My Adventure on the Ottawa River or If you are going to try and kill yourself do it in spectacular fashion and get it on video

With the Ottawa river kayak fishing episode of our show airing this week, I thought I would republish the article I wrote about the trip.

My Adventure on the Ottawa River.
If you are going to try and kill yourself do it in spectacular fashion and at least get it on video

Well I am just back from the filming of the next segment of Game On, our kayak fishing adventure video . This segment was filmed on the Ottawa River in Canada and to my surprise would prove to be the most extreme segment so far. I would be spending time on the river with two former world champion white water boaters, Ken Whiting and Brendon Mark, so I felt was in good hands.

After a long flight from San Diego to the small airport in Ottawa I was dragged into immigration for a closer look. I was given the second degree and we had to go through the process of them deciding if I needed a work permit to be in Canada. From the entire airplane I was the only person they pulled into this secondary process. After a long debate and convincing them I was not getting paid they let me pass. It was after midnight when I was finally released and I was met by our videographer Will for the ride to his place to crash for the night. He told me we would be getting up early to meet the guys to fish the next morning.

This was an adventure I was really looking forward to and got no sleep just itching to get on the water. This would be the first of three days of running whitewater and fishing the eddy lines and pools that most anglers had no access to.

Other than floating down some small rapids in streams on inner tubes when I was a kid I had zero experience on rapids, but I have a ton of time in the surf on my kayak so I was feeling fairly confidant that I would handle it OK. The start off point on the river was as flat and calm as could be and I got slammed on my first cast of the lure in this spot.

I wish the rest of the river were this calm.

I figured they were going to take it easy on me for the first day even though Ken, Brendan and Will had joked about humbling me on this trip. I was feeling pretty good, that is until I saw this.

Yes I was scared

We watched three rafts in a row dump their passengers on the very first section, sending the people floating down the river. All except this one girl who took the raft for a rodeo ride.

Rodeo Ride

We watched and laughed, mine was a very nervous laughter.

Ken gave me a run down on running the river and made a plan, which was I would follow him closely down the rapids and the raft, which they were filming from would follow me down. I asked Ken “what happens if I get dumped” he said “just climb back on the kayak if you can, if not you should just float down river and the raft will pick you up.

Ken heading down first

I took a couple of deep breaths and said “well lets go, it’s only water right”. This was the start of what is, to this point in my life, the scariest thing I have ever been through. I quickly learned that running rapids is nothing like surfing, and unlike surfing there is no break between waves, the water just keeps flowing and pounding and comes at you from multiple directions at once.

Rough Ride

I did as instructed and followed Ken closely down that first section, passing one of the large rafts still stuck in the hole, and was quickly ejected from my kayak. As they told me I was right next to my kayak and quickly was back in the seat and setting up for the next section. So far so good all things considered. The next section was a different story, though to me it did not look as challenging there was a hidden obstacle that my inexperienced eye did not see and that was a hole that reached out and grabbed my kayak. I went from gliding down the river, to my kayak coming to a complete stop and me shooting right off the deck into the water and into the hole. I was later told this was Joe’s hole and I was not the first person to fall victim to its grip. Upon hitting the water I was quickly dragged back upstream and into the churning water which, even with a PFD, forced me under water. I popped up a few feet away and was quickly sucked back into the churning water to repeat the process over and over again within seconds. I could not catch my breath and even when above water could not get a good breath of air because my PFD had been too loose and was covering my face. I knew in my mind that I had help but I was scared to death that they would not be able to get to me, how could they in these conditions? Thankfully they did get to me in what felt like my final breath. First in was Ken, when you see the video you will understand why he was a champion kayaker. He side-surfed his kayak in the hole leaning over so far it is hard to believe he stayed in as I was doing my best to pull him over. He lost me once but quickly got back to me and finally pulled me out of danger zone. Brendan was next in with the raft and dragged me out of the water, adding one final insult to injury, baring my backside, as he pulled me from the water, to the crowd watching on the shore. Will did his part by keeping the camera rolling so we have some cool and exciting footage for the video. Which would have been shown at my funeral had I not survived, I have shown the footage to a few friends and the general response is “Holy Shit”. The rest of you will have to wait for the show to come out to see it.

This was a pretty scary introduction to kayaking the river and something I will not ever forget. Thankfully I had these experts there to come to my rescue, I will be forever in their dept, then again they put me in that spot I may have to try and get them back on our next trip.

Brendo and Ken

Though I was pretty shaken this was only the first day on the river and we had a lot of rapids and days of shooting to go, so after about a half hour of regrouping I was back in the kayak, this time in some flat water and doing what I love most and that is fishing. Catching my first pike and several small mouth bass.

My first pike

I still had to face the music and that meant running the next set of rapids. Though pretty intimidated I was assured this set was much easier and I should have no problems. The guys were right and I ran that set without incident and actually really enjoyed it. We ran several more sets of rapids over the course of the day with me only hitting the water a couple more times but always getting right back on board my kayak. I was so happy to have sacked up and run the river the rest of the day, it would have been easy to sit in that raft all day but I know I would of never forgiven myself. I opted not to tell my wife about the scare until I returned home.

Here are a few more shots from the first day.

My first Waleye

Doing a bit better in the whitewater

With a little bit of poetic justice I managed to catch the biggest Pike of the day right after the guys had taken their kayak out of the water at the end of the day.

Biggest pike of the day

Day two on the river was to be the same plan on the same section of river as the day before. Though I was glad I got back on my kayak the day before, I was not ready to run that top rapid again so I took a side chute of the river and fished my way to the bottom of the big section, while the boys ran it again. This time Lisa had raft duty and she flipped it in the top section. I was fishing and missed all that action.

Pike, look at those teeth, the entire roof of their mouths are teeth a true predator.

I am happy to say I ran the rest of the rapids that day and managed to stay on my kayak for the rest of the trip.

Ken running a fun section

Brendan in action

Fishing the eddy line

The next day was supposed to be the start of a two day camping trip on the river but heavy rain was predicted for that night so we opted to investigate a nearby lake the guys had never fished. The water was super clear and the lake was a very cool spot to fish, we all caught bass and Pike.

As predicted the rains came that night and we were all happy to be sleeping in beds not a wet tent. The forecast for the next day was rain until about 3:00 pm then clearing and cool.
Once again the predictions were correct so we loaded for our camping trip and headed out fishing in the rain. The fishing this day was pretty steady on small mouth bass, pike and Will got one four pound large mouth. Even better the sun came out and turned into a beautiful day.

Brendo with the big pike of the trip

We only had to run one section of rapids this day and I managed to get through unscathed. After that we were in some of the most beautiful country I have ever seen, It was almost too beautiful to be real, of course my camera battery died and I only got a few photos from this, our last day on the water.

Ken taking the lead

Dinner for our camp out.


The last morning we had to jump in the kayaks and make an hour and a half paddle in the fog back to the car so I could make my plane. I did manage one last cast on the paddle in and landed one last Pike.

I have landed a lot of what could be considered extreme fish in a kayak but at my skill level this was the most extreme kayak fishing I have ever done. I can’t wait to do it again, this time with my PFD nice and tight and my rescuers near by.

I hope you enjoy the episode of the show that documents this adventure.

Jim Sammons

Kayak Fishing The Petawawa River

IMG_5386 086_edited-1-1

Jim keeping warm in his ExOfficio Travel Gear under the Parliament Building

There is something disturbing about emerging from a backcountry trip after 6 days. An uncomfortable ‘birthing’ back in to the land of the living and urban sprawl. An opposite feeling to that revelation of ease and comfort you have as you realize that you have escaped your life, job, cell phones, smelly people, cubicle, desk chair spackled existence.

Les Boys

On day two of this trip, producer Ken Whiting turned to us and tried to explain a feeling he had just felt. “During that hike, I had this sudden sensation that I belonged here.” Those words rang true to my very core. It was the same feeling I had been having, the same weird warmth that I was having so much trouble trying to explain soon after the packing ended and the paddling had begun.

We talk about it a lot around here. How the average person’s world seems increasingly farther and farther away from the wilderness. Forests are getting smaller and more controlled. People fear things like bugs and fish, and the simple skill of lighting a fire seems beyond far too many peoples grasp. It takes only a short while in the woods to realize that you are perfectly safe and at home out in the wilds. There will be work, pain and hardships, but your body was designed to take it, your body needs it. Your body needs to get out of the office and be set free on nature to feel whole again. A feeling many of us will never ever get to feel as we grow more and more urban, and are less apt to send our kids outdoors. Lucky for, Jim, Ken, Lisa, Jamie, and myself, we have a job that forces us outside and keeps us there. This time it lead us to the banks of the Petawawa river.

Now let me talk a bit about equipment…before I tell ya all about what happened, lets talk about how we did it.

The Camp

In order to make this adventure possible, safe, and filmable… we needed some special gear. Drybags were our first priority, we needed dry clothes. NRS made bags that were perfect for us, from big bags to hold all our tents, to small bags that would fit in to the gunnels of the Trident 13 kayaks. The bags worked perfect, and everyones gear was kept perfectly dry, on a very wet trip. If you paddle a lot, get some NRS bags, these things are super tough and totally waterproof. Also, on the topic of Kayaks. The Ocean Kayaks we took on this trip served us perfect. In our opinion, no other fishing kayak coulda handled the beating.

Second, we needed to be able to recharge our batteries. We had the chance to test out Brunton’s big solar panel and battery combo. No special gear required, we just folded out the panel and it juiced up a battery that we could plug our cameras directly in to.. just like a wall socket. Worked like a charm and kept Lisa and I shooting for a whole week without a plug.

Now for safety. Jim and I aren’t whitewater ‘yakkers, se we needed a couple of helmets to keep our noggins from getting bonked. Sweet Protection’s helmets were the go to choice, as they are rugged, and still manage to look cool.

As for camping, our tents were all from Mountain Hardwear, and these babies rock. They are super lightweight and the poles can totally take the beating we put them thru running the rapids.


Last, we needed to be fed. We went with dried pre packaged camp food from Backpackers Pantry. Mostly because the food is super tasty and filling.. but as an added benefit, it packs well and is super light. I recommend the cheesecake. It rocks. Done.

Jamie's Musky

The Petawawa River was amazing. Our first two days were spent on lake Traverse with none other than musky fishing legend, Jamie Pistilli. Jamie camped out with us for the first night and made sure we knew where the musky were. (as you can read in his last post) All three boys caught Musky that day. Proving that Jamie is one heck of a guide.


After leaving Jamie behind to run home and celebrate his son’s birthday (which co-incidentally also marked the anniversary of his gong show of a musky catch in Game On 1) we began a rambling row into a wonderland of Canadian fall beauty. The leaves literally changed before our eyes, from green to bright orange, to flaming red. The first day offered little in the way of musky, of which Jamie had given our anglers a burning hunger for the previous day. As we left Traverse behind, the river narrowed and the trees grew tight around us. The bitter cold of the night before finally seeped from our bones as the paddling loosened up our muscles. Jim caught another small Musky, but the big ones would just blow up and spit out our lures, leaving the anglers frustrated.

Our first campsite lay just beyond a small rapid, nestled in the elbow of the river… simply, perfect. There was an awesome little drop pool just in front of camp. In that pool lay a plethora of catfish, you could catch as many as you had soft plastic grubs. Each one was over 6 pounds, and had a fun fight to haul them up. All three of us immediately grabbed rods and jig heads and began hauling them up until our arms tired. This is what we were looking for. No one fished here, so the fishing was easy. Catfish may not be a 45 inch musky, but it sure was fun, and as long as our rods were bent, there were smiles on our faces.

petfishing-4263Early to rise on day two and a short row to ‘crooked shoot’, with a few fish along the way (mainly bass and a bunch of musky blow ups, nothing big landed).This was the only technical whitewater on our route, and we knew that the raft wasn’t gonna take the beating. So we broke down our equipment and prepared to portage it to safety on the far side of the rapids. This was fine for our packs and barrels, but there was no way the four of us could haul the raft through the kilometre long trail. While ken ran the kayaks with painstaking perfection through the complicated pools of rushing water, we brainstormed a solution. It would be rough, but we could do it. We had to haul the raft over a rocky outcrop, and down through and old logging chute. It took us most of the day to finally get back in the water. Ken had the stamina to keep fishing (which amazed me since he had to run the rapid twice, do a 1 k portage, and help line and haul the raft), Lisa and I needed to jump in the lake to clean off the stink of sun beaten labor, and Jim simply passed out in happy exhaustion with a glass of wine and a book.

Third day started sluggish, but offered the first real signs of musky. Ken called us over as he had stalked a musky in to a corner and felt like it was gonna strike.  As we got the cameras rolling that fish exploded to the surface and finally stuck on a hopping frog. This began the ultimate musky fishing trip ever.


Musky are a tough fish to catch. Trust me, I have sat and watched the best try and fail for hours on end. That’s the way musky are. A frustrating fish, but when you catch one you will be willing to spend days trying to get the next monster. In pressured waters like the Madawaska River, we have sat for days with only one musky even bothering to bite a line. In Jim’s words, “You gotta be really patient, or a bit nuts to wanna catch one of these fish.” The Petawawa was different. Here, the musky were plentiful, powerful, and hungry for lures.


Ken had it dialed in for the next two days. The weather turned a little rainy and that only seemed to help the bite. Four big musky in 6 hours became the new record of the day as the veteran kayaker hauled in monster after monster. The trick was to hit the pools just before the rapids and just after with big Sebile Lures.

Sebile meets musky

Sebile meets musky

The musky were hungry for the little bass in the pools and the Sebiles were the perfect treat. This was the special day when lady luck shone down on our producer. This was Kens ultimate fishing day.


Jim was getting  frustrated. He caught the only walleye of the trip and lots of little ‘skis but so far, no monster musky. The walleye made for a nice dinner, but his arm was getting sore from casting and no fish. His eyes were on the prize as our final day loomed on the horizon.

petfishing-4893On the morning of the sixth day, there was fish for the great Sammons. First he conquered the bite, as finally a massive 38 incher stuck to his big silver Sebile. The rest of the day was followed by fish. Many fish. In three hours Jim caught 3 monsters. Bringing our count  to 15 musky in 6 days. That many in a year would be a respectable amount. That many in just a few days is insane. Perfectly, wonderfully, Insane.

We even managed to walk away without lodging any hooks in our hands…

The most serene and wonderful camping trip of all time, complete with great food (from Backpackers Pantry) and great friends. The Petawawa river was an adventure of a lifetime. Amazing that it could be so close to home. Proves that sometimes, in order to find great adventure, you don’t need a lot of money, you just need to look a few miles from your own back door.

A quick thanks to the folks at ExOfficio, Ocean KayakNRS, Backpackers Pantry, Sweet Protection, Brunton and Mountain Hardwear for making this trip possible. Please give these guys a visit, and keep your eyes on the blog, as soon we will be telling you all about our crazy adventure in San Diego and northern Baja. We are hooking up with out old friends Paul Lebowitz and Matt Moyer for some more big game adventures


See you all in San Diego!


(Photos provided by Lisa Utronki and June Veenstra)

Musky fishing report- Ottawa area

Well, it had been a while since I had caught a musky in my Prowler and it was time. Early June means one thing- A time to try out all the new baits I have bought over the winter ( and sharpened several times).

I launched at 4:45 am and had until 730 to get into some Esox action. ( My daughter had soccer practice at 9 am)

morning river morning river

It was a calm morning and I had the river all to myself. Alot less pressure then filming GAME ON 1… this was training for the second DVD shoot we are doing in September.  I had 2 sets up hook cutters with me and a new set of pliers ( just in case). I brought a small mix of baits with me – jerkbaits, topwaters and some spinnerbaits.

Did not take long for a small musky to find my offering . I saw a gold flash beside my kayak and started my figure 8. BAM! she is hooked and quickly is landed. A quick solo photo and back in she goes .

cute musky cute musky

Nothing better that a musky landed by 515 AM- the pressure was off. I paddled up river and tried to located some green weeds. The spring was a cold and wet one and weed growth in the river is a few weeks behind.

Getting ready to go, I finally gave in and said last cast…as soon as my spinnerbait hit the water it was Game On… a great fight, 2 jumps and in she comes.

here she comes here she comes


A nice 38″ musky. Thank you to the kind gentleman paddling by for taking a quick photo.

No big fish but sure nice to get two in a short time frame and start the season off right and with no injuries