Thursday, December 29, 2011

Down jacket on sale at Cabela's great for fishing

I mentioned in a previous blog about what to pack for a Canadian fishing trip that Cabela's makes a great down jacket that is the ultimate in warmth and which goes on sale once a year. Well, that sale is on right now. It's Cabela's Mid-Winter Inventory Clearance Sale and lasts until Feb. 7.
The jacket is Cabela's 550 Goose-Down Jacket which normally sells for $59.99 but is on sale for $29.99.
I bought one of these many years ago and can vouch that it is well-made.
This is a better alternative to bring for unexpected cold weather than a heavy sweater. It stuffs into a smaller space and is warmer.
Down garments look puffy but crush down to fit underneath whatever you are wearing. If you wear this jacket underneath your breathable rain coat you are prepared for anything nature can throw at you.
I bring my down jacket to camp each year and wear it under my Dry-Plus rainwear for those times when it snows or is near-freezing. The rainwear blocks the wind and precipitation and the down jacket provides the warmth.
In fact, this is also the very combination I wear all winter long here at our home in Nolalu, even in -30 C temperatures.
I don't believe you can find anything warmer or more versatile, especially not for $29.99.
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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Perfect weather for kicksledding and ice fishing

Jumbo Perch Whitefish Lake
kicksled with icefishing gear
Salmo Darter
I've been out ice fishing on Whitefish Lake several times now and caught one real jumbo perch. It weighed at least a pound.
Conditions are perfect for using my kicksled which is to say there is almost no snow on the ice. The lake is covered with about eight inches of pure blue ice. I am able to cut through that with my Nils ice auger in about 15 seconds.
I've had the best success the last couple of years using two relatively new ice fishing lures, the Salmo Darter and the Lindy Darter. These short, lipless crankbaits are meant to be jigged vertically such as when ice fishing but would also work at camp to vertical jig beneath a boat. I don't think I've seen any of our guests using them. They should give it a try.
I like to remove the end treble hook and replace it with a single hook on which I place a bit of bait such as a Gulp waxworm or perch eye.
The single hook does not catch the sides of the hole like the treble. Nothing is more frustrating than to watch a fish escape at the bottom of the hole because your lure is stuck on the edge of the ice.
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Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas from our family to yours

We have about eight inches of snow at our home in Nolalu which is about 30 miles from Thunder Bay, Ontario, so it seems certain that we will have a white Christmas.
We are fortunate this year to have all our family home for Christmas including our son Matt and our grandsons Raven and Quillan (pictured) and also our son Josh and of course, our dog Sam.
We would like to wish you and your family a safe and joyous holiday.
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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What makes a great fisherman?

Ben Godin and Joe Magee with nice pike
Troy Bechtel released large pike
It is our good fortune to have many truly great fishermen at Bow Narrows Camp.
So what is a great fisherman? In my opinion, a great fishermen is someone who meets the following four criteria.
1. Adapts to the conditions.
The difference between shopping and fishing is that fishing is different every time you do it.
Conditions out-of-doors are dependent upon the weather and the season. Not only does the location of fishing spots change but so do the preferences of the fish themselves.
There is much more to know than just the water temperature, for instance, which is indeed an important factor. Perhaps the water temperature plus the photo period (length of daylight) make fish behave in a certain manner. Sometimes though, there are just unseen factors that can only be guessed. For example, maybe the water conditions have created a hatch of aquatic insects, maybe this happens only cyclically every unknown number of years. Maybe conditions years ago created a great year-class of a certain species of minnows or other forage. Any of these things might lead the fish to being in a certain place and behaving in a certain manner.
The point is, if a person always fishes in the same place and in the same way his success at catching fish is going to vary drastically from outing to outing.
The adaptable fisherman, however, will try different methods and different locations, sometimes guessing at what is going on and guessing right and sometimes just being lucky to find the right combination of technique and location.
We have one excellent walleye angler whose favorite technique is to use jigs with plastic tails and live bait. He usually drifts or anchors and casts the jigs into known hot spots.
This just about always works, the only thing that changes is the color of the tails. But on one trip I was surprised to hear him say that a better system that week was to troll Rapalas. He didn't know why, but that's what was working. He had adapted.
Similarly, sometimes northern pike are lying on the deep side of weedbeds, sometimes right up on shore, sometimes in the logs or in the rocks. They might prefer spinners on one occasion and spoons on another. Inexplicably they might even prefer top-water baits. Or, they might want dead bait.
You usually can't look at the lake and determine what is going to work. You have to try different spots and techniques and be alert to what is the best. That's the key, be aware of what is happening and adapt.
2. Releases large fish.
For probably 20 years now it has been obvious that to ensure fish populations remain sustainable, it is necessary for anglers to release the big ones and keep smaller or mid-sized fish to eat.
Big fish are the big spawners. They are almost all females and produce the most eggs. They also have the genetics for fast growth and large size. When a person kills a big fish he is reducing the lake's potential to sustain harvesting of that species. In my mind he is being disrespectful to the fish and the lake.
The world's population just passed 7 billion. That's more than three times as many people as were around when my mom and dad took over Bow Narrows Camp in 1961. The planet just can't support this many people by following ignorant and wasteful practices of the past, such as keeping big fish.
Big fish are also unhealthy to eat. They are old, the top of the aquatic food chain, and all the heavy metals that occur naturally in nature are accumulated in their tissues. A 10-pound walleye probably has 30 times the contaminants as a two-pounder. That's because a 10-pounder might be 30 years old while a two-pounder is only a few years old.
3. Shares his knowledge. A great fisherman always tries to help others enjoy the sport in a sustainable manner. Every week at camp we see some of our guests help others who aren't doing as well. They give them tips on what is working, share lures and bait and even invite them to join them. It's great to see and why not? If you are fishing in a sustainable manner, which is to say you are releasing large fish and not keeping more than you can eat, you are not harming the fish population. There are fish enough for everyone.
4. Appreciates all of Nature. A great fisherman just enjoys fishing; the catching of fish is a bonus. A day can be gloriously sunny or excitingly windy. There are magnificent thunderheads to see, eagles perched on snags, moose standing in the grass, beavers cutting trees and all sorts of wonderful things to take in. There is also the company of your companions to enjoy, stories to tell and to listen to, jokes to share. And silence to contemplate in.
Fishing is all about the experience. If all you want is the fish, then just go shopping.

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Requests for deposits are in the mail

Bow Narrows Camp morning scene
Every group with tentative reservations at camp for 2012 will be receiving a letter from me in the next week or so asking them to confirm their reservations with deposits. We require $100 per person to continue holding reservations. Deposits are fully refundable upon 60 days notice of cancellation.
Many people have already sent their deposits and I will have written them confirming their reservations.
New this year is that guests get to choose their departure boat time at the end of the week when they make their deposit. They can also choose their pickup time in Red Lake at the start of the week. That part is unchanged from the past. So, those who send or call in their deposits first get the first choice.
You can make your deposit by check, sent to our winter address or by credit card by calling us at our winter phone number. You can include your HST rebate check from last year's trip as part of your deposit. Just sign the back and send it to our winter address.
Although we have been holding many of our reservations without deposit since last summer, we will now move quickly to secure them with deposits. We would like to hear from everybody in the next 30 days.
I always caution group organizers not to pay the entire group's deposit out of their own pocket. If they do, they don't really know who is coming. It is when the organizer asks each person for his $100 that the rubber meets the road. Those who are serious about joining the group will step up. Those who aren't will change their mind.
From our end, we need to know how many people are really planning to come. We realize, of course, that some people may need to drop out later for personal reasons. That's why we have our refund policy. But it hurts us when someone books a cabin for 8 and only four show up and we had turned down another group of 8.
Planning is always an imperfect process but we just ask that everyone do their best and keep us informed as the group's numbers go up and down. We know from years of experience that people who ante up their $100 are serious and those who don't are not. So, if you are a group organizer, tell your members to give you their deposit or send or call it in to us within the next month. If they don't, they aren't going.
The photo on this blog was taken by Bow Narrows angler Doug Billings. It is of camp on a misty morning in July 2011. It is our guests who continually renew our appreciation of the natural beauty of Red Lake and Northwestern Ontario. It really is breathtaking, isn't it?
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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Fishing off the dock can be a good technique

bobber fishing
Every summer a number of our anglers "discover" how good the fishing can be right off the dock at camp.
Usually they fish for walleye with live bait in the evening and are delighted to find they can do as well as out in the boat. Sometimes they even do better!
We've had several groups where someone simply couldn't fish in the boat, usually because of back problems. So they took a lawn chair down to one of the many docks we have and tried their luck.
When their buddies came back at lunch they were astonished to find the man on the dock had not only caught a lot of fish but big ones as well. We're talking 26+inch walleye, 44-inch northern pike and in the spring, lunker lake trout.
I remember one elderly gentleman, probably in his 80s, who got a nine-pound walleye and 20-pound pike on the same day. They were netted by his wife and the pair of them were absolutely thrilled. Soon the rest of their family joined them and they were all hauling in fish.
While it is possible just to cast a spoon or spinner and catch a fish at any time, the people who do the best use live or dead bait and a float. The very best system is a slip bobber because the bobber slips down your line right to the hook or jig and lets you cast it out in a natural motion.
The old red-and-white plastic bobbers also work but since they are clipped to the line they have to be flung out in a cumbersome manner. You usually want the bobber about 8 feet or more from the hook. It's a difficult thing to make a cast with eight feet of line, bobber and hook beneath your rod tip.
What you are trying to do is let the wind or the current (there is a current in our narrows) take your bait down the shoreline while keeping it within a foot or two of the bottom.
If your bobber that was moving along stops or tips over, it indicates the hook is on the bottom. You can reel it back in, move up the bobber or stopper in the case of slip bobbers, and cast it out again.
In this manner you can also detect underwater structure that may hold fish.
There is as much to know and learn about bobber fishing as any other technique.
The dock is a good place to master this.
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Monday, December 12, 2011

Tips on renewing Non-Canadian Outdoors Card

When you go to renew your non-resident Ontario Outdoors Card on-line, you are going to find a lot of pages of info to wade through first.
Here's some tips on short-cutting the process.
1. Click on this link or cut and paste the following URL address into your browser window:
Buy an Ontario Licence Online - Provincial Services Division, Ministry of Natural Resources - Government of Ontario, Ministry of Natural Resources
2. Go half way down the page and click on START YOUR LICENCE PURCHASE HERE
3. On the left side of the page click on Licence/Permit Purchase
4. At the bottom of the page click on Begin Licence Purchase
(If you don't have a recent version of Adobe Acrobat Reader you will be prompted to download it)
5. Choose Non-Canadian Resident
Choose Yes to being an existing customer with an Outdoors Card Number
Type in your Outdoors Card Number and Date of Birth and Zip Code
6. Purchase the Outdoors Card for $9.63 and check out.
You then pay with a credit card and your new card is mailed to you. You can also print out a paper temporary card. That's a good idea. You don't know for sure how long it's going to take to get the mailed one.
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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Renew your Outdoors Card when notified

Ontario Outdoors Card
Pleasure Craft Operators Card
The first non-residents to get an Ontario Outdoors Card, back in 2009, are beginning to receive renewal notices. The card cost $9 and was good for three years.
You want to go ahead and renew your card. It still costs $9 plus change and is good for another three years.
What is an Ontario Outdoors Card?
First of all, it is not your fishing licence but rather the card that contains all the information that you or we tediously filled out when you got a fishing licence. You know, where you live, when were you born, how tall you are, colour of your eyes, etc.
Although for the past three years you had to give that information anyway, even though you had the Outdoors Card, that is all going to change next summer.
Starting in 2012 we at camp and all other licence issuers will have an electronic machine like those used for credit cards. When you get to camp we will just swipe the card, punch in a code for the type of fishing licence you want, and print out your licence. The whole process should take just a couple of minutes. This is going to save everybody, including you, a whole lot of time that could better be spent fishing.
You need to have both your Outdoors Card and fishing licence together when you are fishing.
What happens if you forget to bring your Outdoors Card? You will have to buy another which will be sent to you the next winter. And you will have to input all your info the old-fashioned and time-consuming way again.
So, bring your card! If you get a card renewal notice, renew it. There may be options to get the fishing licence too but it might be a good idea not to do that. For one thing, we supply a free conservation fishing licence with all our fishing packages.
Speaking of cards, every Canadian boat driver now has a Pleasure Craft Operators Card, similar to the one in the second photo. It comes from taking a course on boating safety and is a requirement to operate a vessel in Canada. The card is good for life.
If you are a non-resident of Canada, you must either have a card like this or fill out our Rental Boating Agreement which acts as a one-week boating safety certificate. It is free but takes about 10 minutes to complete. If you do have a Pleasure Craft card, we just write the number on the Rental form and you are on your way.
Pleasure Craft Operators courses are available on-line and typically cost about $40. Again, the card is good for life. A card from the U.S. is also good in Canada.
You must carry the Boater's Card or the Rental Boating Agreement anytime when you are boating. A Conservation Officer or police officer may ask to see your boating credentials as well as your fishing licence. They may also ask you to identify the required safety equipment in your boat. The Number One safety item is your PFD -- personal floatation device or life vest.
Seat cushions do not qualify as a PFD.
We supply PFDs and the rest of the safety kit in all our boats but you need to know where it is, what's in it, and what it is used for. It is specified on the boat agreement but it's a good idea to ask our staffer who shows you your boat at the beginning of the week.
Incidentally, if you are wearing your PFD, something that every boater should always do, you probably won't be asked for anything else. Ninety-nine per cent of being safe in a boat is to wear a PFD at all times.
Conservation officers and police are also always on the lookout for alcoholic beverages. It is illegal to have any type of alcoholic beverage, including beer, in a boat. Actually, the law states it is illegal to have an opened case of beer or container of liquor. So it is OK to bring full cases of beer in our camp boat, the Lickety Split, on your way out to camp. You can consume the beer anywhere on shore at camp or in your cabin, just not in a boat, whether you are driving it or not. You cannot drink in the Lickety Split, for instance, even though you are just a passenger.
We occasionally see boaters who not only take beer with them but also proudly line up their empty cans in the splash tray at the back of the boat. They would be certain to get charged if they were inspected.
In Canada, drinking and driving, be it a car or a boat, is a felony. People convicted of this offence are not allowed back into the country for 10 years.
So please, do the beer drinking on shore.
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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The best top-water lures for northern pike

Zara Spook
Live Target Walking Frog
Live Target Hollow Body Frog
Snag Proof Moss Mouse
More and more, it seems, anglers are discovering that top-water baits can be an excellent choice for catching northern pike.
There are some excellent new northern pike top water lures on the market. We saw a few of these at camp last summer and the fishermen who used them reported great results.
The first lure, however, is an old-time favorite, the Zara Spook.
This lure is basically a floating torpedo that zigs and zags with each flick of your rod tip. It comes in many colours and sizes but for fishing northern pike on Red Lake, don't get too large on your lure size. Four-to-six inches is plenty big to catch pike that can weigh up to 30 pounds. Bigger lures tire you out and catch fewer fish.
The next two lures are very new. They are the Live Target Walking Frog and the Live Target Hollow Body Frog. Live Target is becoming known as a premium-quality lure maker. It's lures are extremely realistic. They are also pricey.
In our experience, the Walking Frog, which is a hard-body lure, worked the best of the two but it might be too early to decide. These lures just recently came on the market. The Hollow Body Frog is soft-bodied. Again, you impart the action to these lures by twitching your rod tip.
The final lure may seem the cheesiest (pun intended). It is the Snag Proof Moss Mouse. We had one person last summer who caught 35 pike in one day on this, basically a rubber mouse. It isn't exactly a top-water lure as it sinks about a foot deep. It is simply reeled back to the boat and has an enticing swimming action.
You won't catch many pike on either the Hollow Body Frog or the Moss Mouse without making a modification to these lures, however. We have discovered that it is practically impossible to hook a northern pike with lures that have the hooks pointed upwards. The pike strike at them, just seldom get hooked. All you have to do is turn the hooks around, so that they point downward. Instantly those strikes turn into fish!
Of course, a lure with hooks protruding downwards is no longer weed-proof but there just doesn't seem to be any alternative. Do you want to catch fish or just not catch weeds?
If you really want a weedless lure, try the Johnson Silver Minnow but always use a trailer on this lure's single hook.

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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Buck and Sam the best of buddies

Our outside worker, Ben Godin, brought his two-year-old black Lab, Buck, with him to camp last summer and he and our chocolate Lab, Sam, instantly became the best of friends.
Just about every day you would see them play-wrestling and sleeping against each other. Both dogs' favorite thing to do was to go in the boat when Ben emptied fish guts on an island in the evening.
Sam is considerably older; he'll be nine in January, but he really enjoyed the younger Buck's company.
In the fall we took both dogs duck hunting. It was the first duck hunting Sam had ever done. Previously I had only hunted him for grouse. But Ben is such an experienced duck hunter I thought it a shame not to learn from him while he was at camp last fall.
Buck had hunted the previous year and knew all about it. The whole experience was an eye-opener for Sam. But after a couple of trips, he wanted to retrieve ducks too. Unfortunately, I didn't get any after that. But there's always next year.
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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Still one of the most affordable fishing trips

Our 2012 rates are now posted on our website.
It's the first change in rates we've had since 2008.
As you can imagine, a lot of our costs have increased over that time, especially fuel and food.
We will start immediately sending our brochure and new rates sheet out to all guests with existing reservations and asking them for deposits to secure their reservations.
We've done a lot of research this fall and have found that a trip to Bow Narrows Camp is still one of the most affordable in Ontario, especially among remote operations.
Something new this year will be that guests can reserve their departure trip time at the end of the week when they give us their deposit. So, you will know far in advance when you will be departing camp and can make the rest of your travel arrangements.
Another change is our first boat on departure days from camp will leave at 6:30 a.m. and the second at 8 a.m. We will be diligent in scheduling people so that not too many want to depart on the same day.
Boat times on arrival days in town remain the same at 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., if necessary.
Speaking of the Lickety Split, check out this beautiful photo of our boathouse with the Lickety Split under cover. It was taken by Doug Billings, one of our guests with a real flare for photography.
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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tim Horton's is up and running in Red Lake

No sooner do I write about Tim Horton's restaurant in Red Lake being nearly completed than I see in the Northern Sun newspaper that it has officially opened!
Way to go Timmy's!
I'll be by for a double-double in the near future.
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Monday, November 28, 2011

Our Boreal Forest world's largest ecosystem

Boreal Forest, Red Lake, Ontario
When you come to northern Canada such as Red Lake in Northwestern Ontario, you will be immersed in the world's largest ecosystem -- the Boreal Forest.
Viewed from space, the Boreal Forest, named for Boreas, the Greek god of the north wind, is said to be a green band that goes completely around the world in the northern latitudes.
It is certainly beautiful, as this scene taken at camp last fall by our brother-in-law Ron Wink shows. But it also is vitally important to the health of the world too.
The Boreal Forest covers 58 per cent of Canada which is the second-largest country in the world. (Russia is the largest). It also represents 50 per cent of the entire forest area on Earth.
And while it is vital as the breeding area for hundreds of species of birds and is home to countless species of animals and fish, its greatest importance these days is all the carbon it contains.
It holds 22 per cent of all the carbon on the surface of the Earth in its forests, peatlands and soils.
That's twice as much as the tropical forests.
Carbon that is tied up in the form of trees and peat is carbon that is not in the atmosphere, contributing to the greenhouse effect and raising the globe's temperature. In fact, each tree holds about a ton of carbon. It got there, of course, through photosynthesis where a plant uses sunlight and water to convert carbon dioxide (from the atmosphere) into a sugar and releases oxygen back to the atmosphere. For this reason, forests have often been called the "lungs of the Earth."
No wonder the air quality in a forest is always excellent.
2011, incidentally, is the International Year of the Forest.

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Walleye fishing to be incredible for years

Troy Bechtel
Walleye fishing on Red Lake is going to be spectacular for years, based on the fish we caught last summer.
There seemed to be a million walleyes just getting big enough to keep. By season-end in 2011 these fish were 14-15 inches long. Since they grow about two inches a year, in 2012 there are going to be hoards of fish 16-17 inches. That is absolutely the perfect-size walleye to keep and eat.
That year class will dominate the catch now for years to come. Next year they will be 18-19 inches, the year after 19-21 etc.
Walleye begin to spawn at 18 inches in Red Lake. So expect a reproduction boost from this year class in a year or two.
There are lots of bigger walleye too but the hard part is getting one before the smaller guys take your hook.
Last year saw phenomenal fishing for walleye with some people reporting as many as 100 fish in as little as an hour. More often, of course, a great fishing day would be 50-100. Usually people catching large numbers of fish were getting mostly small ones. The big ones take longer to land.
Although big walleye were found in all areas, the ticket to targeting strictly big ones was to fish in deeper water, at least when the shallow waters were stuffed with the smaller ones.
Most people had no problem filling their limits with 17-18 inchers. You are only allowed one fish over 18 inches and we encourage people to only use that option for a lunker they accidentally kill.
Still, some people keep them anyway and we saw quite a few really fat, muscular, 24-26-inchers being kept.
Biggest walleye I heard about, which was released on the spot, was a 31-incher. It was caught in deeper water fishing for lake trout.
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Friday, November 25, 2011

Tim Hortons, Super 8 coming to Red Lake

Red Lake is getting two renowned food and accommodation franchises: Tim Hortons restaurant and Super 8 motel.
Both will be located along Highway 105, on the right just before you enter town.
Tim Hortons is better known in Canada than in the U.S. Virtually every town in Canada has at least one Tim Hortons, known for its coffee and donuts but also breakfast and lunch menus.
Super 8 will be the first chain hotel ever to open in Red Lake.
Both businesses should do a thriving trade.
Although Red Lake does have other restaurants, many of them are not open during extended hours. There has been a shortage of motel rooms in Red Lake for years. There are only three local motels in the area and these are usually filled with mineral exploration crews. Visitors such as fishermen usually need to book a room a year in advance to get a reservation.
Construction of the Tim Hortons is nearly complete but the Super 8 was just beginning when we left camp the end of October. Both are expected to be ready by the spring of 2012.
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Thursday, November 24, 2011

"Lifejackets." Learn from Professor Popsicle

comfortable PFD
At Bow Narrows Camp we provide comfortable PFDs for all our guests. PFDs are personal floatation devices which most people would call lifejackets. There is a technical difference, however. The Coast Guard requires lifejackets to float a person face up even when they are unconscious. For this reason lifejackets are bulkier, usually of a keyhole design worn around the neck, are uncomfortable and just about never worn.
PFDs, on the other hand, are slender vests or inflatable suspenders that keep a person afloat as long as they are able to turn themselves right side up. They are very comfortable and should be worn any time you are in a boat. All our staff wear them. Brenda and I wear them. All professional outdoors people such as conservation officers, biologists, etc., wear them. So do police officers.
And PFDs, despite the objection of the Coast Guard, are also known by everyone as "lifejackets."
Not wearing a PFD or "lifejacket" is about as smart as not wearing a seatbelt in an automobile or not wearing a helmet when you play football.
Why the Coast Guard doesn't make wearing PFDs mandatory is beyond me. Canadian Coast Guard regulations only state there must be a PFD or lifejacket for each person in the boat. You don't legally have to wear one. Stupid, stupid, stupid!
Well, make sure you are smarter. Always wear your PFD.
In the photo, long-time Bow Narrows angler Charles Howard wears a comfortable PFD.
I think the problem comes from the Coast Guard also being responsible for Maritime shipping regulations. You know, ships as long as football fields. They apply the same rules for the big vessels to recreational boats. But there is a huge difference. Ships sink, boats capsize.
When a person needs a lifejacket aboard a ship, it probably comes after hearing an announcement on the PA system, "Now hear this, this is your captain speaking, all passengers are ordered to report to their muster stations and don lifejackets."
When you need a PFD aboard a boat it comes a split-second after striking a log or rock. Everything is absolutely normal one moment, and the next you are flung into the water. There is no time to put on your PFD. There isn't even time to shout, "Look out!"
It is heartening to see most of our guests wearing their PFDs these days. Many of them bring their own. That's smart. If you go shopping for them you will find one that is the perfect fit for your build.
Lots of people opt for the self-inflating models. These look like suspenders that are joined behind the neck. They use a CO2 cartridge that inflates the PFD whenever it is immersed in water.
But sadly, there are still some people who just use their PFD for padding on the back of their boat seat or cram it under the bow seat.
To fully understand why you should always wear your PFD, we recommend you visit the Cold Water Boot Camp website.
Learn from Canadian professor Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht, also known as Professor Popsicle for his studies of hypothermia.
The Boot Camp website has some eye-opening videos on what happens to people who end up in cold water. And when you watch these volunteers struggle in the water, consider that they are professionals who are in the peak of physical condition. Most of us would have an even harder time.
One of the lessons Professor Popsicle teaches is the 1-10-1 rule.
When you hit water that is 7 C or colder, you instinctively hyperventilate. This goes on for about one minute. Don't fight it, he advises, just know that in about a minute your breathing will return to normal. You then have 10 minutes before you lose control of your arms and legs. Finally, it takes one hour, even in the coldest water, before you go into hypothermia, a life-threatening condition.
So, let's consider the situation of a person wearing a PFD whose boat flips or who is thrown from a boat. They will instinctively gasp and ingest water when they hit the cold lake but thanks to their PFD, immediately float on the surface where they can cough up the liquid while waiting for their breathing to slow down. They then have 10 minutes to swim to the boat or shore. Of people who drown in Canada each year, 66% are within 15 metres of safety and 43% are within two metres (about six feet)! They could easily have reached safety in the 10 minutes before the blood flow shuts down to their arms and legs, a self-preservation system that tries to keep the body core warm. Remember, the reason the person is in the water is probably because they hit something, like a deadhead or a reef. These are almost always right near the shoreline, not out in the middle of the lake.
But, let's say somehow the person did end up floating in the middle of the lake. He has at least one hour for someone to pick him up before hypothermia sets in. Hypothermia, incidentally, is when a person's body core temperature plunges. The loss of control of extremities like arms and legs is not technically hypothermia.
Also, a person can extend the onset of hypothermia by getting back into or onto the boat, even if it is filled with water (all boats float, even upside down), huddling with other people in the water, etc. The point is there is ample opportunity for a rescue.
Now, let's take the case of person not wearing a PFD. A few seconds after he is unexpectedly thrown from the boat he would likely be dead. That very first gasp would probably do it. However, in the event he survives the plunge and gets his breathing under control 60 seconds later, he also has 10 minutes to get to safety. If he tries to help someone else in the water, probably also not wearing a PFD, it may take more than 10 minutes at which point his arms and legs become useless and he drowns.
It's really a no-brainer. Always wear your PFD.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

North shore of Lake Superior -- awesome!

north shore Lake Superior
There are stunning scenes like this at every bend on Hwy 17 between Sault Ste Marie and Thunder Bay.
Brenda and I took this route around the north shore of Lake Superior on our way to and from the annual convention of Nature and Outdoor Tourism Ontario which was held this year in Sudbury, a couple of weeks back.
The weather was clear and with the incredible scenery, the miles just flew by.
If you haven't traveled around Lake Superior, the world's largest lake, you are truly missing out.
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Monday, November 21, 2011

Gorgeous cross fox visits our home

cross fox
Caught this photo of a beautiful cross fox at our home in Nolalu this week. It comes by every few days.
It isn't very afraid of our chocolate Lab, Sam. It just sits down about 30 yards away even though he gives it his most ferocious-sounding barks.
The fox is one of the color variations of a red fox. The ones that are part dark and part light are usually called "cross foxes" because the dark normally crosses at the shoulders. Most cross foxes are lighter in color than this one.
Foxes can also be totally black with fine silver tips to their hair. They are called "silver foxes."
All three color variations: red, cross and silver, can come from the same litter. By far the most common, of course, is the red.
Did you know that the red fox is not a native North American animal? They were brought to this continent by the English who wanted to carry on the tradition of fox hunting.
They are sure found everywhere now.
I've had a bad case of writer's block for the last couple of months and thought I would use this photo of the unusual fox to get back in the groove.
I've written about 400 blog entries over the past few years, 300 or so of which are still on the blog (I deleted some of the old ones). So, it just seems to me I've covered about everything. This winter I'm going to lean toward more philosophical musings rather than how-to stuff. There will be some of both, of course. And there are always newsworthy items to pass on.
I want to thank everybody for wishing me well while I recovered from my back problem.
It is totally back to normal now. And that's fortunate because it is deer season! And in the not too-distance future, ice fishing!
Thanks again.
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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cabin 7 gets a real, below-frost-line foundation

Our brother-in-law Ron Wink and staffer Ben Godin turned into gophers to put in a superb foundation for Cabin 7 in September.
This entailed jacking up the cabin and digging deep holes to below the frost line. Foundation pads were placed at the bottom of the holes and preserved wood foundation posts installed to the beams under the cabin. It's the same foundation system we use in all of the newer cabins. Cabin 7 was the first cabin built by my father, Don, at the camp. I think that was in about 1967.
The soil under the cabin was hardpan clay that had to be dislodged with sledge hammers and chisels, in some cases. Needless to say, it was hard work and I was only able to help with the above-ground portion due to my back problems.
Ron and Ben also removed the porch from the cabin in preparation for a much larger porch and deck to be built next spring.
Ron and wife Lynda (Brenda's sister), dropped into camp like angels from the sky in September to help us do projects like Cabin 7's foundation and new shingles on Cabin 10, as well as arduous year-end tasks like washing all of the camp's blankets and putting away absolutely everything for the winter. Lynda also helped Brenda with all of the kitchen work.
It was thanks to Ron and Lynda that Brenda and I were able to leave camp a week earlier than normal this fall.
We are sure lucky to have people like them in our lives.
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Friday, October 28, 2011

Many, many thanks to our great 2011 staff

Steph Aires, Ben Godin and Jenn Bucci were our spectacular staff in 2011.
On behalf of Brenda and myself and all of our guests I would like to thank them for all of their hard work, good humour, thoughtfulness and creativity.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Tough sledding for MNR trout team

Brenda, Sam and I are back home for the winter. We arrived in Nolalu yesterday. The 2011 summer will go down as one of the best Red Lake has ever seen. The weather was absolutely gorgeous. It made for beautiful fishing too. Walleyes were numerous and aggressive. Northern pike fishing started slow but picked up as the summer progressed and was great the last month or so, especially for anglers who used the dead bait system.
Unfortunately, the warmer-than-average temperature took a toll on Ministry of Natural Resources fish and wildlife efforts to capture trout in October. Despite a valiant attempt the MNR came up short in getting enough eggs to rear at the hatchery in Dorion, near Thunder Bay. In fact they only caught about 1/4 of the fish they needed.
Myles Perchuk is seen above stripping eggs from a trout on the dock at camp.
The MNR crew is normally long gone by the time my family and I start moose hunting, usually about Oct. 6. This year they stayed until Oct. 19 and still didn't get enough fish.
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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I'm finally "back" to blogging again

There have been precious few blogs in the last month or so and the main reason has been my health. My back went critical on me way back near the beginning of August and it has taken all of my strength and time to do the least things required of me at camp.
Brenda and our terrific staff: Ben, Jenn and Steph, incredibly picked up the slack. About the only thing I could do was drive the camp boat, Lickety Split, and ask our great guests to load and unload it. In town I was aided by helpers at Red Lake Marine and Sobeys Supermarket.
Finally, after about a month, my back began improving. Then, out of the blue, my knee went totally ballistic. I couldn't even get around with crutches. It seems I have a knee condition known as pseudogout which mysteriously creates crystals in the knee joint. Not much is known about it other than it can be brought on my dehydration. I very likely was dehydrated. Since sneezing in the morning often sent my spine into spasms, I had been taking antihistimines which literally dry you out. I also have not been a big water drinker, tending to instead drink coffee and sugar-free but caffeinated pops. These also are dehydrating.
Once I learned what might be causing the pseudogout I starting drinking large glasses of water and began feeling better within hours.
Three days later my knee is still swollen and stiff but the acute joint pain is gone. I was able to walk more or less normally today.
Needless to say, I will be drinking lots of water from this point.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

More big fish for young fisherman

It's all Nathan Manni can do to hoist this chunky 25-inch walleye for the camera. It was one of many walleyes in the 20s that this angler boated that day.
He had an excellent guide -- his father, Scott, seen at the stern of the boat.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Young anglers are landing the big ones

Brett Styve, 12, hefts a chunky 25-inch walleye that he caught and released while fishing at Bow Narrows Camp a couple of weeks back.
Brett was one of many younger anglers we have had this summer at camp and they have all proved excellent fishermen.
I believe it was the third trip for Brett who comes with his dad, Paul. The pair landed a bunch of big walleyes and Paul got a giant northern pike as well.
These two are also excellent conservationists. All their big fish were released to grow and reproduce.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

How hungry are the pike? This hungry!

Bow Narrows angler Ken Lehmann has had some pretty incredible things happen during the years he has fished Red Lake but last week was the first time a pike bit his lure in half!
It happened right at the boat. Ken said the pike took the other half with it and swam away.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Fish don't seem to mind smoke from forest fire

My great nephew, Hunter Baughman, holds a nice 36-inch pike that he caught and released on Friday. Notice the forest fire smoke in the background.
Depending on the wind direction, the smoke can be very heavy or the skies can be absolutely clear.
We're expecting a little rain tomorrow and that will help dampen the fire. It's about 25,000 acres now and is about 15 miles northwest of camp. The fire is mostly around Murdock Lake which is Woodland Caribou Wilderness Park.
Ministry of Natural Resources fire fighters have only been protecting cabins on lakes in that vicinity and have not been fighting the fire itself since the fire started from lightning, a natural method of ignition, and fire is a natural element of the Boreal Forest.
We are in no immediate danger here at Bow Narrows Camp. Mostly the smoke and ash are a nuisance. However, everyone will be happy when we finally get a rain and the air clears.
Northern pike and walleye fishing were excellent last week. One boat caught 65 northern pike in one day and another got 75 walleye.
Fishing is always slower on Saturday and Sunday as new fishermen figure out how and where to fish.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

I catch a sauger; smoke and ash fall one day

I don't get out to fish much but when I do, it seems like I catch the most unusual things. Here is a nice sauger I got just down the shoreline from camp. On another outing, just last week, I caught a lake trout in only 20 feet of water.
A few days ago the sky above camp became inky dark from the smoke of forest fire to the northwest. There was even a lot of ash falling from the sky.
We could see the smoke cloud originating northwest of Pipestone Bay. A check with the Ministry of Natural Resources showed the fire is a Murdock Lake, about 10 miles from Pipestone and in Woodland Caribou Wilderness Park.
The blaze is not being fought by the MNR since it is in the wilderness park.
The forest is very dry and I wouldn't be surprised if restrictions are placed on shore lunch fires soon. We already had one such restricted fire zone, about two weeks ago, but then it was lifted after a couple of rainy days.
Camp is not in any danger.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Label your luggage and belongings! Fishing is great!

When our camp boat, the Lickety Split takes you to and from camp, you will be traveling with many other guests. Everyone's luggage and belongings will be placed in one large hold, mixed together. How will you be able to differentiate your things from others?
On any given trip we will be carrying three or four night breathing machines, all in black carrying bags.
We will have many identical tackle boxes, duffel bags and plastic totes. Guess how many people have things in plastic shopping bags, bring rubber boots, etc. How about loose fishing rods? Boy do these all look alike.
It isn't unusual for many people to bring the same model of fish finder.
Is it any wonder that time and again people head home with the wrong belongings.
Here's what you need to do: Get a roll of tape and a Magic Marker and mark every one of your things with your name. The more bizarre the color of tape the better.
Mark your things at home but bring the tape and marker to mark things you purchase along the way, such as tackle, bags of snacks, cases of pop, etc.
On a different topic, people are wondering how the fishing is?
Walleyes are biting great, on all the usual baits such as worms and leeches, fished on Little Joe-type spinners and jigs. All colors work at various times.
Northern pike are biting great, on all the usual lures such as spoons and spinners.
For more on what to bring, look back at some of the previous 300+ blogs. There is a ream of material there.
The weather is beautiful; the fish are biting. Get up here and get at it!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The lake is everybody's way to cool off

Brian Spillar and son, Keenan, snapped this great photo of a large cow moose wading in the shallows during a hot spell we had last week.
They reported the moose was unperturbed by their presence just as long as they didn't approach too closely.
So far we have only had three hot days with temps in the 90s. The rest of the summer has been 75-80 F with little rain. In fact, the lake level is lower than we've seen it in the last decade.
The forest fires are pretty much history. You can even have shore lunch fires again.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Trouble getting connected to write blog

Once again, I'm finding it difficult to connect to the Internet to write this blog. It's taken weeks of attempts just to make this connection today.
We can get e-mails, check the weather forecast, even see websites. But connecting to the blog program is a different matter. Our radio-telephone connection seems to be too slow for that.
I suspect there is something new to the program that makes it especially cumbersome. I've grown weary of the high-tech world. I'm a writer, not a computer expert.
But I'll continue trying.
So, back to the present. The weather, the fishing and everything else has just been beautiful this summer. We've had a total of three hot days, last week, otherwise the temperature has been 70-80 F every day.
There are lots of forest fires in Northwestern Ontario but none anywhere close to camp.
We had a couple of rains last week and that reduced the fire danger somewhat; however, shore lunch fires are still not permitted by the Ministry of Natural Resources.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Finally, seven more ruffed grouse join the world

It seemed to take them forever but the seven eggs under our faithful mother grouse joined the world today!

Monday, July 11, 2011

This is one dedicated mother grouse

This hen ruffed grouse is sitting on her nest at the base of a large quaking aspen tree, right alongside a trail where we pass with the golf cart. She refuses to be scared away from her seven eggs.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Those hokey duck lures might just work!

Look what Ben Godin, our outside worker and fish cleaner, found in the stomach of a northern pike -- a duckling!
It's hard to identify downy ducklings but our best guess is that this is a goldeneye.
It was in the stomach of a 26-inch pike.

Lots of trouble understanding fish limits

We've had a rash of problems with new guests understanding Ontario's fish limit regulations.
Daily limits and possession limits are exactly equal. This means you can have one day's limit in your possession which means in the freezer, in your cabin fridge, in the lodge fridge and in your boat.
If you have the conservation licence that comes free with our fishing packages, then the limit is two walleye and two northern pike. If you buy the full-size licence, the limit is four walleye and four pike.
No matter which licence you get, you are only allowed to have in your possession one walleye over 18 inches. You cannot have any northern pike in the slot-size of 27.5-35.5 inches and you can only have one larger than the slot size.
The problems always arise from people who want to make sure they have "THE LIMIT" to take home. So they quickly sock away their entire allowable catch in the freezer. Then they bring in more fish to eat at camp.
This makes them over-limit on their possession. All the fish they are allowed to have are already in the freezer. They cannot keep any more unless they want to first take some out of the freezer and eat them.
We've also had people who want to replace some of the fish in the freezer with bigger ones. For example, they saved a 22-inch walleye and then later caught a 24-inch walleye. When they do this they are, again, over-limit, now both for numbers of fish and also fish over 18 inches.
Incidentally, if you are a conservationist, you would never keep ANY walleyes over 18 inches. Ditto for big northern pike.
You would only use your legal right to keep that big walleye or pike over 35.5 inches in the instances where you accidentally killed the fish. Big fish are poor eating choices and are the major reproducers. Walleyes under 18 inches and pike under the slot size are the ones you want to keep.
We have had people who knew they were maxed out on their limits bring in fish anyway, saying it was for "the camp limit." There is no such thing! Fish for yourself. Believe it or not, everyone is capable of providing his own fish.
The sensible thing to do if you want to take fish home, is to eat fish at camp early in the week and save fish to take home near the end of the week.
Lots of people choose to eat fish fresh at camp and take no fish home with them. Some just save suitable fish the last day. If they don't take home "THE LIMIT" so what? They just wanted some fish for a fish fry for the family. A couple of 22-26 inch northern pike and a walleye or two will do the trick.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The pike are big and chunky

We have had some great pike caught and released this summer. Here angler Greg Tanko shows the camera one of the hefty pike he caught while fishing at Bow Narrows.
It has been a glorious summer so far. The weather has been wonderfully warm and dry and the fishing has been excellent.
We have had a lot of comments from guests wondering how Sam is doing after the surgery to remove the hook from his stomach. He is absolutely fine! The thing that hurt Sam the most was his being confined to the lodge for the first couple of weeks. Sam really enjoys meeting our guests when the Lickety Split comes into the dock and it demoralized him to have to watch from the window.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

How's this for the first fish?

Bret Crabb came up to camp a few weeks ago with his father, John, as a graduation present and this 43-inch northern pike was the first fish he caught!
Fishing was fairly slow when Bret and John were here due to the abnormally cold water. Now, however, everything is going full bore. Our anglers are catching lots of fish and lots of big fish as well, both in walleye and northern pike.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Holy cow, have we been busy!

No, I haven't died!
The total lack of blogs is only due to my exhaustion.
We've been doing so much I've already forgotten half of it. I've just been whipped at the end of the day and have tumbled into bed for a few hours sleep. There just has not been any time for me to write anything.
After a slow start, fishing is now fantastic. The last two weeks in particular have been spectacular for walleye and the weather has been beautiful.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A tiny bird in the hand

This ruby-throated hummingbird was stuck in the porch of one of the cabins last week.
Our outside worker, Ben Godin, removed the bird to the outside where it lay resting in his hand for awhile, then buzzed away.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Nothing beats a shore lunch

John and Matt Andrews were the first anglers to have a shore lunch this year at Bow Narrows Camp.
In the top photo John shows a nice pike that he caught and released while in the bottom photo Matt prepares a fish for the wood fire in the background.
We provide shore lunch boxes with all the ingredients, pots and pans, etc. You just supply the fish. Since our fish cleaner can remove every bone from you pike or walleye, many people bring in fish the night before, get them cleaned and take the boneless fillets out with them for the shore lunch.
The usual staples are fried fish, pork and beans, potatoes and onions and cookies for dessert.
We will point out on your map good shore lunch spots. There is usually a ring of rocks to build a fire. We provide a steel rack to place on the rocks and make a cooking surface.

Monday, May 30, 2011

How to convert treble lures to single hooks

Angler Steve Kacvinsky, who fished here last week, donated to camp these two lures which show how to convert crank baits that have multiple treble hooks to ones with only two single hooks.
The lure at the top is a five-inch Rapala. Steve removed the three tiny treble hooks and replaced them with 1/0 Siwash hooks.
The lure at the bottom is a six-inch Bomber. Steve used 2/0 Siwash hooks for this slightly larger lure.
Many of us have refrained from using crank baits like the ones above because of their multiple treble hooks that are difficult to remove from fish and get wrapped up hopelessly in the landing net.
Steve says he has used the two Siwash hook-lure-system for decades at his charter fishing business on Lake Superior.
They hook fish just as readily as the trebles and are a snap to remove.
Siwash hooks are special hooks made just for lures. They are deeper than bait hooks and have an open eye that can be crimped down on the loops or split rings of lures.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Sam's home; thanks for all the support

Brenda and Sam came home yesterday and Sam is doing well.
He must stay inside for a couple of weeks, except for walks on a leash and is supposed to remain quiet. This is a tall order for the camp greeter.
If Sam could talk, I think he would say, "I don't know what all the fuss was about. I've eaten worse things than that hook before!"
That is probably true. The problem this time was this thing wouldn't work it's way out the other end!
The good news in the whole episode is that the hook and ciscoe were recognized as missing immediately and we got Sam to the vet before the hook became ensnared in his entrails. It was just sitting in his stomach. The vet cut open his abdomen and moved his stomach outside his body cavity before making a small incision. He said he cut off each hook from the treble inside the stomach and removed each piece, thus not needing to make a larger hole to remove the whole works at once.
Sam's stomach is pretty tender but already we've seen improvement. He certainly hasn't lost his appetite but is on a restricted diet for a couple of weeks.
It's important for everybody to know that what happened here was just an accident.
We don't blame anybody for it and are just glad Sam is going to be OK.
I still wish bait fishermen would use circle hooks, however. I've written many times about them here on the blog. They absolutely catch fish, and always right in the corner of the mouth.
But, and here's where many people goof up, you must NOT set the hook when using a circle hook. Instead, after letting the fish take the bait for a few seconds, just quickly reel in. It's this slow, steady pressure that pulls the hook out of the fish's throat and hangs it right in the corner of the mouth.
Circle hooks are the type used by ocean commercial fishermen on long-liners. In this instance the fish hook themselves as they swim away with the baits in their mouths. If circle hooks didn't work, commercial fishermen would not choose them.
We should also use this opportunity to realize live bait is a temptation to all sorts of critters. We need to secure it out of reach and out of sight when we are finished with it.
I don't know how many times I've seen boats at the dock with rods that still have minnows or other bait dangling from jigs and hooks. Besides dogs, these can be gobbled by sea gulls, ravens, eagles, mink and other animals.
We should treat bait the same way we treat ammunition. Except when we are using it, don't leave it laying around.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Frosty nights, cool temps put chill on walleye

The beautiful warm weather we had a week before opening faded into cool temperatures and frost at night this week. Going from warm to cold always turns off the walleye and that's what happened this week. Just about all the walleye were caught the first couple of days when it was warmer.
Each day has gotten warmer again, however, and I expect walleye to be biting well again by the weekend.
We've had a good number of large northern pike caught and a couple of lake trout. More trout would be caught if anyone fished for them but mostly people are looking for pike and walleye.
We had a major catastrophe this opening week. Our dog, Sam, ate a frozen ciscoe (minnow) that had a treble hook attached to it.
Sam, and Brenda, have spent the entire week at the vet's in Dryden where Sam underwent major surgery yesterday to remove the large treble hook from his stomach. He now faces a long recovery.
This event underscores why no one should ever use treble hooks for fishing with bait. Treble hooks are deadly to all forms of life: dogs, fish and birds and are no fun to remove from people either. Use 5/0 circle hooks instead. These will not harm creatures if they ingest them but still let you hook every fish that bites them.

Monday, May 23, 2011

We're in camp and fishing is great

We got into camp May 10, the day the ice went off Red Lake.
The weather since then has mostly been wonderful with highs in the 70s F (20s C) although it is cooler right now.
Northern pike fishing has been fantastic and the walleyes are biting quite well for the first week of the season.
Many pike in the high 30-inches and low 40-inches are being caught.
Pike and walleyes are all fat as footballs.
There's so much to do here at camp that I haven't had any time to write on the blog.
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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sometimes we all look bird-brained

My friend and neighbor, Don Melnyk, told me this winter about a perplexing experience he had years ago.
Don used to work shift-work and was returning to Nolalu from work late at night when he heard the backup "beep, beep, beep" of a heavy machine in the woods nearby.
"That's odd," he thought. "I didn't know anyone was logging in that area, and why are they working so late at night?"
He listened for a long time and the backup beeping never quit. Something wasn't right, Don reasoned. Maybe somebody had been using a skidder or wood harvester and had fallen off while it was in reverse. Despite the late hour he decided to phone a neighbor nearest to where the sound was originating.
The man answered the phone fuzzy-headed and Don suggested they both get flashlights and meet at a crossroads.
Don got there with his flashlight but the neighbor, to no one's surprise, had gone back to bed.
"Well, I'm going to find out what is going on," said Don and plunged into the maze of balsam fir, jackpine and spruce in the inky darkness.
He drew ever closer to the sound until eventually his flashlight illuminated the source: a tiny little owl, the saw-whet. They make the "beep, beep, beep," sound to attract mates each spring.
Don's story reminded me of my own wild goose chase in Nolalu.
Brenda and I and our sons Matt and Josh and our black lab, Lady, moved to Nolalu in 1985 and lived in a 100-year-old homestead cabin.
The first spring we were there I heard a flock of birds one evening take off near our field. They sounded like pigeons which seemed surprising to me. There were no barns or any other such place pigeons could live in the area.
I headed in the direction of the sound when I heard it again, a little farther back in the trees. When I reached that spot I heard it again, this time behind me.
"How can I be missing an entire flock of pigeons?" I wondered.
I wish I could say I got my answer that first night but in truth it took me several evenings. I must have made a hilarious sight as I slowly stalked back and forth across the field, gazing intently at one tree or another, always to no avail.
Eventually, I looked beyond the trees into the sky beyond and there, high up in the sky, was a single, small bird. It would fly up high, then dive toward the ground. On its descent it made the sound that I had been mistaking for a flock of pigeons.
I got out my bird book and discovered it was a snipe and the sound, called winnowing, was made by air rushing through its wings as it made its daredevil plunges, again to attract a mate.
I guess in both cases it would work. After all, Don and I were certainly mesmerized.
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Friday, May 6, 2011

How do loons know when the lake ice is gone?

Red Lake loon by shore
Although total ice-out is still days away on Red Lake, loons will have already landed in all the open patches of water around the edges.
In fact, as soon as you notice the ice is gone from a small bay or narrows, you will see the familiar profile of a loon. But you never see loons flying around the frozen lake looking for open water.
How they know there is some place to land is a mystery. Loons cannot land on anything but water. Their legs are placed far back on their body making it impossible for them to even stand up on land.
In fact, except for pushing themselves on their bellies a foot or two onto and off of their nests, loons never touch land.
Their leg placement -- sort of like propellers at the rear of their bodies -- makes them take off from the water just as a floatplane does. They always head into the wind for the added lift and both churn their powerful feet as well as flap their wings against the water. It can take them a hundred yards to get airborne. Once free of the water, they are powerful fliers and fly faster than most other waterfowl.
They also land like a plane. They set their wings and come gliding in like the Space Shuttle. Final touchdown is done on their bellies. Sometimes they will dip a wing into the water to make a fast turn. And, also like a floatplane, it takes far less room for them to land than take off.
So when they slide into a little patch of open water around the edge of a frozen lake, it is very likely they cannot take off again, until the ice melts some more.
I've often wondered if some of them ever get frozen-in when the temperature dips below freezing and the lake refreezes. If it happens, I've never seen it, or found their bodies in the spring.
Loons are the world's oldest bird. They've been doing this for tens of millions of years. I guess they know what they are doing by now.
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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Lakers should be on surface first couple weeks

It's looking like ice-out on Red Lake could take place some time in the next 10 days.
That would be more or less an average ice-out time.
The weather has been mildly warm (except for today; it's snowing and below freezing!) and if that trend continues after ice-out then the lake water is still going to be frigid when we open on the official walleye opener, May 21. It will probably be similar the next week as well.
I expect cold-water-loving lake trout to be right on the surface those weeks and will be taken by anglers casting and trolling lures for northern pike.
However, you will get more if you actually go looking for trout.
Although all lake trout must be released on Red Lake while they replenish their numbers from a problem with reproducing, you can still catch a bunch, especially in the spring.
To be prepared, make sure you bring some salmon spoons with single hooks. The law states that when fishing for lake trout you must use lures with single barbless hooks and cannot use bait of any kind.
Salmon spoons usually have a single siwash hook. Just pinch down the barb and you're in business.
I would use spoons that are four-to-seven inches in length. Favorite colors are silver, gold and hammered finishes.
The best technique is to troll these spoons with a medium-weight rod and line that is 10-20 pound test. Operate the boat in the forward direction (in other words, don't back troll like you would with bait for walleye). You can try trolling with no weight at all at first and gradually add some weight if you aren't successful. The best sinkers for this kind of trolling are bead sinkers which have some bead chain and swivels on either side of the lead.
Lake trout are terrific fighters. You'll think you've hooked a submarine. Make sure your drag is set so the line can be pulled out but with resistance.
You won't need to go far to catch them. I'll give you directions once you are here.
Lake trout are making a comeback from the days when they weren't reproducing. We catch many young fish in the spring, perhaps three or four pounds. But there are also some whales out there. Expect to also tie into some trout in the teens and 20s and we also have trout up to 40 pounds.
Bow Narrows angler Kerri Schmiedeskamp hefts a nice trout in the photo above.
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Friday, April 29, 2011

Man, am I hungry for some fresh fish!

boneless northern pike fillets
It's been a long, cold, hard winter and the one thing I can't wait to do when ice-out comes to Red Lake is to catch some northern pike for the skillet!
My favorite pike to eat are those 20-25 inches long. They are big enough for us to easily take out the Y-bones and their fillets are thin enough that they are done perfectly on the inside when the outside is golden brown.
If you are new to Bow Narrows Camp it may come as a surprise that we remove ALL the bones from pike fillets. They are 100 per cent boneless and absolutely delicious.
I eat a lot of fish during the summer. In fact, if I had my way, I would eat fish every day. I just don't get tired of it. Pike one day and walleyes the next.
It frustrates Brenda that I really only like it fried or in a chowder.
Brenda has a secret recipe for flouring fish. (The secret ingredient is Corn Flake Crumbs. Shh!)
But she also uses store-bought recipes that our guests leave behind, beer batters, and concoctions she just whips up at the spur of the moment and couldn't do again if she tried. Frankly, I like them all.
But I'm not a fan of baked or poached fish. Some day I'll probably have some that I like but so far, it hasn't happened.
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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Techniques to catch Red Lake's ice-out walleye

landing a fish on Red Lake, Ontario
Walleye fishing the first couple of weeks of the season this year is going to come soon after ice-out it appears.
This begs the question: what techniques should anglers try when looking for ice-out walleye?
There are two main types of places to fish first thing in the spring: 1. where walleye have spawned and 2. where the lake warms the fastest.
In both instances the walleye will be very shallow, probably six feet or less. This usually means fishermen can do the best by either anchoring or drifting and using live bait or jigs with bait.
It is difficult to troll for fish in less than six feet of water and not scare them.
Usually the best rig is to use a 1/8-ounce jig with or without a 2 1/2-inch twister tail and tipped with either a piece of worm or a minnow. The water can be too cold for leeches to have much action at this time.
If you are new to camp we will mark on a map where the fish should be.
A lot of times the walleye will be right up next to the shore in as little as three feet of water.
These will be shorelines that are protected from the wind and which get full exposure to the sunlight. No doubt the fish are in these spots because that is where the food supply is. This can be water insects that are emerging from the mud as well as baitfish.
I would suggest anchoring or drifting in these places and pitching the jig to within a few feet of shore, let it sink to the bottom and then jig it back to the boat, all the while making sure the jig falls to the bottom on each motion.
Fish move around a great deal, of course, and the places we send you are just a starting point. Look for similar habitats in other locations and try those too.
Although you might not be able to get as many walleye by trolling, this method is very effective at finding a new spot. Many people front-troll floating Rapala-type stick baits, in 3-6-inch sizes, as close to shore as they can without hitting anything with the motor. Even if you scare off some fish, there will be others which will fill in behind the boat and strike the lure. You can then work the spot back and forth by trolling or even better, switch to jigs and live bait and drift or anchor once you've got a good idea where the fish are.
Spring walleye are usually very localized. They seem to go on feeding frenzies every couple of hours and don't seem to be as light-sensitive as they are later in the season.
Another difference between spring and summer fishing is the walleye may not be on the windy shore in the spring. Rather they can often be in the calm places where the water warms the fastest. However, if the weather is hot and sunny and the water warms rapidly, the windy shore can be the favorite in the spring too.
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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Red Lake, Ontario, 2011 ice-out conditions

Even though the weather has not been balmy, the ice continues to melt on Red Lake, Ontario.
The latest report comes from the blog of Enid Carlson for Viking Outposts and Viking Island Lodge.
Her blog shows husband Hugh drilling a hole with an ice auger in front of their home at Hammel Narrows on Red Lake, Thursday, April 20. To his surprise, Hugh found there was just 15 inches of ice left and five of that was weak slush ice.
Hugh said he expected the ice to be two feet thick.
Fifteen inches isn't much ice. We might be on track for a typical ice-out after all, especially if the weather would turn warm and sunny.
The average ice-out for Red Lake is May 8.
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