for forage fish. These large pike need all the calories they can get for the long Quebec winter. This time of the year the pike are hunting and can be found anywhere around structures or where you can find forage fish. Natural drop-offs should be fished carefully. When a drop off with a deep section has access to a weed bed or a large shallow area it should offer you lots of great fishing.
Catch & release
I believe that C&R should be used on all mature pike over 28 inches and especially on all trophy pike. In a time when angling pressure is increasing and exceeds the supply of fish, catch-and-release fishing is an important means of conserving fish resources. In order for catch-and-release fishing to be an effective management tool, the fish must survive after release. Angling ethics play an important role in the survival of released fish.
Remember the 'fair chase' principle; minimize the time that you play the fish once it is on the hook. Playing a fish to exhaustion may cause it to die later. Use side pressure. This will help in bringing in the fish a lot faster. Use an appropriate rod weight for the species targeted. I have seen many anglers fishing with rods too small for the fish they target.