Friday, December 9, 2016

The sun sets on another great fishing day

Trout Bay at sunset. Photo by Lonnie Boyer
A couple of postings ago Ray commented on the great sunsets that can be seen on Pipestone Bay. He wasn't kidding about that and many of the sunset photos on this blog are from Pipestone. This one, however, I believe is from Trout Bay. Lonnie Boyer took this and graciously sent it along. If I'm wrong, Lonnie, please let me know and we will correct this.
We will be showing more of her photos in upcoming blogs. She has a knack for getting wildlife shots, in particular. Here's one from the past. See Greased Lightning.
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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Lindy rig: when less gets more

Paul Styve with big walleye. All these big fish were released.

Brett Styve takes hook from another larger fish

Big pike go for Lindy rigs too
There was something different about the water in Red Lake last summer. It was clearer than normal.
Red Lake has a clay bottom and in all such lakes suspended clay particles obscure the water's clarity a bit. Microorganisms, like algae, which feed upon clay, add to the murkiness.
Normally if you look down into the water from above you can see about six feet down. But last year you could see farther, perhaps seven or eight feet.
I believe the change was due to slightly cooler temperatures. Although it was by most accounts a nice, warm summer, we had almost no hot days and the nights were cool the entire season. So the lake ended up a little cooler, maybe just by a couple of degrees, but I think it was enough that some of the algae didn't grow. Consequently, the lake was clearer. This affected how anglers fished for walleye.
A few blog postings ago I wrote about the swarms of smaller walleye everybody caught the first couple of days of their trip but then found bigger fish. Although they invariably said they did nothing different to get the bigger ones, there was, in some cases, a pattern to what they had done-- they used less tackle, fished slower and maybe a foot or so deeper.
There were also some people who immediately hit the bigger fish. Paul and Brett Styve, shown in the photos, were two such anglers. So what did they do?
Well, for one thing, they fished with Lindy rigs, not spinners. What is a Lindy rig? In its simplest form it is a hook, split shot or small swivel, and a slip sinker. The only thing different between it and just a hook and sinker is that the weight is a slip sinker, not a rubber core or clinch type. The Styves, I believe, like using worms for bait. Usually the worm is attached just once, right through the tip of the hose with the rest of the worm wriggling free. The angler leaves the bail on his spinning rod open and just holds the line in the crook of his finger. When a fish bites the fisherman lets go of the line and it feeds right through the sinker. In this way the fish cannot feel the weight of the sinker. The fish runs off with the worm a few feet, stops and inhales it. The angler, watching his line on the surface, can tell the fish has stopped running and sets the hook. That is the simplest form of the Lindy rig -- just a small hook, a tiny split shot (or swivel) and a slip sinker.
The next form is to either put a slip float between the hook and the split shot so the bait is raised off the bottom, or just use a floating jighead. Finally, there are specially shaped floats that act as lips that vibrate the bait, just like a crank bait. There are also brightly coloured slip weights instead of the basic plain lead walking sinker.
The point to why a Lindy rig, especially the simplest form of it, might have worked better than conventional spinners is that it uses less hardware. In clear water conditions, this can make a difference.
Something similar happened when jig fishing. Here's an example: I watched dock-fishing extraordinaires Mike Gage and Jason Pons the first morning of their trip last summer. These guys get up with the sun and often catch as many walleye off the dock by breakfast as many people get all day out in the boat. They always use a jig and a bit of worm. But this morning they were catching nothing. After awhile I saw them making some changes to their tackle. They then brought in fish after fish, either getting one on every cast or missing the hookset and cranking the jig back in to re-bait. I asked them at breakfast in the lodge what had happened.
Since it was quite windy, they had started out using 1/4-ounce jigs, but there were no takers so they switched to 1/8-ounce. It made all the difference in the world. Again, less hardware.
I always figure those mirror eyes of walleye are magnifying glasses. In clear or calm conditions, they won't fall for normal tackle. You need to go smaller, be more subtle and also fish slower. You might need to just drift instead of backtrolling. 
But what about all those smaller fish that people caught by the dozens? Smaller fish are just not as smart as older ones and are also more aggressive. They need to grow up, fast, if they are going to survive so they pretty much binge-eat all the time. Bigger fish are more selective and seem to do a "cost-benefit" analysis to eating -- how many calories are going to be expended compared to the number gained.
Brett shows off a beautiful redhorse sucker he caught while walleye fishing
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Monday, December 5, 2016

Fish fillets as art

The perfect pike
When you have cleaned thousands upon thousands of fish as I have, you get kind of finicky about the end product. I'm always striving for the perfect fillet whether it be northern pike or walleye.
Northern pike, in particular, offer the most challenge. There are those infamous Y bones to remove and another small set which I call the Z bones. I always try to do this process with as little meat wastage as possible while still producing a single, boneless fillet.
I also look for perfection when skinning. If the fillet is removed close enough to the actual skin, a beautiful red pattern is visible on the skin side of the fillet. In fact, if this colour isn't on the finished product it means meat has been wasted; it was still attached to the skin and went into the scrap bucket.
It struck me last fall that this pair of pike fillets was absolutely perfect. So, I ran into the lodge and got my camera. Maybe it just seems that way to someone who has cleaned thousands upon thousands of fish!
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Saturday, December 3, 2016

The dramatic sky of Pipestone Bay

The lake is like glass in this photo by Brenda Cieplik

Hunter Baughman saw this storm approaching
One of the neatest things about fishing in Pipestone Bay is that you get such great views of the sky. There can be beautiful clouds that reflect into the water, or there can be threatening storms on the horizon. This bay has some stretches that measure 4-5 miles in width.
Most of us love fishing and boating in Pipestone with its great views and numerous beaches. I always figure that when you go to Pipestone you should always take a bag or shore lunch. That's not a camp rule, just my own personal preference. I just don't want to miss a moment of the day traveling back to camp to eat.
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Friday, December 2, 2016

Homemade lures reveal ideals of maker

Lots of people dabble at making their own fishing lures. For most, adding a red feather to a treble hook or a dab of orange on a crank bait is as far as it goes. It's an experiment.
Others seriously try to invent their own baits by carving new designs out of wood, gluing on metal or plastic lips and then giving the new creations a perfect paint job.
It's just fun and it would be a bonus if the new inventions actually worked better than store-bought models. Usually they don't, but no matter, the experiment is still useful because it gives the inventors new ideas. How many times did Edison try to invent the lightbulb?
For most of these lure makers, the intention is to come up with a model that is at least as good as something already on the market. If it isn't, they quickly put away the prototype and go back to their old stock lures.
We have one guest, however, who only fishes with his own homemade lures and furthermore, he makes it a point of pride to make them from materials that he finds, not buys -- with one exception --  he uses hooks from the tackle shop.
Richard makes his lures from such things as paper clips, tin cans, pieces of scrap wire, beads and lead sinkers. Two of his spinners are shown above. He also makes spoons and jigs. The paint that he applies is usually leftover house paint.
The metal for the spoons and spinners comes from cans or other scrap that he cuts with snips, files and pounds into shape. He is an expert at putting just the right twists in wire.
Richard is the kind of guy who tries as much as possible to live his life simply and sustainably, producing little or no waste. It's no accident that his lures are made from recycled products. And the satisfaction he gets from catching fish on his own creations is something that most of us will never experience.
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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The view atop cliff in Dupont Bay

A bird's eye view of Dupont and Pipestone Bays
One of the things that makes the west end of Red Lake, Ont., so beautiful is its topography. Cliffs and hills around the shoreline add to the beauty of islands and miles upon miles of unspoiled shoreline.
My great-nephew, Hunter Baughman, clicked this scene from the top of the cliff at the end of Dupont Bay this past summer. You can see Pipestone Bay in the background.
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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Overflow cabin available if more join your group

Cabin 6 is a cozy cabin for two people situated next to the lodge
If you already have booked your cabin for its maximum occupancy this coming season and then a couple of friends ask if they could also come along, contact us about reserving the "overflow cabin."
We are going to make available for the first time in 2017 one of our staff cabins, Cabin 6, for just such occasions.
This cabin consists of one large room with two twin beds that can also be put together to make a kingsize for couples, if needed. The cabin has a full bathroom but no kitchen facilities. It could be just the ticket for allowing a couple other friends to join your group this year.
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Saturday, November 26, 2016

Hey! Isn't that ...?

You're absolutely right. That's Bow Narrows angler John Overbeeke!
It looked at the start of the season last year that we were going to set a record for catching smallmouth bass. Our previous all-time season high for catching this new species to Red Lake was four fish, set in 2014 and repeated in 2015. Then last year we got four smallies in the first couple of weeks alone. Alas, by season's end, we still had only caught four.
Smallmouth are not native to Red Lake but are beginning to show up in anglers' catches just the same. The one being hoisted for a photo by John, above, was 16 inches long.
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Friday, November 25, 2016

Just one of those beautiful evenings on the lake

Full moon rising over West Narrows near camp
I was coming back to camp after getting rid of the fish guts late one evening last August when I stopped to take this photo.
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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

What to do when old fish mounts get faded

Old skin mount is badly faded

Same fish after Dwayne repainted it.
Dwayne Kotala, our neighbour here in Nolalu that makes fishing lures, had mentioned to me last winter that he can also repaint faded, old, mounted fish. Since we have a couple of those in the lodge at camp I brought him one to see how it would work. Check it out for yourself in the photos. This 29-inch, walleye skin mount is about 35 years old.
Most skin mounts eventually fade and deteriorate which is one reason to opt for the replicas these days. They are said to stay unchanged just about forever.
We have one more skin mount left at camp that I would like to have Dwayne rejuvenate. It is a 32-inch walleye.
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Saturday, November 19, 2016

What it's like to bring kids to camp

The Hoschek family. Photo from Becky's blog about their trip.
If you ever wondered what it is like to bring small kids to Bow Narrows Camp, check out Becky Hoschek's wonderful blog on just such a trip last summer.
Becky and her husband, Jeff, brought their three children, Annabel, 6, and twins Charlie and Henry, 4, to camp in early July.
It is obvious that Becky is a professional photographer and designer as she tells the entire story of their trip at Red Lake so beautifully through her photos.
Thank you, Becky, for sharing this with all of us. And thanks to both you and Jeff for letting your children experience the great outdoors right from the time they are so young.
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Friday, November 18, 2016

The story of the SIXTEEN INCHERS!

One of "those guys" who caught 20-inchers, Rod Sarver

Dennis Goemaat with another beautiful walleye

Mark Pothaven hoists a big one. All these big fish were released.
Each season at camp has its unforgettable experiences and here's one for me from last summer.
I will preface this by pointing out that Red Lake has seen an explosion of walleye numbers in recent years and that it is now common to catch very large quantities of walleye at every outing. The numbers are absolutely unprecedented. Although all sizes are represented in the catch, there are certainly some spawning years that are especially abundant. This is what led to the conversation in the story.
I should also say that by the third or fourth week of the season I saw a pattern to what was going on with our fishermen and asked them if they could explain it. Incredibly, none could. On the boat ride from town out to camp I would say something like, "Everybody so far has caught hordes of smaller walleye the first two days they were here but then they found the bigger ones. When I asked them what they did different after two days, they invariably would say, 'Nothing.' If this happens to you, I would appreciate it if you let me know what you did so I can pass it on."
Now the story, the only thing which I have altered is the actual name of bays so as not to give away anybody's secrets.
"Hey Dan, I've got a question for you. When the guys got off the boat in town on Saturday they said they had caught lots of 20-inch walleyes. Where did they get them because all we are getting is 16-inchers."
I don't know exactly but we are catching walleyes just about everywhere.
"All we are getting are 16-inchers. I mean, we are catching lots and lots of them, every time we go out."
For some reason everybody first gets the smaller walleye and then they find the bigger ones too and they never seem to be able to say why.
"Those guys at the dock said they got 20-inchers. What bay were they fishing?"
Well, I know they fished at least part of the time in X Bay.
"We tried X Bay! SIXTEEN INCHERS! We also tried Y Bay. SIXTEEN INCHERS! We tried Z Bay too. SIXTEEN INCHERS! We even drove half-way down the lake to a bay we have never fished. SIXTEEN INCHERS! I mean we are catching hundreds and hundreds of them!"
Of course 16-inch walleyes are probably the perfect ones to eat. Their fillets are thin enough that they cook exactly right when deep fried.
"You are probably right on that but we don't want those. We want 20-inchers. What were those guys at the dock using for bait?"
I'm pretty sure they were using wor...
"We tried worms! SIXTEEN INCHERS! We tried leeches. SIXTEEN INCHERS! We tried minnows. SIXTEEN INCHERS! How were they fishing, those guys at the dock, because they got 20-inchers."
I think they were just trolling spi...
"We tried trolling spinners. SIXTEEN INCHERS! We tried using jigs. SIXTEEN INCHERS! We tried crank baits. SIXTEEN INCHERS. I mean we'll probably catch a thousand of them by the end of the week. Can you help us get 20-inchers or not?"
I guess not.
"I figured as much."
Two days later I saw the same fellow and asked if he had found any bigger walleyes.
"Yeah, I mean, oh yeah! In fact we had doubles on 25-inch walleyes, not once, not twice but three times yesterday. Man, this is really great."
So what did you do different after just getting 16-inchers the first day or two?
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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The misunderstood other "eagle"

A "bald-headed eagle," aka turkey vulture, suns itself near camp

The real bald eagle is a symbol of strength. Photo by Steve Ozark
Many years ago an Ojibwe elder, Jim Paishk, worked at camp as a guide and helper and would share his knowledge, humour and wisdom about the Boreal Forest and its creatures.
The two largest birds of the northern sky, pictured above, were what he called "the eagle" and the "bald-headed eagle."
"The eagle" was what we all know as the bald eagle. It is the national symbol of the United States and is also honoured by the Ojibwe who use its feathers for spiritual and ceremonial purposes.
"The bald-headed eagle," as Jim called it, is what we know as the turkey vulture, also sometimes called a buzzard. It doesn't share its cousin's lofty position when it comes to human esteem and I'm not sure why.
The vulture eats carrion or dead creatures, that's true, but so does the noble eagle. In fact given a choice a bald eagle always prefers the meal that isn't trying to get away. However, if there's nothing dead at hand, the eagle will resort to catching its own live prey, almost always a fish. If it was a duck people would contemptuously refer to it as a "fish duck," not one of the preferred "puddle ducks." But no one sneers at the eagle as the "fish hawk," maybe because there is one of those already, the osprey which only hunts fish, live fish.
About as handsome as a turkey
Perhaps it's the lack of head covering that gives the vulture its low place on everybody's bird list. Yet another bird, the wild turkey, has basically the same hair style, and it gets great reviews.
There is at least one creature however, who is best friends with the vulture and that is the popular bald eagle. I think ravens and crows appreciate the vulture just as much. The reason is the vulture is the only bird with an incredible sense of smell. It can detect the odour of a dead animal or fish, from thousands of feet away. It leads all the carrion-eating birds to the site, even if it is obscured by trees and other vegetation. You could say it is the bloodhound of the bird set.
If you watch us dump fish guts on the rocky island at camp each night you will see that the nasty-tempered eagles gathered there always tolerate their bald-headed cousins. They didn't need them to find the fish gut island, of course, but the rest of the time they are pretty handy friends to have around.
Bald eagles, vultures and even one raven share the pickings at the rocky island
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Thursday, November 3, 2016

Terrible news about Busters Barbecue

Busters Barbecue, the popular restaurant in Vermilion Bay, was destroyed in a fire a couple of days ago. No one was hurt in the blaze.
Busters was an award-winning eatery and was a must-stop for many anglers, hunters, travelers and residents. The firm's unique blueberry barbecue sauce is sold throughout North America.
It is the second devastating fire to occur in Vermilion Bay in recent years. The Village Corner, at the intersection between Hwy 17 (the Trans-Canada Highway) and Hwy 105 (the Red Lake Road) was likewise destroyed in a fire six years ago. The Village Corner was another popular restaurant as well as a gas station, tackle store and bus stop. It has never been rebuilt.
There is no word yet on the future of Busters.
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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

2017 rates are now posted

Our website now shows the new 2017 rates for our fishing packages. We knew a rate adjustment was in order last summer but just needed to wait until after the season to crunch the numbers.
The new American Plan 6-Day Fishing Package is $1,200 plus tax and the Housekeeping Package is $836 plus tax.
As in the past, our rates are in Canadian funds.
Our American guests will realize a substantial savings due to exchange on U.S. currency. In fact, when exchange is considered it will actually be less expensive to come to Bow Narrows Camp in 2017 than when we last raised our rates in 2014.
American guests will also be able to recoup one-half of their taxes paid on our packages through a mail-in rebate after they return home. We provide the application for this at camp.
We always strive to make a fishing vacation at Bow Narrows as affordable as possible while still letting us improve our facilities and equipment.

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Monday, October 31, 2016

The lone man in the canoe

Brenda and I saw something last week that made me flash back more than 50 years.
A lone man came paddling a canoe by the camp.
It is the time of year that makes this scene remarkable. We see people paddling canoes, usually groups of them, all summer as they journey to Woodland Caribou Wilderness Park, just beyond Trout Bay and Pipestone Bay. Most of them are on their way to Lake Winnipeg, far to the west. Nobody, however, starts such a trip in late October. Freeze-up, especially on smaller lakes, could happen at any time.
It was seeing the canoe at this time of year and a couple other things that twigged me back to the early 1960s.
The paddler appeared to be an older man, perhaps in his 50s. He paddled from the stern of the craft with the easy natural stroke of a First Nations man. In one continuous motion he propelled the canoe forward and corrected his course without stopping to use the paddle as a rudder. The course correction was simply made by putting side pressure on the paddle as it was being lifted for the next stroke. The canoe moved along several miles an hour and there was no doubt by the effortless way the man paddled that he could cover a great distance by nightfall.
In the bow of his canoe were two canvas packs, one of them with an axe handle sticking out. That was all he had. The man was wearing an ordinary fall jacket, unzipped, a flannel shirt and green work pants.
It's been a long time since I've seen such a sight.
When we first came to Red Lake and Bow Narrows Camp in 1961, a lot of Anishinaabe or Ojibwe people passed by camp in their canoes on their way to their winter traplines. There would be women, men and little kids and everybody, including the smallest child, had a paddle. In the case of the little kids, the paddles were usually fashioned from a board.
As the canoes came silently by camp I would race down to the dock and pass along my parents' invitation for everybody to come up to the lodge for some tea and a snack. We knew most of the men since the camp employed lots of them as guides for fishing and moose hunting. If they hadn't worked for us that year my mom and dad would ask where they had been and other questions about what they had been doing. If we didn't know them my mom usually would ask if they were related to people we did know. And, of course, we asked where they were going. They were all destined for cabins on their traplines on the Bloodvein River system, anywhere between Pipestone Bay and Manitoba.
They would probably snowshoe out at Christmas to sell their furs, they would say, and then come back by canoe six months later in the spring.
We would look at the two canvas packs in their canoe. "Are you sure you have enough food?" we would ask.
"Oh, yes," they would laugh.
In the packs would be a bag of flour, some salt, tea, baking powder and a little sugar. If they had any firearm at all it would just be a single-shot .22. That was it. That was all that stood between them and starvation and even freezing to death in the brutally cold Canadian winter, or so we thought.
The truth was these Anishinaabe people were, in fact, well-prepared but they were outfitted with skills and knowledge rather than consumer goods.
Food and clothing are everywhere if you know where to look and how to prepare them, and after living by their wits for thousands of years the Anishinaabe were masters at it. They had a use for every plant, every creature. To them, the Boreal Forest wasn't a formidable wilderness, it was a supermarket, pharmacy and clothing store. If you know what you're doing, you can even eat the trees! The inner bark of lots of trees can be scraped and made into a flour, or at least so I've read.
When we saw the same people paddling in the other direction as the ice melted in May, we were always struck by how marvelous they looked. It was as if they had spent the winter at some health spa. Everybody was in robust health. Their spirits were high and they laughed at every opportunity.
These people hadn't just survived the Canadian winter; they had thrived.
It occurs to me now that what we were seeing was a migration of people, one where they traveled to one place for the summer and the winter for another. It had been going on for thousands of years. Before there was the town of Red Lake, the Anishinaabe would come to big lakes like Red Lake to escape the summer bugs, catch fish, and trade. In the fall, they would head to smaller waters where they would harvest wild rice, hunt and trap.
By the end of the 1960s, that way of life stopped forever, unless that lone paddler was intent on reviving it.
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Monday, October 24, 2016

You know the Ciepliks were here when you see this

Debi Cesario



The Ciepliks were in camp this summer and once again found the big fish.
Everyone loves their YouTube videos too. A link to those can be found at the right under Favorites.
I gave a ride to a nice couple from another camp this summer and they surprised me by asking if the Cieplik girls were in camp that week because they hoped to meet them on the lake after reading about them and seeing their photos and videos on the blog.
Sure enough their paths crossed a couple of days later.
Brenda Cieplik and her sister Debi Cesario like to compete against Brenda's husband, Carl, and their son, Tommy. The title for biggest fish seems to flip from team to team each year. They cover a lot of water, make thousands of casts and catch and release a ton of big fish, including big walleye.
For more on this extraordinary fishing family, including their "secret" lure, do a search for Cieplik in the little search window at the top of the blog. Make sure you hit Older Posts at the bottom of each list because there are many entries and something to be learned from each.
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Friday, October 21, 2016

The Alfred E. Neumans of the bird world

A grape-sized brain with no frontal lobe whatsoever
Smart as a partridge.
Did you ever hear that expression? No, never. In fact, "smart" and "partridge" don't even belong in the same sentence.
You do hear them referred to as feathered rockets, and that metaphor is fairly appropriate.
Like a rocket, partridge, aka ruffed grouse, "blast off." They leave the earth with a thunderous explosion of beating wings, usually right at your feet, the shock and sound of which must certainly have arrested some human hearts over the years. Also like rockets, partridge use up all of their fuel in short order and then rely on their stubby wings to make subtle course corrections.
It is this method of flight that gets the partridge into trouble here at camp. That, plus the fact that the partridge has a brain the size of a grape and, apparently, none of it composed of frontal lobe, the part which, in humans at least, would let them consider the consequences of their actions. It's as if they are perpetually stuck in a risky, adolescent stage of life.
They are also pretty fast fliers, reaching speeds of up to 50 mph before they exhaust their energy and go into a glide. That speed, and the fact they weigh about a pound, is more than enough force to do serious damage to windows and porch screens. If you remember your high school physics, f = ma.
At Bow Narrows we also have another factor to consider -- elevation. Across the narrows is a hill, Mike's Mountain we call it. If a partridge launches himself from the top and heads toward camp he is really whistling when he reaches our side. Not good for a bird who has no hesitation to fly through little spaces between branches just guessing that there is nothing to hit out of view.
We all hold our breaths when we see a partridge crossing the channel. Sometimes we project the bird's flight path and realize to our horror that when he launched from the mountain top, 250 yards away, he selected for his landing site not the expansive lawn in front of the camp, not the cabin roofs or even the spaces between the cabins -- none of those obvious places. Instead he set his sights on a tiny "opening" beneath the cabin eaves, something you and I and the rest of the world call a window.
"No, no, no, NOOOO!" we shriek as the brown bullet heads toward the six-paned feature. "Pull-up! Abort! Abort!"
Sure,  the bird sees the reflection in the glass and thinks it is an opening but at some point he also must see the white sash dividers. They are just 10 x 12 inches apart.
"I'm pretty sure I can make it," says the partridge. He tugs at the straps of his tiny goggles, folds his wings and hits the pane dead center in an explosion of glass and feathers and cries of "Oh, the humanity!" from onlookers.
A minute later his head reappears perched atop a scrawny neck now missing a lot of its feathers.
"Did you see that? he asks. "That was AWESOME!"
Then he glances at the porch screen next to the window. "Next time I bet I could take that entire thing out!"

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Friday, October 14, 2016

Long-range weather forecast is coming true

A skiff of snow that soon melts has been a common sight
Smoke on the water. The lake is giving up its heat to the colder air
No one feels like sitting on Ed Gross's bench in this weather
Cabin 10's spiffy new deck
Weather forecasters predicted this fall that this region of the country was going to get an early winter. So far it looks like they were right.
For a couple of weeks now the daytime high has been in the single digits C and nighttime has been right around 0 or freezing. Those temperatures aren't unheard of; it's just the duration of such weather. More typically we have cold temps, then warm temps, then back to cold.
It also has been exceedingly wet. If it isn't raining, it's snowing.
This weather pattern is typical of a fall after an El Nino winter which we had last year. No matter, it is still gloomy and makes it difficult for us to get anything done at camp. I've had to forego a couple of projects I was hoping to complete this fall. It was just too wet.
We did manage to accomplish a bit of building throughout the summer, however. We built a new floating dock for Cabin 10 with a nice ramp that took the place of the steps and crib dock there.
We also built a deck on Cabin 10 with a side set of stairs that makes it easier to access this building.
I also succeeded in putting new flooring in Cabin 7. Unfortunately it is too damp out to get paint to dry, even inside, so we will need to finish painting this next spring. We did get two rooms painted before the wet weather arrived.
Now it is time to pull the plug on the season. We're going to button-up everything for the winter and get out as soon as possible, perhaps within a week.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Suddenly there are 66,000 more trout in Trout Bay

Brenda and me with fingerlings in Trout Bay

Trout make trip in oxygen-filled bags
Yearling lake trout

High school co-op student Raven Lawson cuts open bag

The water boils with released tiny lakers

An MNRF boat releases more trout in the distance

The boats take off from Black Bear Lodge's dock in Slay's Bay

The hatchery truck at Black Bear Lodge

Project biologist Jenn Neilson and student Raven Lawson at end of the day

Brenda and I got to help the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry stock 66,000 lake trout in Trout Bay this afternoon. We were especially excited about this because it marks the first time in the 15-year trout project that fish have been planted in Trout Bay and only the second time that hatchery trout have been released at the west end of Red Lake. In 2014 45,000 trout were also released in the Potato Island basin.
Most of the trout project has concentrated on trying to establish trout populations at the east end of Red Lake. Trout once inhabited all areas of the lake and largely disappeared from the east many decades ago. When the trout population problem was discovered in about 2000, trout mostly existed at the west end in places like Potato Island basin, Trout Bay and especially in Pipestone Bay.
Although trout thrived in Pipestone, they had a problem reproducing there and so began the efforts to entice them to spawn elsewhere as well as to just replenish the population overall.
The fish stocked today started out as eggs that were taken from West End trout last fall in the trout project. They were raised at the Dorion fish hatchery, near Thunder Bay, and brought back now a year later. Many more will be returned next spring as 18-month-old fingerlings. There were just too many fish from 2015's egg collection to raise them all to full size. That's why the 66,000 were brought back early.
A hatchery tank truck brought the yearlings to Black Bear Lodge where two MNRF boats and our Lickety Split took them in air-filled bags and in open tubs to Trout Bay for release. Each boat made about six trips and the whole process took about three hours.
It wasn't the best weather for the dozen or so humans involved. The temperature was 1 C or just above freezing; it was windy and snow flurries and sleet were falling. However, from the trout's point of view, it was beautiful. The cold temperature meant the fingerlings consumed less oxygen in their bags and tubs and should result in most all of the 66,000 surviving after they were released to the depths of Trout Bay.
A couple of hundred thousand more trout will be planted next spring as a result of the massive egg collection in 2015. No final decision has been made on where they will go but Pipestone Bay is a possibility. One problem would be how to get them there. It is a long a boat trip from Black Bear's location on the southern side of Potato Island basin but perhaps not too much farther than Trout Bay. It would be ideal if the hatchery truck could drive to Pipestone via the Mount Jamie Mine landing road, near Grassy Bay, but that access is often in questionable shape. There are so many trout to be planted next spring that is likely they will go to several locations around the lake.
Our anglers caught the first hatchery-raised trout this summer. A 23-inch fish, caught near Potato Island, would have been planted four years ago at the east end of the lake. We also caught a half dozen 14-inch fish from the 2014 stocking right at Potato Island.
I'm often asked if I think trout fishing will return to catch and keep instead of catch and release as it has been for the past 15 years. Undoubtedly it will. I see an explosion of lake trout numbers in about five years. That will come from all the hundreds of thousands of fish stocked through the egg collection project but also all the natural regeneration that is taking place today.
Trout are reproducing in good numbers in the Potato Island basin and Trout Bay. The stockings in these two places should see sustainable populations probably in about a decade, perhaps sooner.
Meanwhile, it is possible the stockings at the eastern end of the lake will take hold and trout will start spawning there too.
Finally, although it isn't known why eggs spawned in Pipestone Bay are unsuccessful it is also known that occasionally they do make it and adult fish thrive in the bay like nowhere else. If the overall trout population there is given a boost through the stockings then these sporadic successful spawning years will add to the lake's population.
Pipestone remains an enigma but researchers may eventually solve what is happening there. They will have more time for study once Dorion brood stock, raised from Pipestone eggs, begin supplying eggs right from the hatchery. That will start to happen in 2018. The extraordinary effort the MNRF has put toward the wild egg collection over the past 15 years can then slow down and there will be more time for analyzing the Pipestone problem again.