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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