Friday, February 29, 2008

Strange fish of Red Lake, Ontario

Ontario whitefish
When anglers come fishing at Red Lake, Ontario, looking for walleyes, northern pike and lake trout, they're sometimes surprised to also catch some of this great fishery's lesser known species: whitefish, tulibee, ling, white sucker, redhorse sucker, perch and rock bass.

Whitefish, tulibee and ling are all deepwater fishes but will be in shallow water in the spring before it warms up.

Whitefish are known throughout North America as the major commercially caught fish. It's a great fighter on rod and reel. We've caught them up to 8 pounds. They have a small, soft, mouth and usually the best lure for them is a small, white jig. In the summer they will be on the bottom in 50-60 feet of water.

The same outfit will catch the whitefish's cousin, the tulibee or lake herring. These don't get as big, a three-pounder is a big one. Tulibee have an interesting habit that makes them easy to spot on fish finders. They form schools that are easy to see and are always half-way to the bottom, regardless of the depth. So in 20 feet of water they're at 10 feet and in 100 feet of water they're at 50 feet. It would seem they all come to the surface at night where they love to eat insects. Use the same small white jig that you use for whitefish. If you aren't careful at keeping the jig on the bottom when whitefish fishing, chances are you'll come up with a tulibee.

The ling, also known as eelpout and burbot and in Manitoba, mariah, is a very unusual fish. It seems to be part catfish and part eel. We've caught them up to 12 pounds. They are by far the best-eating of all these unusual fish. Many people call them "poor man's lobster." They produce two boneless "tubes' of meat that do indeed have the texture and taste of lobster. They're best when prepared as such too, boiled and served with drawn butter or seafood cocktail sauce, etc. rather than battered or floured and deep-fried like you would a pike or walleye. Brenda has a wonderful method of cooking ling where she prepares them like she would scallops. She cuts the fillets into quarter-sized chunks, lightly sautees them with onions and peppers and serves them covered with her secret sauce. (Actually it's not a secret, I just don't know what it is but she will tell you if you ask her.) At our indoor shore lunches that we have twice a week for American Plan guests in the dining room, everyone raves about the ling. Who knew fish this ugly tasted so good?
Bow Narrows Camp
Red Lake, Ont.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Thanks to new website photographers!

Our newly redesigned website hit the 'net today and I would like to take this time to thank all those people who donated such great photographs from their trips with us.
I would try to name them all but won't for fear of leaving someone out.
We've got some great photographers out there and we sincerely thank them all for sharing their art with us.
Dan and Brenda
Bow Narrows Camp
Red Lake, Ont.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Great site to learn new fishing knots

"I just can't learn to tie that knot."

Some day I'm going to write a song with that line. Lord knows I've heard it often enough, from people whose boats have floated loose from the dock and from fishermen examining the little curly Q at the end of their lines where their lures used to be.

The next thing they usually say is "I'm no Boy Scout!"

Well, knot tying has certainly gone the way of the horse and buggy, what with Velcro and other ways of fastening things but we still need to know how to tie on our lures and leaders with slippery monofilament. Plus, a good knot not only holds, it also doesn't weaken your line.

Improper knots can reduce your line strength by 50 per cent or more.

Fortunately, there is an excellent website that shows how to tie fishing knots, boat knots and much more. It is called Grogs Animated Knots and here's the link to it:

While we're on the subject, did you hear the one about the rope that goes into the bar and the bartender says, "We don't serve ropes here!"

So the rope goes outside, ties a knot at one end of himself and then frizzes out one end of his rope and goes back in.

"Hey, aren't you the rope that I just told to leave? asked the bartender.

"I'm a frayed knot," said the rope.
Bow Narrows Camp
Red Lake, Ont.

Conservation: Why the Fishing's So Good

Catch and Release Northern Pike

There's a reason why ranchers keep the very best bulls and cows for breed stock. These animals have the genes that the ranchers want to see passed on to subsequent generations.

It's the same thing with fish.

If you want to have more trophy fish out there, you need to release the largest fish you catch. Studies by biologists show that many of these huge fish are surprisingly young. They just grew faster than others. Those are the ones we all want put back in the lake!

They are also the major spawners for the species. They are almost all females.

Fishermen at Bow Narrows Camp have been on side with conservation fishing for a long time. They only keep the lunkers now to have them made into mounts and even that isn't really necessary. Taxidermists can make replicas out of graphite and other material that look exactly like your original fish. Just take a photo, measure the length and girth and let the real fish go.

But no one will begrudge your keeping a huge fish for mounting purposes if that's what you want to do.

The best fish for eating are the ones just under the slot size in the case of northern pike or the "one over" rule for walleyes.

Under Ontario fishing regulations, you cannot keep any northern pike in the slot size of 27.5 to 35.4 inches and can only have one pike bigger than 35.4 inches.

For eating purposes, pike 22-27 inches are the best keepers. They have a lot of meat on them, the fillets are thin enough that they cook easily, and these fish have not yet reached prime spawning age anyway. Incidentally, we remove ALL THE BONES from northern pike fillets and they are every bit as delicious in our lake as are the walleyes!

For walleyes, fish 14-17 inches are the best eaters, for the same reasons given for pike. But this brings up a problem at our camp. We very often cannot catch walleyes under 18 inches! Many times the average walleye is 24 inches (four pounds) with a great many fish in the 26-28 inch size (six to eight pounds) and up to 34 inches (14 pounds). So what do you do? Just keep the smallest of the walleyes you catch. You should be able to get a 20-22 incher in the group and that will feed a couple of people.

Besides being selective, we also do a lot of other things that ensure Red Lake Ontario keeps its spectacular fishery.

1. At Bow Narrows Camp we use burlap keep sacks instead of stringers. It works like this, when you catch a fish you want to keep, dip the bag in the lake, put the fish inside and put the bag on the bottom of the boat. As the wet bag evaporates it gets very cool inside. It's the same principle of the old blanket-sided cowboy canteens. The fish are kept perfectly, far better than if they were on a stringer. We have 70 years of experience at this at our camp and at my great uncle's camp. Don't the fish die? you ask. Yes but it's just like they were kept on ice only it's actually better than ice because the fish don't become slimy.

The keep sack forces you to make a decision on which fish you intend to keep. The very worst thing you can do for conservation is to "trade" or "cull" fish on a stringer or a livewell. This is where you put a fish on a stringer then replace it with another fish of a more desirable size. Studies have shown that fish put on a stringer -- or kept in a livewell -- and then released subsequently die from shock and the effects of being kept at a temperature, oxygen level and atmospheric pressure that was improper for them. It swims away but within hours or sometimes days, it turns belly up.

2. Bow Narrows Camp gives you a free conservation fishing license with your fishing package.

It limits you to two northern pike and two walleyes and 6 whitefish to take home. The regular full-limit licenses permit four northern pike, four walleye and 12 whitefish. We have those licenses at camp too but you must purchase them separately.

3. Proper handling. We all need to release our fish unharmed and that means getting the hooks out of them without injury and returning them to the water as quickly as possible. See the article on Best Fish Unhooking tools

Stay tuned for more conservation tips and news.

Click to go back to the website
Bow Narrows Camp
Red Lake, Ont.