Sunday, October 28, 2012

How to winterize the Honda 20 h.p. outboard

Each fall I must winterize all the outboard motors at Bow Narrows Camp. While not a difficult chore it does take quite a bit of time, especially when you consider the number of motors we must do. Our fishing boats are equipped with 20 h.p. Honda four-stroke engines.
I start by draining the engine oil by using a pump evacuator. This system sucks the oil right out of the engine through the dipstick tube.This is best done when the engine is still hot but it can be done with cold oil too.
Oil is pumped from engine
Now drain the lower unit by removing the bottom drain plug, then the top vent plug. This is vitally important because if water has infiltrated due to, say, fishing line being wound around the prop (like that ever happens!), then this water will freeze over the winter and break the lower unit.
This is thick, stinky stuff and when you do it in near-freezing temperatures the way I always do in the fall, will take about 10 minutes to finish draining. That means you can proceed with the next step and come back to this later. But before it is all drained out, take a look at the oil. It should be dark-coloured. If it is milky, then it has water in it. This could mean you need to get the prop seal replaced on this engine. It is best to have the unit pressure-tested to see if the seal is still good. Also pay attention to see if the oil contains metal filings. This means something has happened to the gear alignment, probably the result of striking a rock. There's nothing to do but get the gears replaced. Usually, however, the oil is just oil.
You should also take off and inspect the prop as well as the line-winder bushing on the prop shaft. If it has line on it, remove it, then put everything back. 
Oil drains from vent plug
Next, you will need to remove the cowling on the right side of the engine. It is held with five small screws. You will also need to remove the latch at the back of the engine. Take care not to lose the split ring that holds the entire clasp mechanism together. Unplug the engine vent and gasoline drain tubes from the cowling.
Remove tubes from cowling

You need to replace the oil filter. Unless the motor has been sitting on the rack for a long time, it will be full of oil so wedge a rag beneath it to catch most of the drips. Lube the rubber ring on the new filter before installing. Tighten by hand until snug.
Now fill the engine with one liter of 10W30 oil through the oil fill cap.
You now must drain all the gasoline from the engine. Even if you ran the motor dry before taking it out of the water, it will still have gasoline trapped in the fuel system. This could turn to varnish, thanks to today's ethanol-laced fuel, even if you use fuel stabilizer. So do this instead:
 Loosen the drain screw at the bottom of the carburetor . It will let any gas still in the carb drain out through the clear vent tube.Also, disconnect the fuel line that runs from the fuel pump to the vapour separator. There will be a great deal of fuel left in this. If it is clear, you can save this but if cloudy, it has water in it and must be discarded.
The fuel pump is the round object just to the right of my hand. The vapor separator is the jar-like object at the bottom right.
Gas is drained from water separator fuel line
Replace the fuel hose and reassemble the cowling.
By now the lower unit will have finished draining so fill the lower unit with 80-90w gear oil by filling from the bottom vent hole until oil appears in the top hole.
Wash off the entire cowling. Windex does a good job for this.
Store the engine upright over the winter.
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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Black wolf looks like the alpha male

alpha male of the pack, Red Lake, Ontario
This spectacular photo of a large black timber wolf was taken near camp by my brother-in-law, Ron Wink.
We think he is the alpha male -- the male leader -- of the pack. There are a couple of reasons for this.
For starters, no other wolf came near him in our photos. If you look in the background of the shot at the bottom you can see another, tawny-coloured, wolf in the background. The male black wolf was also the largest wolf.
The night Ron got this photo on his trail camera, we heard all the wolves howling. That's something wolves do when they are packing-up in the fall. Again, it takes a leader to create a pack.
Finally, when the black wolf left, he took all the other wolves with him. We had photographed many other wolves for days until the night he appeared.
Even though there were still moose parts left to chew upon, all the canines vanished from our trail cameras for a long time. Finally, a lone tawny wolf came back to finish up the scraps.
wolf pack at west end of Red Lake, Ontario

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Nice photo of a young timber wolf near camp

Wolf captured on Bushnell HD trail camera, 2012, near Bow Narrows Camp
Here's a shot I got recently with my new Bushnell HD Trophy Cam trail camera. It shows a beautiful timber wolf in the most typical colour pattern. This wolf is quite tall, likely at least three feet or one metre. Note the thin profile and legs and the yellow eyes. We have seen a lot of wolves that looked like this around camp here at Red Lake, Ontario. More wolf photos in the next blog. I also have videos if I can figure out how to post them on the blog.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Timber wolves frequently seen and heard

Timber wolves at night
We have seen and heard more timber wolves this year than any other. Bow Narrows angler Charles Howard discovered one location for photographing wolves when he and fellow angler Kim Gross were here in September. Charles got some nice shots with his trail camera so I thought I would try the same thing. This is my first photo, showing three wolves.
My brother-in-law, Ron, and I each purchased new Bushnell High Definition cameras after I got this shot. Wait until you see those pix on the blog in the coming days!

It has been a fall for firewood

Our son, Matt, came to camp in September to help us find and cut firewood. This is a big chore as we need to search around the lake for dead trees, cut them down, buck them up into four-foot lengths, haul them by boat to camp, carry them up the hill and then cut them into stove-length pieces, split the blocks, and deliver them to the cabins.
He, and our brother-in-law, Ron Wink who did most of the splitting and delivering, had just finished gathering enough wood for this fall and next spring when the winter storm hit. It broke hundreds of green trees right here in our yard. Ever since we have been cutting up these trees which will be used for firewood next fall and coming years.
Meanwhile, the weather all fall has been very cold and wet and we have used up a lot of the wood we hoped to have on hand next year.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Many lake trout spawned; new direction starts

Nadine Thibeau and Jim Castle implant a tracking device

Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources fish and wildlife personnel gathered more than 100 lake trout this fall to help regenerate Red Lake's once-burgeoning lake trout population.
Under the direction of new biologist Jim Castle, the MNR crews caught and gathered the eggs and milt from 50 female and 50 male trout. It was the best catch in many years possibly due to weather conditions. Autumn came early this year, plunging the lake temperature to the lake trouts' preferred 10-12 C for spawning. In other years the temperature has been too warm until late in October which is then too late for the trout to spawn,
This year marks a new strategy for the MNR trout project. In addition to producing about 150,000 fingerlings to be released back to Red Lake in 18 months, other fingerlings will be kept at the MNR hatchery in Dorion, Ont., and will be raised to become brood stock. Once those fish reach maturity in about seven years, their eggs and milt will be gathered for the Red Lake restocking program.
There have been several developments in the trout situation in Red Lake.
The first was the discovery by Castle that Red Lake's trout DNA shows there are four distinct groups of trout. Trout are genetically distinct in each lake that they are found. Castle had first guessed there might be two types in Red Lake: Pipestone Bay fish and those from the rest of the lake. He had reasoned that Pipestone was once a lake unto itself and only became part of Red Lake when the Snowshoe Dam was built in 1948. That raised the water level about four feet. The present tiny entrance to Pipestone Bay is only about five feet deep. It is likely that before the dam was created Pipestone was joined to the rest of the lake by either a small creek or even a rapids. Pipestone, was in effect, a lake, not a bay.
Kyle Pace brings a large trout to shore for spawning
Castle sent away samples of fish that the MNR has gathered over the years and found to his surprise that there were four different strains of trout in Red Lake. Possibly some of the trout came from introductions in the past although there is no record of this.
At any rate, his hypothesis was that since the MNR in the past had been gathering all of the trout for the restocking project in Pipestone Bay, it was logical then that stocked fish would return to Pipestone to spawn. That is something the MNR team doesn't want to happen because studies show that lake trout eggs usually do not survive in Pipestone Bay. The reason is still a mystery and making the situation all the more enigmatic is the observation that once in awhile, they do survive.
This year the MNR gathered spawning fish from three areas instead of just Pipestone. They were Potato Island basin, Trout Bay and Pipestone Bay. The Pipestone and non-Pipestone fish were kept separate and were mated with those from their own area. The researchers also implanted tracking devices in about 20 trout and will monitor their movements around the lake.
Here at Bow Narrows Camp we are in a perfect position to have witnessed the entire lake trout saga.
Back in the 1960s and 70s, we had good lake trout fishing at the west end of the lake where the camp is located. By and large our guests made up the majority of people who fished for trout. In a day's fishing you might catch 6-12 fish and they varied in size from one pound to 25 pounds.
Then, in the 1980s, the lake trout population seemed to go berserk. Our fishermen might catch 20 fish in a day and they were all huge, 16 pounds up to as large as 40 pounds. At this time Red Lake's trout fishing was ranked among the best in the world, as good as places like Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories.
About the same time smelt were discovered in Red Lake. Smelt are native only to the Pacific Ocean and were transplanted to the Great Lakes. It is likely that Red Lake residents who had gone "smelting" in Lake Superior unintentionally released fertilized smelt eggs into Red Lake. The same thing happened in just about every lake with road access in Northwestern Ontario.
Smelt are a highly nutritious fish and larger fish that eat them, such as lake trout, grow rapidly.
I believe that the introduction of smelt is what actually caused the eventual demise of lake trout in Red Lake.
Here's what I think happened: lake trout ate the blossoming smelt population and double or tripled their normal annual weight gain. When news of the tremendous trout fishing at the west end of the lake got out, anglers came from far and wide to catch them.
When Brenda and I returned to the camp business in 1992 (we had left to pursue other careers in 1978), I was stunned at the fishing pressure being placed on lake trout.
Now, instead of just Bow Narrows fishermen catching trout, there were also anglers from Black Bear Lodge, located about five miles to our east, many Red Lake residents who also winter-fished, all the camps at the east end of the lake, all of the camps on Gullrock Lake and even camps on Eagle Lake, more than 100 miles to our south!
Tiny locations such as Potato Island might have as many as two dozen boats fishing around them, almost around the clock.
The sustainable harvest of lake trout, as determined by MNR fish studies elsewhere, is one-half pound of fish per surface acre of water. I estimate that the entire year's harvest of trout by all the combined fishermen occurred in just a few days. Almost all of these boats were taking lots of fish in the 16-20 pound range every day. When you consider that each 20-pound fish accounts for the allowable yield of 40 acres, it doesn't take long before you have over-harvested the species. And this colossal overharvest went on day after day for more than a decade.
Lake trout are not a wary fish. This has been shown by an on-going MNR study on Squeers Lake, between Thunder Bay and Atikokan. Only ice fishermen are allowed to fish there and only through a lottery-type system on a couple of weekends. It's a small lake and easier for the fish researchers to watch the population. A few years ago the study purposely let fishermen overharvest the lake with the idea that the biologists would monitor how the population would respond. Surprisingly, the study also showed that even though there were fewer and fewer fish in the lake, the success rate of the fishermen didn't change. In other words, trout are eager to bite and it is plumb easy to catch every one of them.
That is what I think happened in Red Lake. In the space of just a decade or so, fishermen caught almost every trout, especially in the most heavily fished areas such as Potato Island. All the fish were big, were the spawners, and people just caught them all.
What about Pipestone Bay then? Pipestone is the farthest for all but Bow Narrows fishermen to reach. It didn't quite get the pressure. So more of its fish escaped. And in the end, those were almost the only fish left.
Why can't they spawn there today?
We don't know, except that there seems to be some naturally occurring blend of elements in the sediment that prevents their success. We also know that once in awhile, for reasons we still can't fathom, the eggs do survive. It might be a combination of temperature, wind conditions and water level.
Whatever, MNR studies have shown that the eggs do sometimes make it.
I suspect that has always been the situation. As long as there aren't hordes of anglers whipping them out of the lake, Pipestone is still able to sustain itself.
All lake trout fishing has been catch-and-release only now for about 10 years. Are there small lake trout being caught? A few and so far, none has been the stocked fish put back in the lake by the MNR.
Biologist Castle had some facts about smelt that might account for this.
First, smelt are voracious predators. They eat other fish when these species are still in the larval stages.
Smelt are also a mid-to-deep-depth species. They exist in the same water with lake trout. So, it is entirely possible that smelt are eating most of the larval-sized lake trout.
What about all the trout that have been released? It's true, they are too big for smelt to eat. There have been hundreds of thousands of them put back in the lake. Here's my theory: when the lake trout were removed from the deeper depths, the void was filled by walleye. Studies and our anglers' experience prove there are now lots of walleye in the deep depths. Walleye have been eating the trout fingerlings.
Walleye are unaffected by smelt predation because walleye in the larval stage, when they are vulnerable to smelt, exist in shallow water.
Castle calls such a situation a "predator pit." Trout can't get a start again because there are just too many predators (walleyes and smelt) down there. His plan is to overwhelm the predators. If he can release enough fingerling trout at one time, some of them will survive, and when they do, they will once again become the top predator. Walleye will be forced to stick to the safety of the shallows.

And with catch-and-release fishing, trout numbers should grow to the point where they will also overwhelm the smelt. This will let natural deep-water species such as whitefish, ling and tulibee to rebuild their populations too.
I think we are on the right track here.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Lots of things happened, including this

Why have there been no postings for the past month?
There are lots of reasons. We have been busy re-roofing many of the buildings in camp, helping out with the trout project, closing camp for the winter and dealing with this, a major winter snowstorm that struck the first week of October.
The storm left about 14 inches of heavy, wet snow on the ground, broke down trees and lasted for nearly two weeks.
I'll have more postings directly.