Friday, February 28, 2014

Deep snow could take a toll on deer

The snow is now about chest height for whitetails such as this yearling
As the above photo taken a few days ago at our home in Nolalu shows, whitetail deer are finding it difficult to move around in the deep snow. I wouldn't be surprised if a great many of them end up dying this winter.
We now have at least three feet of the white stuff on the ground and possibly up to 40 inches. The deer have stopped moving almost entirely, restricting their activity to areas under thick conifers where the snow isn't as deep.
Winters like this are infrequent any more which is why deer have spread so widely into Northwestern Ontario. At Red Lake deer were common until the late 1960s when three consecutive winters of about four feet of snow wiped out the species for about 40 years, until they could re-establish themselves from populations near the U.S.-Canada border.
What is bad news for deer, however, will ultimately be good news for moose. These biggest of the deer don't like deep snow either but fare much better than whitetails do. If deer are reduced in numbers next year, there will be fewer of them to spread the fatal brain worm disease to moose. This parasite is almost always harmless to deer but is 100 per cent fatal to moose. It is harmless for humans.
The mild winters and shallow snow depth of the past several decades have meant deer have replaced moose in a great deal of Northwestern Ontario.
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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Summer, glorious summer! Please hurry!

Beautiful sunsets at the end of beautiful days. Brenda Cieplik photo
Red Lake and the rest of Northwestern Ontario can boast having the most wonderful summers in the world. Warm temperatures, rarely hot, soft breezes and day after day of sunshine -- this is what we all look forward to. Our summers are so incredible, in fact, that they make us forget about the other six months of the year!
Actually, many of us enjoy the winter months here too, normally, but this is not a normal winter. It is exceptionally wicked.
We're all starting to get cabin fever now. Deep snow, below-average temperatures and relentless winds are forcing us indoors. My snowshoe trails have filled in with the last two dumps of snow that each measured 12 inches. It's a chore just to keep the driveway open.
So, I'm looking ahead to camp opening, warmer temperatures, going fishing and swimming. This latter activity can be absolutely luxurious. There is just nothing as pleasant as bobbing along in fresh water that is usually near 80 F (28 C) if the weather has been warm and not too windy.
The main dock at camp is a good place for swimming. The water here is plenty deep for diving.
My favourite, though, is to take the dog to a sand beach. The water here is warmer and it's fun for the dog to explore among the driftwood. Lots of these places barely have any sand above the waterline. I just pull the boat up to shore and step over the side onto the sand bottom.
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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Clear and very cold for this time of year

The current scene in front of our home in Nolalu, ON
The temperatures in Northwestern Ontario are far colder than normal. The next two days in particular are expected to be 10-16 C below normal with daytime highs of only -16 C.
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Monday, February 24, 2014

Heavy snowfall could be great for spring spawning

Ice-out at Pipestone Narrows in years past. Photo by Joe Overman
I wrote a half dozen blogs back that this year's severe winter temperatures will have little to no effect on fishing next summer. That 's true but I didn't mention anything about the impact from a large snow accumulation which seems almost certain to come true. We are just entering the heaviest period for snowfall and already we have a normal winter's accumulation on the ground, about three feet.
Depending on how fast that snow melts next spring, it could have very positive effects on northern pike and walleye populations in the future. Both species are spring spawners and benefit from seasonally high water caused by snow melt.
For pike, mildly flooded conditions around their spawning areas mean these fish will work their way right up into bushes such as Labrador tea that surround marshes. These places are normally above the water line and are entirely free of algae. Eggs that are deposited in such spots will not be smothered in algae or silt and therefore a higher percentage will develop.
For walleye, a large runoff means creeks and rivers will have higher water levels and the fish can travel further upstream, to areas that might have been high and dry and are also silt-free. There will also be a faster flow in these places, bringing more oxygen to the fertilized eggs.
Besides the amount of snow to melt, however, there are two other factors that have to align to create the perfect spring spawn. These are the actual period when the melt occurs and the temperature after spawning takes place.
Ideally, the snow will melt gradually throughout April, not like two years ago when the temperature soared to 70 F (22 C) in March and all the melt water spilled into lakes two months before the fish were ready to spawn.
Once the spawning takes place, May 1 to May 15, steadily warmer days will make the eggs develop rapidly. The fry can then depart the flooded areas before the water goes down.
So deep snow can lead to excellent fishing, with a bit of luck, in the years ahead.
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Saturday, February 22, 2014

A tall cabin under tall quaking aspens

Cabin 9 shows off its new shutters and moose antlers
This is our largest cabin, Cabin 9, which sleeps eight. It is two storys tall and has two bathrooms.
It has an enormous screened porch with an open-air deck on one end. This cabin is so well-insulated that in the fall we can heat it just by leaving the lights turned on.
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Thursday, February 20, 2014

The last of the famous Bow Narrows woodchucks

Gully and Sam, both carrot eaters
Cole treated Gully just like a puppy
The cool sidewalk felt good to a napping Gully after stuffing down carrots
Woodchucks don't eat grass but select plants like white clover and dandelions
For 50 years we had tame woodchucks at Bow Narrows Camp that lived under the cabins and in holes along the water's edge.
They liked to eat bread and would take it right from your hand. Each generation got tamer and tamer.
In that time we must have had a hundred different woodchucks and nearly 20,000 people come and go, virtually all of them feeding the 'chucks, taking their pictures, getting them to sit on their laps and petting them.
Not one person was ever bit, nor did anybody ever step in their holes and break their legs! I mention this because that is the hogwash you hear people say about woodchucks, especially the part about stepping in their holes. What a load of malarkey! Anyone who says such things doesn't know a woodchuck from a wood buffalo!
Woodchucks were the cleanest, neatest animals imaginable. I wish they still were around camp but alas, the population ended up drowning in a catastrophically wet summer about five years ago. We had such torrential downpours, day after day, that the water poured into their holes. Woodchucks actually have a plan for just such a contingency. They make their underground tunnels go upward before reaching their den. This creates a "trap" like the one under the sink, where water collects, leaving the den dry. But it couldn't save them when the rain kept coming, almost every day, for about six weeks.
One mother dragged her little ones out through the water and left them exposed on the surface before she died. Our daughter-in-law bottle-fed two of these and raised them to adulthood. One of them became incredibly tame and was adopted by our chocolate Lab, Sam, and our cook's border collie, Cole.
It was an astonishing thing to see the little woodchuck, nicknamed Gully, playing, eating and sleeping with the big dogs.
Woodchucks are strictly vegetarians and besides bread, liked to eat carrots. So did Sam but he was polite; he wouldn't take the carrot away from the little guy. However, if Gully dropped the carrot, that was a different matter entirely!
We still see the occasional woodchuck feeding on the clover and dandelions in the yard but these ones are totally wild and are extremely skittish. Still, if you do see one this summer, toss it a slice of bread or leave it next to its hole. You may start the next generation of tame woodchucks.
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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Mom, I think you better look at this!

It seems odd but it is almost always the calf moose that spots you first, not the cow. Photo by Kim Gross
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Monday, February 17, 2014

Fishing quietly has its moments too

David Heneise is one of the few fisherman who sometimes uses a fly rod
Rattle! Rattle! Rattle! Rattle! Rattle! Rattle! Rattle! Rattle!
Rattle! Rattle! Rattle! Rattle! Rattle! Rattle! Rattle! Rattle!
If you were a fish, settling down for a good night's sleep in the early evening, is there anything in the above set of noises that sounds appealing? In fact, is there anything that doesn't simply sound frightening?
These noises would be something like the sounds made by a crankbait or a spoon being cast by an angler for northern pike.
As soon as this commotion began, if you were pike you would probably high-tail it to some other area, probably amid a group of weeds with some fallen trees in the water, then just lay there, quietly watching the sun go down.
After awhile, you may hear a soft-sound up there on the surface. Something is quietly struggling in the water. Eventually, you can see it, slowly moving, making sporadic motions, then lying still, then a few more little kicks.
You weren't really planning on feeding at this time of the evening. You just don't normally have the energy for it. But this...this little just helpless. It would be just like taking candy from a baby.
So you coast on over, open your maw and inhale it...this juicy bug or soft-bodied frog or furry little mouse-type thing. Only it turns out there is a hook and line attached to it and at the other end -- a fly fisherman!
Fishing quietly does have its moments. When the lake is flat calm and there is no other noise, it's probably a bad idea to be fishing with noise-making lures. Those would be what you would choose on a windy day with waves crashing noisily on the rocks and the stirred-up bottom making visibility difficult.
If the lake is placid, as it usually is every evening, your lure presentation should be calmer and quieter too.
This would be an excellent time to break out the fly rod, if you brought one. If not, then a spinning rod with a surface lure that imitates a frog, mouse or crippled minnow. Work it slow and especially, work it quietly.

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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Grain not only bad for your middle

Neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter's book Grain Brain should make everybody pause before they have their next plate of pasta or donut. Just as the book Wheat Belly by cardiologist William Davis linked the consumption of grain to the cardiac, obesity and diabetes epidemics, Grain Brain has found similar ramifications for the two-pounds of grey matter between our ears.
The consumption of grain and sugar, he says, either outright causes or worsens just about every mental condition, from depression to the big one, Alzheimers. It is a fascinating read.
I have written several times on this blog about my personal experience of going wheat-and-sugar-free for the past 14 months. If interested, just type in Wheat Belly in the little search window above. In my opinion and experience, there is definitely substance to the claims by these authors. Their advice flies in the face of conventional dietary advice.
It is interesting that the studies quoted by the authors are not their own -- they were conducted by medical researchers all over the world. Some are new but many were done decades ago and have been ignored by government agencies and big health organizations who seem wedded to only one concept: reduce dietary fat.
If you haven't already done so, you should give these books a look.
At camp this summer we will be offering gluten-free and sugar-free alternatives for our new box lunches.  The box lunches will be given out on those days when we don't have the indoor shore lunches. If it is cold and rainy, we will also offer a hot meal back in the lodge. To save time in the morning, we will give everyone a little order form at supper for the box lunches the next day. The lunches will then be made fresh daily, ready to go as you leave breakfast.

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Friday, February 14, 2014

A Tale of Two 'Minnies'

Rainbow dace
It was the worst of times, plain and simple.
At one time we at Bow Narrows Camp held a bait-harvesting licence and caught and sold minnows. It caused us so much aggravation that we eventually gave up the entire operation. Although I could tell tons of stories of why this was so, I thought instead I'd pass on this account that happened to another camp operator in the town of Red Lake, years ago. 

Ken was awakened from a deep sleep by a loud pounding on the door to the lodge. His alarm clock told him it was 1 a.m. He had been asleep only two hours after working all evening repairing outboard motors for his guests to use the next day.
He ran to the door in his pajamas, expecting the worst -- a fire or a medical emergency. Three of his guests were waiting outside.
"Hey, Ken, good buddy! How about coming over to the cabin for a couple of beers?"
Ken's jaw dropped. "Uh, gee, no thanks guys. I really need to get back to sleep."
"We're you sleeping?" said one of the flannel-shirt-clad men, "Oh sorry about that. But since you're up now, we've got something to ask you. You see, we've been talking over at the cabin and we've pretty much figured out why we're not catching walleyes the way we wanted."
"OK, why's that?" said the yawning camp operator.
"It's those minnows you sell. They're mud minnows. You know why they're called mud minnows, Ken, my old buddy?"
He shook his head.
"Because they taste like mud!"
Ken cracked a smile. "How do you know? I mean, did you ever eat one?"
All three men were nodding their heads. "Crazy Charlie ate one. We weren't catching much of anything yesterday and Jim here bet Charlie -- the goofy guy has the rep for eating anything, for a price -- $10 if he ate a live minnow. Quick as thought he stuck his hand in the pail, came up with a minnie, stuck it in his mouth and crunched it up. Then stuck his hand out."
"Jim forked over the $10 and asked him 'How does something like that taste?'" 
"Just like mud!" he says.
Ken was now mostly awake. "Actually, they're called rainbow daces, the minnows, I mean."
"Oh you can pretty them up with fancy names," said the fisherman. "But they taste like mud! Would you eat mud? Would you? Now here's the thing, Ken, my good old buddy, all minnows don't taste the same. Shiners are real good tasting!"
"Charlie?" asked Ken. Everybody nodded.
 "They taste just like sardines, he says."
"Well, Charlie should know, I guess," said Ken.
Then the men laid out their plan. They asked Ken if he knew anyone in town who sold shiner minnows. One dealer did. Could he get them six dozen, super big ones, like 4-6 inches long? Maybe, said Ken.
"Now we're going to need these by six this morning," said the fisherman.
"You mean today? Like in -- he glanced at the wall clock -- in less than five hours?" asked the camp operator.
That's just what they meant. They would leave the dock at the first hint of dawn, get to the spot, anchor and be waiting for the walleye to move in at sunrise.
It would mean Ken would have to leave camp at 4:30 a.m., drive to town, roust the bait dealer out of bed at 5, get the minnows and drive back to camp to be at the dock by 6.
For some reason, he reluctantly agreed.
There was no point in going to bed now, only to get back up in a couple of hours, so he sat down at his desk in the lodge and answered some letters.
The bait dealer was none too happy to see Ken standing at his door at 5 a.m. It was still pitch black outside.
"What in the heck do you want?"
"I need six dozen large shiners."
"You woke me up at God-knows-what-hour for six dozen minnows?"
Twenty minutes later Ken was driving his old truck back to camp. He took the pails of minnows right down to the anglers cabin's dock. There was nobody there.
He glanced up at the cabin only to see the windows were dark.
Ken knocked loudly on the door but no one answered. Finally he stuck his head inside and called out.
"Hey, wake up! I've got your minnows!"
 "Minnows?" someone finally answered back. "Who the hell wants minnows at this hour!"
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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Colorado is the perfect walleye spinner
There is something about this little round metal blade that really turns the crank on walleye.
It is hands-down the favourite among walleye anglers when backtrolling walleye rigs.
It is also my personal go-to rig when I add it to a hair-pin clipped to a jig -- thus creating my own version of the popular BeetleSpin which also has a Colorado blade.
For one thing, it is usually small. Willow-bladed spinner baits, for instance, are just too big for dainty walleye tastes.
And it also spins at very low speeds. It's amazing how many other spinner blades won't spin unless they are fairly ripped through the water. That's too fast for walleye. They like things moving slowly near the bottom.
For walleye, it seems the spinner itself is just an attractant. They see the flash or maybe even feel the rotation of the blade with their lateral lines and move in for a closer look. There just about always must be something edible-looking or actually edible right behind the spinner to elicit a strike.
For anglers at our camp, the morsel is usually a bit of worm or a leech. It could also be a Gulp Alive imitation leech or minnow. On a BeetleSpin rig, it can just be a plastic twister tail.
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Monday, February 10, 2014

How to handle rough water in a boat, Part 3

This is the last of a three-part series.

There are three components to boating safety: 1. preparedness, 2. situational awareness and 3. proficiency at operating the boat.


There are three main considerations when boating through large waves: 1. speed of the boat, 2.weight placement in the boat, and 3. direction of travel as compared to wave direction.

Speed of the boat

Slow down! The exact speed you should be traveling is dictated by the wave height: the higher the waves the slower you need to go provided the boat is still planing. You can tell the boat is planing when it has "climbed" to the surface of the water. At rest the boat would have water part-way up the transom. When planing, the bottom edge of the hull is visible at the stern because the boat has parted the water as it moves ahead. The boat is also throwing spray off each side of the boat somewhere between the mid-point of the vessel and  the "shoulder."
You know you have the right speed when the boat is not crashing into oncoming waves but rather meeting them smoothly. The bow shouldn't be pounding, just lifting and falling rhythmically. You may need to travel at half-speed or even less.

Weight placement

For rough water you want the weight placement in the boat farther toward the stern than normal.  For a two-person boat, the front rider should move so he is one seat ahead of the driver. You want the bow to be lighter than normal so it rises and falls with the waves instead of plowing through them. If there are three adults in the boat, the two riders should each sit in the seat row immediately in front of the driver.

Direction of travel

You always want to handle large waves by either heading into them or going with them. You never want to travel broadside to the waves. You can "angle" into or with them but no more than 45 degrees.
This will very likely mean you must travel out of your way. That's no problem; you're on a lake, not a road. You do not need to travel in a bee-line from one spot to the other.
Here's an example: you are on the north side of a large bay and must reach the south side but there is a strong west wind that would make traveling from the north to the south broadside to the waves. So instead, head into or angle into the waves all the way to the western shore where it will be calm, drive along the western shore as far as possible and then head or angle as necessary to your destination on the south shore.
It's easier to head upwind than down because the speed of your boat stays the same as you meet the waves. Going downwind your boat will want to pick up speed after you crest a wave and start downhill so you might need to throttle back a little to slow down before speeding up again to climb the next wave.
When moving at an angle to the wave direction, if you travel too quickly or if you have too much weight forward, the boat will want to yaw -- pull to one side. It feels like the boat is trying to roll. You can quickly correct for this by steering the boat straight downwind until you adjust your speed, then resume your angle. You should have made your weight adjustment long before getting into rough water. It is dangerous to do so once you are in big waves.

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Sunday, February 9, 2014

How to handle rough water in a boat, Part 2

That's me at the tiller. Note I'm wearing a PFD and the bailer is stowed at the stern. The yellow dry-bag at the left holds all the required safety equipment for the boat. A bigger drybag is a great way to stow your raingear and essentials. Blaine Carpenter photo
This is the second of a three-part series.

There are three components to boating safety: 1. preparedness, 2. situational awareness and 3. proficiency at operating the boat.

Situational awareness

Just as there are times and places in a city when and where it is dangerous to travel, a person needs to "keep his head up" when it comes to boating. The wise boater almost never encounters scary wave conditions because he avoided them in the first place.The big thing to always keep in mind is the wind, its velocity and especially, its direction.
Big waves are created by strong winds that have traveled a long distance over the water. No matter how strong the wind, there are almost no waves at all on the shoreline from where the wind originates. If there is a strong wind from the west, for instance, there are no waves on the western shore and big waves on the eastern one.
Boaters should always recognize the wind direction when planning their fishing day. The wind usually doesn't vary in its direction throughout the day but if it does, you should be aware of the change. The velocity of the wind; however, almost always picks up as the day goes on and peaks between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. If there is a strong wind in the morning, it's probably only going to get worse. It would be prudent to avoid the sides of the lake where the wind is blowing towards, i.e. stay away from the northeast sides of big bays if the wind is strongly blowing from the southwest.
If the wind is light in the morning, go ahead and cross over to the windy side, just keep your eye on what is happening. You may have left the big water to fish in a sheltered bay where it is hard to detect what is going on wave-wise. Watch the tree tops up on the hills as an indication of wind velocity.
At Bow Narrows Camp there are lots of sheltered bays that can be reached without crossing any big water at all. If it's a windy day, it is a wise choice to plan on staying in these areas the whole day. Leave the big bays for days that are calmer.
A needless risk that we see our guests take all the time is running their boats across big water right in front of thunderstorms, trying to get back to camp just before the downpour occurs. You should always know far in advance that a thunderstorm is coming. You can hear the thunder and can see the thunderhead. The time to get across the big bays is as soon as you see the storm, not moments before it strikes. These storms can pack incredible gusts -- enough to flatten trees and easily enough to flip any boat. The winds are totally unpredictable. So get the heck to safety before the storm occurs. You may not need to come all the way into camp right away, just get into the narrows or one of the nearby sheltered bays. If the storm gets nearer, come all the way into the dock and get in your cabin. No one should be out in a boat with lightning. Sometimes as you are fishing in the narrows you see that the storm is going to miss you. As soon as it passes, you can go back to where you started from.
But what if you are caught by the thunderstorm anyway? Somehow you miss the signs of its coming and the first thing you know the wind is gusting and thunder and lightning are all around. There is an appropriate weather saying for such occasions: "A sudden storm is soon over." Stay where you are. Put on your raingear which you should always have with you no matter what the weather conditions were when you left camp (a waterproof dry-bag is perfect for this. Just leave it clipped to a seat brace the entire week.) Get into a sheltered spot, tie up to shore and sit it out. A half-hour later the storm will have passed. If it's the only one on the horizon, you can just go back to fishing. Sometimes, however, you can see another one coming farther away. If the waves have calmed down, head back to camp.
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Saturday, February 8, 2014

How to handle rough water in a boat, Part 1

Trout Bay as seen looking toward the southwest in evening. Photo by Kim Gross
This is the first of a three-part series.

Red Lake doesn't continually look as placid as the scene above. The wind can generate big waves under some circumstances and in some places. How you react to these conditions can mean the difference between a comfortable boat ride and a scary one.
Before going on I should add that we have never had a boat capsize from rough water, even when its driver and occupants did virtually everything wrong in the worst conditions. That said, there is a right way to operate a boat in rough water that everyone should know. That's what this series is about.

There are three components to boating safety: 1. preparedness, 2. situational awareness and 3. proficiency at operating the boat.


Wear your personal floatation device or PFD, aka life vest!
This one simple act which should be as ingrained as putting on your pants in the morning means absolutely everything! We could stop the discussion right here!
No matter what Nature can throw at you, if you are wearing a PFD that fits you properly, you should be totally OK. The worst thing that can happen to you is that you can get wet.
We have PFDs available at camp for everyone and it is the law that you must have one in the boat for each person. Ridiculously, however, the law doesn't require you to wear it! A PFD in the bow of the boat if you capsize would be about as useful as a screen door in a submarine. First of all, it is almost impossible to put on in the water and secondly, the wind will immediately send it flying across the lake.
It is an excellent idea to bring your own PFD because then you'll know before you even leave home that you've got one that you like. I hear people say that they find wearing a PFD uncomfortable. If so, they simply haven't found the right one. They come in all different sizes and shapes. I guarantee you that there is one made for everybody. While you are getting ready for this year's fishing trip at home, go visit your sporting good stores and try them all on. Remember to get one that fits over the clothing that you will be wearing at camp.
Most of us are just fine with standard vest-type PFDs that have a zipper and/or strap method of fastening. My personal one has four pockets on the front where I keep my fishing licence and line clippers and other things I use frequently. Mine is drab-coloured because I also wear it duck hunting in the fall. Bright colours are better for safety reasons -- they make you easier to spot if you need to be rescued. But if bright orange or yellow discourages you from wearing it, then forget it. Get a camo pattern or whatever it takes to make you at ease wearing it 100% of the time when you are boating.
You may find the PFDs made for kayakers and canoeists a better fit for you, especially if you are female. Women aren't as long between the shoulders and waist as men are and can find that traditional vest PFDs bunch up around their ears when they are sitting.
Finally, many people today are opting for the self-inflating PFDs. These look like suspenders and inflate when submersed. They are pricier than standard vests but if you find you like that type best, get it! It's your life we're talking about here. I think you are worth at least $150.
Preparedness is 95% about wearing your PFD all the time but there are a couple other points to consider such as telling someone where you are going, at least someone else in your group. If you only have one boat in your group, tell Brenda or me or our staff members. You don't have to give away your secret fishing spot, just a general idea such as "we're going to fish east today, around Golden Arm, Hall Bay and Wolf Bay," for instance. Then, if you don't come in for supper on time (incidentally, we'll save it for you if you're late), and we have a big east wind taking place, we know that you are most likely wind-bound -- you are waiting for the wind to drop and the waves to settle down before coming across big water back toward camp. When the wind does drop and you still aren't back, we have at least a vague idea where to go looking to see what happened to you.
Another point: stow your gear in your boat. It's a good idea to always have your tackle box closed and anything that can move around from the wind battened down at all times but especially when you are about to encounter rough water. You don't want anybody to lurch after things that are about to blow out of the boat just as you are handling a big wave.
Here's a story of probably the closest time we have ever had someone drown at camp. It occurred back in the '80s, when my dad and step-mother were running camp.
George, one of the camp staffers, took the camp boat and went fishing one evening without telling anyone he was going or where. He didn't wear a PFD or even take one in the boat. He headed right across Pipestone Bay and as he skimmed quickly across the surface in about the center of this big bay that is several miles in diameter, the bailing scoop in the bow of the boat began blowing wildly around. It should have been stowed behind the stern seat. George feared it might fly up, come back and strike him in the face, which was indeed a possibility. So, without slowing down, he let go of the outboard tiller handle and walked to the front of the boat to retrieve the scoop. With no one to hold onto the tiller, the torque of the propeller made the outboard suddenly swing to one side, sending the boat into a tight arc. The momentum of the turn threw George over the side.
So now George was in the water, about two miles from shore, and wasn't wearing a PFD, but that wasn't his only problem -- the circling boat kept coming back to run him over, again and again. He said later that he actually tried to catch the boat as it went by the first few times. Luckily, he didn't succeed because he could have been killed by the propeller if he had gotten swept behind the boat.
So, there wasn't anything else to do but start swimming. He eventually made it to a tiny island.
Meanwhile, back in camp, no one even knew he was missing. However, Jim Doyle, the camp's outside worker and fish cleaner was returning to his cabin for the night when he noticed the staff boat wasn't at the dock. He checked George's cabin and found it empty. When it got totally dark and George still hadn't come back, Jim took a boat and went looking, but where? He went first into Sadler Bay and since it was so quiet and still, he guessed that if George was stranded there for some reason, he would have heard Jim's motor and would call out for help; so, Jim went right to the middle of the bay and turned off his motor to listen. Far, far away to the north, he could hear something, perhaps just a bird, but it made Jim curious.
Jim started his boat up and went back into Pipestone Narrows and then into the entrance of Pipestone Bay where he again cut his engine and listened. This time he could hear it better -- someone calling for help to the north. He followed the sound and retrieved George sitting on his tiny island.
The boat had run around in circles in the middle of the bay for hours before it ran out of gas. Jim found it the next day.
It was just luck that this story ended so positively. What did George do wrong? Number 1, he didn't wear a PFD. Two, he didn't tell anyone where he was going and three, he didn't stow everything before operating the boat. There was also a fourth mistake -- letting go of the tiller handle but that's part of boating proficiency which we'll address in the third part of this series. 

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Will a bitter winter affect fishing next summer?

This winter has been one of the coldest in decades
The short answer is no, at least not for us on Red Lake and mostly not for any lake, but there can be some effects for small lakes.
No matter what is taking place above the ice such as the -40 to -50 C temps and frightening windchills that  we've had this winter, beneath the ice the world is unchanged. Right beneath the ice the temperature is just above freezing and as you go deeper it gets warmer to about 39-40 F.
The ice will probably be thicker than normal, perhaps 45 inches by late winter. However, normal ice thickness here is 36-40 inches; so, it isn't all that much different. On big lakes like Red Lake which is 30 miles long, up to 140 feet deep and five miles wide in places, a little additional ice on top is meaningless.
You might think that the thicker the ice the longer it will take to melt in the spring. Our experience is the ice thickness has almost nothing to do with the time of ice-out. The type of ice can be a bit of a factor. If it is white and slushy, as it actually is this winter, than it is slower to melt than dark or "blue" ice. The thing that trumps all others when it comes to ice-out is spring weather. If it turns mild from mid-March to May 1, the ice will probably go out right on schedule - May 8, more or less, for Red Lake. If it is cold and cloudy, ice-out will be delayed. That is also the case when there has been a warm winter and the ice is thinner than normal.
So where does an exceptionally cold winter affect the fish? It can happen in smaller, shallower lakes. Big lakes like Red Lake are full of oxygen left over from open water in the fall and, of course, fish need oxygen to exist. Shallow lakes; however, have a more-limited volume. In these you can have "winterkill" where fish die from oxygen starvation. In these places you can sometimes see fish with their snouts poked right into the air at pressure cracks or pressure "blowholes" in the ice. I have even heard where the fish had flopped right out on top of the ice in their frenzy to get "a breath."
Mostly there aren't fish in these places to begin with, just minnows, which require less oxygen. However, I have seen where even all the minnows died from winterkill during a really severe winter.
A related bit of information about the cold's effect on fish occurs around our winter Nolalu home which is in the Thunder Bay area. Here almost all the little streams and lakes have brook trout, also called speckled trout. The very existence of the trout in the streams hinges on the number of beaver dams and therefore pools of water that they create. Usually, the pools don't freeze to the bottom while the streams frequently do. So if you're a stream trout fisherman, thank a beaver! This year, I'm afraid, everything will have frozen all the way. The trout will need to re-establish themselves from whatever lakes the streams started from or feed into.
There is a great website with information about fish and water bodies in the winter. It is the Wisconsin DNR's Wisconsin Natural Resources Magazine
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Monday, February 3, 2014

Cork, new camp dog in training

Cork takes his first snowshoe walk today, kangaroo style
Pup makes himself right at home on the coffee table shelf
Cork, eight weeks and a few days old
We've signed up a new camp dog, Cork, a chocolate Labrador who comes to us through the Captain's Kennels in Lake Shore, Minnesota.
We brought Cork to our home in Nolalu on Saturday evening and since then he has kept me so busy I haven't had a chance to even take photos. His first chore was to bring down all those meddlesome tablecloths to a level where he could see them better. That was followed by installing perforated surfaces to all the lower furniture edges, perhaps to give us better grip, something we hadn't considered before. Once his work was done, he has spent a great deal of time resting.

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