Friday, March 27, 2009

A couple of handy fishing gadgets

Ron Nelson
Ron Nelson, a long-time angler at Bow Narrows Camp, shows a couple of handy fishing gadgets in this photo.

One is a set of nail clippers and the other is an eye-buster tool.

Nail clippers are the best thing for cutting fishing line -- way better than a knife.

The eye buster is a little metal tool that breaks out the paint from the eyes of jigs. If you don't have this tool you can also use a large hook to ream out the eyes but then that hook gets dulled.

Ron has both tools on a lanyard hung around his neck. You can also get clip-on tether cords that clip to your life jacket or shirt.

It's far handier to have these often-used tools around your neck or tethered to your vest than have to search for them in the tackle box or pick them off the bottom of the boat everytime you want them.

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Our 20 hp Honda four-stroke outboards

20 hp four-stroke Honda
All of our fishing boats are powered by 20 hp Honda four-stroke outboards and virtually everyone agrees these are perfect fishing motors.

They are so quiet you can barely tell they are running at idle.

They do not produce any smoke.

They troll very slowly yet zip our 16-foot Lund boats around at over 20 mph with two anglers and all their gear in the boat.

And they start very easily although there is a definite procedure to learn to start the recoil-start models.

The first thing to know is that you do not need to advance the throttle to start these engines. You always start them at the lowest setting on the throttle.

1. Make sure the engine gear shift is in neutral. (You cannot pull the starting rope if it is in forward or reverse.)

2. When the engine is cold rotate the throttle handle four times to prime the carburetor. These engines have an accelerator pump on their carburetors, just like cars used to have. Instead of pumping the gas pedal, here you rotate the throttle handle.

3. Pull out the choke and with the throttle handle on the lowest setting, pull the cord.

The engine will always start on a single pull.

4. Leave the choke out until the engine has totally warmed up. This will take up to five minutes in cold weather, a couple of minutes in summer. The engine will not die with the choke pulled out.

5. Once the engine is warmed up, push in the choke and the engine will automatically slow down its idle. You are now ready to leave the dock.

You probably will never need to choke the engine again for the rest of the day.

If it doesn't ever start on one pull, rotate the throttle handle a couple of times to prime the carb, leave the throttle at its lowest setting and pull the starting cord.

We also have some electric start models which we usually reserve first for people with bad backs or who otherwise might have difficulty pulling a starting cord.

With these all you do is make sure the engine is in neutral, turn the throttle to the lowest setting and push the start button on the tiller handle. The engine automatically chokes itself, turns up the idle speed until warm and then drops the idle speed.

Just wait for the engine idle speed to slow down before leaving the dock as this is the signal the engine is warmed up.

The recoil-start models all have built-in alternators that will charge any type of 12-volt battery.

Many of our fishermen use this feature to charge gel-cell batteries that power their fish finders.

Ask us for the wiring harness if you would like to use the motor to charge your battery.

The alternator will also charge an electric trolling motor battery.

We have a couple of electric trolling motors for rent for $50 per week. If you would like to reserve one during your stay, drop us an e-mail at

An indicator on the trolling motor's handle tells you the charging state of the motor's battery. You must always recharge your battery with the 20 hp Honda, so keep an eye on the battery condition and refrain from using the trolling motor until there is a good charge in the battery.

The Honda will recharge the battery in just a couple of hours under normal fishing conditions.

By using this system you never need an external charger yet the trolling motor is available almost all the time.

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

What if I accidentally kill a pike in the slot size?

What should a person do if he or she accidentally kills a northern pike that is in the slot size?
Ontario fishing regulations specify a no-keep slot size of 27.5 inches to 35.4 inches for northern pike.
You are not permitted to keep any fish this size and may keep only one larger (we strongly suggest you do not keep any larger fish unless you want to mount them. See Conservation).
We provide measuring tapes in our fishing boats for you to measure the length of your fish.
It's a wise idea to stay an inch away from the slot size, just for safety's sake. In other words, make the largest pike you keep 26.5 inches not 27.5 inches. A fish will "grow" in length after it dies and its muscles relax.
There are a lot of things you can do to prevent accidentally killing pike such as using the proper Fish Unhooking Tools or pinching down barbs on multi-hook lures but occasionally, despite your best intentions, a fish rips a gill out and dies.
No one likes to see a fish wasted and there is an inclination to bring the fish back to camp, even if it is in the slot size.
Please don't do this!
You must throw the fish back into the water where you caught it!
It is an offence to have a fish in the slot size in your possession.
As part of our regular service at Bow Narrows Camp we clean all your fish for you.
We will not put a knife to a fish in the slot size.
By bringing it back you are jeopardizing our camp's reputation and our livelihood.
Why can't a person keep such a fish if it was killed accidentally?
Ministry of Natural Resources conservation officers point out that if they were to allow such fish to be kept there are some people who would routinely "accidentally" kill fish. It's a sad commentary on the human race but it's true.
Just throw them back and examine if there is anything different you can do about your fishing technique to prevent it happening again. Sometimes there is nothing you could have done.
There are a lot of tips here on the blog that might help.
Just type in Conservation in the search window at the top of the blog.
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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Difference between daily and possession limits

Ontario fishing regulations specify the daily limit for northern pike is four for a regular limit licence and two for a conservation licence.
Of these none can be in the slot size of 27.5 to 35.4 inches in length and only one can be larger than 35.4 inches.
For walleyes, the daily limit is also four for a regular licence and two for a conservation licence.
Of these only one can be larger than 18 inches. There is no slot size.
Regulations also state you can not have more than one day's limit in your possession.
This means you can never have more than the above-mentioned limits for each species anywhere in your possession. This includes your boat, cooler, the camp freezer, your refrigerator or anywhere else.
While the numbers are the same for daily and possession these two terms have different meanings.
Daily limit means the number of fish you can keep in one day. Possession limit means the number of fish you have accumulated over a period of time.
The difference is best illustrated by taking the example of an angler who let's say is fishing with a conservation licence. He keeps two walleyes for lunch. After eating them they are no longer in his possession. So can he then catch two more in the afternoon and maybe this time put them in the freezer to take home?
The answer is no. By keeping two fish for lunch he caught his daily limit and cannot keep any more until the next day.
Now let's say he puts one fish in the freezer to take home. How many can he keep on the following days to eat for lunch. The answer, if he is fishing with a conservation licence, is one. That's because he can only have two fish in his possession.
However, after eating his walleye for lunch he can later keep one more that day to fill out his daily limit of two and without exceeding his possession limit of two.
The smart thing to do when you come to Bow Narrows Camp is to eat fish at camp the first 3-4 days you are at camp and save fish to take home the last day or two.
It's also good to realize how few fish it takes to make a meal. One walleye under 18 inches will feed one person. A northern pike 22-26 inches will feed two or three people.
These are the proper sizes of these species to keep. It's poor conservation practise to keep big fish as these are the ones that replenish the population.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Can I take a floatplane sightseeing trip?

Norseman floatplane
We sometimes have guests who would like to take a floatplane sightseeing trip while they are staying at Bow Narrows Camp.

There are charter floatplane services in Red Lake who will land at camp, take you for a 20-minute ride around the west end of Red Lake and return.

It can be a fun sidelight to your trip at camp and if you haven't seen Northwestern Ontario from the air you are in for a treat.

You will be blown away by the numbers of lakes. There seems to be more water than land as far as the eye can see.

The cost for this varies depending on the number of people taking the trip and current fuel prices. Usually the airlines wants a minimum of 6 people before booking the trip.

My guess at the cost for the trip this summer will be $100 to $150 per person.

The plane in the photo above is the historic Norseman. This fabric-covered plane has been the workhorse of the bush since the 1940s. There are more Norseman aircraft in Red Lake than anywhere else in the world.

Red Lake holds a festival each July in honor of the Norseman. Called the Norseman Festival it attacts aviation enthusiasts from all over North America.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Great deals available on airline fares to Canada

If you haven't checked airline fares for awhile you are in for a pleasant surprise!

Airline fares throughout North America are the lowest they've been in 6-8 years.

In some cases you can fly for about half of what it cost last year.

Remember, when coming to Red Lake you have a couple of choices when it comes to flying.

You can either fly right into Red Lake or fly to Winnipeg, rent a car and drive to Red Lake.

Find out more about flying up here by clicking on How to Fly to Red Lake, Ontario.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Old Miles Mine makes a good hike

Bear print above door
Miles Mine headframe

When you're at Bow Narrows Camp this summer you might consider taking a hike up to the Miles Mine, one of the abandoned gold mines at the west end of Red Lake.

It's a little more than a half-mile to the mine from the end of Trout Bay and the trail is usually in pretty good shape.

Like several of the other gold mines at the west end, this one was started in the '30s and didn't re-open after a devastating forest fire a half dozen years later.

All these gold mines were vertical shafts, nor horizontal into a mountain like you see in the cowboy movies. All that can be seen of the mine itself is a hole in the ground which is full of water. Don't get near the shaft as it is possible that the rubble around it can collapse into the hole.
Also, stay away from the old headframe. If it hasn't fallen down since I took these photos it could any day.
The Miles Mine also has a few remnants of buildings including a shack about two-thirds of the way up the trail to the mine that a very large bear left his mark on.

Bears like to scratch trees to mark their territory, but this one left his claw print on the tarpaper above the door to the shack. I don't know if it impressed other bears but I find it awesome. To give you some perspective on how high this is, my brother-in-law Gord Cooper in the photo is 6 feet, 3 inches tall and he can't stretch to where the bear reached.

You can search through the tailing pile from the mine to see if you can find any gold. All of these mines found some, just not enough to make a go of it. There's also some rusty old equipment laying around, some of it old steam-engines that provided the power in those days.
Mostly the trip to the mine is just an interesting walk. The trail cuts through a mixed forest of quaking aspen and white spruce.

The Trout Bay end of the trail usually shows a lot of beaver activity with felled trees and peeled limbs lying around.

There are frequently moose, timber wolf and bear tracks and scat on the trail. You'll probably see a few ruffed grouse or even spruce grouse on this walk.

There are newer trails made up by the mine but I would advise not taking any of these. They were made by prospectors and mine exploration outfits and don't really lead anywhere. They can also be confusing. You don't want to get lost. It's best just to go straight to the mine and then straight back to your boat.

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Sunday, March 8, 2009

Snow fleas are the first signs of spring

snow fleas on the snow
With each passing day the sun gets higher in the sky and the temperature gets warmer.

One of the very first signs of spring are the appearance of snow fleas, tiny insect-like creatures called springtails, a type of hexapod, that are best seen in footprints in the snow on a sunny day when the temperature is near to melting.

The snow has melted a couple of inches now but there is still a thick blanket on the ground.

Sam and I went for a snowshoe hike today and discovered where timber wolves killed a deer about 100 yards from our house.
The only thing left of the deer were small bits of hide and hair. Even the bones had been eaten.

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Saturday, March 7, 2009

How many walleyes does the average angler catch?

prime fish habitat
This is a question that I get quite frequently.
I understand that people are just trying to get a read on the quality of fishing here but it still makes no sense.
It's silly because the answer, if I would give one, still tells you nothing.
An example, one boat goes fishing and catches 100 walleyes in a day. Another boat catches zero. Is the answer then that the "average angler" gets 50?
An answer also doesn't tell you anything about the size and therefore the quality of the fish.
Brenda and I once caught 100 walleyes in a single hour. We were using jigs with barbless hooks and plastic twister tails -- no bait. You could not get this outfit to the bottom without catching a walleye. This was the fastest walleye action I have ever seen including in the old days fishing on remote "unfished" portage lakes. However every one of the hundred fish we caught and released that August afternoon was only 12 inches long! They were tiny. But it sounds impressive -- 100 walleyes in an hour!
OK, that was an exception, so what does the "average" guy catch?
It depends, do you mean the "average" fisherman who has been coming to Bow Narrows Camp for 10 years or the "average" fisherman who has been fishing for 10 years on other lakes but is new to Red Lake or the "average" fisherman who has never fished for walleyes before or the "average" fisherman who insists on using techniques that worked on another lake in another province and won't adapt to our lake? Maybe you mean the "average" guy who fishes for pike 95 per cent of the time or conversely the "average" person who fishes for nothing but walleyes from daylight to dark. What about the guys who are fishing with little kids or the ones who won't fish in the rain or the ones who will fish no matter what the wind and weather?
The very question of "how many" indicates that the person is really concerned about numbers, not quality. So would he be happy catching hundreds of 12-inch walleyes? Or would he prefer to catch fewer but bigger fish? That is virtually always the choice. You cannot catch 100 eight-to-12 pound walleyes in an hour, if for no other reason that it takes about five minutes to land each of them.
Red Lake's claim to fame is its large numbers of big walleyes. Where on a small lake you might only catch one 25-inch walleye in a week on Red Lake you might catch two dozen that big or bigger in a single day. We routinely catch walleyes 28 inches (eight pounds) and it would seem most walleyes end their growing at 32 inches (12 pounds). However every so often someone catches a 34-incher (14 pounds).
We frequently hear seasoned anglers that are new to our camp remark, "I've never seen so many big fish!" How many did they catch? I don't know, frankly, but I know they were impressed with the fishing.
Instead of telling people how many walleyes they can catch in one day, I usually refer them to our camp's setting as shown on Google Maps. Switch the map to satellite mode, click off the box showing the camp's info and zoom down. Look at all the bays and islands and narrows that are nearby the camp. This irregular shoreline is prime fish habitat! It also shows how the camp is protected from the wind, no matter what the direction.
The satellite photo doesn't show the lake depths but the large bodies of water all have places where it is over 100 feet deep. The smaller bays and narrows are usually 30 feet deep or less.
This is important because there is a wide variety of depths and temperatures available to the fish. That's why we can catch them throughout the season -- we just move to where they are feeding.
The map also doesn't show you what the bottom of the lake is made of. In most places at the west end of Red Lake where Bow Narrows Camp is located the bottom is clay -- the most productive material. A fishery is just like a farm, it starts with good soil. Clay produces more plankton and tiny invertebrates that form the start of the food chain than does sand or rock.
These are the factors that make Red Lake such a tremendous fishery and it's our extreme good fortune that Bow Narrows Camp is located right in the middle of the best place to fish on the entire 30-mile-long lake.
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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

New landing net made for conservation fishing

Frabill Conservation Series
Frabill has just announced a new type of landing net which they call their Conservation Series.

The new nets have no knots which can abrade a fish's body causing injury.

They have a very small mesh size that prevents fish from getting their snouts and fins caught.

And they have flat bottoms instead of being shaped like a sack as are other nets.

The flat bottoms allows the fish to lay flat when lifted from the water instead of being collapsed into a U-shape. Again, this supports the fish's weight evenly and prevents injuries, especially to its tail or caudal fin.

The nets are fairly pricey. A 26x30" model which would be an excellent size for the big walleyes we catch in Red Lake retails for $119.99.

Frabill's 29x34" model that would be large enough for our lunker northern pike sells for $129.99.

I think any serious conservation-minded angler should give the nets close consideration.

Frabill is correct in its assertion that many fish that are released are harmed by the landing net.

Rubber landing nets do a good job of not harming fish too but they are quite heavy due to the weight of the rubber. In fact the ones big enough for northern pike are just too heavy.

The Frabill mesh net should provide the benefits of the rubber net without the weight and have the added benefit of the flat bottom.

Although we provide landing nets with our fishing boats as part of our regular fishing packages, I always advise anglers to bring their own. They weigh little and are not difficult to pack in the car or truck.
The two pieces of equipment that we supply that receive the most abuse are the landing nets and the life vests.

In the case of landing nets anglers routinely cut their lures out of the nets with knives leaving a gaping hole for the next angler's trophy fish to slip through.

With life vests, many people unwisely don't wear them (See Life Vests and also Fishing Equipment )and so they blow out of the boats and are lost or are stood upon as they lay on the bottom of the boat.

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