Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Mepps and Blue Fox best northern pike spinners

Famous Mepps #5
Blue Fox Vibrax

Year after year there are two favorite spinners for Bow Narrows Camp northern pike fishermen. They are Mepps #5 and Blue Fox #5.

The only exception is when, sometimes, #4s work better!

The best colors in these two spinners can vary from day to day and even throughout the day. But generally, ones with red and white or orange or chartreuse are good choices.

Another factor in using these spinners for pike is that they both have large hooks. They tend to hold a thrashing pike better than do tiny hooks and are also easier to remove.

These lures are best fished by casting. If you "plunk" these babies around weeds, logs or rocks you are certainly going to connect with some big old pike.

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Monday, April 26, 2010

We're not the only creatures fishing on Red Lake

Anglers come from all over the world to sample Red Lake, Ontario for its famous population of fish. But not all of these fishermen are human.

Bald eagles can be seen sitting on trees and flying all over the place as they do their type of fishing -- swooping in from the air and plucking fish from the surface. Their favorite targets are suckers and tulibee but they'll take whatever they can sink their needle-sharp talons into.

Other feathered fish eaters are osprey (quite rare here), merganser ducks, loons and great blue herons.

A four-footed fisherman that is always a thrill to see but hard to photograph is the otter. They often travel in packs or pods, like seals. We had many reports of otter sightings in 2009.

They often seem as interested in you as you are in them. They stretch their bodies high out of the water and snort at you. Try snorting back at them! I've done it and it seems for awhile like I was engaging them in conversation. I must have said something wrong, however, because they soon disappeared.

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Call of the loon is the real call of the wild

An adult loon with its half-grown chick in 2009
Red Lake, Ontario, must have one of the highest populations of loons on the planet.

I have no proof of this but it is hard to fathom how any lake could have more loons than this one.

There is a breeding pair of loons literally at every turn.

Last year almost every pair successfully raised a chick ending a four-year period where nearly every pair lost their eggs due to rising summer water levels. Ironically, last year had the highest summer precipitation in history but it came after the young loons had hatched. It's pretty hard to drown a swimming loon!

We love our loons and for good reason.

Loons never compete with man for gamefish the way cormorants do. One big reason is that loons are territorial. They self-regulate their numbers. It basically works like this: a breeding pair of loons will claim all the water in sight of their nest. No other loon will be allowed to invade.

The reason there are so many pairs of loons on Red Lake is that the lake is so irregularly shaped. There are bends and bays and islands all over the place. So there are lots of places for a pair of loons to call their own.

Loons aren't kind to other swimming birds coming into their territory either. They will attack and kill ducks like mergansers, for instance. I'm sure they feel the same way about cormorants.

So Red Lake has exactly the same population of loons all the time. The number of territories doesn't change and neither do the number of loons.

They have a wide variety of calls and can often be heard all night long "yodelling" to each other.

Loons will build their nests as soon as the ice is off the lakes. They usually lay two potato-size eggs. The young must compete in the same way eaglets do. Frequently only one youngster survives. It's survival of the fittest.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bring water bottle this year instead of bottled water

Water bottle is better for the environment
Last season we installed an extensive water treatment system at camp that provides safe, crystal-clear and great-tasting drinking water at every tap.

We invite everyone this season to bring a water bottle to take drinking water out in the boat with them rather than hauling in cases of water in plastic bottles.

This not only saves weight and space on the Lickety Split for the trip to camp but is kinder to the environment as well since there are no plastic bottles to take back to the dump.

At Bow Narrows Camp we are doing everything we can to reduce our carbon footprint.

We recycle everything that is recyclable. In Red Lake, there has been no recycling of plastic bottles to date but we have been able to recycle aluminum and steel cans and glass bottles.

We have also been able to cut our gasoline consumption nearly in half over the past five years.

Our new cabin cruiser, Lickety Split, uses 1/4 of the fuel of our old boat Raven Quill and is twice as fast. On the down side it carries 3/4 of the load of the old Raven Quill.

Our four-stroke 20 hp Honda outboards are twice as efficient as our previous two-stroke outboards.

Once you've switched to more efficient boats and engines, the greatest factor in fuel consumption is weight. The heavier the boat, or vehicle for that matter, the more fuel it takes to move it and the slower it goes.

Bow Narrows Camp doesn't put weight limits on our customers like the fly-in camps do, but weight is definitely a consideration.

Our transportation schedule and costs are based on hauling nine passengers and their gear at a time in the Lickety Split. We never run out of room in the boat but we sometimes run out of weight-capacity. This means making extra trips to pick up surplus gear and this slows down the schedule of getting people into and out of camp.

Everything you can do to reduce the weight of your gear and supplies is greatly appreciated by your fellow anglers and camp staff but especially by me!

Here are some tips.

The two easiest places to cut weight is in liquids and needless lead.

Cases of beer in cans weigh about half that of beer in bottles, especially when you remember we have to carry the empties back the other way too. A garbage bag full of empty aluminum cans is nearly weightless while you couldn't even pick up a garbage bag full of bottles.

Don't worry about bringing liquor or wine in glass bottles. There just aren't enough of them to make a difference.

Coolers full of water and ice are easily the heaviest things we put on the boat. Water weighs over eight pounds a U.S. gallon and some coolers have four or five gallons of water and ice, which is also water, in them in addition to the food or beverages. So you might have 30-40 pounds of water weight in a cooler just to keep 20-30 pounds of contents cool! Here's what you can do to help us out. Just before boarding the Lickety Split for camp, drain the water and throw away most of the ice. The trip to camp takes just 35 minutes and the cooler's ingredients won't even have begun to warm before you'll be unpacking the cooler into the cabin's refrigerator.

It won't come as a surprise to anyone that lead, the world's heaviest metal, is, well, heavy. But lots of people just don't seem to realize how much of it they're packing. Take tackle boxes for example. How many lead sinkers and jigs are you likely to really use? Most of us keep adding things to our tackle boxes over the years and never take anything out.

If you are bringing an electric trolling motor, restrict yourself to one deep cycle battery and charger for it. Incidentally we can rent you a trolling motor and battery for $50 a week. Just reserve one in advance to make sure it's waiting for you.

Most people, however, find that backtrolling with their Honda works perfectly and therefore don't need an electric motor at all.

The last tip is not to bring huge containers. We need to be able to place the weight in the boat in specific places and large containers prevent this. There's no problem with duffle bags or suitcases, tackle boxes, medium-sized plastic boxes, rod cases, coolers and cases of refreshments. Where we run into trouble is when there are bags big enough to hide a body and coffin-sized plastic boxes. One group last year brought a plastic storage box that was so large it could have doubled as a hot tub.

Nine groups out of 10 bring reasonable amounts of gear. I wish I could get the remaining 10 per cent to recognize they are needlessly heavy and that it causes major problems for everyone else, and isn't kind to the environment either.

Everybody should be perfectly outfitted for a week with: a duffle bag or suitcase, a tackle box, a rod case, a few cases of refreshments, a small cooler for the boat and maybe another small bag for staying at the motel. They will probably have a medium sized cooler for every couple of people for taking home their fish. If they're coming on the Housekeeping Plan you can add a box of groceries per person.

That is what most groups bring and we have no difficulty carrying it and them in the Lickety Split.

We also have some groups who are inspirationally light. When some individuals meet the boat they have their duffle bag in one hand and their tackle box and rod case in the other. That's all they bring. We love you guys!

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Red Lake,Ontario now mostly clear of ice

Enid Carlson photo
Enid Carlson of Viking Outposts and Viking Island Lodge sent me this photo of Bow Narrows Camp taken late Sunday afternoon, April 18. The entire area is ice-free.

Enid and Hugh Carlson flew in one of their aircraft from the Chukuni River over the lake to check out the ice conditions. On their return trip they were able to land right in Howey Bay where the town is located and Hugh was able to tie up to his dock.

Hugh said the lake from town west to Bow Narrows Camp is nearly clear of ice except for the area known as the Stretch, right off the Forestry Point. Here there is still ice shore-to-shore.

But the ice is mostly just mush. Any wind at all would clear it out in hours.

Unfortunately there has been virtually no wind for the last few days and none is in the forecast.

So the ice is just melting on the spot. That takes longer than when the wind drives the ice sheet and crushes it upon the shore and itself.

Even without the wind it seems likely the ice will be gone from the Stretch and in Howey Bay, which is still partly covered, within a day or two. Temperatures are expected to be near 20 C as they have been the last couple of days.

It will be interesting to see what date is picked for the official ice-out date. This has always been controversial. Is it the day the ice is broken up from Howey Bay or is it when the ice is totally gone? Those dates can be several days apart.

I suspect that since Hugh and Enid were able to land their Cessna in Howey Bay on April 18, most people will count that event as the official ice-out date. If so, ice-out on 2010 will have set a record. The previous record was April 20 and the average ice-out date is May 8.

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Early ice-out means a couple more cabins open

Tony releasing big Red Lake pike
The early ice breakup on Red Lake, Ontario means we now have a couple extra cabins available first thing in the season.

We had been reserving these cabins for a construction crew just in case ice-out was later than normal. As it stands now the crew will be long gone by the time we open May 22.

Fishing is likely going to be even better than normal this year. That's usually what happens with an early ice-out.

I would expect our fishermen are going to see a great many northern pike like the one being released by Bow Narrows angler Tony Christiano in this photo from last year.

The cabin we have available is for May 22-29 and May 29-June 5. It is our largest with two stories and eight beds.

If you've got a large group and haven't been able to find a cabin for a spring fishing trip to Ontario or elsewhere in Canada, here's your chance.

We will also rent the cabin to groups with fewer than eight people.

or call 807-475-7246 and talk to Brenda. She will be at that number until about April 26.

After that she will join me at camp.

The phone numbers there are 807-727-2730 and 807-727-0439.

You probably don't want to miss the fishing we're expecting this spring and summer.

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Friday, April 16, 2010

2010 ice-out on Red Lake, Ontario only days away

By all reports and observations, ice out on Red Lake, Ontario is imminent. It remains to be seen if it beats the previous record of April 20.
The ice is said to be black and starting to develop long cracks. That means it is starting to shift. The next big wind should do the trick.
Meanwhile the temperature this weekend is supposed to get to 20+ degrees (C). Those are summer-like temperatures. Above-normal temps are predicted for all of next week.
Once spring breakup occurs I will head to camp and will be out of touch for a couple of weeks, at least as far as blog writing goes.
The next time I will be able to get back on the blog will be when Brenda joins me with the computer in a couple of weeks.
The telephone at camp won't be working except in the evenings. Use the 807-727-2730 number.
You can also reach Brenda over the next two weeks at our winter number: 807-475-7246. Call her regarding reservations.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Keep black flies, mosquitoes and ankle biters away

With 30% DEET it even keeps ankle biters away
I'm often asked if bugs are a problem when fishing at Bow Narrows Camp on Red Lake.

We are, after all, way out in the bush and it only stands to reason that there would be bugs here.

But the truth is that compared to other wild places, the bugs at camp are seldom a problem.

The bug season goes like this: May and early June black flies are out; mid-June through August mosquitoes are out; July through August ankle biters (stable flies) are out; September, after the first frost, black flies come back, briefly.

Except for periods of hot, rainy weather, black flies and mosquitoes are only a bother in the early morning and late-evening. Once the sun is up they hide in the shade because they dehydrate easily. They keep away from the wind for the same reason.

Because Bow Narrows Camp is located at the end of a long peninsula, the wind sweeps down either side and keeps the bugs at bay.

We also keep the grass clipped short around the camp and this also prevents bugs from hanging around.

Likewise, out on the lake, all it takes to get away from mosquitoes and black flies is to stay in sunny or windy areas. It doesn't need to be a gale, just a small breeze will do the trick.

The bug that has caused the most grief in the past is the ankle biter fly. It's real name is the stable fly but since they only bite your ankles, the other name is quite appropriate.

In mid-summer a half dozen or so of these house fly-size critters will land in your boat and will ride along with you waiting for a chance to nip at your ankles. You can simply wear leather boots, but these are uncomfortable in hot weather.

After years of trying various remedies, we have finally found that Deep Woods Sportsmen Off with 30% DEET keeps these pests away. It is the one in the blue can, not green. (Green is Deep Woods but not the Sportsmen formula. It only has 25% DEET.)

Deep Woods Sportsmen OFF also works perfectly for black flies and mosquitoes but really, almost any spray with any level of DEET will work for them. Regular Off at 15% DEET, for instance, keeps them totally away.

Ankle biters, however, consider sprays with less than 30% DEET as condiments.

I would advise everybody coming fishing to Northern Ontario to bring a can of Deepwoods Sportsmen Off with them. One can is plenty for an individual for a week at camp.

We also have a supply for sale in our little store at the lodge.

Besides bug spray, another tip to pass along is not to wear dark-colored clothes.

Mosquitoes are absolutely attracted to black or dark blue clothing. I think they see it as shade.

I remember walking through the bush one time behind two people: one wearing a black t-shirt and the other a white t-shirt. The guy with the black t-shirt must have had 20 mosquitoes on his back while there were none on the white shirt.

Another time we were camping and had to take down a sheet of black plastic we were using as a cover over our kitchen area because the mosquitoes were horrendous. We replaced it with clear plastic and the bugs were immediately gone.

This summer promises to be exceptionally bug-free. There has been almost no precipitation this spring and that means the bush is tinder dry. It also means there is no moisture for things like black flies and mosquitoes to hatch in.

We've seen these conditions before and sometimes we have barely used insect repellant all season.

Bring some anyway, just in case.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The mysterious and beautiful redhorse sucker

Redhorse sucker caught in Red Lake, Ontario
A couple of times each year someone fishing at Bow Narrows Camp will be astonished to pull in a fish with large scales and bright orange fins. Their first thought is that they have caught a carp but closer analysis shows the fish to have a sucker mouth.

It is the elusive redhorse sucker one of two species of suckers in Red Lake, Ontario. The other is the white sucker.

Redhorse suckers can grow very large. I've seen some that had to be well over 10 pounds.

Their sucker mouths are very long, almost like a sturgeon's. For this reason it is difficult for them to grab an artificial lure but once in awhile it does happen. They are powerful fighters and often become airborne during the fray.

Redhorse suckers don't seem to be anywhere as numerous as white suckers. I've never, for instance, seen rivers and creeks full of spawning redhorse in the spring.

Their flesh is loaded with extremely sharp, tiny bones which is a pity because they taste very good and sweet.

It's best just to grab a photo and let them go. This is exactly what Bow Narrows staffer Jeremy Baldwin did in the photo above taken last fall.

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E-mail working but keep other address in case

We are receiving regular e-mail once again.
If you e-mailed us over the weekend, you will need to do it again as all our mail was lost during that period.
This is a real drag and we're endeavoring to solve the problem but until then, remember the alternate e-mail address listed in the previous blog.
If you e-mail us and don't get a reply within a day, send your e-mail again to the alternate address.

Monday, April 12, 2010

E-mail problem again

For the second time this winter we are not getting e-mail sent to our normal e-mail address or by filling out the request for information on our website.
However, you can still reach us by e-mailing to this address:
Or call us at our winter phone number: 1-807-475-7246
Sorry for any inconvenience.
The problem began on Friday, April 09. If you sent any e-mail to our normal address on Friday or afterward, you should resend it to the address above.

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Remember to bring Outdoors Card and passport

Here are two things to remember to bring when you come fishing this summer:

1. New Ontario Outdoors Card

2. Passport

Everyone who fished in Ontario last year had to apply for an Outdoors Card. It cost $9.

The cards were mailed over the winter and should be in the hands of all anglers by now.

If you applied for one last year but still haven't received it, you need to call the following phone number immediately and get it issued.

That Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources Outdoors Card Centre number is: 1-800-387-7011.

You must call them and rectify the problem before coming to Ontario.

If you come to Ontario without the card you must apply for another, again for $9.
If you didn't fish in Ontario last year, you will need to apply for the card when you get your fishing licence at camp and it will be mailed to you next winter.

Ontario residents have had the cards for years but this will be the first year that non-residents will also carry them.

The card will streamline the licence-issuing procedure.

This will be the second year that all people crossing the U.S.-Canada border will need passports.

If you still haven't gotten yours, don't delay any longer. The process can take longer than expected sometimes.

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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Massive lake trout caught and released in '09

Bow Narrows Camp angler Ken Conkle hoists a 42.5-inch lake trout which he caught and released last August in the photo at top.

Ken is also the guy holding a whopper of a northern pike on the home page of our website. That fish was also released.

All lake trout caught in Red Lake must be released. The trout are not reproducing correctly and a program has been ongoing for several years where the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources nets wild trout in the fall near Bow Narrows Camp, strips them of eggs and milt and raises them in a hatchery. The fingerlings are released 18 months later.

In the bottom photo MNR biologist Lori Skitt holds a male trout caught during the spawning project last fall. Bow Narrows Camp staffer Jeremy Baldwin in the background helped with the netting.

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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Whitefish Lake ice on April 3 and day later, April 4

Whitefish Lake April 3, 2010
Ice-out April 4, 2010, Whitefish Lake, ON

Here's a good example of how quick ice can clear from a lake.

The first photo shows Whitefish Lake yesterday, April 3. The lake is full of ice but a high wind is starting to move the ice sheet around and drive the ice up on the shoreline.

The second photo is the same place today, April 4. The lake is clear of ice and the only remnants are piled high along the shores.

This is right near our home in Nolalu, about 300 miles southeast of Red Lake. As an example of how early ice-out is this year, most seasons ice fishermen crowd onto Whitefish Lake on April 15 as the last day of walleye season and then the ice breaks up two weeks to a month later. This year they can put a boat in the water and fish before the season ends.

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Saturday, April 3, 2010

How will early ice-out affect spring fishing?

Douglas Falls, March 17, 2010
If the ice on Red Lake and other Northwestern Ontario lakes goes out record-early or even just earlier than normal, what will that do to fishing this spring and summer?

The ice on Red Lake is in bad shape and given the right conditions could disappear within a couple of weeks. Just check out Enid Carlson's blog for the most recent evidence.

Enid and Hugh Carlson own Viking Outposts and Viking Island Lodge and live on the shore of Red Lake. She shared the above photo of the bay leading to Douglas Falls, at the west end of Red Lake and a favorite fishing spot for Bow Narrows Camp anglers.

This shot was taken on St. Patrick's Day, March 17, during a snowmobile trip to Viking Island on Douglas Lake. That was more than two weeks ago but even then you can see that the lake was melting rapidly. Since then the ice thickness has probably been cut in half by the unusually warm temperatures for this time of year.

The weird weather continued on Good Friday with a thunderstorm!

Anyway, as it always does, the question being asked by anglers is what effect will an early ice-out have on fishing?

It will probably lead to an earlier spawning run by northern pike and walleye. Pike spawn as soon as the ice has cleared from the shorelines and from weedy and brushy areas at the mouths of creeks. Walleye spawn as soon as the ice is gone from the lake. Their favorite places are fast flowing streams but they will also spawn on gravel beds around the lake.

Normally the earlier the spawn, the more successful it is. Tremendous walleye hatches in particular usually occur from each early ice-out.

There are exceptions, however. If the weather turns unusually cold after ice-out, it can negate the time advantage. The best scenario is for the warm weather to continue so that the water progressively warms to the summer. This way the eggs develop rapidly, the young hatch and move off the spawning grounds to cover before they become the victims of predators or just accidental death.

So, early ice-out is usually a great thing for the fish. What about the fishermen?

Of course they too ultimately will benefit from the higher fish populations, but what happens this year?

On Red Lake warmer-than-normal water temperatures when fishing season opens almost always means great walleye fishing. The fish should be totally done with spawning and will be feeding aggressively.

The same holds true for northern pike. However, it can mean that dead-bait fishing will not be as successful. This style of fishing appeals most to pike when they are cold or tired from spawning. If the water is warmer than usual and it has been weeks since spawning they will hit artificial lures better than passive dead-bait. They will also be moving away from their spawning areas to look for prey.

If an early ice-out leads to warmer than normal spring lake temperatures, lake trout will no doubt be deeper than usual. The trout are temperature-sensitive and in a typical year will be caught right on the surface for the first couple of weeks after ice-out, then they start moving to deeper water.

This year lake trout anglers may need to add weight to their lines when trolling to get their lures down to 15 feet or so.

All lake trout on Red Lake must be live-released immediately. Lures for lake trout must have single, barbless hooks. No live or dead bait is permitted for lake trout.

Excellent spring lake trout lures on Red Lake are salmon spoons that have single hooks. The barbs on these can be pinched down with pliers. These are best fished by trolling.

So, in conclusion, IF ice-out happens earlier than normal and IF the weather stays warm from that point on, THEN I would expect at the start of fishing season that walleyes will be biting better than normal, northern pike to be more aggressive but spread out from their usual spawning locations and lake trout to be deeper.

It shouldn't have any effect on this summer's fishing other than it could lead to earlier-than-normal weed emergence. That's a good thing as weeds are habitat for young walleye and northern pike and for minnows and other aquatic life.

After last year's flood from incredibly rainy weather and the nutrients that the rain flushed into the lake, an early start to the growing season should see weed growth around the edges of the deep bays. In the past when similar conditions followed forest fires that also created lots of nutrients these areas were bonanzas for northern pike and walleyes.

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