Thursday, January 31, 2013

'Hi there, sailor; come here often?'

Merganser duck and Bonaparte's gull
 Or some such question from the merganser duck seems to shock a wide-eyed Bonaparte's gull.
Doug Billings shot this wonderful photograph while up at camp.
Mergansers are our most-common duck. They are often seen in groups of 6-12 ducklings plus the hen, swimming along shorelines. If frightened they skitter across the lake's surface until they have grown their flight feathers.
A lot of people don't know that the minnow-eating merganser, with its legs farther back on its body than ducks like mallards (better for swimming) nests in tree cavities. In fact, there are a couple of hens that nest each year right in the large quaking aspen trees in camp.
They nest in old holes made by pileated woodpeckers, anywhere from 30-40 feet from the ground.
How they can fly into the hole without killing themselves is a miracle. I've only seen it happen once. The hen kept flying through the trees, narrowly averting disaster with tree trunks until finally, she headed right toward the hole, full throttle. Then, with just feet to go, she flared her wings, put feet to the edge of the hole and fell right inside.
The Bonaparte's gull is a new resident to the west end of Red Lake. These small, tern-like members of the gull family first showed up about 10 years ago during a late-spring snowstorm. Some stayed for the summer and now we have a small population of nesting birds. They are more common on the Prairies than Northwestern Ontario but I understand there has been a population living downstream of Red Lake on Gullrock Lake for a number of years.
They too eat minnows and can be seen swimming back and forth along the shorelines pecking at unseen prey.
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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

300 horsepower in forward, 60 in reverse

Twin 150 hp Honda outboards are the same as in Honda Accord autos
At first glance, that seems to be what is happening here but actually this is how we take our 20 hp Honda outboards between our dealer in Red Lake and the camp.
The 20s will fit right on the forward edge of the splash tray of the Lickety Split. This is a great way of carrying them because they stay upright and there's no chance of oil spilling from these four-stroke engines. Also, it prevents the cowlings from getting scratched by the diamond-cote, non-skid surface of the Lickety Split deck.
The Lickety Split was custom-made for us by ZagFab boat makers in Riverton, Manitoba. This brand is famous from Northwestern Ontario through the Prairies and all the way up to the Arctic for its rugged, maintenance-free work boats.
With twin 150-hp engines on the stern, lots of people think we must be the fastest boat on the lake. It's pretty quick, that's for sure, but the Lickety Split is really made for hauling big loads and handling big waves in addition to moving at a fast clip. There are certainly faster boats around but none that can carry such a big load while cruising at over 30 mph.
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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

'This is a big one, you'd better get the net!'

Jerry Olaskowitz battles a big fish, his grandson Kyle Kelley ready to dip it out with the landing net.
What a great action photo!
You can see the water boiling from the fish's tail and far to the right, Jerry's line going into the lake at the other end of this tremendous fish. It gives you some idea of the length of this lunker.
You can almost hear the drag singing while Jerry and Kyle shout instructions and encouragement back and forth in the excitement.
Ken Lehmann took this photo in 2012. It's a great reminder to the rest of us to take out the camera when we see something exciting happening.
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Saturday, January 26, 2013

A toothy grin for a toothy fish

That's an armload!
Gage Bruns, age 6, hoists a tremendous 33-inch northern pike he caught on Red Lake, Ontario last summer.
Gage was fishing at Bow Narrows Camp with his mom, Kerri, and his grandpa, Phil Schmiedeskamp.
This young angler had every right to be grinning -- that's a fine fish.
He had a pretty good guide for this one-- his grandpa Phil has been coming to Bow Narrows since the 1970s.
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Thursday, January 24, 2013

How to find stuff on this blog with 543 entries!

I've been writing this blog for a lot of years now and it contains tons of information which you might want to review, things like articles on fishing for northern pike, walleyes, strategies, how to net fish, weather information, best lures, things to bring, etc.
There are only about 20 entries on this page, so how do you find the others? There are a couple of ways. One is to keep going backwards through the blog by clicking on the "Older Posts" button at the bottom of the page. Another is to plunk-in a search topic in the little window at the top and hit the magnifying glass. It will bring up 20 entries with that topic. You can then hit "older posts" at the bottom of that page and get another 20, etc.
You can also click on the various years and months of the blog listed in the column at the right.
There are awesome photos taken by our anglers illustrating these articles. The blog is really a team effort. Besides submitting photos, our guests and readers also write comments at the bottom of some of the entries and also give me tips for future blog topics. Feel free to leave your comment too. No matter when the posting was made, you can still add a comment and it will appear below that posting. Just like letters to the editor in a newspaper, comments are read by everyone.
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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Now availability in May, July and early August

If you have been waiting for a vacancy to get into camp this summer, click on the Availability list at the right side of this page. There are now openings in most months, including difficult-to-get-into weeks.
This is probably as "open" as the list is going to get as I've now been in contact with virtually everybody who made reservations last year and either confirmed their reservations or cancelled them.
If you haven't heard from me, somehow, and you thought you had made reservations last year, then call me or send me an e-mail.
All of the vacancies will be filled on a first-contact, first-serve basis.
You can reach me at our winter phone number: 807-475-7246
Or by e-mail:

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

This would go great on these bitter cold nights

If you haven't been to Bow Narrows Camp before, you are in for a taste treat on your first trip here -- a slice of Bow Narrows' famous Mile-High lemon meringue pie and hot coffee!
Bow Narrows angler Doug Billings thought highly enough about the two to take their picture!
They would taste great on these cold winter nights too. It was -34 C in Nolalu this morning. That's about 30 below F.
If there's anything the slightest the matter with your vehicle, it will become evident in these temps. Low batteries become dead batteries. Low tires become flat tires. Doors won't latch. Tailgates won't close. Seats feel like they were made of concrete. Transmissions won't shift. If your car needed a tune-up before, it won't run at all now.
The exhaust of vehicles hangs in the air long after the vehicle has moved away, obscuring your vision at major intersections. Your miles per gallon are cut in half.
On the other hand, traction on snow is excellent. It's almost impossible to get stuck.
And, of course, there are no bugs!
If you're a true Canadian, while you're waiting for someone to give you a jump with your car hood up, and the windchill is something you don't even want to think about, you lean against your door and comment to anyone who will listen, "Yes, but it's a dry cold."

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Proud red fox shows off his catch

It sure seemed like our neighborhood red fox was showing off the snowshoe hare he caught and killed.
He brought it right to our house here in Nolalu and seemed to be looking for Sam who was inside at the time.
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Saturday, January 19, 2013

My preferred knot for Knot2Kinky leader wire

Clinch Knot from Knot2Kinky website
I prefer this Clinch Knot when tying the Knot2Kinky nickel-titanium leader wire.
The Aquateko company recommends several knots on the back of the Knot2Kinky wire package and this one, I find, ties the easiest, draws together the best and doesn't kink.
This unique wire can be tied like fishing line but it takes some practice. In particular it is important to note where to pull to draw the knot. It shows how in this illustration.
I like this material in the six-pound test because it is ultra-thin and can be used for walleye fishing. That's not a misprint, WALLEYE fishing. Why would you use a leader for walleye fishing? Because it prevents northern pike from cutting your line. You will start boating those 20-pound pike that have been getting away all these years. And the 6-pound version of this line is hair-thin, thinner even than your line. It isn't going to spook any walleyes away.
You can also get 12-pound test or other weights to match your fishing line when fishing for northern pike. One of the really stupid things we have been doing is buying steel leaders that were heavier than our fishing line.What's the sense of having a chunk of "cable" on the end of our thin fishing line, right where it attaches to our lures?
Always make sure that your snap and swivel are sized according to the leader weight: i.e. small snaps for six pound, larger for 12 pound.

Have you contacted us about your reservations?

We have now heard from and received deposits from almost everybody with existing reservations.
If you have not confirmed your reservations with a deposit or even a phone call or e-mail this winter, you should do so now. You should do this even if you don't yet know your final numbers, etc. Just let us know if you are coming or not.
I am in the process of phoning people who I wrote to more than a month ago and haven't yet heard whether they are coming to camp.
I phone twice and leave messages and then I put the cabin that was reserved on the Availability list for others to book.
So if you have been waiting for a chance to get reservations at camp or if you have wanted to switch your reservation time to a different week, watch the Availability list. It will start changing almost daily now.
You can reach me by phone at our winter number: 807-475-7246 and by e-mail:
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Thursday, January 17, 2013

If looks could kill I'd be pushing up daisies

Sam has one of the most expressive dog faces I have ever seen. Here he looks at me with absolute disgust because I'm setting up a trail camera and interrupting our walk through the woods. "I mean, are we going for a walk or what?" he seems to be saying.
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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Look at the size of the bait this pike took!

Pike grabbed small walleye and wouldn't let go
Larry Tronrud holds up the northern pike that had clamped onto the little walleye in his other hand last summer at camp. The pike was never hooked; it just wouldn't open its mouth when Larry was reeling in the walleye.
Pike attacks on walleye being brought to the boat seem to be more and more frequent. For one thing, there just are so many more small walleye these days. Pike really like to prey on school fish and walleye fill the bill nicely.
Most of the time the larger predator will release the walleye when it sees the boat but once in awhile, such as above, it is really determined!
You might think that it would be a good idea to fish with large live bait in these areas for giant pike. You cannot use walleyes, of course; they are gamefish, but you can purchase large live sucker minnows, and I've known people who tried that. Alas, it doesn't seem to be very successful, at least not in the summer. Neither is dead bait, such as frozen ciscoes, which can work great in spring and fall.
So how would a pike angler target large northern pike in areas with lots of walleye?
I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on this. If you leave a comment at the end of the blog I will be sure it is published.
My thoughts are to use deeper-diving artificial baits than normal for pike and troll or cast these in the fringe areas of the walleye spots. This might be an occasion to use slightly larger baits too. I don't want to say "large" because people always go overboard on lure size. However, an eight-inch Rapala or the like might work in these spots. That's normally too big to plug the shorelines all day with which is how we catch the vast majority of pike. However, when you know where there is an active walleye spot, you might just try trolling a bit farther away with the bigger lure and see what happens. Don't be surprised if you catch walleye anyway!

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Get ready for wild and wooly night skies

Canadian Geographic January/February 2013
Check out the latest issue of Canadian Geographic magazine to see what's in store for the nighttime skies this year!
The year 2013 is predicted to be a solar maximum with peak northern lights, especially in September!
There is an 11-year cycle to the sun and 2013 is the peak year this time around.
The Aurora Borealis or northern lights are created when eruptions on the sun's surface send ionized hydrogen atoms at hundreds of kilometres per second to Earth. This solar wind swirls into the planet's magnetic fields (north and south) and the particles speed into the ionosphere and fluoresce green and red and pink, 60 miles up. They make curtains of icicle-like lights that wave and tremble.
It is the greatest light show imaginable!
I didn't know until I read this issue of Canadian Geographic that Northwestern Ontario, actually, just about where Red Lake is located, is the southernmost point of the Auroral Oval. That's the area where the auroras typically occur. However, when the show is 60 miles overhead, it can be seen from a lot farther south than Red Lake too.
There's no guarantee that we will be treated to northern lights. They are famously fickle. However, since this is the peak of the 11-year cycle, there is a better-than-normal chance of seeing them.
You might want to bring a tripod for your camera. It will be necessary to photograph the lights. If you forget, I've got one I can loan you.
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Monday, January 14, 2013

Another Wheat Belly book out there now

I recommended in a previous posting (Buy yourself this gift for Christmas) that everybody should read Wheat Belly, by Dr. William Davis, MD. For about two months now I've been following his advice to not eat wheat especially but also to steer clear of grains of all kinds and I've now lost three inches off my waist. The funny thing is I have only lost about 10 pounds. I'm obviously losing my belly, the cinching of my belt proves this, but I would say I am also GAINING muscle. How else can I explain getting radically smaller in the middle but only losing a moderate amount of weight?
Anyway, I'm very pleased with the results and I feel GREAT! I'm not tired at all during the day any more. Previously I needed to take a nap for a half hour each day.
I've also had no low blood-sugar episodes, something I have been prone to all my life.  Before switching to this type of eating I was unable to exert myself for at last a half-hour after eating or my blood sugar would crash and I would get what my Mom used to call, "the weak tremblies."
Finally, I'm seldom hungry now. I can usually go from meal to meal without snacking.
Dr. Davis now has published another book, The Wheat Belly Cookbook. I haven't read this but I would trust that it is useful, especially if you really miss bread and pasta. Dr. Davis has ways of making crusts from things like flax seed which gets around the wheat dilemma.
From my perspective, it's probably easiest to just drop bread, crusts, pastas, desserts, entirely than to find ways of imitating these things. That's just a personal choice. I like things to be simple.
Brenda and I have switched from eating spaghetti and meat sauce to cauliflower and meat sauce. Don't knock it until you've tried it!
I do miss pizza and want to try making it by putting the ingredients I can eat, like meat, cheese, onions and tomato sauce, on shallow shells of green pepper. I'll let you know how that goes.
A lot of you said you were thinking of trying the Wheat Belly advice. I would say you have nothing to lose but your middle. Go for it!
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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Yes, fish do bite in the rain!

27-inch walleye may have weighed eight pounds
Mike Tronrud holds up a hefty 27-inch walleye for the camera last summer during a particularly drenching day.
"That was a day I thanked God for quality rain gear!" writes Mike.
We cannot emphasize enough the importance of being prepared for foul weather. If you can afford only one top-rate piece of outdoor equipment, let it be your rainwear! You need to be totally waterproof from your head to your toes.
The best is waterproof but breathable fabrics like Gore-Tex or heavy duty rubber or PVC gear worn by people like commercial fishermen, outdoor utility workers, miners, etc.
Cheap, thin, PVC or plastic rain coats and pants are nearly useless. They will split the first time you bend over.
Absolutely worthless are ponchos. There is no way they are going to keep you dry in the wind.
Don't forget waterproof boots. The new neoprene boots made by outfits like Muck and Lacrosse are the best. They are comfortable and warm. Next is the old knee-high rubber boot, then Gore-tex lined boots. There's nothing wrong with plain old galoshes, as long as they don't leak. No matter how warm the weather is, you won't be comfortable standing in the rain in sandals. Even if you don't get cold somehow, the bugs are going to eat you alive and there's no way to keep insect repellent on in the rain.
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Friday, January 11, 2013

Time to stop taking life so seriously

Some fishermen are dead serious about their sport, and then there are guys like these!
The Olaskowitz-Heneise-Lehmann group know as much about catching fish as anyone who has ever come to Bow Narrows Camp, but they also know how to crack each other up.
Incidentally, this photo by Ken Lehmann shows our new 18-foot Lund with 25 hp Honda which we use whenever we can for three-to-a-boat situations.
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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Can mares tails & mackerel scales predict fishing?

Mares tails

Mackerel scales
The old weather saying: "mares tails and mackerel scales make tall ships lower their sails" is an accurate predictor of wind and storms. Does it also predict the fishing?
I think it does. I think it is forecasting great fishing, at least for a short while, and does the same thing for hunting. In fact, it was this latter sport that got me thinking about it. We are having a very blustery day here in Nolalu. Wind gusts are whipping the trees around and sending the snow whirling in "snow-devils" across the fields.
It immediately made me grab my camera and head out to the bush to see if I could catch a deer or moose or wolf unawares. Alas, I didn't have much time for the task and didn't see anything but I have had great success both hunting and photographing on windy days. With the wind swishing through the branches and all the trees cracking and groaning, nothing can hear me approaching. Also, my scent is scattered to smithereens for those keen noses always trying to pinpoint my location.
Fishing is also usually great on windy days, as long as it isn't so windy you lose control of the boat.
Just think of "walleye chop." This is what every walleye fisherman wants, choppy waves. We have always thought that the waves muddy-up the shorelines which lure baitfish that in turn, lure walleye. But the chop also breaks up the light penetrating the lake, sending it dancing in all directions and making it difficult for baitfish to see the predators. Walleye and northern pike, realizing their advantage, go on a killing spree.
Along with wind, the old saying also predicts precipitation, a low-pressure system in weather jargon. It is well-known that fish hit before a storm. We don't know why; maybe it is just because of the wind but once the front passes the fishing quits, often for a couple of days. So, it would seem it was the atmospheric pressure change, not just the wind, that set off the fish and then put them into a lull.
Try it out this summer. See if mares tails and mackerel scales are really atmospheric signs that say: "The fish are hitting!"

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Monday, January 7, 2013

Why you should always let the big ones go

Bob Edwards, 2012
Bow Narrows angler Bob Edwards caught this monster northern pike in Red Lake last summer. Like almost everybody these days, he let it go. Why did he do that?
Bob has been coming to Bow Narrows Camp since the 1970s! If he is like most of us, his sense of conservation has probably evolved over that period.
Big fish is released
Forty years ago just about everyone would have kept this beauty, to eat or to mount. Those were the days when the success of a fishing trip was gauged by how full the cooler was at the end of the week. But then we all began noticing how there were fewer and fewer lakes where you still could catch fish like this. We didn't want that to happen here. So, we just stopped keeping those lunkers, even before it was the cool thing to do, even before biologists and fishing laws started encouraging the public to release big fish.
We began regarding these exemplary fish as wonders to behold, not just big pieces of meat.
Eventually, the game laws caught up to us, more or less. Now there are some protections for big gamefish. For instance, in Northwestern Ontario you cannot keep any northern pike between 27.5 and 35.4 inches and can only keep one longer than 35.4 inches. You can only keep one walleye over 18 inches. The province instituted this rule for an obvious reason: small fish don't spawn, big ones do. If you let the big ones go and eat the smaller ones, there will always be lots of fish in the lake. Hardly anyone has a problem with this except the nervous law-makers who still need convincing that the majority of anglers and hunters are not fish and game hogs. When they finally get the message the law will change to release ALL big fish.
There is another clear reason not to eat big fish; they are unhealthy food choices. We've known for several decades now that fish accumulate heavy metals and, in populated areas, toxins, in their tissues. A lake doesn't need to be polluted for this to happen, it occurs everywhere: in lakes, rivers, oceans, the pond in your backyard, in the U.S., Canada,  the Arctic -- all over the world. Here's how it happens.
There are tiny bits of natural but harmful elements like lead and mercury that have weathered from rocks lying all through the soil. When it rains, these particles are carried downhill by the runoff until they eventually end up in the lowest place around. That would be the water body. There they are absorbed by the tiniest aquatic life which is eaten by slightly bigger creatures and so on and so forth until you get near the top of the food chain. That would be the big predator fish, like walleye and northern pike and lake trout, in the case of Red Lake. The older these big fish are, the more time they have had to accumulate these substances. Young fish have almost none.
A 44-inch northern pike or a 28-inch walleye can be 20 years old!
What else do you eat that is 20 years old? Beef cattle are slaughtered at two years; pork at six months, chicken at six weeks.
What about vegetables? Have you eaten any 20-year-old carrots lately?
Fish under the slot size in the case of northern pike and under the 18-inch mark for walleye are young fish, just a few years old. They are delicious, cook perfectly and are a healthy, nutritious food choice. Those are the ones we are meant to eat.

What about trophies? Is it OK to keep big fish for mounting? Well, you aren't going to keep probably more than one or two in your life for this, so in that respect it doesn't cause too much harm. However, a far better choice today is to get a replica of the fish made by a taxidermist and let the real fish go. The replica is more realistic and lasts longer.
 Actually, the very best way to commemorate the occasion is a photograph or a video that shows you and/or your partner, your boat and equipment, the lake and the weather, and the release of the big fish. It puts the fish and the moment in context. Buy a good digital camera that you always have with you or better yet, get and learn to use one of the new GoPro cameras. It can be mounted on the bow or stern of the boat and record all the action in HD, hands-free.
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Friday, January 4, 2013

Too late for the first day of Christmas

This partridge, or ruffed grouse, must have been operating on the Mayan calendar. He showed up in a birch tree outside my office window a couple days ago, way too late for the song, you know, the 12 Days of Christmas.
"On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me,
a partridge in a bare tree."
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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Remembering those we lost during the year

We at Bow Narrows Camp are blessed to have known a great many wonderful people. They are our guests, friends, staff, fellow outfitters, suppliers and merchants, and our family.
Some of these dear, amazing people passed away in 2012 and we sorely miss them. We miss their laughs and smiles and how their passion for the outdoors and their families inspired us.
We have grieved since their passing and have thought a lot about those qualities that so typified them: their resilience, humour, compassion and optimism.
Yet, we know that none of them would have wished sadness upon us. And so, after awhile, we come to the realization that there is nothing to do but to carry their memories forward and to treasure every moment with the others we still share this life with.
It makes me think of this saying:

Yesterday's history,
Tomorrow's a mystery,
Today is a gift -- that's why it's called 'the present.'

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Anglers like these ensure great fishing continues

Jeff Kinzenbaw
Adam Collett, Tom Kinzenbaw

John Overbeeke
The Kinzenbaw group caught some dandy walleye and northern pike at camp last June and then released them to grow even larger for this year's trip.
The top photo shows Jeff Kinzenbaw with a 23-inch walleye. The middle photo shows Jeff's dad, Tom, with a 27.5-inch walleye. Adam Collett was the net man on that fish. John Overbeeke displays a  33-inch northern pike in the bottom photo.
These fish were just too large to keep from both a conservation and an eating point of view.
The best northern pike to eat are from about 21-26 inches. There is a no-keep slot size of 27.5 inches to 35.4 inches on pike. Although you can legally keep one pike larger than 35.4 inches, our policy is to reserve that right for fish you kill accidentally. If you want a wall-hanger, the best idea is to measure the length and girth and release the actual fish. Today's replicas made by taxidermists are outstanding, better even than the skin mounts.
For walleyes you are permitted to have one fish over 18 inches. Again, the best policy is to only keep fish under 18 inches. They are the best eating and haven't even begun to spawn. The spawners are the ones 18 inches and above. We all want them to keep reproducing. Use your "over-18" option only if you foul-hook a walleye and it would die anyway.
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