Saturday, May 31, 2014

Large catches of walleye taken today

After everyone struggled last week to find walleye, the guys who came in today went out and immediately hit them. One boat got 25, and released all but two for supper. Another boat did similar.
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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

We're all super-busy doing things

Dean Friebus with big pike. Check out the high water in Douglas Creek
Jim Rock with one of the few walleyes taken

Joe Overman with one of many big pike he has caught

Jim Rock and large lake trout
Now that the ice is off we are just completing the things that we would normally have done two weeks before the fishing opener. I've had to make trips to town on successive days to get gasoline and diesel fuel plus groceries.
None of the infrastructure systems has worked correctly, requiring me to check, adjust, re-check and re-adjust things every few hours, day and night, until we can get these systems running correctly.
I just can't get up early enough, walk fast enough or carry enough tools to get everything going. Thankfully the weather has turned beautiful. It has been in the 70s and 80s F (20s and 30s C) all week.
And, thank goodness, the fishing has been spectacular, at least for northern pike and lake trout.
Just about everybody has caught many, many big pike and at least some big lake trout.
The same can't be said for walleyes. We've only caught a few, mostly big ones. The walleye bite should begin any day now with all the warm weather we have been having.
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Friday, May 23, 2014

Made it to town, twice, but had to break ice

The scene at Hammel Narrows about 8 p.m. Friday evening
The ice was about five inches thick
Our helper Brad Donovan and I took a fishing boat to town today and had clear boating until we got to the Forestry stretch. There the ice still covered about two-thirds of the bay. We found open water on the inside of the islands on the south side of this very large bay and proceeded to the area called St. Paul's Bay Landing and then out to the Forestry Point. We had to break through about 50 yards of ice there and then made our way to Hammel Narrows where there was more ice but fortunately, we found a lead around the south side.
In town we picked up the Lickety Split which had been launched for us by Red Lake Marine. We also got six new outboards and two new boats plus a boatload of groceries that Brenda had ordered by telephone from Sobey's Supermarket. We started back about three hours later only to find the Hammel Narrows passage now contained about 100 yards of pretty firm ice. We broke through this with the Lickety Split. A boat I was towing ended up sliding right on top of the ice floes. Brad followed in the broken ice channel with one of the new 16-foot Lund SSVs.
We reached camp without incident but I had to return to town about four hours later in the Lickety Split. Again we had to break ice at Hammel Narrows. On the return trip with a load of gasoline, we had to break through ice again in the same spot.
Overall, however, the Forestry Stretch was about 70 per cent clear by evening.
The lake level is very high. Our dock in town is just about level with the lake instead of being a foot or two higher as is normal.
Today was a spectacular 26 C or 80 F!
Fishing was great. Besides northern pike, quite a few lake trout have now been caught and even some whitefish. Walleyes have been scarce so far. I think we have caught two or three.
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Thursday, May 22, 2014

May 22, ice-out on Red Lake

Howey Bay cleared of ice this afternoon. Except for some loose ice still floating around, the lake is clear. We will consider today as the official ice-out date for 2014.
I go tomorrow by fishing boat to pick up the Lickety Split in town.
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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Red Lake ice-out very close; maybe tomorrow

Ken Chipongian caught and released this 42-inch pike
Most of the big bays on Red Lake are becoming free of ice. We heard from Hugh Carlson of Viking Island Lodge that we could almost make it to town by boat today. He thought it would be possible tomorrow (Thursday).
Many of you have asked how fishing has been. We have caught lots of very big pike such as the one caught and released by Ken Chipongian in the photo above. It has been a banner week for big pike. So far, however, not one walleye has been caught or lake trout. Mind you, not too much effort has been put toward those species. Pike fishing is just too spectacular. Almost all the big pike are being taken on dead bait.
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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Still waiting for ice-out in Red Lake

The water is still a bit  too hard to launch the Lickety Split. Photo by Sherry McCoy
The ice looks sick; it's black and cracked and pieces of it are grinding together. However, it is still out there, at least in the big bays between camp and Red Lake. A big wind would take it out but yesterday and today have been quite calm with drizzling rain.
Will it be out before Saturday, May 24? Probably but not for sure. If we can't boat guests out to camp we will need to fly them. If you don't see anything on the blog about us boating to town before Saturday, call camp and get instructions on how we will fly you out.
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Saturday, May 17, 2014

We're in camp: lots of ice

Me, Amanda Wellman, Brad Donovan, Sophie Kurucz

Lots of ice and it is snowing

Just enough room to land in narrows upstream of camp
Sadler Bay was the most clear of any bay on the lake
Eastern entrance to West Narrows. Trapper's cabin at left
We flew into camp late Wednesday afternoon with Viking Outpost floatplanes. There was enough room to land in the narrows; Sadler Bay was mostly clear of ice, but just about every place else was frozen. The high on Wednesday was 3 C or about 35 F!
The first two nights the narrows refroze and took until 10 a.m. to thaw again. It was below freezing last night too but the narrows didn't freeze.
This morning there are ice pans floating by camp.
We are all noticing how long it is taking for little bits of ice floating in the narrows to melt. Normally these would be gone in hours. This year they float there for days.
Thursday and Friday were both sunny and warm and that really helped open up the narrows. As of yesterday there was still ice in Middle Bay and even in front of camp.
We really need some wind to break the ice up. It has been very still.
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Saturday, May 10, 2014

Red Lake 2014 ice-out report: more to go

We still need more open water to land with a plane. It might be possible Tuesday
Still lots of ice but it is loose from the shore. A big wind could break it up.

Hugh Carlson photos

Enid Carlson of Viking Island Lodge just sent us these aerial photos of Bow Narrows Camp taken by husband Hugh on a floatplane trip today out to the west end of Red Lake. He had taken off from the Chukuni River in Red Lake and flew out to check Viking Island Lodge on Douglas Lake and some of their outpost camp lakes farther west. You can check out photos of these lakes at Enid's blog.
The open water around the green buoy in front of our camp has grown a lot since Hugh snapped photos last Tuesday. He reports that a good wind would clear out enough ice for us to land at Bow Narrows. Come on wind!
Last year it was open from Moninger's cabin upstream of us to the green buoy when we flew in. By that evening it was open from Pipestone Bay to Galena Island at the entrance to Trout Bay. It can really clear quickly if the conditions are right.
We have the staff flying in from all over Canada to Thunder Bay on Monday and plan to arrive in Red Lake on Tuesday. With a bit of a break, we will be able to fly in with Viking floatplanes later that day.
My guess is ice-out for Red Lake proper won't occur until after walleye season begins May 17, perhaps May 20-22. However, we will still be able to get around the shallow bays near camp long before that. I see from Wright's Wilderness Camp blog that Gullrock Lake is about ready to break-up. It could happen just about time for the walleye opener. Gullrock is usually about a week ahead of Red Lake. Trout Lake usually clears a week after Red Lake. The lakes farther south on Highway 105 such as Lac Seul, Cedar and Cliff Lakes and Eagle Lake at Vermilion Bay usually open earlier than Gullrock. So they may well be clear by May 17.
The weather today was beautiful: warm and sunny. Tomorrow is expected to be the same. Then it is supposed to cool off again for much of next week.
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Friday, May 9, 2014

Precautions necessary for our new puppy Cork

Let's keep hooks and bait out of sight this summer
Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it is going to take all of us at camp to raise a camp dog.
We're starting all over this season with a new chocolate Lab puppy, Cork. He will be less than six months old when we open camp, full of fun and mischievousness.
Camp is a wonderful place for a puppy to grow up in except for some very dangerous hazards presented by our anglers. These are lures and especially live bait and dead bait such as ciscoes.
We need to keep all of these stowed safely out of sight before coming into camp. A jig with a minnow dangling from it is a tantalizing temptation for a little dog. In fact, so is any lure just twisting and turning in the breeze from anglers' rods leaned up in their boats.
I would like to ask all of you a favour: please take off your lures and put them out of sight in your tackle box before tying up to the dock. And please don't leave chunks of ciscoes or other bait in your boat. It is going to entice Cork to jump in.
Our previous Lab, Sam, had to get a treble hook cut from his stomach. I also had to pull a hook out of his mouth. I've also removed two treble hooks from the feet of a border collie owned by our cook. Someone had left several of their biggest Rapalas just laying on the dock.
Anglers can be very careless about their rods and hooks. I wish we would treat them like loaded guns. We wouldn't leave a loaded gun just laying around and we shouldn't leave lures and bait all over our boats.
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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Skinny deer from harsh winter

This deer isn't far from starvation but made it through the long winter
The snow in the Nolalu area has now melted enough for me to pick up my trail cameras. It was just too mushy to wade out into the bush and get them before. Now there are only patches of snow left.
One camera caught this shot of an emaciated deer. The deep snow, about four feet on the level around here, probably resulted in some deer starving to death. They just couldn't move around enough to feed. However, judging by the number of deer we are seeing along the roads, in the fields and on trail cameras like this, lots of deer survived.
The deer population in Northwestern Ontario was very large last fall. They had spread into many areas that previously had been populated only by moose. Deer have a parasite that is harmless to them but is fatal to the moose. As a result moose have died off in many of their former areas. If the deer took a hit last winter, this could help their larger cousins. However, previous experience has shown that it takes successive winters of deep snow to really eradicate the deer.
The large deer herd has been a bonanza for timber wolves. Deer are much easier to catch than moose and are found in greater concentrations. This has led to some astounding wolf packs. In moose country a wolf pack usually only consists of five or six individuals. Now, with the heavy deer herd, people are seeing wolf packs of 20 or more wolves.
In areas that still have moose, this has meant higher-than-normal predation by wolves.
Moose are also taking a licking from an increased bear population. Black bears may be the greatest of all predators of moose. They get them just as they are born, in May, just as the bears are coming out of hibernation. It is almost impossible to get an accurate picture of bear predation on moose in Northwestern Ontario because of the dense Boreal Forest bush. But in areas that are more open, like Alaska, it has been shown that black bears can kill up to 50% of the moose calves.
The bear population all over Ontario has soared after the Ontario government cancelled the spring bear hunt about 20 years ago. Now towns all over the North are plagued with bears looking for garbage, barbecues, apple trees and the like.
There is a tiny renewal of spring bear hunting this year. It applies only to a few municipalities and won't result in many bears harvested.
However, the big dip in the moose population will result in enormous cuts in the numbers of moose tags for hunters. In some cases the tags have been slashed by 80 per cent. There are just far fewer moose out there.
We need a comprehensive management plan to help out the moose, bring back their numbers and increase the tags again. This should include a relaxation of regulations on the hunting of deer, a full-fledged return of spring bear hunting everywhere and making it easier to hunt wolves. Right now it is illegal to hunt wolves in an area with moose unless you have a moose tag! The government is sure that if they find you with a high-powered rifle in moose territory, you are hunting moose, even if you insist you are hunting wolves.
Wolf hunting could help outfitters who will lose business from the cutting of moose tags. However, the hunting must take place in the fall, not after moose season closes Dec. 15 which are the current regulations.
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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

View from above indicates fly-in a week away

Open water at the narrows should nearly double in size each day now
The entire west end of Red Lake is frozen except for a spot in front of camp and at Pipestone Narrows. This is a great shot for showing all of the sheltered waters where our anglers will be fishing starting in a couple of weeks. Photos by Hugh Carlson
These great photos by Hugh Carlson show lots of ice at the west end of Red Lake. However, the bit of open water at the green buoy in front of camp and at Pipestone Narrows shows the narrows are opening up. My guess is we should be able to fly into camp by this time next week.
The weather forecast is for very warm, rainy weather the next few days. That should accelerate the melting process.
Our thanks go out to Hugh and Enid from Viking Island Lodge for providing us with the best ice-out information and especially for photos like these.
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Monday, May 5, 2014

Brenda and Florence Carlson at Sportsmen's Dinner

Brenda with Florence Carlson at the dinner on Saturday. Enid Carlson photo
The Red Lake Sportsmen's Dinner on Saturday was enjoyed by hundreds of sportsmen and women. This annual event raises money for the Red Lake Publicity Board which markets the area to anglers and hunters and other visitors from all over Canada, the U.S. and even Europe. In addition to the meal there are always many dozens of draws for prizes donated by local businesses and individuals. And there is a dance.
It's a pity that more camp operators don't attend the event. This year quite a few probably didn't come because of what looks like a late ice-out. Operators who live out of town wouldn't necessarily make the trip to Red Lake a couple of weeks early just to attend the banquet. We all need to support this great event, run by volunteers and for the benefit of the tourism industry in the Red Lake region. We also need to belong to organizations such as Nature and Outdoor Tourism Ontario if we want our industry to continue to prosper.
Someone who never misses the dinner is Viking Island's Florence Carlson. She and her husband, Arthur, started Viking Island Lodge on Douglas Lake in 1948, the same year Bow Narrows Camp was built by a close friend, Bill Stupack.
Today, Florence's son Hugh and his wife, Enid, and Florence's son Craig and his wife, Roseanne, carry on the business, not only at Viking Island but also Viking Outposts.
Florence will be 100 in September!
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"Eye in the sky" maybe today on camp ice

Open water at Amik Outpost landing. Ice starts at point on far left. Laurie Marcil photo
Hugh Carlson of Viking Lodge and Outposts may get a look today at ice conditions in the narrows in front of camp. He expected to take off with his floatplane from the ice at Howey Bay and land in the open water at Amik Outpost's landing, just downstream from the Chukuni River bridge. Before that, however, he planned to fly over some of Viking's outpost lakes, Douglas Lake where Viking Island Lodge is located and Bow Narrows to see what is happening.
Brenda and Laurie Marcil (executive-director of Nature and Outdoor Tourism Ontario) returned to Nolalu last night after a five-day road trip in the Northwest. Small lakes were opening up but the big ones, like Red Lake are still frozen shore-to-shore.
In Red Lake they saw a patch of open water around the Skookum Bay bridge. The bay itself is still frozen. Skookum Bay has always been a very accurate indicator of ice-out on Red Lake. One week after it is ice-free, the rest of the lake opens up.
Looking at Laurie's photos on her tablet, I would think it will be about a week before Skookum is ice-free. If that happens, then it would be two weeks from now, or about May 18, for ice-out on Red Lake. This is all dependent on the weather, of course. The forecast is for warmer temperatures than we have been getting. That is encouraging but the disheartening fact is the forecast has been continually wrong all spring. I think the forecasters factor-in historical data to come up with their estimates. This year is unlike anything we have experienced in the past. The winter was the worst in history and the spring has been exceptionally cold and wet.
Laurie also took photos of the open water at Amik Outposts landing. The ice begins at the point at the far left in the photo. Usually when we fly out to camp, the entire bay in this photo is clear.
There are bits of open water at the Forestry Point and also at the Cochenour landing where people come ashore from McKenzie Island. Brenda said people were still crossing by foot to the island, just skirting around the open water at the landing. They will do this almost to the day that ice clears out entirely!
In Nolalu today it is snowing heavily. Red Lake, however, is missing this storm. These late-spring snows are really going to hinder ice-out in the Thunder Bay area. I think it will take a miracle for big lakes to be open by May 17, the beginning of fishing season, in this north-central region. The Northwest region, including Kenora, Dryden, Red Lake and Sioux Lookout, might possibly make it if they can just escape more snow for a couple of weeks.
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Friday, May 2, 2014

Northwestern Ontario ice-out report: progress!

Brenda has been on the road the last few days with Laurie Marcil, the executive-director of NOTO (Nature and Outdoor Tourism Ontario), driving from Thunder Bay, on to Dryden, then Nestor Falls, back to Dryden and then to Red Lake on Saturday. They are attending regional tourism meetings and end it with the Sportsmen's Banquet in Red Lake. Brenda is vice-president of NOTO.
They reported yesterday that small lakes in the Dryden, Lake of the Woods areas, have open water around the edges. Big lakes like Eagle Lake are still completely frozen. All streams are open.
The news about the small lakes is very encouraging. It means the big ones could open up in just a couple of weeks.
The really great news for us on Red Lake, however, comes from Enid Carlson's blog. There is a video there of Hugh Carlson drilling a hole in front of their home at Hammel Narrows on Red Lake. This is something Hugh does about the same time each year.
The video shows Hugh finding just 22 inches of ice or about half of what was there just two weeks ago! He figures to have a floatplane in the Chukuni River next week and predicts that they will be able to fly into their outpost camps and Viking Island on Douglas Lake by the fishing opener, May 17.
That means we at Bow Narrows Camp would also be able to fly-in with Viking Outpost planes.
This is great news!
Brenda promised to bring photos of Red Lake back when she returns Sunday.

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