Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The art of trolling and a beautiful lure for it

Paul Stowick with giant Red Lake pike
Bow Narrows angler Paul Stowick hoists a giant northern pike that he caught and released on Red Lake.
Paul has been coming to camp for a long time, usually twice each summer, so he knows a great deal about fishing here.
I have recognized for years that he excels at the way he fishes which is trolling. Just as other anglers have perfected techniques like jigging, back-trolling walleye spinners or casting, Paul is an artist at trolling artificials.
I think other anglers who are in camp the same time as Paul would be surprised to know that he and his group usually catch as many walleye without live bait as these others do with it. They also catch lots of northern pike and lots of big ones to boot.
How do they do it? I'm ashamed to say that it wasn't until last summer that I paid close attention. My eureka moment came while listening to anglers talk in the fish house as our outside worker, Ben Godin, and Paul were cleaning fish. Paul likes to clean his own fish! Anyway, anglers would come in to leave fish in their tubs for Ben and would pass on information about how they were catching walleyes. Most of the anglers told how well they had done using a worm or leech on a particular colour spinner or jig at a specific depth. All of these anglers are what I would call walleye experts, at the top of their games, and they had all caught lots of walleye that day.
Rapala Shallow Shad Rap
When they left, I asked Paul how he and his wife, Kathy, had done. They obviously had caught fish since Paul was now washing up after cleaning some for supper. Paul told me the number, I forget exactly what it was, but basically it was identical to what the bait fishermen had done that day.  And they had caught them all on one particular model of Rapala, the Shallow Shad Rap.
Paul pointed out that he and his group have used almost nothing else but this lure for years. They have them in virtually every colour, including ones that are no longer made. They use them in two sizes: the SSR07 about 90 per cent of the time and the SSR09 the rest.
The SSR07 is seven centimeters long (2.8 inches plus the lip) and the SSR09 is nine centimeters (about 3.5 inches). The 07 dives about six feet deep and the 09 goes about nine.
Paul said he particularly likes the Shallow Shad Rap because of its tiny L-shaped lip. It is far better at not catching weeds than other crankbaits, he said. That got my attention. I love to fish for walleye without bait. I guess I'm just too lazy to have to bother with skewering a worm or leech or minnow on a hook. I like to just open the tackle box and start fishing!
So, not long after Paul and Kathy returned home, I picked up a Shallow Shad Rap 07 and went out one evening in a known walleye location that has sparse weeds. Just like Paul, I trolled frontwards which is more enjoyable, I find. Unlike back-trolling with walleye spinners, when front trolling you are looking ahead, at least when you are running the outboard. You troll at the lowest speed on the outboard but because you are traveling frontward, this is faster than back-trolling.
As Paul suggested, I used a reel with one of the new fusion lines, Fireline Crystal. These lines, as well as braided, have more "feel" than does monofilament.
I hadn't gone far when I felt the first weed. I reeled up and had not hooked it! I let my line out and hit another weed, again I reeled up and nothing. This went on until eventually, I remembered Paul's advice: don't set the hook on the weed and just let the boat's motion pull the lure through it. When you are past the weed and you can still feel the vibration of the lure, you know it came through cleanly. So I pulled through and, BAM! A walleye! Then another and another until I had caught eight in about an hour. Actually I probably caught the eight in about 30 minutes because I wasted the first half-hour continually checking for weeds.
Sometimes you do catch weeds, or course, and there is nothing to do but reel them in and clean your hook. But at least half the time the lure comes through cleanly.
My guess is the small lip doesn't stick out far enough to hook a lot of weeds and the lure itself has a tight shimmy instead of an exaggerated wobble that lets the lure come straight through the hole the lip made through the weeds. Whatever, it works!
During our Family Week when we are closed except for my family, I used the same lure to land a 40-inch northern pike, again by trolling for walleye. I ended up with one of the trebles hooked into my leg.
Paul said he likes to pinch the barbs down. You still catch the fish but the hooks are easier to take out, of the fish, and yourself.

I spent the summer learning to troll. I caught a lot of fish on the Shallow Shad until about the first of August when I did better on a small Cotton Cordell crankbait with about an inch-long lip. It dove to about 12 feet and I think the walleye were moving to deeper water at the time. I don't know the model of Cotton Cordell it was because none was stated on the package. They were just on sale at Tru Hardware in Red Lake. They worked great for a couple of weeks and then the walleye went deeper still.
Both of these baits float when not being pulled and that is a great aid when trolling them. When you feel your lure hit a rock, you can give the line slack and it floats above the obstruction.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Spring-like temperatures! Winter is over!

Brenda "catches some rays" in the spring-like weather
The temperature hit 5 C in Nolalu today. That's +5 C!
Coming only a week or so after -30 C days, it feels like spring, sending the beach bunny out to start working on her tan.
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Monday, February 25, 2013

United Airlines adds Chicago-Thunder Bay flight

Visitors wishing to fly to Northwestern Ontario now have a new option. United Airlines started a direct Chicago-Thunder Bay, Ontario, flight on Feb. 14.
Using a 50-passenger Canadair jet, United departs Chicago at 6 p.m. and lands at Thunder Bay at 8:40 p.m. There is a time change involved here. The flight is actually just one hour, 40 minutes long.
It departs Thunder Bay at 6 a..m. and lands at Chicago at 6:35 a.m.
Thunder Bay is virtually the same distance from Red Lake as is Winnipeg, the Manitoba city where most of our flying customers land. Both are approximately six hours driving time away.
Rental cars are available at the Thunder Bay airport, just like at Winnipeg.
The night arrival of the United Airlines flight to Thunder Bay will mean travelers will need to stay in a motel the night they arrive, doing all or most of their driving the next day. Many of the U.S. flights to Winnipeg arrive there in early afternoon, allowing the drive to occur in the day and letting them arrive at or near Red Lake motels in the evening.
The early morning departure from Thunder Bay will mean travelers must spend a night in a motel on their way home too in order to catch the 6 a.m. flight.
There are also regular scheduled flights from both Winnipeg and Thunder Bay  to Red Lake via Bearskin Airlines and Wasaya Airlines. These regional carriers use small, turbo-prop aircraft and provide good service but their cost is frequently a negative factor. Expect this last 45-minute flight (the time of the flight from Winnipeg to Red Lake, for example) to cost as much as the rest of the trip, even from distant locations such as Texas. Almost all of our guests who fly directly into Red Lake do it on points. Bearskin is an Aeroplan member.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

I bet we see a lot of GoPro cameras this summer

Jeff Barg and 42-inch pike photographed with GoPro camera
Wisconsin's Jeff Barg came fishing to Bow Narrows Camp by himself in late August last year and with no one to act as photographer, decided to pick up a GoPro action camera that would mount to the bow of the boat. He was just learning how to operate this amazing tiny camera when he hooked into a muscular, 42-inch northern pike.
There's a smudge on the lens which I'll bet came from Jeff hurrying to turn on the camera so he could quickly release this beautiful fish.
His was about the third GoPro I noticed our guests using last year. Scott Cieplik's images and videos of his brother Tommy (see Holy Cow and Awesome Video) opened our eyes to this special camera.
GoPro mounted to bow of boat
There are several mounting systems available for the waterproof GoPro. You might think the head mount would be the handiest but I notice that videos shot this way are distracting because a person moves his head and therefore the video back and forth frequently.
Another very handy acccessory that I don't think Jeff had is a remote control. Jeff could have just picked up a clicker from his end of the boat and started a video of him fighting this giant fish by himself.
The GoPro photos and videos are in HD and the clarity is striking. They take a very wide angle view that will take in all of the boat, for instance.
This is the camera that takes those videos of people shooting rapids in kayaks, skydiving or dirt bike riding.
Incredibly, it sells for as little as $200, depending on model. Many of the accessories, like the remote, cost extra.
The GoPro is often referred to as an "action camera." That's a great term because it is the capturing of action that it excels at. There are things it does not do too. It doesn't zoom-in to enlarge distant subjects, for instance. So, you really need two cameras: the GoPro for capturing all the action and a standard camera with zoom or telephoto for those wildlife or other distant shots.

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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Check out all the new photos on our website

We just updated our website today with lots of new photos, all supplied by our guests and friends.
Thank you all so much!
And thanks to T.J. Quesnel who along with wife Monique have built and maintained our website from the beginning. These two specialize in websites for the outdoors industry.
When you look at all the stunningly beautiful photographs on the website, it hits you how many people treat Bow Narrows as their own.
The fish, the animals, the people, the awesome lake, sky and forest all come together here.
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Man-cloud thinking where to fish

Lonnie and Mike Boyer see things that the rest of us miss. Take this photo that Lonnie sent me a couple of years back and which I just rediscovered.
I'll post more of this Ohio couple's observations in future blogs.
It's amazing the things we can see when we are aware of our surroundings.
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Thursday, February 21, 2013

A fisherman of a different feather

Ken Lehmann captured a belted kingfisher watching for minnows from a perch of jackpine while at camp last summer.
If it spots a meal the kingfisher dives with a big splash and emerges with its prey crosswise in its bill. It usually then flies away to its nest which it makes by carving round holes in the sides of clay banks along the lakeshore.
Sometimes when you are fishing you unintentionally "drive" these beautiful birds from cove to cove ahead of you as you troll or cast. They usually fly away with a scolding chatter as if they are giving you a piece of their mind for interrupting their work. Eventually, they loop back around you and go back to where they began.
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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

10 Habits of our happiest fishermen (and women)

No sooner do I write about habits of successful fishermen (see blog entry below) than I must add that success in catching fish is not the only, probably not even the most important, reason our guests come to Bow Narrows Camp. In other words, there is more to a great fishing trip than just catching fish.
The thing to remember is, there is no right or wrong way to take a trip to Bow Narrows. If you come strictly for fish, fine, this is the place. However, a great many people, especially those who have been coming here for decades, would say there are other reasons they come here too. These are some of those things.

1. Enjoy solitude
It is easy to find serenity in this quiet, beautiful country where there are no roads
2. Share time with family and friends
3. Connect with nature
This probably should be stated "re-connect" with nature. We're all a part of nature, we just forget that fact sometimes when our lives become so busy and stressful. There's a good feeling you get when you realize that the loon swimming beside your boat has accepted you as just another creature on the lake.
4. The vacation begins the moment you leave home
The stories and jokes you tell in the car or truck, the stops at eateries and motels, animals and scenery that you see -- these are all enjoyable moments.
5. Listen
The primordial calls of loons, waves lapping against the shore, whispering tree leaves in the wind, young beavers squeaking to each other -- these are experiences you can miss if you aren't quiet yourself.
6. Explore
There are places that even our oldest customers have not fished. It's exhilarating to go to a different place on the lake not knowing what you will find
7. Mix the old with the new
Everyone has their favourite methods and lures for fishing. Just for fun, try a technique or lure that you've never used before, like surface plugs for northern pike or crankbaits for walleyes. This can start at home by the purchase of a "wacky" lure which sometimes works so well it is the talk of the camp.
8. Tell jokes
You know how there are places where it seems no one wants to have a good laugh, well this isn't one of them. Everyone here is primed for leg-pullers, belly-laughs and giggles.
9. Forget about time
Here time is measured by sunrise and sunset, not by numbers.
10. Check out the night sky
There are some awesome things to see at night here where there is no light pollution, things like northern lights, meteors and more stars and constellations than you may ever have seen before. You might just hear owls and wolves howling too.

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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Ten habits of highly successful fishermen

1. The more you fish, the more fish you catch
This iron law of angling is expressed in many of the other habits as well. Who catches the most fish at camp? The ones who are always fishing!
2. If what you're doing doesn't succeed, try something else
Try different colours, different lures, different sizes, different depths, different live bait.
3. The more fish you release, the more fish you catch
This is true on many levels: practical - the fish are still out there to be caught again; philosophical - whatever you seek, give away; religious - you reap what you sow
4. Keep your boat shipshape
Keep all your lures in the tackle box and the lid closed. When you get a big fish on board, it is going to be mayhem. You don't want lures caught in the net, in your body, or both. Have the net tucked away neatly, ready to be used in an instant. Hook-removing tools and cameras should be easily accessible. Trash should be stowed so it doesn't blow out of the boat or rattle around and alert fish.
5. Cut off a foot of line every time you change locations.
Your line is continually getting nicks from fish, the boat, rocks and trees. Stop line breaks by getting in the habit of retying your lures and leaders many times a day. And while you are at it, test your drag.
6. Sharpen your hooks
If you are getting strikes and few hook-ups, your hooks are dull. The point should catch on your thumbnail.
7. Thin out and stock up
Take all the lures in your tackle box that haven't worked for years, put them in a jar and leave them at home. Use the space to add more colours and sizes of the lures that do work or for new lures.
8. Take your lunch
The time it takes to come back to camp and then go back out again could be used for fishing. See Habit #1.
9. Fish an area, not a spot
Spend a morning or afternoon by thoroughly fishing a bay rather than leap-frogging from spot to spot and wasting a lot of time boat-riding. See Habit #1.
10. Fish in the day, sleep at night
If you stay up late, you will also get started late the next morning. See Habit #1.

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Friday, February 15, 2013

Why do Nolalu wolves have mange & not Red Lake's?

Timber wolf in Nolalu caught on trailcam shows mange on its tail and back

Wolf near Bow Narrows photographed in October shows healthy coat
My trail camera captured the top photo of a timber wolf a couple of days ago behind our home in Nolalu, Ontario, near Thunder Bay.
If you look closely you can tell that this wolf has sarcoptic mange, a disease that causes animals to lose patches or even all of their fur. You can make out that the wolf is missing a patch of hair right in the middle of its back. Although you can't see much of its tail, the bit that does show looks mostly naked.
By comparison, check out the second photo I got with my trail camera not far from camp last fall. This wolf, and many others I photographed over a couple of weeks, all had superb coats.
Trappers in the Nolalu area all report catching wolves with mange. Most of the ones I have photographed here have shown the disease.
The question is why do they have it here and not farther north? Nolalu is 50 kilometers (30 miles) southwest of Thunder Bay, near the top of Lake Superior. Red Lake is about 350 miles to the northwest.
I haven't heard any biologist comment on the subject but I will hazard a guess myself.
Nolalu has a large population of whitetail deer. The main herbivores at Red Lake are moose.
I'm not suggesting that deer spread the disease of mange. It is actually carried by mites, similar to ticks, and to the best of my knowledge, one diseased wolf infects another.
But here is how deer might be affecting the picture. Where there are a lot of deer, like in Nolalu, there are also a lot of wolves; therefore they have more chance of contact with each other.
In Red Lake, where moose are the main prey of wolves, there are fewer predators. Moose are never as numerous as deer. They are bigger and require larger areas to feed upon. Therefore wolves, or wolf packs, are much less likely to meet each other.
The deer factor also is a reflection of a bigger reality - climate change. When we moved to Nolalu 26 years ago, deer were a rarity; moose were the main herbivores. Today moose are almost non-existent here and deer are abundant.
In that time the winter weather has changed dramatically. It used to be -30 C at night from December to the end of February. Now we might get a single week of such temperatures. However, it isn't really the temperatures that influence deer, it is the snow depth.
Back in the 1980s we would typically have three feet of snow through much of the winter and some years four feet or more. That was just too deep for deer and most of them perished. The taller moose had no trouble. Now the snow depth is usually just a foot or so. In fact, that is what it is here right now. This is no problem at all for deer and their numbers have consequently exploded.
Although deer may not carry a disease to wolves, the same cannot be said about their relationship with moose. Deer carry a parasite called brain worm  that is fatal to their larger relative. That parasite has been proved responsible for the demise of moose in the Thunder Bay area. Nearby Minnesota has just cancelled its moose hunt for 2013 due to progressively lower moose numbers. There is really no reason to think the problem is anything other than expanding numbers of whitetails.
Red Lake, which is also experiencing climate change, of course, has not experienced the reduced snowfall quite as much as Nolalu or Thunder Bay. It still gets, at least on occasion, three feet of snow and has done so again this year. That has kept the deer numbers down and therefore also the wolf numbers.
I think fewer deer mean fewer wolves and fewer chances for the wolves to catch mange.
Climate change in the Thunder Bay area has also meant that more wolves with mange survive. In cold conditions, many of the wolves stricken by this disease would die from exposure.
Incidentally, as if you needed another example of mankind's stupidity, mange is a disease purposely introduced by humans to North America. It was released by authorities in Montana to kill wolves.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Removing the curse of the rookie fisherman

If you're new to fishing for northern pike and walleye, then take a close look at the image to the right. Visualize every detail. Sear it into your memory so vividly that you can think of nothing else when you come fishing next summer.
Then when you do get to camp and are shown which boat is yours for the week, face the sun, place your hand over your heart and take the following oath:
"I (insert your name here) solemnly swear, that no matter how easy it seems to be, even if it 'feels right,' even if I'm tired or frustrated by the wind, even if my partner encourages me to do so or I see other people doing it, I will never, NEVER, use the anchor!"
Then, while your buddy films the whole episode for YouTube, untie the rope, pick up the anchor and with a bowed head take the device to the altar of the fish gods, otherwise known as the fish cleaning shack and leave it there for the remainder of the week.
Congratulations! You just removed the curse of the rookie fisherman -- anchoring to fish.
Your chances to catch lots of fish just improved by the boatload.
"But," you say, perplexed, "how am I going to stay in one spot?"
You are a rookie; you don't know where "the spot" is. And the lake is full of "spots" that are not good. Your chances of hitting "the spot" with the anchor is like winning a mega lottery, twice, in the same day. Furthermore, the "spot" on big lakes, like Red Lake, keeps moving. It might be in the back of the west-facing cove during a west wind, and then moves to the east-facing cove with an east wind. It might be just off the weedline in the morning and then just off the point in the afternoon.
Anchoring every time you want to fish is like riding a hobbled horse: you're sitting on the back of the horse alright, but you aren't getting anywhere.
You need to find the fish, and they keep moving; so, you need to keep moving too.
Fortunately, this just happens naturally when you are in an untethered boat. The wind, or the outboard or even the waves, keep moving you along. GOOD! You're exploring new waters, discovering new places and encountering new fish.
"But what about Old Joe?" you ask. "He has been fishing here all his life and I see him using an anchor sometimes."
Again, you've hit the nail right on the head, with the anchor! Old Joe is an expert. It took him years to learn how and when to anchor.
Just wait; your time will come.
Fishing is all about patience.
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Saturday, February 9, 2013

Best spinner for catching northern pike

 If there was one spinner I had to pick as the all-time best spinner for northern pike, it would be the No. 5 Mepps.

This lure has caught more pike and more big pike at our camp on Red Lake, Ontario, than any other.

It also has large hooks, an important feature when a mouth the size of an alligator comes clamping down on it.

If the No. 5 Mepps isn't working then use the No. 4 Mepps. Everything is exactly the same except the No. 4 is lighter, weighing just 1/3 ounce compared to 1/2 ounce for the No. 5. The hooks on the No. 4 are still large enough to handle most pike.

There are probably a dozen colour combinations for these spinners. My favourite is the red-and-white striped blade model shown at the top.

You can see all the colours and tail combinations nicely on the Mepps website:

All of the colours work at various times and conditions. For instance, one colour might work in calm, sunny conditions and another in windy, cloudy water.

All of these spinners come with either dressed, that is squirrel tail, treble hooks or plain hooks. The plain hooks seem to work just fine and I believe are cheaper than the dressed models. However, there is one advantage to the dressed spinners; the hair soaks up water and gives the lure more weight when casting. This can be important if using a bait-casting reel. Spinning reels, however, can cast the lighter spinners just fine.

Usually the squirrel tail gets pretty ragged looking after a dozen pike. This seems a turn-on for the fish; however. Perhaps it indicates wounded prey.
Incidentally, the No. 5 Mepps holds the record for the most northern pike caught over 40 inches in one week. We had two men in September who caught and released 16 pike over 40 inches in a single week, a phenomenal achievement. Just about all of those were caught on the No. 5.

The key for any spinner to work is that its spinner must spin easily. This lets you reel quickly when the lure is cast close to shore and then slow down the retrieve to allow the lure to run near the bottom on its way back to the boat. In mid-summer you will also catch a lot of walleyes fishing this way.
I have seen minnows or bits of worm added to the hook when purposely fishing for walleye. This adds to the attraction for finicky walleye. It is totally unneeded, however, when northern pike fishing.

Always use a steel leader when casting for northern pike. Pick a leader weight similar to your line strength. Too often we end up using heavy-duty steel leaders that inhibit the action of our lures just because they are the only leaders we can find at the tackle store.

You can make your own leaders to get around this problem. I like the Knot2Kinky nickle-titanium wire. You simply tie this to your snap swivel on one end and your swivel on the other. See this blog posting for more information on the knot.

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Friday, February 8, 2013

Still vacancies in best northern pike times

If you check out the Availability list at the right, you will see we still have three cabins available the first two weeks of next season. (Also a cabin the first and middle of June!)
These are among the very best, if not the absolute best, weeks for huge northern pike. In fact, our fishermen the first week of the season are virtually all keying on pike. They are experts at the dead bait fishing system which is particularly effective at this time. See Deadly Bait System for Pike and Use Circle Hook for Pike. However, you can also catch pike casting and trolling and this is one of the occasions when larger lures are worthwhile.
Many of our anglers start out the day using dead bait and circle hooks, then as the water warms with the sun, switch to trolling 6-8-inch Rapalas or similar lures or casting spinners and spoons around the pike's spawning beds and at entrances to bays.
The weeks in May are also the two best weeks for lake trout since this is when the water is the coldest and the trout are still at the surface. All of our trout must be live-released. We catch them primarily by trolling around the entrances to narrows and around islands and shoals in the deep water bays.
Walleye fishing has also been very good in May for many years now and is absolutely in high gear in June.
Our weather in May is often sunnier than June. We typically have sunny skies with daytime highs of 60-65 F.
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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A great knot for tying up your boat

A "globber." Don't tie this one!
Knot tying seems to be one of those lost skills, like butter churning or log cabin building. Yet, it is still something outdoorsmen and women need to know, if for no other reason than to tie up their boat to the dock.
We see a lot of "knots" like the one at the top right. I call this the "glob knot" because its maker kept threading the rope around and around, in and out of loops, over and under until he either ran out of rope or it was time for supper. This, actually, is a rather small globber. I've seen some nearly the size of muskrat houses.
First Half-Hitch
Two Half-Hitches
Besides the waste of time and life it takes to make such a "knot" there is also the equally-wasted time in untying it. Sometimes it just can't be done and you have to resort to your knife or you just aren't going fishing any more. Equally frustrating is when the number of times the rope was threaded one way equals the number of times threaded the other way. As soon as the boat puts any pressure against the knot it just falls apart as if by magic and the boat sails off down the lake.
So, I offer a simple alternative, the steps for tying it are shown in the two lower photos. Each step is called a half-hitch and the completed knot is known simply as Two Half-Hitches.
It takes somewhere between one and two seconds to tie, won't loosen and won't jam together so tightly that you can't untie it, at least not if you take out your boat at least once a week.
Just in case it isn't clear from the two photos how to tie this knot, it goes like this:
1. Pass the free end of the rope (the other end is already permanently tied to the boat) through the top of the ring and out the bottom
2. Pass the free end over the top of the rope and back through the loop you just made
3. Repeat the step on the boat side of the first hitch
If you don't get a finished product that looks like Step 2, you haven't gone over the top of the rope in each step, i.e. you went over the top for the first hitch and under the rope for the second or vice versa.
This knot is so simple, it can actually be tied with one hand. Try that this summer and listen for the gasps of awe from the womenfolk!
And to satisfy the purists, boats don't technically have "ropes" they have "lines."
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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Photo of Pipestone Bay by Mike Tronrud

Monday, February 4, 2013

Are larger lures working for northern pike again?

Larger lures were a poor choice for northern pike on Red Lake, Ont., for probably 20 years although they did work well before that. Now there is a bit of evidence that, at least in some instances, they are working again.
In the past two decades, I would say small lures outperformed larger ones by a factor of at least 10. In other words you could catch 10 times more fish with a smaller lure than a large one. It was an incredible difference.
I can only guess why pike preferred the small baits, and by small I mean spoons that were two inches to three inches, spinners that were 2-4 inches and stick baits that were no larger than six inches. I think the pike were keying on the size of smelt, which was their favourite food in those days. Although smelt grow to a foot  in places like the Great Lakes they only get to about four inches in Red Lake, and they are extremely skinny.
Smelt are like crack to fish. They are super-loaded with the calories that fish crave.
The preference for small lures fits perfectly with the emergence of smelt in Red Lake which were first discovered in the 1980s. Smelt are actually native only to the Pacific Ocean. They were planted in the Great Lakes and somehow have been transplanted into many Northwestern Ontario lakes including Red Lake.
Before the 1980s, Red Lake pike preferred larger lures. One-ounce Dardevles, eight-inch Rapalas, even big Suicks and Mepps Musky Killers worked well.
The last couple of years I have seen some hints that pike are hitting bigger baits again and guess what? The smelt population has crashed and pike are eating native fish again, things like perch and tulibee and suckers. (There still are smelt too, just not as many.)
Last year I picked up the Live Forage holographic image spoon shown at the right. If you haven't seen Live Forage lures, their images are incredibly life-like. I got a four-inch version only because the smaller spoons were sold out. To my surprise, Brenda used it to catch several large pike and even a big walleye!
A few of our guests also reported taking pike on bigger lures.
It's too soon to advocate wholesale change to larger lures but it might not hurt to stick a few in the tackle box for this summer's trip.
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Saturday, February 2, 2013

'Funny' hats and 'looking stupid'

Finally, two subjects that I am an expert on!
I have a closet full of funny hats, winter and summer, that I've heard others say they wouldn't wear because it makes them look stupid.
I wear them, not because I think they make me look particularly smart but because they are warm or shed the sun or rain or some such reason.
The woolen helmet I'm wearing here is my warmest knitted hat. It is not only made of pure wool but is lined with fleece that stops the wind from blowing through my ears. This type of hat also has pigtails which took awhile for me to figure out their purpose. It is this: you can tuck the pigtails inside your coat which then keeps the flaps tight against your ears.
I like this system so much that I have three of these hats, all with different attributes. One, made in Nepal, has a bit of a brim which helps shield my eyes from the sun. It's good for moderately cold days as it isn't quite as warm as the above model. Another is made of alpaca. The fit varies from hat to hat and this figures greatly in their warmth.
Our former prime minister, Jean Chretien, once described this type of headwear as "a funny hat."
He was surprised at a public gathering one time by a protester wearing such a garment and Chretien siezed him by the throat.
"This guy in a funny hat was in my way, so I took him out," he said, to the best of my recollection.
I also have two winter Tilley hats. If you haven't seen these before they are woolen, relatively broad-brimmed hats with fold-up ear flaps. They even have a fold-up forehead flap. Those are my go-to-town hats. One is warmer than the other.
My absolute warmest hat is a sheepskin trapper or trooper style, made by Eglis in Dryden. This one is reserved for ice-fishing on windy days. It's the one in my blog profile photo.
I seldom wear tuques (if you're American you know these as stocking caps or knitted woolen caps or watch caps or ski caps. In Canada they are known everywhere as tuques -- pronounced two-ks). Comedian Brent Butt explains this term as one of necessity. It's so cold here we don't have time for a long name. "Hey, would you pass me my knitted wool..." I find tuques always leave the bottom of my ears exposed to the elements.
In summer I usually wear a Bow Narrows Camp ball cap but if I'm going fishing in the middle of the day I will switch to a Tilley broad-brimmed hat (I have three different models!) because it provides better shade. In really hot weather I prefer a broad-brimmed sea grass hat called the Forty Mile Per Hour Hat as it will stay on your head in a boat up to 40 mph. Instead of a drawstring under the chin it has a cord that snugs around the crown. It is a wide mesh that provides excellent ventilation although not as good of sun protection as the Tilleys.
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