Fishing: The Common Language

When four anglers share a boat, but not a language, for a couple days, they speak the common language of fishing -- aided with thumbs up, high fives and fist pumps.

One of the great joys of living in Northern Ontario is having so many incredible fishing opportunities, for so many different species of fish, lying literally at our doorsteps.

As a matter of fact, we are blessed with over 400,000 lakes, rivers, reservoirs, pits and ponds and close to 2/5 of all the fresh water on Earth. And you can name just about any popular sport fish species worth catching, and Northern Ontario offers world-class opportunities in abundance.

But, as I was reminded once again this week, it sometimes takes a visitor from far away to remind us of the enormous bounty.

Good buddy Dale Saunders, from Winnipeg, came over to fish some of Northwestern Ontario's Sunset Country waters with me this week, accompanied by friends Jerry Klebanowski and Adam Kurzyna. Jerry emigrated to Canada from Poland as a youngster in the 1970s, along with his family, and today operates a highly successful real estate business in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

ontario walleye

A highlight of Adam Kurzyna’s trip to Northwestern Ontario’s Lake of the Woods was catching walleye for the first time on lures that he had carved and painted by hand back home in Poland. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

Adam, on the other hand, is Jerry's cousin. He is an avid angler who lives in Bialystok, Poland and doesn't speak English. But let me tell you, when four anglers share a boat for a couple of days, they speak a common language -- fishing.

And so it was, using a variety of universal signals, including thumbs up, high fives, fist pumps and a little translation from Jerry, we communicated perfectly.

Still, at the end of the two days of fishing, I was eager to hear Adam's assessment of his first-ever Northern Ontario experience.

ontario walleye
Language is never a barrier when anglers get together as Gord Pyzer and Adam Kurzyna celebrate Adam’s first-ever Northern Ontario walleye. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

"I sent Adam some links about the species that he might catch in Lake of the Woods," Jerry told me, "and he learned there was a huge variety. There are no bass or muskies in Poland, so he was eager to try to catch these two species. He also wanted to catch walleyes as he has never caught them before, or enjoyed a Northern Ontario shore lunch."

Read: Classic Shore Lunch Recipes

And did the fishing live up to his expectations?

When Jerry translated my question, I watched a wide smile quickly stretch across Adam's face that told me everything I needed to know, but then Jerry translated Adam's response.

ontario bass
Accustomed to fishing modest size lakes in Poland, Adam Kurzyna, shown here with Dale Saunders was especially impressed with the enormity and beauty of Northwestern Ontario’s Lake of the Woods. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

"I caught almost 100 walleye, smallmouth bass, northern pike, black crappie and yellow perch," Adam said, after checking the clicker that he wore around his neck to record each fish. "Unfortunately, the muskie season doesn't open for two more weeks, so I didn't get a chance to fish for them. But I am beyond ecstatic with my two days of fishing on Lake of the Woods.

"As for a highlight, I probably enjoyed catching the walleye the most, because I landed so many of them on lures that I made before I flew over to Canada. It gave me great satisfaction to see that the baits I made by hand enticed so many walleyes to bite."

And what, I was curious to know, surprised Adam the most about his first-ever fishing experience in Northern Ontario?

"The size of Lake of the Woods," Adam laughed. "It is so big and so beautiful. You drove us almost an hour down the lake in your boat to our first fishing spot. And the rocky terrain was something new as well.

ontario walleye

The smiles and “thumbs up” tell you everything you need to know about how Jerry Klebanowski, Dale Saunders and Adam Kurzyna felt after spending two days fishing on Northwestern Ontario’s Lake of the Woods. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

"In Poland, I go fishing about twice a month for northern pike, European chub and European perch. I normally fish Lake Siemianowka, Lake Biale and Lake Studziennicze, as well as the Narew, Suprasl and Biebrza rivers.

"Lake Sniardwy is the biggest lake in Poland, but it is only 44 square miles in size. Lake of the Woods, on the other hand, is one million acres with 14,000 islands and 65,000 miles of shorelines.

"I also learned so many new fishing techniques that I can't wait to try when I get back home to Poland."

Like I said, forget Esperanto: fishing is the universal language.

About Gord Pyzer

Gord Pyzer is the fishing editor of Outdoor Canada magazine and field editor of In-Fisherman magazine. He is the co-host of the Real Fishing Radio Show and host of Fish Talk With The Doc.

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