Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Do we become slaves to our technology?

Most people would call this a depthfinder and they're common sights at Bow Narrows Camp. In fact I would say the majority of our guests bring them.

But to some people, it's a fishfinder and that's what they try to do with it, find fish.

The difference is that the first group goes fishing and uses the depthfinder to fish at a particular depth. The second group goes driving around looking at the fishfinder to tell them where to fish.

There's not much difference between the two when the fish -- read this, walleyes -- are at 16 feet or deeper because then they show up on the depthfinder/fishfinder.

The problem arises when the fish are shallower than that which they usually are on Red Lake for the first couple of months. The guys with the fishfinders can't find anything until they get over deep water, then they can see fish. There they are, schools of fish suspended half way to the bottom in 50-100 feet of water. They then try everything in the tacklebox but with no success. That's because those lovely marks on their screens are tulibees, not walleyes. Tulibees are lake herring and can be difficult to hook.

The walleyes are back in the shallow bays on the windy shores in probably 8-12 feet of water. Anglers who went trolling at this depth, perhaps using their depthfinders as a guide, did well. The guys with the fishfinders didn't even try there because they "didn't mark anything."

The fish were there; they just didn't show up on the fishfinder either because the transducer "cone angle" was too narrow in the shallow water or because the fish moved away from the boat momentarily as it passed overhead.

For people who are "hooked" on using a fishfinder, I suggest they come from mid-July to the end of the season because they will be able to "see" walleyes on their fishfinders. There will be some in the shallows that they can't see, especially from mid-July to mid-August, but there will be some in the deeper places too.

If you don't think there are people addicted to using fishfinders, consider the following.

We once had a guest who was a lake trout specialist and who returned home to the Midwest without even attempting to fish at camp when he discovered that one of his four on-board fishfinders wasn't working. True story.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Many reasons to give thanks for 2009

Since it is almost Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. (in Canada we celebrate Thanksgiving in October) I thought I would recall a couple of our major blessings at camp for 2009.
The first is our guests.

You know, on our website there is a page called Who We Are and it only talks about Brenda and me and my father, Don. But it should really talk about our guests as well.

Many of these people have been coming to Bow Narrows Camp for nearly as long as us. They have seen hot summers and cold ones, wet seasons and dry, spectacular fishing and tough fishing, forest fires, northern lights and meteor showers and everything else that comes from taking an outdoors vacation in the North. We look forward to seeing them and enjoy their company as much as we do our own families.

Sadly a couple of these friends passed away this year. We will miss them terribly. All we can do is to be thankful for the time we did spend together.

Our other major blessing in 2009 was our wonderful staff.

Nothing makes me as optimistic about the future of the world as knowing there are young people such as these coming up in it.

They had a work ethic that nearly wore me out, were quick learners and resourceful. They were cheerful in the wettest weather we have ever seen and they were just lots of fun.

In the top photo are, from left, Emilie Godin, Ben Godin and Jenn Bucci. In the bottom photo is Joe Cox.

It isn't necessary to be a good fisherman to work at camp but as these photos show these staffers knew how to use a rod and reel.

Those four were our main staffers but others who worked at camp for shorter periods in 2009 were our son Josh Baughman (he rebuilt the boathouse in June) and Jeremy Baldwin and Rosalie Tilley who worked at camp in September. They were all excellent, hard workers and we thank them all.

We also thank our brother-in-law Ron Wink for taking a week in June to help us wire our new water treatment plant and Brenda's brother Gordon Cooper for helping us with some surveying tasks.

We are also fortunate to have so many wonderful merchant and service providers in Red Lake such as the folks at Red Lake Marine, Sobeys Supermarket, Scotia Bank, Green Airways, Viking Outposts, Mike Litwin's PetroCanada, Home Hardware and Northwest TimberMart, to name a few.

Finally, we are grateful for our good friends at the Ministry of Natural Resources whose jobs are to protect the very resources that we count on for a living.

All of these people and many more really deserve to be on the Who We Are page.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

It looks like an El Nino winter ahead

autumn sunset on Red Lake
Virtually all of Canada including Northwestern Ontario is experiencing record high temperatures this November, apparently the result of El Nino, the cyclical warming of the Pacific Ocean west of South America.

This typically happens every 4-6 years but this time around it seems more pronounced than normal.

Daytime temperatures in Northwestern Ontario should be around the freezing mark but instead are 6-10 C (40-50 F).

The weather during a normal El Nino winter in Northwestern Ontario is warmer and often snowier than other years. So far this winter it is much warmer but quite dry. This is particularly welcome after our wet summer last year.

It should be a boost to fish populations as it will mean at least one extra ice-free month. El Nino is also kind to animals since they don't need to expend as much energy keeping warm.

I've got my fingers crossed that it will also lead to an early ice-out next spring. Once in awhile the ice goes out in Red Lake in late April instead of early to mid-May. This is a god-send to us at camp as it lets us get to work mending docks and doing other maintenance before the fishermen arrive. It also almost always leads to spectacular walleye and northern pike spawns.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Consider Lake Superior route to or from camp

If you've never travelled the highway around Lake Superior you might consider adding it to your itinerary when coming or going from camp this summer.
In most cases it will add at least a few hours to your trip but it's one of the most scenic routes in the world and it's a shame if you've never seen it.
Just about all of our American guests cross the border at International Falls/Fort Frances and then proceed to Red Lake on either Hwy 71 going west and then north to Hwy. 17, or they go east and north on Hwy 502 to Hwy 17. They then go to Vermilion Bay where they turn on to Hwy 105 which ends at Red Lake.
Let's be clear, these are the fastest ways to get to Red Lake. And of these two, the Hwy 502 route is perhaps 30 minutes quicker than going via Hwy 71.
These routes also have beautiful scenery in the form of woods and lakes. But you don't see vistas that go on for dozens of miles like you do if you drive around the shore of Lake Superior.
On the west side of Lake Superior you would take Hwy 61 from Duluth to Thunder Bay, then Hwy 11-17 to Vermilion Bay (Hwy 11 splits off towards Atikokan on the way).
Here you drive right next to Lake Superior as well as along cliffs and through tunnels. There are a bunch of quaint little towns on the way including Grand Portage Lodge and Casino and Grand Marais, Minnesota.
You then cross the border at Pigeon River. It's a much smaller border crossing than is the one at International Falls/Fort Frances and during peak travel times should be a lot quicker to get through.
However, if the border crossing times were identical then this route would add about three hours to your trip as compared to going through Int'l Falls.
If you've got some extra time, check out Old Fort William in Thunder Bay. This is an authentic reconstruction of the old fur trading post that used to exist here. Everybody is dressed in period costume and are busy doing the very things the fur traders and courier du bois would have done in the 1800s. There are dramas and events every day.
It's a big place and you can easily spend most of a day at it.
For a longer but even more spectacular ride, take Hwy. 11-17 east of Thunder Bay to Sault Ste. Marie (again, Hwy 11 splits off along the way).
Here you travel almost entirely on the cliffs and hills of eastern Lake Superior where you can see for dozens of miles across the world's largest lake.
We took the photos above on this route this November as we drove to our annual convention of Nature and Outdoor Tourism Ontario.
Again, there are many neat little towns along the way such as Nipigon, Schreiber, Wawa and White River. Anyone who has taken this route would agree it is one of the most awesome drives in the world.
However it is certainly farther if you are driving from the U.S. Midwest. I would allow an extra day to take this route. You would then cross the border at Sault Ste. Marie in upper peninsula Michigan.
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Sunday, November 15, 2009

We clean all your fish for you

One of the services we offer at Bow Narrows Camp is cleaning all your fish.

You just bring your fish to the fish house, put your cabin number on a plastic tub and put your fish in the tub. We do the rest.

Your fish will either be packaged in shrink wrap on a styrofoam plate to take home with you or will be brought to your cabin or the lodge for you to eat at camp, depending on your instructions.

We remove ALL the bones from fish fillets, including the infamous Y-bones from northern pike.

You get two boneless, delicious fillets from each fish.

We pack the fish that you are taking home on the styrofoam plates so that the fillets can be measured by conservation officers should you be stopped in a roadside check. The COs can tell at a glance that your fish are of legal size. We also leave a small piece of skin attached to the fillets to identify the species.

Conservation officers from Red Lake to the U.S. border now recognize our packaging and have given our customers countless compliments on transporting their fish in such a clear, identifiable manner.

In the photo above former long-timer staffer Janet Schonewille works at the fish cleaning table.

All of our fish cleaners become experts but Janet was one of the best and has been the only girl to do the task.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

2010 reservation availability up, new HST ahead

The 2010 reservation availability is now posted. Just click on it under Favorite Blog Entries to the right.
You can also access Reservation Availability from our main website.
Next I'll update our Rates page on the website. There's not much to change. The rates for 2010 will be the same as for 2009.
The only difference will be in the sales taxes. The Ontario Government is ending its provincial sales tax (PST) in 2010 and is instead combining its tax with the federal government's goods and services tax (GST). The new tax is called the harmonized sales tax (HST).
It goes into effect July 1, 2010. You will only pay the HST from that point.
It will be 13 per cent and will apply to everything.
The former PST and GST also totalled 13 per cent on most things but in the past the accommodation portion of your trip was taxed at a lower rate with the result that the two taxes totalled about 11 per cent on our fishing packages. So the new tax means you will be charged two per cent more in taxes than in the past.
However, it is expected that the federal government will still make available a tax rebate to visitors such as Bow Narrows Camp customers just as before. This was for half of the old GST.
We are still waiting for a ruling on what this will mean under the new HST. If it would again be for half than it would mean that everyone would get a larger rebate.

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Monday, November 9, 2009

The things you discover while hunting

I enjoy discovering things in the fall while I'm grouse or moose hunting almost as much as the hunting itself.
Take this long-forgotten jug that I stumbled on this October.
Was it once filled with moonshine back in the 1926 Red Lake Gold Rush? And how did it end up way back in the bush?
It looks like someone set it down on a stump which has since decayed into just a mound of moss.
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Friday, November 6, 2009

Last summer's flood likely a boost for fish

island in Pipestone Bay
When you live and breathe fishing the way we do here at Bow Narrows Camp the conversation always turns to how whatever weather condition we are experiencing will affect fish populations.

Last summer saw the highest water levels on record for mid-July to mid-September; so what will that do for fishing next year?

It actually should be wonderful. Fish and virtually all other aquatic organisms ultimately benefit from fluctuating water levels provided their annual spawning activities aren't disturbed.

Last year's flood came mid-summer well after northern pike and walleye had spawned in May and was gone by late-September before the lake trout spawned in October.

The benefit comes from the influx of nutrients during the high water and then the aeration and scouring of the bottom by waves in low water. This increases the productivity of this zone of the lake for such things as aquatic vegetation. Water weeds love this fluctuation in water levels. The worst thing for a lake is for the level to remain static as this leads to a decline in weed growth. At least that is the case for relatively cold water lakes such as Red Lake and most other lakes in the Boreal Forest. It might be a different story in the South where too much weed growth can become a problem.

Up here weeds are highly desired as they provide cover for a host of aquatic creatures, from tiny invertebrates to larger things like dragonfly nymphs and of course, minnows and young game fish.

We should see increased weed growth next summer around the edges of the deep bays like Pipestone and the Potato Island basin. It might even be similar to the years soon after a forest fire burned off the north shore of Pipestone Bay in 1986. As any angler knows northern pike fishing blossomed in that region of the lake for years afterwards as deep weedbeds appeared off the sandy shores of this bay.

Shallow bays, or course, continued to produce good weed growth, depending on water temperatures -- more weeds in warm summers and fewer in cold periods.

Another benefit from all the rain last summer is that it provided tons of food for fish in the way of insects and worms.

Fish surveys by the Ministry of Natural Resources last fall showed there is a very large population of young walleye in the lake and this age group in particular should have received a tremendous boost by the extra food sources.

Our expectation is to have a bumper population of eating-sized walleyes next summer in addition to our usual group of lunkers that always provide thrills.

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