Fraser Lake

Fraser Lake

Fraser Lake lies in a little pocket along the road between Kootenay Bay and Crawford Bay along the east shore of the South Arm of Kootenay Lake. It’s hardly more than a pond and is privately owned but it’s rather unique in the West Kootenay because it contains bass and sunfish. These fishes also occur in Duck Lake and other Kootenay River backwaters at the south end of Kootenay Lake but those waters are larger and less personal than little Fraser Lake and, for me at least, not all that attractive.

Clare Palmer and I talked about Fraser Lake for a long time before we fished there. Clare’s father Walt ran a freight truck between Nelson and Creston and knew the family that owned the lake. We resolved to catch a ride with him someday and get off at the lake for a day’s fishing if he could arrange it.  The time finally approached the following spring (the year would have been about 1955) and we underwent elaborate
preparations for the expedition. Knowing only a little about bass and sunfish from the pages of magazines like Field and Stream, we weren’t quite sure of what to take. We knew the bass were supposed to like plugs and that sort of thing but our tackle was unsuitable for those kinds of lures. All we had were a couple of old steel telescopic rods with small single action reels and an old split cane fly rod. It had to be bait or flies. We hadn’t heard anything about bass and sunfish being taken on flies so we concentrated on bait. We dug up enough worms to stretch to Trail but felt something more exotic would be required for our friends from the south. We had read that bass liked small frogs and mice so we set out to find some. Clare had discovered that the CPR Flats near the mouth of Cottonwood Creek were a major frog breeding area so we tried our luck there. Under the drift logs, old tires and tin cans were thousands of tiny frogs (we later determined that they were toads). We carefully gathered at least 100 and placed them in well ventilated jars with a few handfuls of grass and damp moss and some dead flies. My dog Chester ran around trying to eat the little morsels but the taste was too strong. He snapped his jaws and foamed at the mouth every time he picked one up. He eventually went off to roll on a dead sucker. Our mice trapping efforts were less successful and yielded only a half dozen or so from the basements and sheds on my grandparents ranch across the lake from Nelson.

The following Saturday morning we climbed into the back of Walt Palmer`s truck amid boxes of grapefruit and rolled out to Fraser Lake. It was a perfect spring day with the orchards along the way in blossom and the air full of their fragrance. Huge white clouds rolled off the tops of the Southern Purcells and we could almost see the snow retreating up the slopes of Sphinx Mountain.

When we reached the lake we were met by a very nice lady who told us about the fishing and the little pram at the dock we could use. We wasted little time launching it because we didn`t want to squander a moment of this sparkling day. We were most elaborate in our preparations for fishing however. We thought our little toads would be most attractive if they could swim on the surface without hindrance so we carefully threaded the line from vent to mouth with a small needle, tied a small hook on and let it rest over their noses. They didn`t seem to mind and
kicked along on top of the water just as we hoped. They were immediately attacked by swarms of small Pumpkinseed Sunfish instead of big Largemouth Bass. The little beasts behaved like starved piranhas and were relentless in their pursuit of our hapless toads. We caught a dozen or so very quickly and, although they were surprisingly game for their size, we soon grew tired of hauling them in and wasting our bass bait. So we devised a tactic where one of us would cast a worm out to attract the little devils while the other would cast a toad to another spot. It worked and I hooked a nice bass right away. This was my first and I expected a strong fight because the magazines painted vivid pictures of leaping largemouths. The fish fought well for about five seconds with some short runs and a small jump then came easily to the boat. It weighed about half a kilo and certainly didn`t have the speed and strength of a similar size rainbow. However, I was very glad to catch it. We caught five
others between a half and one kilo and they all behaved about the same. The sunfish were a bit tougher especially when we got them on a long cast with the fly. They dove deep, turned on their sides shook hard. I now knew why the term“ sunfishing“was sometimes applied to bucking horses. Too bad they were so small. Most were less than twelve centimetres. They were tough in the boat too skittering around on the wet floorboards and hiding in the pool of water under the back seat. At the end of the day, many were still alive and hardly worse for the wear. We threw them back to warn their friends about the next anglers to come to Fraser Lake.

The afternoon sun was very warm. We found a little opening on the shore near a small cabin. The water was even warm enough for swimming so we paddled around for awhile then slept in the sun. I don`t remember going back to Nelson that night.

Leave a Reply