Tuesday, March 27, 2012

How did everything get to camp without a road?

We are asked this question all the time.
It's true; there are no roads here. Eventually it dawns on just about everyone who comes here that the logistics of getting things out to camp must be incredible. You look at everything that is at camp -- all the buildings, the fuel, the equipment, the golf cart, the diesel generators, the food -- and it seems there must be some trick involved.
"Ahh, I know," you think, "they brought it over the ice in the winter! I've seen the Ice Road Truckers show on TV. That's how they must have done it!"
It's a good guess, but it is incorrect. It is possible to drive big trucks over the ice on Red Lake but it is very risky to do it where camp is located. The problem, you see, is the current in the narrows. Actually, you have the same problem in many of the narrows, all the way back to town, 20 miles away. The current isn't even discernible in the summer but in the winter it is enough that the ice doesn't freeze deeply. In fact, the ice might not even be able to support a man's weight in spots. Many people have died this way over the years -- broken through the ice and drowned.
No, nothing at camp got there by truck.
How about helicopters then? Nope, it would just be too expensive to do it this way.
In fact, everything got to camp by boat and with only a few exceptions, it was the same boat that brings out our guests. The exceptions were a few trips using a small barge and a pontoon boat.
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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Why do moose swim in the lake?

cow moose swimming, Red Lake, Ontario
Red Lake is one of the best places in Ontario for seeing moose in the summer. Anglers at Bow Narrows Camp often get great viewing opportunities and photographs like this one by Jane Bechtel.
Why do moose swim in the lake anyway?
These largest members of the deer family are superb swimmers and think nothing about swimming miles across a lake. So sometimes when we see them swimming they are just traveling. This is especially true in the fall during the mating season.
During the last two weeks of May cow moose come right to the narrows where Bow Narrows Camp is located and swim out to small islands to give birth. I believe this is a defence strategy against black bears which are likely the greatest predators of moose. The bears are ravenous after spending all winter in hibernation and are on the prowl for newborn moose calves. There is evidence that they may kill as many as 50% of the calves. Although they are powerful enough, they rarely kill adult moose, seeming to do so only when they find them in vulnerable situations, such as giving birth or sleeping.
We have seen the cows with newborn, yellow-coloured calves swimming away from islands while a black bear was swimming toward the same island from the other side.
One year the cows and calves were obviously using the lake to get away from wolves as well. Our guests could hear the wolves howling all week at night and in the daytime would see the moose on the shore of the narrows and observed they were reluctant to leave the safety of the water. Mostly though, wolves prey on moose in the winter, not the summer.
Starting in early June and throughout the summer the moose also come to the water to feed. As soon as the water weeds start sprouting at the bottom of what will become weedy bays and creeks, moose will wade out in these areas and pluck the weeds off the bottom, often staying submerged for lengthy periods.
Moose seek out the water vegetation because it is higher in sodium than are terrestrial plants. All winter the moose have browsed on woody stems that are high in potassium and low in sodium. Animals need a balance between these two minerals for their bodies to function properly. So when spring comes the moose are craving sodium. This is why you see them so often in roadside ditches. They are lapping up the water and eating the plants that are growing where all the winter road salt has accumulated.
Moose will also travel long distances in the spring to mineral licks which are usually seepages where the water and soil have just a few parts per million of sodium and calcium.
Another reason moose come to the lake is to get away from flies. Deer flies, horse flies and black flies can torment these big herbivores. During bad fly times the moose will seek out windy areas along the shoreline and will wade out so that just their heads are above water and then they will dunk their heads under too.
Finally, moose will come to the water just to cool off. We have seen moose that hang out all summer on beaches, just like people do. They will lay down in the water for hours.
If you see moose on your trip to camp this summer, remember to keep a respectful distance. We share the lake with these neat creatures. Stay far enough away that you can observe without scaring them.
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Thursday, March 22, 2012

How will early Red Lake, ON ice-out affect fish?

Summer rain on Red Lake, ON
It looks certain like a record-early ice-out on Red Lake, Ontario this year.
Summer-like temperatures have wiped out the snow, rain has softened the ice, and ice-out should occur probably no later than April 15. The previous record was April 20 and normal ice-out is May 8.
So how will all the warm weather affect fishing?
Well, at Bow Narrows Camp at least, we can expect walleye fishing to be going gangbusters right from day one, which is May 19.
Walleyes at the western end of Red Lake bite the best when the water is warm. There is so much deep water at our end of the lake -- 100-plus-feet deep -- that the water never gets too warm. In fact, our walleye always prefer the warmest, shallowest, bays right until the water begins to cool off, normally in late-August. Then they move to the deeper water. We still catch them but our locations change.
The spawn for both walleye and northern pike should be long over by the time the season opens. Northern pike start spawning just as the ice is melting around the shorelines and walleye spawn as soon as the ice is off.
We're assuming the weather is going to continue warm through the spring but that may not happen. There's really no predicting what can happen anymore. But the odds are the water is going to be warmer than usual first thing this fishing season.
Northern pike are likely to prefer artificials rather than dead-bait this year. The dead bait works best when the water is cool.
Lake trout will likely have gone to deeper water than normal when fishing season opens. They like the cold water.
As far as the summer goes, my guess is it is going to be a block-buster for fishing. If the warm trend continues the fish are going to be more active than ever. Minnows and other food sources are going to reproduce like crazy and the fish are going to be feeding, feeding, feeding.
Warm weather is a good thing for us.
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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Call him the Bow Narrows Camp dog whisperer

Bow Narrows angler Brett Styve had quite a following at camp last summer, a canine following.
The dogs were, Ben's black lab Buck, Janet Schonewille's golden retriever Scout, and our chocolate lab Sam.
Janet worked at camp for seven years but was just visiting last July. She used to be our outside worker who, among other tasks, cleaned everybody's fish. Now she is a teacher. So what does a former fish cleaner do on her holiday? Yep, goes fishing.
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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

On my first trip to Canada can I catch fish like this?

Red Lake walleye
Red Lake northern pike
Ed Dziubinski, top, and Franz Stockmann may be seasoned Bow Narrows Camp anglers but you don't have to be experts like these to have a whale of a time catching fish up here.
In fact the newer you are to the experience the bigger the adventure it will be. There is nothing like the thrill of trying something new in a place where the scenery leaves you awestruck at every turn.
The key, and I think everyone will agree on this, is attitude. If you approach the whole trip from the time you leave home with the confidence that you are going to have fun, then that is exactly what is going to happen!
If you are new to fishing or at least to this kind of fishing, then the best way to start is by reading back through the blogs and getting some idea of the techniques and tackle used.
Once you are up here, for goodness sake, ask questions! Ask me, ask our outside staffer Ben, ask the other guests. I can guarantee you that we all will help. Sometimes it's just a demonstration on something as simple as how fast to reel that makes all the difference.
Newcomers just about always do exceptionally well as long as they aren't afraid to ask questions.
In fact, it is people at the other end of the spectrum -- know-it-all-experts -- who don't do well.
The reason is they won't, or can't, learn anything new. Yet, the fishing on every lake is different from every other lake. The real expert knows this and if he is fishing a water body for the first time, guess what? He asks a lot of questions! And listens. And observes.
What if you've never driven an outboard motor before? We'll show you. All of our outboards are electric-start. You just push a button. So you don't need to be super-strong.
Won't you get lost? Nope. First of all, at Bow Narrows Camp, you can catch tons of fish literally within sight of the place. You don't need to go far. You can if you want but you don't need to just to catch fish.
We give you a great map that not only shows the water but features on the shore, all navigation aids like buoys and markers, and all hazards such as shallow water.
Camp is located in a long narrows with dead-end bays on the sides. Think of the narrows as main street and the bays as side streets. The narrows is marked with navigation aids like red and green buoys, markers on shore and even little beacons. The markers all lead right back to camp!
By the end of your second day you will totally understand the lake.
What if you've never cleaned a fish? Doesn't matter! We clean all your fish for you as part of our regular service. You put your fish in a wet burlap bag that we provide and bring the bag to the fish cleaning house. We do the rest.
The mystery and fun of discovering new things, seeing new places, checking out new animals and meeting new people await you. You are going to have a blast!

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Fishing strategies vary with daily conditions

You wake up to a glorious morning with the sun peeking through the trees. Wow! What a day!
The eagles are calling as they soar over the narrows in front of camp. Wood thrushes are playing their buzzy flutes in the woods behind the cabin.
You sip a cup of coffee on the porch and contemplate the only decision you need to make today. Where should we go fishing?
Waiting to see what the morning brings is the best way to approach this, admittedly minor, dilemma. Is it rainy or sunny? Is it windy and if so what direction is the wind? Is it going to be hot or cold?
If the conditions look favourable, maybe this is a day in which you would like to make a shore lunch, cook your fish out on the rocks. Or maybe you would like to take a bag lunch and go farther from camp than you usually venture.
If it is going to be cool and/or rainy you might want to do just the opposite, fish nearer camp and plan on coming in for lunch to warm up. Maybe even have a nap later in the glow from the woodstove.
One strategy is to head out on the bigger bays during days with light winds and fish the closer-in bays and narrows during windy times.
You should always be flexible on whatever you decide. Conditions change as the day goes on and the alert and wise angler adapts his plans to whatever happens.
You do the best and enjoy life the most when you realize you are a part of Nature and just "go with the flow."
(Photo by Troy and Jane Bechtel.)
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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Gulls catch tiny blue flies in air, then migrate

fly eaten by gulls
blue fly eaten by gulls
Every fall, about the first week of September, an incredible sight takes place right over Bow Narrows Camp on Red Lake, Ontario.
The sky above the southern half of camp is filled with gulls, seemingly both herring and ring-billed gulls. They twist and turn, silently, flying back and forth, about tree-top level but right over our lawn on the edge of the lake.
It took me years to figure out what they were doing. They are catching small, blue flies that only appear at this time. These flies are almost invisible from the ground, are poor fliers and basically just hover. Whatever they are, the gulls are bonkers for them. I've never seen gulls go for insects on the wing other than this.
The flies must be exceptionally nutritious. The gulls always forsake eating fish guts when the flies are out. Incredibly, there will be no gulls on our fish gut rock -- the rocky island where we dump the innards each day. We will drive our boat carrying the fish gut pails right beneath the bug-catching gulls and none of the birds will follow us.
As soon as the flies are gone, so are the gulls, at least, it would seem, the resident gulls.
They seem to eat the flies as a way of stocking-up on energy for migration.
For the rest of the fall there are but few gulls at the fish gut rock and these seem to be newcomers. They don't, for instance, seem to recognize what our boat is doing as it heads toward the rock. In the summer the boat is swarmed by the resident gulls.
If anybody has any information about the identity of the flies, I would appreciate your telling me.
I can't find any mention of such behaviour in my bird books or on-line. Please send me an e-mail at fish@bownarrows.com or leave a comment on the blog.

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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Wow! What a difference two weeks make!

Top two photos are at 2 p.m. today. The temperature hit 18 C or about 60 F at our house in Nolalu. That would be typical of late April or early May, not early March!
As you can see from the photo of the road, most of the two feet of snow that Sam and I were struggling through in the bottom two photos two weeks ago is gone.
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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Will 2012 ice-out on Red Lake, ON be a record?

Boat scene Bow Narrows Camp
It won't be too long and the scene above will be a reality again on Red Lake.
Just like the rest of North America, Northwestern Ontario has experienced one of the warmest winters in history. I would say our winter has been more like what central Wisconsin usually gets.
As a result, ice thickness on the lakes, including Red Lake, is far less than normal, probably less than two feet compared to the usual three feet.
The ice itself is a beautiful blue colour, the best kind to support weight and also the best kind to melt. Its dark hue readily absorbs the sun's rays. The worst for melting is slushy white ice. Although this ice isn't very strong as far as weight bearing goes, it is the hardest to melt since it reflects light.
There was very little snow until just recently. Most areas have received 1-2 feet of snow in the last couple of weeks. That snowfall would normally delay ice-out were it not for the temperatures we're getting. It is supposed to be 8-12 C every day for the next week. If these warm temperatures are accompanied by wind, which is likely, the snow is going to be history.
The record ice-out on Red Lake is April 20, tied in 2010. The historical average is May 8.
Climate change has meant we can throw historical data out the window. It is possible this year that we could beat the record by weeks.
If that does indeed happen, how will it affect fishing?
Most species of fish and wildlife use a combination of factors in their behaviour mechanisms. For spring spawners such as northern pike and walleye, both the photoperiod (the length of daylight) plus the water temperature comes into play in deciding when to spawn.
We have seen early spawns right after early breakups in the past but would this happen if ice-out is a month earlier than normal? I don't know. The eggs in the fish may not be developed enough for spawning to take place that soon and the photo period is also not right.
My guess is that spawning time can vary by a couple of weeks but not a month.
The other critical factor is the weather after spawning takes place. It seems the best scenario is for a fairly rapid water warming such as happens in early, warm springs. We're seeing the benefits of such seasons right now with the explosion of walleye on Red Lake that started from great spawns years ago.
Walleye fishing this year stands to be spectacular. We will be reaping the harvest of those previous early-season great spawns which this year will mean tons of fish in the best-eating 16-18 inch lengths as well as lots in the mid-20s. Early season walleye fishing at the west end of Red Lake is also the best when the water warms which should be the case in 2012.
I know our early-season pike fishermen would rather have a late ice-out. They like to have the pike still gathered around their spawning sites and entice them with dead bait. If we have an extra-early ice-out this year our first couple of weeks of fishing may more resemble early June fishing which, by the way, is also excellent for pike. However, fishermen mostly use artificials rather than bait at that time. It's just going to take a change in techniques this year.
For the most part an early ice-out is good news for fish. It can give them more time for growing, gives the young a headstart on preparing for the next winter and lets the water weeds grow better and longer. Basically everything is more productive.
It would also be a godsend for Brenda and me and our staff. We always have a ton of work to accomplish before we open for the season.
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Friday, March 9, 2012

Guests can get e-mail at camp this summer

This will be received as wonderful news by some and terrible news by others. Our guests will be able to get e-mail at camp for the first time this summer!
We will have a laptop computer available in the lodge for people to receive and send e-mails. There will be a $1 per session fee (we'll just keep a log book with the computer).
Guests can continue to use the camp telephone as well. That costs $3 per call. Yes, just $3, even to the States!
We have some guests who for years have dearly wanted to get e-mail while on their vacation. Others were ecstatic that they could neither get e-mail nor cell phone service.
As far as we know, you still will not be able to use your cell phone. A project last summer that should have made that possible failed and we still have no explanation for the problem.
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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Fishing products company moves back to U.S.

clear fluorocarbon InvisaSwivel
Knot2Kinky leader wire
Here's something you don't see every day, a company moving its operation back to North America!
Aquateko, the fishing products company that we wrote about last winter that makes a clear fluorocarbon swivel called InvisaSwivel, has moved its operations from Taiwan to Florida.
The reason, says its owner, Keith Kessler, in a news release, is the firm can improve the quality of its products.
Besides InvisaSwivel, the firm also makes a unique titanium leader material called Knot2Kinky that should be ideal for catching northern pike along with other sharp-toothed fishes.
This wire leader is stretchable and does not kink, allowing anglers to tie it onto their lures just like you would fishing line. Its small diameter could also go undetected by spooky walleyes. If so, then walleye anglers could also boat the northern pike that have been cutting off their lures when fished with plain fishing line all these years.
Aquateko has a web page dedicated to the best knots for its InvisaSwivel and Knot2Kinky wire.
There's more good news to the Aquateko story. The company's products are now produced in Jacksonville, Florida, in a center for adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Nature lessons learned from a tree stand

"You can observe a lot, just by watching," Yogi Berra is reported to have quipped.
He was right. I learned a couple of things about foxes by watching them this past fall while hunting deer from a tree stand.
On the first occasion, I had been watching a doe feeding about 30 yards in front of me for quite some time when I heard something coming through the leaves. It was a red fox just trotting along and it was going to go past the deer on its way toward me.
The fox never stopped to look at the deer and the deer never even turned its head to look at the fox which passed quite close to her.
It occurred to me then that fox-deer interactions are pretty common. The deer could tell from the sound that it was a fox coming and the fox could tell from the smell that there was a deer off to the side. No big deal.
But then the fox came right to where I had walked an hour or so before. When it hit my scent it instantly whirled and sped away as fast as it could fly. To my astonishment, so did the deer. Apparently the deer knows the difference between the sound of a fox trotting and a fox fleeing.
Two weeks later, again in a tree stand about 100 yards from the first location, I heard something coming quickly through the leaves. It was another red fox and it was coming right toward the ladder stand. I expected it to respond to my scent like the other fox and vamoose. And sure enough, when the fox hit my scent it put on the brakes but after a moment's hesitation, ran right under the stand and beyond.
A few seconds later, I found out why. There was another fox on its tail and this one, when it hit my scent trail, did a 180 and fled back to where it had come.
I knew right away what had happened. The first fox used my scent to "rub" the second fox off its trail. Foxes are afraid of humans but the first fox was more afraid of the second fox than it was of me.
I could almost imagine the first fox saying, "Hey, there's a much bigger fox coming behind me. Wait and shoot him!"
I didn't realize how territorial foxes were until I found a dead fox one time right after a fresh snow. The only tracks in the snow were fox tracks and there weren't very many of them. I was a trapper at the time so I kept the fox and skinned it, carefully, wearing gloves because it seemed it must have died of a disease.
The skinning process, however, revealed four puncture wounds in the jugular. Another fox had killed it.
Foxes aren't always loners though. We had two that were more or less together here this fall. One fox was always about a hundred yards ahead of the other.
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Friday, March 2, 2012

'New' DUI border rule may signal more changes

The Minneapolis StarTribune has run a story (Canada eases entry rules for some offenders) that states there has been a relaxing at the Canadian border that would allow Americans and other foreign nationals with minor criminality, such as a single DUI (Driving Under the Influence), to enter Canada.
That would be big news, to anglers and hunters who have been turned back from coming to Canada for a single mistake and to the Canadian tourism industry.
In looking at the "new rule;" however, it seems that the only thing that has actually changed is one cost. Under the former system, a person with a single DUI that had occurred less than 10 years ago could pay $200 for a Temporary Resident's Permit. This would allow the person to cross the border one time only. Ten years after the offence, he could resume crossing the border and without any costs.
Under the "new rule" the cost for the TRP is waived but the permit is still a one-time only proposition.
There are some other avenues that people with a single DUI or other offence can hurry the process. I suggest you visit this NOTO website for the details. Nature and Outdoor Tourism Ontario is the organization that represents outdoor tourism operators across Ontario.
Although this recent change is very minor, it is being called an interim measure. In other words, it would appear other changes could be coming in the future.
The big problem is that admissibility to Canada is always at the discretion of a single border officer. If regulations can be used to prevent admitting someone with a single DUI that is less than 10 years old, then there will be some officers who will do that, at their discretion. Other officers, also using their discretion, will admit them. And that is exactly what has been happening. Travelers with a single DUI never new for sure if they would be admitted or turned away. In some instances they were turned away but drove to another crossing where they were allowed in or waited half a day for a shift change and then tried crossing the border again, this time successfully.
The scuttlebut among lodge owners is that there may be a single border officer at the International Falls-Fort Frances crossing who has turned away more Americans for DUIs than at any other border crossing between the two countries. In other words, this officer's discretion is to ALWAYS refuse visitors with a single DUI less than 10 years old. He or she never issues a TRP.
There is nothing in the new ruling that will change that, as far as I can see.
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