Monday, February 28, 2011

Fall fishing can be hot for really big pike

Dan Baughman
Ron Wink

To the best of my knowledge, the record for number of 40+inch pike caught in one boat goes to two anglers who fished at Bow Narrows Camp in late September. They caught and released 16!

Their technique was to cast #5 Mepps spinners and white spinner baits on the deep side of weedbeds.

Another system that can work wonders at this time of year is to fish with dead bait and bobbers. That's what my brother-in-law Ron and I were trying when we got these dandy pike in late September. Incidentally, we used 5/0 circle hooks and hooked all of the six lunker pike we got that morning right in the corner of their mouths as always happens with these hooks.
We had started out trying to get some fish for lunch. By noon all the pike we caught were enormous so we gave up dead bait fishing and headed to a protected weedbed where we figured there would be mostly small fish. Ron's first pike, caught while casting a spoon was yet another lunker. We actually returned to camp for lunch empty-handed and had to tell the girls that all the fish were just too big to keep!
The key to late-season pike, I think, is to vary your method as the day progresses. Dead bait seems to work best in early morning. Once the sun comes up, switch to casting or trolling. We'll give you tips on where to do each once you're at camp.

Fall is when I get to do most of my fishing because we're not as busy then. That's a pity because fishing can be some of the best of the season.

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

What to pack for a Canadian fishing trip

rods, coolers, life vests
Here's a list of what most fishermen bring when they come to our fishing lodge on Red Lake, Ontario.
I've added a couple of things that I personally think are important.
By bringing a few versatile things you will be prepared for anything Nature might throw at you. I can't emphasize enough the importance of this first item:
1. Excellent quality, breathable rain gear. See Best Rain Gear for a Canadian Fishing Trip
This is more important than your fishing equipment! You are far better off to have great rain gear and poor fishing equipment than vice versa.
2. Waterproof boots (rubber or Gore-tex type). Although hunting-style boots are the best, an inexpensive but quite effective alternative is overshoes such as Totes. They're also lightweight and fold into a small space.
You need to be completely waterproof, from your head to your toes. Our summers are almost always gloriously warm and sunny but you need to be ready for the worst just in case.
3. T-shirts, underwear and socks for each day you will be on your trip
4. Two pairs of jeans or other fishing pants

If you bring pants with the zip-off legs you can skip the next item

5. Two pairs of shorts

6. A swimsuit!

7. Long underwear!

8. Tuque a.k.a. stocking cap or knitted winter cap or wool cap

9. Neoprene gloves (Optional)

10. Wide-brimmed hat or baseball cap

11. Light jacket or sweatshirt

12. Heavy sweater (an even-better alternative is a down jacket. Cabelas often has these on sale for $29. They will stuff into a tiny space in your luggage and are the ultimate in warmth.)

13. Sneakers or light hiking boots

14. Two flannel or other shirts

No matter when you come, from mid-May to the end of August, the weather is probably going to be wonderful. You'll feel great in jeans and a flannel shirt or t-shirt with a jacket for mornings and evenings.

If it gets warm, wear your shorts. If it gets hot, put on your swimsuit and go for a dip in the lake.

If you somehow get wet, you've brought an extra set of dry clothes. Hang up the wet ones to dry in the cabin or outside.

If it gets unexpectedly cold, put on your long underwear, your heavy sweater or down jacket and most importantly, your breathable rain gear, plus your neoprene gloves which stay warm even when wet and your tuque (wool cap). With the exception of the neoprene gloves, this outfit is what I wear all winter. The key is breathable rain gear which cuts the wind but doesn't make you sweat.

Fishing equipment

If you have everything on this list you would be totally prepared but you can get by with less as well. If you click on the highlighted words it will bring up more information about each of these items.

Two should be medium-action, 6-to-6.5 foot rods. You only need one but have two in case you break one. The third is an ultralight spinning rod. (Optional) It's a blast for catching walleye in calm conditions.

These should all fit in a cheap, conventional plastic rod case. If your rods are two-piece this rod case won't be more than 3.5 feet long and will conveniently fit in your car truck or won't be classed as oversized luggage by airlines. You can also bring the rods loose but they stand more chance of damage that way.

2. Two reels plus the reel for the ultralight. The most versatile outfit is the medium-weight spinning reel which is made for 8-12-pound test line. Spool them with 8 pound line if you like to cast or jig, 10-12-pound if you like to troll. You could, of course, have one rod set-up for casting and the other for trolling. The ultralight spinning reel should have 4-6 pound line. (See Which is better, monofilament or braided line)

3. An extra box (spool) of line.

4. Six 30-pound steel leaders

5. Six 12-pound thin wire leaders (handy for small lures but optional)

6. A portable depth-sounder/fish finder for each two people (for each boat) and an extra set of batteries. (This is optional but most groups have them. Use it for fishing at the proper depth, not for "finding" fish.)

7. Six northern pike spoons: 2/5 oz. to 1/2 oz for fishing Red Lake. Recommended: Len Thompson, Dardevle, Johnson Silver Minnow, Acme Little Cleo

8. Six Mepps or Blue Fox Spinners, sizes No. 4 and No. 5 in various colors

9. 30 leadhead jigs in the following sizes: dozen 1/4 oz, dozen 1/8 oz, three 3/8 oz, three 1/2 oz

10. Dozen walleye spinners

11. Lead sinkers: six 1/4 oz, six 1/2 ounce, six 3/4 oz, one pack split shot

12. Slip bobber with rubber stops
13. Plastic bobber

14. Assorted-size single hooks for bait fishing. These should be small for walleye. If you plan on fishing with dead bait for northern pike, we recommend 5/0 circle hooks.
15. Six stick baits such as Rapala etc., shallow and deep running, 4-6 inches in length (These are the most expensive lures and not necessarily any better than spoons, spinners and jigs; so, you can scrimp here if you want.)

16. Two dozen plastic twister tails for jigs and Johnson spoons: 2.5" for 1/8 oz jig, 3" for 1/4 oz jig, 4" for 3/8 oz jig

17. Jar of Gulp Alive for each two people

18. Six dozen worms/leeches or combination per person per week

19. Fish unhooking tools (One set per boat). At least a pair of needlenose pliers.

20. Hook sharpener or stone (One per boat)

21. Prism tape in various colors for changing lure colors
22. Nail clippers for trimming line
Miscellaneous items

1. Bottle sunscreen (the summer sun here is more intense than what you are used to)

2. One aerosol can Deep Woods Sportsmen Off with 30% DEET in the blue can for each two people

3. Flashlight
4. Comfortable life vest. We supply these at Bow Narrows Camp but if you bring your own and it fits your build comfortably you will be more inclined to wear it all the time. Parents should always bring the proper-sized vest for their young children and insist they wear it any time they are outside.

5. Sun glasses with polarized lens (neck strap for these is also handy)

6. Refillable water bottle (All of the water from Bow Narrows Camp taps is delicious, crystal clear, filtered, safe drinking water from our water treatment plant. When you bring a water bottle instead of bottled water you are doing the environment a big favor.)

7. Camera and extra battery

8. Binoculars (optional). Handy for spotting wildlife.
9. Small radio (obviously optional but we suggest tuning in to CBC Radio One 90.5 FM for some really thought-provoking, discussion-starting programs as well as Northwestern Ontario news and weather.

10. Passport!
11. Ontario Outdoors Card (if you fished in Ontario the last two years you would have been mailed this. If not or if you forget yours you will need to get one. Applications come with your fishing license which we have at camp. The cards cost $9.

12. Boater Safety Card (optional). All Canadian boaters have one now. You can get one by taking a course on-line and it is good for life. If you don't have one you can just fill out our boat-rental form which serves as a one-time boater safety card.

13. Spare keys for your vehicle. Give these to a buddy to safeguard.

14. Pocket knife. If you plan on cleaning your own fish out on the rocks for shore lunch, then also bring a fillet knife. However, since at Bow Narrows Camp we expertly clean all your fish and remove all the bones, you don't really need a fillet knife. You can also have us clean your fish that you take out for shore lunch.

15. Chapstick

16. Rod tip repair kit. This includes a couple of replacement eyes and glue.

17. Duct tape. One roll per group is plenty.

18. WD-40. These come in small pen-size containers that are ideal for lubricating reels.

19. First-aid kit. One per group.

20. Personal medicines plus pain reliever, cold or allergy relievers, upset stomach treaments and diarhhea medicine just in case someone comes down with a cold or flu on your trip.

21. Medium to large cooler if you plan to take fish home. One per 4 people.

22. Small cooler with refreezable ice pack for keeping drinks and/or bag lunch cold in the boat. Depending on the size you may only need one per boat.

That is a fairly complete list. If readers have other things they find handy or necessary, please leave your comment and I'll be sure it is printed.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Angler's unique jig method lands walleyes off dock

Mike with dock walleye
walleye is released

Each year more and more people "twig" to the fact that Bow Narrows Camp is literally located in one of the best fishing spots on Red Lake.

The camp is in a narrows (shaped like a bow) that connects several bays including one of the lake's largest -- Pipestone Bay -- to the rest of the lake. Fish must swim right past the camp to move around the lake.

So, they must swim RIGHT PAST YOUR DOCK. This means you can just fish from the dock and do really well. However, there are some fishing techniques that work better than others when fishing either from the shore or a fixed location like a dock.

Mike Gage from Texas, shown in the photos above, has one of the most unique methods that I've seen. I've watched him for several years now catch dozens of walleyes off the dock, pretty much every morning and evening, and it wasn't until last summer that I noticed he does something different from most anglers.

He uses a small jig, either a 1/8 or 1/16-oz jig and tips it with a bit of worm. So far that's no different than most people. He sits on a chair. Sure, you might as well be comfortable.

Then he flips the jig out into deep water and lets it sink to the bottom. That's when his method changes from just about everyone else I've seen who jig for walleyes.

Mike doesn't "hop" the jig across the bottom with a flip of his rod, then reel up the slack and repeat the process. Instead, he reels up the slack and watches his rod tip. If nothing happens after maybe five seconds -- without moving his rod tip -- he takes a couple cranks on the reel all the while watching the rod tip for a telltale tug that a fish has picked up the jig.

He NEVER has any slack line and therefore NEVER misses any bites when the jig is falling!

We have lots of people who do really well fishing off the docks and other than Mike, I would say the ones who do the best usually use a bobber.

Bobbers are a great way to fish at a distance and not get snagged all the time. The very best of these are slip bobbers where an angler puts a tiny rubber stopper on his line which passes right through the bobber. The bobber then falls all the way down to his weight which only needs to be a split shot. This makes it easy to cast the whole rig a good distance away from the dock.

When the rig hits the water the weight pulls the line down through the bobber until it eventually hits the stopper on the line. The stopper can be placed 10-feet or more up from the bait, whatever depth you want to fish. Your aim is always to have your bait near the bottom.

Slip bobbers are also very slender and when the fish takes the bait and pulls the bobber, it slips under the water with little resistance, so the fish can't "feel" it.

While slip bobbers are the best for bobber fishing, most people just clip on the old red-and-white plastic bobber and they seem to do pretty well too.

About the least-productive method of fishing off the dock is to cast and that is how almost everybody fishes. But even these people routinely catch pike and walleye, just not as many as the bobber-and-bait or jig fishermen.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

How to pick up a northern pike from the water

Dan Baughman with medium pike
It is a pain to use the landing net for every northern pike, especially small ones. They get twisted up in the mesh and takes many minutes to get them out. The fish can be injured from the net and, if it takes too long, die from being out of the water.
For any pike you intend to release anyway, it's best just to reach into the lake and pick them up. But there are certainly precautions to this manoeuvre.
The main risk comes from your own lure. You need to be sure to stay away from any hooks that might be exposed on the outside of the fish's mouth.
The proper technique to pick up a northern pike from the water is to do it like me in this photo from last summer. (I do get out to fish once in awhile!)
You want to reach over the top of the fish's back and grab it right where the gill plates are with the top of your hand toward the fish's head as shown. I would have put the grip on the fish as it lay totally in the water. The photo shows me lifting it out a few seconds later.
Squeeze to depress the gill plates just enough to get a good grip on the fish. If you squeeze too strongly you could actually damage the fish but this rarely happens.
This grip keeps most fish quiet, as well, although I see the one in the photo is kicking a bit.
It is a bad idea to ever lift a fish out of the water by the line or the leader. For starters, if you have a little nick in your line it is going to break and you lose both the fish and the lure.
Another reason not to do this it almost always makes the fish thrash wildly about while not being supported at all by your hand. If the lure was caught in the fish's gill area the gills are almost sure to rip, thus killing the fish.
Many times while holding the fish in the boat with the approved grip the fish will open its mouth so you can reach in with pliers or, my favorite, the Baker Hookout tool, and remove the lure.
You can pick up virtually any size northern pike that you can get your hand around the top of their gill plates.
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Saturday, February 19, 2011

What lure catches the most big northern pike?

Troy Bechtel
walleye spinner that landed big pike
Bow Narrows angler Troy Bechtel caught and released this mammoth northern pike in Red Lake last July.

If I recall correctly, the lure that attracted this enormous pike was none other than this walleye spinner with either a leech or a worm!

But that is hardly an accident. We catch more big pike on either walleye spinners or tiny leadhead jigs than any other lure!

How can that be? you ask. Why would these biggest of fish, weighing 20-30 pounds, go after a tiny walleye lure? Wouldn't they prefer a bigger meal and therefore a bigger lure?

I'm just telling it like it is. Walleye baits catch the most trophy-size northern pike. And when you consider these rigs aren't ever fished with a steel leader, you wonder how many of the bite-offs people get were fish like this? You just assume it was smaller pike. After all, every pike has a mouthful of razor-sharp teeth. It almost takes a miracle to hook one right in the lips with either a walleye spinner or jig and therefore not get the line in the fish's mouth.

Still, miracles or not, we catch more really big pike on walleye rigs than any other lure.

It is understandable really. Humungous pike want a really big school fish for meals. Walleyes fill the bill.

So should a person seeking big northern pike only fish for walleye? I don't know anybody who does this. They fish FOR WALLEYE and accidentally land the big pike.
The real pike fishermen use spoons, Mepps and Blue Fox spinners, stick baits, and jigs but cast them along shorelines, not fish them right where there are walleye. Maybe they should target the walleye areas with their northern pike lures but they do pretty well fishing the way they do. Certainly they catch far more northern pike than do the walleye fishermen. And they catch lunkers too.
Yet, it is while walleye fishing that most people get the super big pike.

It might be worth a try.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Jessica Fletcher used burlap bag for her fish

We wrote earlier about how simple yet effective it is to use a wet burlap bag for keeping fish fresh in the boat. See Burlap Bag Simply the Best .
Now we even have TV's mystery writer Jessica Fletcher of Murder She Wrote backing us up.
If you watch the opening credits for this popular series which ended about 20 years ago, I think, but is still on re-runs, you will see Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) walking up from the pier in Cabot Cove, Maine with her fishing rod and tackle box in her right hand and a burlap bag with her catch in the left! You've got to watch carefully because it only takes a second or two for that part of the credits.
It's such attention to detail that set this show apart from the others.
We still watch it and I've a hunch so do many other people.
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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Live-Forage weedless spoon looks great for pike

Live-Forage Weedless baby bass
Live-Forage Weedless leopard frog
Northland Fishing Tackle just came out with a weedless spoon that looks like dynamite for Red Lake, Ontario's northern pike.
It's called the Live-Forage Weedless Spoon and as you can see from the photos, the holographic-type images on the spoons are incredible.
I just got a press release from the company about the new spoons and I see they aren't even on their website yet. That's
The spoon is obviously similar to the Johnson Silver Minnow in shape but it has a couple of things that could make it even better, if that's possible (I'm a huge fan of Johnsons).
The Live-Forage spoon's single hook is a Mustad Ultrapoint. This company is known for its needle sharp hooks. The one problem I had with the Johnsons was that their rather blunt hooks needed sharpened all the time. I've got to think the Mustad hook would be an improvement.
The Live-Forage spoon also has a plastic Y-shaped weed guard. I'll have to see how it works. The single metal weedguard on the Johnson worked fine but after many deflections would break; so, maybe the plastic guard is better.
Another important feature is that the spoon is made of brass. That's great because it's heavier than steel and makes the lure run deeper.
In its press release Northland recommends you use a trailer or a skirt on the spoon as well.
I wholeheartedly agree. The Johnson spoon, for instance, is many, many times better with a trailer.
As I look at the leopard frog image on the second spoon, I can't help but think a plastic twin-tail would make this look just like a frog's legs. The top image is the baby bass. The spoon also comes in golden shiner and blue gill. It's hard to say without trying them but my guess is the leopard frog and the golden shiner might be best for Red Lake as both of those species exist there and are natural prey for pike.
The spoon only comes in two sizes 1/2 ounce and 3/4 ounce.
For Red Lake's northern pike and their crazy preference for smaller lures, I would suggest the 1/2 ounce.
Speaking of Northland Fishing Tackle, their panfish ice-fishing videos are a hoot.
Go to their website and click on videos, then Northland Fishing Tackle's Bros Bug Collection.
Make sure you've got your sound turned up!
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Monday, February 14, 2011

Does anybody remember Detty's Fish Gripper?

Detty's Fish Gripper
Detty's Fish Gripper fish gripping tool

I still use one of these fish pliers and I wonder if anybody else does.
I don't believe I've seen another set for decades.

This is Detty's Fish Gripper, basically a type of pliers to hold a fish's mouth open while you extract the hook.

It works better than any other tool I've seen for this purpose. The flat surface of the pliers doesn't harm the fish and gives you a good grip on the jaw.

I use this tool to hold open the mouths of northern pike and walleye, then extract the hook with a Baker Hookout.

The Detty's Fish Gripper is my favorite fish gripping tool and I'll bet it is an antique.

Does anybody know what ever happened to this company?

If you do, or if you have anything to add, please just leave a comment.

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Here's a canoe sunrise from last fall

sunrise near Bow Narrows Camp, Red Lake, Ontario
I clicked this scene of a sunrise while canoeing last October.

What is it about sunrises that makes them seem even more spectacular than sunsets?

I get more sunrise photos in the fall than any other time of the year for a couple of reasons.

One is that I use a canoe for moose hunting. It is legal in Ontario to shoot from a canoe that does not have a motor, and my family has found this to be an excellent way to hunt.

The second reason is that sunrises are so late in October, around 7 a.m., that you don't have to get up early to see them.

I really love silently slipping along the lake, looking at all the wildlife. You can go so close to shore that you can even see tracks. There are so many wild creatures to see -- and hear -- this way: moose, bear, wolves, lynx, owls. It's a hoot! (pun intended)

The difference is like driving along a highway looking for animals compared to sitting in a treestand. I thought of this last fall after we got back to Nolalu and I had just spent a fantastic morning in my treestand.

I had not only seen 12 deer that day but had many of them stand right below me, watched a buck grunt, watched a buck go after a doe and heard a doe bleat. What an education! And that wasn't all. I also had a barred owl fly within a few feet of me, saw grouse feeding and had a pine marten go by!

After I went to the house for lunch I walked down to the road to get the mail and observed trucks of hunters driving slowly around, hoping to see something cross the road. What a different experience they were getting out of deer hunting.

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

What else is there to do besides go fishing?

sea kayaking Red Lake, Ontario
Fishing on Red Lake, Ontario is so good that it is easy to forget that not everybody in the world comes here to fish or at least do it full-time.

Often men have wives, sons or daughters who are partially interested in fishing but would like some other adventures as well.

About a mile from camp is the West Red Lake Mining Museum, a log cabin that once was once part of our camp.

There are a few trails to walk, mostly to other lakes, a couple of old gold mines to look for rocks at, swimming off the main dock and beaches (if the water isn't high) in July and August, and gorgeous scenery and wildlife to see all over the place, but it is a real shame to come to this land that literally has more water than land and not explore it by water!

The very best way to do this is by sea kayak or canoe and the camp has several of these to loan to adventurers.

Many people have never tried a sea kayak and for some reason have the belief they tip easily. That is incorrect. Sea kayaks are more stable than a canoe and once seated in one it is very difficult to upset. You would need to try and tip it. We can instruct you on how to use a kayak and with probably only an hour's practice you will have the knack for it and can start exploring.

We insist that everyone using a canoe or kayak wear their life jacket and we have some special ones just for kayaking. If somehow you do manage to upset the kayak, it will be floating right beside you. Just push it to shore, dump out the water and get back in. Ditto for a canoe.

Incidentally, sea kayaks are not the same as the river kayaks you have seen people shooting white water with. These are long vessels that are meant for paddling long distances. They move along at twice the speed of a canoe, partially because of their double paddles but also because they are so streamlined and sit so low in the water that wind barely affects them.

The really neat thing about kayaks or canoes is that you can sneak silently along the shore and up creeks that are far too shallow for a boat. They draft only a couple inches of water.

This is especially fun to do in the evenings because these are locations where you are most apt to see moose, shore birds and other animals including the aquatic ones like beaver, muskrat, mink and otter.

Sea kayaks have water-proof holds in the front and back where you can store extra clothing or a lunch. What a great adventure it is to paddle to a destination like a waterfall or old mine, walk a trail or two, eat lunch and then work your way back to camp.

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Friday, February 11, 2011

How to see a moose when you're fishing

I wonder how many people would have gone right by this cow moose and never notice it?

In the top photo eagle-eye Dixie Carpenter spots the black dot in the water that turned out to be a moose last summer.

Husband Blaine Carpenter zoomed in with his camera for a closer look on the second photo.

There are lots of moose to be seen around Bow Narrows Camp and some people are better at seeing them than others.

Most folks will notice a moose swimming in the lake. But how about just a moose head sticking above the lily pads? That's all you sometimes can see of a moose feeding on aquatic vegetation. They stand on the bottom and stick their heads completely underwater to grab weeds growing there.

Weedy bays are good places to find moose and so are sand beaches! In warm weather moose like to wade out in front of the beach and cool themselves off. We've seen them do this for hours.

The best idea to spotting a moose is just to scan the water's edge and look for something black.

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Your cell phones should work in camp this year

Bow Narrows Camp, Red Lake, Ontario
It seems almost certain that you will be able to use your cell phones in camp in 2011!

We are working with a communications company in Thunder Bay which says there should be no problem connecting a repeater antenna that would allow anyone with a cell phone to pick up a signal within about 100 feet.

Our plan is to mount the antenna in the lodge porch.

So you might not be able to use your cell phone in your cabin, but could do so if you walked over toward the lodge.

The signal might also be strong enough to reach some cabins such as Cabins 5, 6 and 7.
We have a cell bag phone in the lodge that works with an external antenna and a signal amplifier. The plan is to connect the amplifier with an external transmitting antenna.
You should be able to do all the things you can normally do with cell phones as long as you are within range.
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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Is May too cold? August too hot? September?

using ciscoes for pike in May
These are common questions for people who are planning a fishing trip to Northern Ontario. The facts, however, might surprise you.

Let's start with May. The photo above shows long-time Bow Narrows anglers Suzie and Darrel Palmer and their friend Dave Myers using the dead-bait system for catching northern pike during May, 2010. This is an ideal pike fishing time.

I was just telling someone that May is usually nicer than June! That's been my observation anyway. I decided to dig up some facts on the subject and went to the historical data for Red Lake at the Weather Network.

It would be misleading to look at the average temperature for May because we aren't open until May 21. So let's look at the data from then to the first of June.

It got as warm as 27.9 C during those 10 days last season. That's 82 F!

The coldest it got was 4.7 C or 40 F.

What about precipitation?

Total precipitation was only 3 mm or 0.12 inch.

In other words, May was warm and sunny! And there are no bugs!

How about August then? Since we're open the whole month we can look at the Weather Network's figures for all of August. The warmest daytime high, as recorded at the Red Lake airport in the first week of August in 2010 was 29.5 C or 85 F. The second week it was 31.8 or 89 F. The third week it was 28.8 C or 84 F. The final week it was 31 C or 88 F. When you consider most people think 80 F to be an ideal temperature in the summer, our August highs last year were only slightly warmer than the ideal.
Also, those temperatures were taken at the Red Lake airport which is located inland and gets reflected heat from the runway. The temperatures at camp would have been considerably lower, probably by 5-10 degrees, since it is surrounded by cool lake water and forests and is refreshed by summer breezes off the water. And we just don't get the humidity up here.

Finally, those were the hottest temperatures in those weeks. They may only have existed for an hour or two.

The average daytime high was way, way less.

When you look at the historical average high for August in Red Lake, Ontario, it is just 20 C or 68 F! However, that historical average has been altered due to climate change in recent years. I would say the average daytime high for August in the last decade has been more like 78 F, still pretty close to the ideal and again, may have only existed briefly. It virtually always cools off at night, perfect for sleeping. Remember, this is Canada. Even our warmest weather isn't hot.

But do warm temperatures hurt the fishing? No way, not in our lake anyway. The depth in Red Lake varies from bays of over 100 feet deep to very shallow bays. The water temperature in the deep bays never gets above 46 F. That's great for lake trout but too cold for comfort for walleye and northern pike. When the weather gets warm we just fish near those areas where the water always stays cold but where the air temperature has warmed the cold lake water into ideal fish temperatures in the 60-75 F range. The fish will be there. August is one of our best fishing months.

What about September then?

September is a month of transition, going from summer to fall. It is virtually the reverse of May which starts off cool and gets warmer. September usually starts off warm and gets cooler. Usually. In 2009 September was the warmest month of the summer with daytime highs of 80 F the whole month. But that was certainly an exception.

Let's look at what happened last year and let's divide the month in half.

In the first two weeks the hottest temperature was 24.7 C or 76 F. The coldest was -2 C or 28 F. In the second half of the month the hottest temperature was 18.8 C or 66 F. The coldest was -2.9 C or 27 F.

So, as you can see the month does cool off as it goes along.

Historically, the average daytime high in September is 11.6 C or 53 F. But again, historical figures aren't of much use any more because our atmosphere is heating up. I would put the average daytime high for the first half of the month at about 65 F and about 50 F the last two weeks.

As the surface temperature of water cools off, the walleye move into deeper water and cluster at the entrances to narrows, around points and islands. We catch them readily there in 20-30 feet of water. Northern pike will still largely be in their summer haunts, just on the deep side of the weeds in probably 6-12 feet of water.

Summer here is too short for the fish to waste any of it.
So September is also a good time to fish and it has other advantages too. One of the biggest is the absolute solitude to the place. Most people are not able to come fishing once school has resumed. Either they have children or grandchildren in school or are teachers themselves.
September is also the most beautiful time of year to come. Leaves will begin to change color about Sept. 20 and will all have fallen by mid-October.
It is also the best time of year to see moose and bear which get more active with the end to summer. Throughout September there will also be great flocks of sandhill cranes and snow geese and Canada geese streaming overhead.
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Sunday, February 6, 2011

All our outboards now electric-start Hondas

20 hp Honda and 16-foot Lund
All of our Honda outboards this year will be electric-start models!

To start these motors you simply put the motor in neutral, leave the throttle turned to the lowest setting and push the start button. The motor will start and if cold, will automatically give itself some choke and advance the idle speed. As soon as the idle speed slows down the engine is warm and you can go on your way. When the motor is warm you just start it and proceed immediately.

We will have 18 electric-start Honda 20 hp outboards on 16-foot Lund boats this season. This motor and boat setup has proven ideal over the years. It will push two anglers along at about 24 mph which means you can reach the farthest of our fishing spots in no more than 20 minutes. The Lunds are great boats for handling any type of wave condition.

The 20 hp Hondas are legendary for being whisper quite and for trolling like a dream. The motors produce no smoke and are wonderfully fuel-efficient.

New at camp this season will be an 18-foot Lund SSV model powered by a 25 hp electric start Honda. We will reserve this boat for larger guests or for people fishing three-to-a-boat. This boat has two rows of split seats that should make moving around even easier.

We are also trying a new 16-foot SSV Lund model that has a split rear seat in a slightly different configuration than our other Lunds. If anglers like this model we will likely use it to gradually replace our other boats.

The SSV Lunds have a more V-shaped hull that is said to ride even more smoothly in rough water than the earlier models which were themselves famous for their ride and stability. The SSVs come with ready-made floors to make a level surface for standing and fishing.

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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Ruffed grouse burrow beneath the snow at night

grouse in winter
grouse burrow

I just snapped these pix on a snowshoe walk with Brenda. We saw this ruffed grouse or partridge at a distance. They are really spooky here on our property in Nolalu. At camp you can nearly pick them up. Local people refer to them as "chickens."

That's not the case in Nolalu. They usually flush 20 yards ahead of you.

The second photo shows a grouse "burrow." This is where a grouse spent the night -- burrowed beneath the snow. They actually fly right into the snow, then wiggle through it a bit. The next day they wiggle upwards and take off, as seen where the wings struck the snow in the photo. There are never any telltale tracks leading into or away from the burrow.

Every grouse will do this burrowing if the snow is deep enough. It is much warmer under the snow than above.

They're pretty good at hearing you come near and will explode out of the snow while your heart goes into cardiac arrest. I think they get a big kick out of it!

Unfortunately, red fox don't make as much sound and sometimes nab the grouse right in their sleeping chamber.

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A perfect September grouse hunting day

Sam with grouse
Once in awhile the stars just seem to align perfectly.

This was one of those days.

It was last September and Sam and I skipped out of camp one morning to see if we could find a ruffed grouse.

We drove our boat to a peninsula covered with golden-hued birches and dark jackpine. Sam leaped ashore before I could even tie up and started zigzagging through the ground cover of wild roses and tall grass. His nose worked overtime as he eagerly searched for our prey.

But it was also very windy and therefore difficult to pinpoint the odor that must have been everywhere. A few seconds later I climbed over the bow of the boat and tied up to a tree. As soon as my feet touched the ground a pair of grouse that had been sitting at the base of the birch exploded skyward and disappeared into the dark stand of pines.

Although they had been within mere feet of Sam when he jumped out of the boat I realized they had also been downwind, their scent carrying out over the lake. No matter, they were still on the peninsula somewhere.

I loaded up my Ithaca Model 100 12-gauge side-by-side with #8s and headed down the centre of the spit of land. Sam immediately moved ahead of me and went into search mode. We got to the base of the point of land without kicking up anything although we never could have heard them had they flown; the wind whistling through the pines drowned out all other sounds.

We started back toward the tip, this time sticking near the lake. Sam had moved about 20 yards ahead when I saw a grouse launch off the ground in front of him and come rocketing my way. The lightweight double barrel barked as the bird came straight at me and it dropped like a stone. Sam had it in his mouth in seconds and brought it proudly back to me.

I praised him for finding and then retrieving the bird and started forward again. Sam again took the lead and after a few more minutes flushed the second bird out of the alders that grow all around the water's edge. It flew nearly straight up, climbing skyward to perhaps not only get above the alder but the larger trees as well. At the peak of its climb I fired the second barrel and the bird tumbled right to Sam's feet.

He and I couldn't have been happier. We took our pair of grouse and headed back to camp.

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