Sunday, April 29, 2012

Something spawning at "the falls"

We took a boat trip to "the falls" yesterday and although we didn't see any spawning fish, we did see lots of bird droppings and what looks like bear activity along the banks of the stream.
I also saw some fish parts on the bottom in the rapids but couldn't tell what type of fish they came from. Presumably it was walleye as they are the first of the bigger fish to spawn in fast streams.
I also saw one dead smelt on the bottom. Smelt spawn in fast streams too but of course they are much smaller than walleye.
There were several eagles hanging around, probably eating spawning fish but also there is an eagle nest right there.
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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Pike not spawning yet; loons just arriving

Brenda and I checked pike spawning areas a few days ago and didn't see any spawning activity yet.
Also, there were no loons when we got here a week ago but every day since we see another of the usual pairs showing up.
The water is still icy cold. How cold? Well, on a morning trip to town a couple of days ago I encountered new ice that had frozen overnight. The ice nearly spanned the entire Forestry Stretch which is a couple of miles wide. Fortunately I was able to find an open lead. The Lickety Split is capable of breaking a little ice but I wouldn't want to plow through miles of it.
The photo shows the ice pans in the open lead off of St. Paul's Bay.
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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Check out Super 8 Motel and TIm Hortons

Tim Horton's restaurant greets visitors as they come into Red Lake on Highway 105. Right next door is the new Super 8 Motel, still under construction.
Remember, if you need to reach us at Bow Narrows Camp for the next week or so, call and leave a message or send an e-mail. With only Brenda and Sam and I at camp, we are not running our generator except for a few hours each day. No generator, no telephone or e-mail. We check our messages and e-mail each day when the power is on.

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Saturday, April 21, 2012

We are in camp


We got into camp on Thursday after waiting out another snowstorm, this time in Dryden.
The only ice in the lake was right where we dock at Red Lake Marine.
Camp was in good shape after the winter.
Temperature is below freezing at night but warm in the day.
There are already minnows around the dock.
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Monday, April 16, 2012

Spring storm delays us getting into camp

This is the scene out our front window in Nolalu, ON today, Monday, April 16.
We hoped to be on our way out to camp this morning but delayed our departure from Nolalu when we saw the weather forecast.
Red Lake missed the snowfall which measures about three inches in Nolalu and is twice that in other parts of Northwestern Ontario near Thunder Bay.
Highway 17 -- the Trans-Canada Highway -- was closed between Thunder Bay and Ignace this morning.
The main reason for the highway closure was freezing rain that fell ahead of the snow last night, creating treacherous driving conditions.
Meanwhile, up at Red Lake, the last of the ice has floated into Howey Bay and is jammed at the south end of the bay, right where we dock at Red Lake Marine. We could have avoided the jam by launching at St. Paul's Bay landing but there is also a -9 C temperature with a stiff north wind that makes the wind chill near -20 C.
We're not in that big of a hurry!
So, now our plan is to get to Red Lake and out to camp on Wednesday.
The weather is supposed to gradually keep warming up for the next few days and then be very nice next week.
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Saturday, April 14, 2012

How big a fish can a northern pike eat?

It would seem that a northern pike can eat a fish that is up to 25% of its own body weight!
That means that a 20-pound pike (44 inches in Red Lake), perhaps like this one caught and released by Bow Narrows angler Paul Heneise, could eat a five-pound fish.
Often these really big meals are other pike. Northern pike have no qualms about cannibalism!
Although pike do eat walleye, they are almost always smaller ones. A 20-pound pike probably wouldn't consider a five-pound walleye. The walleye's dorsal fin is a formidable weapon against predators chomping down on it. Northern pike always grab their prey right in the middle and then swim off with them crossways in their mouths. After a few minutes it will release the fish and in a flash grab it headfirst. It needs to swallow it headfirst so all the fins collapse against the prey's body on the trip to the stomach.
Lots of our guests have northern pike attack the walleyes they are reeling toward the boat. These walleyes are almost always small ones, say, about a pound (12-14 inches). But rarely they can be as large as three pounds. I don't believe I have ever heard of a pike attacking a five-pound (25 inches) walleye.
When we clean northern pike caught in Red Lake, the most common bigger fish we find in their stomachs are, in order:
northern pike, white suckers, whitefish or tulibee (a type of herring).
Smaller prey found in the stomachs are, also in order: crayfish, perch, northern pike, walleye, smelt, rock bass.
Of all things found in Red Lake's pike stomachs, the most numerous are crayfish. This could be explained by the fact it takes a long time for the pike to digest the crayfish with their armoured shells.
Perch, usually about 4-6 inches long, are the most common fish found.
Common-size walleyes found are eight-to-12 inches.
Rock bass, although a widespread small fish, reaching lengths up to eight inches, are rarely found. This could be due to their own spiny dorsal fin.
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Thursday, April 12, 2012

We got the call we've been waiting for!

Hugh Carlson of Viking Island Lodge and Outposts called this evening to say he flew his Cessna 180 on floats over Red Lake today and except for a bit of ice near town, the lake is open. So are all the other lakes around the west end including Douglas Lake where Viking Island Lodge is located. That's the lake that feeds the creek and rapids that we fish at the end of Trout Bay.
Hugh even went open water walleye fishing. Normally he goes ice fishing for walleye on the last day of the season, April 14.
You can check out Hugh's trip on Enid's blog.
Since most of the ice broke up on April 7, that is the day Hugh considers the official ice-out.
This beats the previous record of April 20 by nearly two weeks!
Hugh says, we could make it by boat the 20 miles out to Bow Narrows Camp if we skirted some ice off the Forestry Point and also right in Howey Bay, where we dock.
It should be long gone when Brenda and I get to Red Lake on Monday.
It was beautiful everywhere in Northwestern Ontario today with highs in the mid-teens C.
A rain system is moving in for the weekend and temperatures will fall but no snow is predicted.
The rain is welcome. Last year was extremely dry and there was little snow over the winter.
We need the rain to replenish the water table and prevent a bad forest fire situation from developing.
One of the worst times for forest fires is in the spring before the trees get their leaves.
Despite all the warm weather we've had this spring, the trees look more or less normal for this time of year. Leaf-out might come as usual in mid-t0-late May.
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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Ice nearly out of Red Lake; we're ready to go

Jenn, Ben and Steph
Brenda, our dog, Sam, and I will head to Red Lake this weekend.
Enid Carlson reports on her Viking Island blog that the ice on Red Lake is breaking up. It probably would have disappeared on Monday except the weather took a turn for the worse with cold and snow flurries.
Still, by all reports, there is a lot of open water around the sides of the ice and that always means the lake is within days of opening up. And the forecast is for near-normal temperatures which should mean a record-early breakup. The previous record was April 20 set just a few years ago. The average ice-out is May 8.
We will get to camp a couple of weeks ahead of the staff.
I'm sure everyone will be delighted to learn that Ben, Jenn and Steph -- our wonderful staff from last year -- are all returning this season.
They are sure a skilled, hard-working and fun group to work with.
It may be a little difficult to reach Brenda and I for the first couple of weeks once we are at camp. We probably won't run the generator full-time when it is just the two of us (and Sam). However, we will check e-mail messages every day or so and will also check our telephone messages. Call the 807-727-0439 number and make sure you leave a message and we will get back to you. You should also be able to reach us by calling our winter number 807-475-7246 as these calls will be forwarded.
We've had some new information from our IT representatives about e-mail for our guests this summer. The upshot is it is going to cost $3 (not $1 as previously reported) for guests to pick up e-mails using our computer and $5 if they access Facebook or any other social networking site. The reason is the extra data that is transmitted in photos on Facebook-type sites. There will be absolutely no downloading of videos allowed. We will have a laptop computer for guests to use in the lodge.
Our e-mail connection is not like what you have at home. It is all done on our cell phone minutes and our company does not offer an unrestricted data plan. Text messages use little data but images use a lot and video way too much.
We will once again try to create the connection where everyone can use their own cell phones at camp this summer. Last summer we installed the system but it never worked correctly. This winter we had all the equipment checked out -- it all seems fine. So we will give it another try but I wouldn't hold my breath. We did a pretty thorough job of trying every configuration for the system last year with no success.
Remember, you can always use the lodge telephone to make calls. And they only cost $3. That is probably far less than what it would cost on your cell phone anyway. But I understand that people would like the convenience to use their own cells and so we're working on that. If we get the system running it will mean there will be a small area in camp, such as the lodge porch, where your cell phones will work. They will not work in your cabins or out in the boats.
I've been asked to do an update on the lake trout population and study but I've been holding off because I think there may be some news from the Ministry of Natural Resources on this coming in the near future.

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Friday, April 6, 2012

If a lake leech gets on you, don't worry

lake leech
You know why?
Because you would already be dead! The leech would be the least of your problems!
Lake leeches, like the one on a boat seat in the photo, are scavengers; they only feed on dead matter.
And it has been my experience that they make exceptionally poor bait. I think fish find them as appetizing as we would a vulture.
The good leech species for bait are the ones you get at the bait shop, are only a few inches long, are usually black but sometimes can be brown. They work excellently for walleye, especially when the water is warm.
Incidentally, leeches in bulk are sold by the pound, and one pound is about right for four anglers for a week.
The lake leech is probably eight inches long, when swimming. They sometimes have fluorescent spots on their backs and are really quite beautiful. They usually travel alone and their undulating, ribbon-like swimming motion always makes me think of some creature from Star Trek.
I have never seen the good bait type in the wild. They apparently only come out at night, and only in marshy areas. The prospect of trying to trap leeches at night in swampy (read this buggy) areas makes me appreciate the bait vendors.
Bait leech collectors everywhere -- thank you!
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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Tale of Two Lures -- Perfection or Misfit

What is the first thing we all learn about predators? They prey on the sick, the weak and the injured, right?
Which wildebeest gets picked off first by the lions on the Serengeti -- it's the newborn calf or maybe the old animal with the gimpy leg. That's common knowledge. A little kid knows and understands it.
Easy prey mean easy meals for predators.
So why do we fish with lures that are the image of perfection, that look and swim just like the perfect baitfish in its prime? We are trying to entice predators, in this case predatory fish, with replicas of prey that exude strength and confidence, that boast they are going to be anything but an easy meal.
Have you ever noticed that the older a lure gets, like the beat-up black-and-white Dardevle in the second photo, the better it works? Its raggedness is a turn-on for fish. It looks weak and injured.
Lure manufacturers should be making baits that don't track correctly, that start to swim forward and then turn to the side and go upside down, just like a dying minnow does.
Did you ever have aquarium fish that got the disease Ich? Their back halves usually turn white. Their tail fins rot off and they can just wiggle but not swim forward much. Wild minnows get a similar disease. Boy are they easy meals for a walleye or northern pike.
It's unlikely lure makers are going to follow my suggestion though. After all, their products don't need to catch fish, just fishermen, and people aren't as apt to buy a lure called the Sick Minnow as a beautiful Perch or Rainbow Trout.
But you can doctor your own lures to get the desired effect. By bending the fastening ring on stick baits like Rapala you can make the bait pull to one side. If you pause on your retrieve when it does so, you imitate a dying minnow. If you squish the loop so that it isn't round and bend the whole works downward, you make a greater wobble in the lure. It might imitate a fish missing its tail.
A file can quickly rub some of the paint off a new spoon, giving it the lived-in appearance of an old lure that has taken a lot of strikes.
When adding a trailer such as a plastic twister tail to a Johnson Silver Minnow or a Mepps Spinner, you can nick the grub with a knife in a few places, again, making it look less than perfect.
Give it a try this summer. One person in the boat can fish with a perfect lure, the other with a misfit and see who does the best.
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Whitefish Lake ice-out today, April 3, 2012

Ice-out Whitefish Lake, April 3, 2012
Here's the scene today at Whitefish Lake, near our home in Nolalu, Ontario. The lake was shore-to-shore ice yesterday.
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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Roll out those lazy days of summer, Sam dreams

The sun and rain finally took away the three inches of snow we got on Friday.
After the incredible warm temperatures of two weeks ago, the weather has turned back to more-or-less normal.
It still looks like a record-early ice-out for all the lakes of Northwestern Ontario. In the Thunder Bay area the small lakes are already open and the big ones probably will join them in a matter of days.
Up at Red Lake we have heard the ice disappeared last week from the little lakes along the highway, just south of town. The usual rule-of-thumb is for Red Lake to follow two weeks later.
So despite the return of normal, cooler, temperatures, we can still be looking at an ice-out on Red Lake of approximately April 15.
It can't come soon enough for Sam and me. I'm always itching to get to work on camp, remodel cabins and make repairs before the guests arrive. Sam looks forward to using this mobile dog bed that is just perfect for him to keep watch on the place, when he isn't napping, that is.
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