Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Some larger lures to try for big northern pike

6-inch Spro
For decades smaller lures outperformed larger ones for northern pike at Bow Narrows Camp and the west end of Red Lake, Ontario. But life doesn't stand still and patterns and trends change. For a couple of years now some of our anglers have seen good results with larger lures. By larger, however, I mean within reason.
One such lure last summer was the Spro six-inch sinking model, shown above. Tom Cieplik first brought this lure to our attention in July and quite a few anglers tried it afterwards and agreed. It's a pricey devil, though, so you probably aren't going to fill your tackle boxes with them.
Five-inch Super Fluke
Tom and his family liked the all-silver model but I wonder if the one above would be even better. It really reminds me of a redhorse sucker, a bottom feeder that is present in our lake and I'm sure makes a tasty morsel for any pike.
Another new lure, or at least new to us at Bow Narrows, was the Super Fluke. We had a group in late-July or early August that caught a bunch of big pike on this soft plastic bait. I think they fished it on a plain 1/4-ounce jighead but they might have had the jig-spinner rig shown here. They used the five-inch fluke, I believe, and cast it right into the shallows and then reeled it straight back to the boat, rather than jigging it.
I have written a couple of times about a great surface lure, the Live Target Walking Frog. This lure is about 5-6 inches in length and both "hops" and "walks the dog" as you pump your
Walking Frog
rod tip while reeling it back to the boat. It is an excellent surface bait and works great any time the water is calm such as in the evening.
The Zara Spook is another great surface bait. Again, the best length is about six inches. You are probably seeing a pattern to the sizes mentioned here. These baits are bigger than the 1/3-ounce to 1/2-ounce spoons we have recommended elsewhere on the blog, but they're not foot-long pieces of kindling either as are some musky plugs.
Northland spinner bait
One lure that has always worked fairly well is the spinner bait. Regular bass-sized spinner baits work pretty good but if you want to up-size you can go as large as, you guessed it, the six-inch long model. Two nice features about this bait is the single hook (sometimes there are two single hooks in tandem) and the fact it is very inexpensive. A pain with some of the lures however, is that it takes either a tiny rubber band or a split ring to keep your leader from slipping out of position on the bent-wire frame where your line attaches. I like the models such as the Northland which have their wire frames bent completely into a ring for your leader. Both single spinners and tandem spinners work well. Because of their affordability, you can carry a bunch of colours
Mepps No. 5
It's not new but the good-old Mepps No. 5 continues to be a top producer for big northern. It is curious but the even-larger Mepps Musky Killer has never worked very well on Red Lake. It is basically the same spinner as the No. 5 but with a double-long bucktail and, I believe, two sets of treble hooks.
The Mepps No. 5 isn't all that big, probably four inches in length. It has one set of nice, large treble hooks that are easy to extract from a pike's maw. The Mepps isn't as cheap as the spinner baits but you can still afford to carry a half-dozen with you.
It only happened to one angler last summer, to my knowledge, but the Rapala Tail Dancer also took some deep northern pike. This man was trolling off reefs in about 16-feet of water in June when virtually everybody else was catching pike in just a few feet of water. This just goes to show that all the fish don't do the same thing at the same time.
Which size Tail Dancer did he use? I believe it was the six-incher.
The 1/3-1/2-ounce spoons continue to work better than longer models at our camp.
Rapala Tail Dancer
For sheer numbers of pike as well as big ones, I would still recommend the smaller lures. But there may be times when these larger baits will do even better at attracting mostly big fish. One such occasion is when fishing in walleye locations. Lunker pike lay around these spots, ready to pick off any smaller fish that act injured. Many people have had these behemoths grab the walleyes they are reeling in. Bigger lures might just be the ticket to trigger those strikes in these spots.
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Monday, December 29, 2014

A New Year's resolution for all fishermen

The dawn of a New Year is nearly upon us and once again fishermen everywhere are thinking of resolutions to improve their sport for the next 365 days.
"I resolve to get up each day before dawn and be out on the water to see the first ripples made by a feeding fish."
"I resolve to learn five new knots that will help me tie stronger leaders and therefore prevent fewer break-offs."
Oh, balderdash! You might as well resolve to wear skinny jeans and date a super model. It takes you an entire pot of coffee in the morning just to focus and you don't even know the name of a single knot!
Let's get real. When it comes to making resolutions, you need a lot of help. That's why I'm here. If you want to resolve something, resolve to eat a gallon of pickles. It will do wonders for your fishing next summer.
"But I don't like pickles," you whine.
My goodness, maybe you should first resolve to quit complaining! Will eating a pickle kill you? Of course not. Neither will 50 pickles which are about what's in a gallon jar.
"What kind of pickles? you ask.
I knew you were a finicky eater so I didn't specify. Eat whatever you like. My personal preference would be whole kosher dills. Ummmm! But you could eat bread-and-butters or sweet pickles, even gherkins...
"Could I eat a quart of four different kinds?"
You're a lot of trouble, did you know that? I guess you think that four quarts make a gallon. Or maybe you would like to eat eight pints; that makes a gallon too. While you're at it why don't you go for the limit and eat 64 baby food jars of assorted mashed pickles!
No! I didn't say eat a plethora of pickles from various-sized jars for a reason.  You need the gallon jar!
"But I don't like pickles," you sniff again.
OK! You win! Resolve to eat a gallon of pickled eggs.
Once you've eaten the entire contents of the jar, wash it out thoroughly. It's not necessary but it shows a touch of class to also remove the label.
Next go down in the basement or out to the garage and get your tackle box and bring it inside and place it on the kitchen table beside the open jar.
Then, as some tenor sings Auld Lang Syne on the TV, take each and every lure that either you haven't fished with or which hasn't caught a fish in the past three years and place it in the jar. Now you see why you needed the big one.
It's natural to shed a tear at this time, so don't feel embarrassed. But you can take comfort in knowing that you aren't throwing away these old friends that have accompanied you on so many fishing trips.
No, you are going to preserve them in the hermetically-sealed jar right on a shelf in the den or the garage and use it to regale the grandkids for years to come!
And now here's the best part. See all those empty slots in the tackle box? They're right next to the lures that did catch fish in the past three years. What better time to get more of these proven producers in other colours and sizes than in the depth of winter!
See! Making resolutions isn't so hard once you know what you're doing.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry and Peaceful Christmas Everyone

To all our guests, friends, family and other readers of the blog, Brenda and I wish you Merry Christmas. May you all find peace and joy in the New Year.
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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Cork has settled down, thank goodness!

There's a twinkle in this mischievous Cork's eye. Photo by Leo Dean.

Cork is a great swimmer and retriever

I'm sorry I ripped apart that thing you wanted

A more sedate Cork walks a snow-covered trail here in Nolalu
We all had to struggle last summer to stay patient with our new camp dog, Cork. Like a lot of young chocolate labs, he had no end of energy and mischievousness. I knew lab puppies were a handful -- I've had four of them now -- but it still was a struggle for me to get through this stage. I just made up my mind to outlast the puppy and hold on until he became a more settled dog. Fortunately, that stage has arrived.
Cork, who turned 1 the first of the month, is now a really good dog. He is absolutely excellent at traveling. We took him with us to B.C. and he would ride for hours in his crate for days on end with no complaints. He also was quick to do his business when we stopped for breaks and would eagerly jump back into the crate when it was time to move again.
I think the yard at camp will look like less of a disaster next season. Last year Cork dragged every loose branch and stick for hundreds of yards into the yard where he would shred them into hundreds of pieces. The yard continuously looked like we had just gone through a major storm. He also stole everything he could grab from everyone at camp. The goal, of course, was to get people to chase him.  I was thoroughly sick of that game by the time we left camp.
Now Cork loves walking with me on the trails around our home and has a healthy fear of the wolves that are everywhere nearby.
He has an excellent nose which I hope to put to good use next hunting season. We didn't get much hunting in this past season for one reason or another.
Until about mid-summer last year Cork was a barker. Then, during our Family Week, the first of July, my nephew Mac suggested trying an anti-barking collar. It worked immediately on his dogs, he said. So I got one and boy, he wasn't kidding. The barking problem was history. Cork hasn't worn the collar for months now but he only barks when there is a good reason, such as when he wants back into the house.
Cork loves to retrieve and also loves the water. He still needs improvement on returning the dummy to hand but there's lots of time to work on that.
Thanks, everybody, for helping us get past the hyper puppy stage.
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Excellent exchange taking place on U.S. funds

We're getting guests who are paying for their entire trip by credit card right now to take advantage of the excellent exchange rate on U.S. currency.
One of our anglers e-mailed me today to say he got an exchange rate of 14% with his Mastercard.
The Canadian loonie has been falling steadily all fall and winter, the most likely reason for which is the equally cascading price of oil. Canada is a major exporter of the commodity and the fortunes of our currency seem partly tied to it.
So the game everyone is probably playing right now is to figure when the oil price has bottomed out and therefore the point when greatest exchange can be realized.
When we make a charge to your credit card it is in Canadian funds. If you are from the U.S. the credit card company automatically calculates the exchange rate and makes the corresponding charge to your account in U.S.
In the angler mentioned above's case, a charge of $1,100 Canadian ended up being $945.95. That works out to a savings of 14%.
When coupled with the 6.5% HST mail-in rebate which American guests can get on their fishing package from camp after returning home, the savings becomes 20.5%. Nice!
And with low gasoline prices that are likely for next summer, there may never be a better time to come to Canada!
Credit cards may have other charges, such as a foreign purchase charge, that lower the realized savings. The only way to find out if there are such charges for your card is to contact the card company and find out. Our angler above had no such extra charges from his company.
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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Minn. law to affect all boats coming to Canada

Whether you are bringing your own boat from Minnesota or are from some other state and just passing through Minnesota, you will need to take a course this winter and get a decal for your boat in order to pass through Minnesota on the way to Canada.
On-line and home-study courses begin Jan. 15. It is said to take about 30-minutes to complete. Cost of the program has not yet been determined.
The purpose of the program is to stop the spread of invasive species.
For clarity's sake, I'll repeat that this is not just for Minnesota boaters. It includes boat owners from other states who will now need to take this course and get the decal in order for them to trailer their boat through Minnesota. You can learn more about this new law at the following website:

Lee Wright of Wright's Wilderness Camp on Gullrock Lake brought this matter to the attention of NOTO (Nature and Outdoor Tourism Ontario.
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Monday, December 15, 2014

Total switch to Lucky Strike conservation nets

MNR fish and wildlife tech Jeff King uses conservation landing net to take lake trout from pens on our dock to spawning station aboard Eagle Falls Lodge's pontoon boat in September. The nets work great and let fish be released without harm.
Last spring we purchased seven or eight Lucky Strike conservation landing nets to see how they performed.
These basket-style nets got such rave reviews from our guests that we will get them for all the boats next year.
The nets have a flat bottom which prevents big fish from being bent into a U shape. Most walleyes lay perfectly flat across the bottom. At the same time the nets are quite deep and have handled the biggest of pike with ease.
Mesh in the nets is smaller than normal, is coated lightly with rubber and prevents most hooks from becoming caught. I should note that they are not rubber nets, just rubber-coated.
The nets have long, heavy aluminum handles and this feature comes in handy especially for anglers fishing by themselves. Several single anglers told me last summer that they were able to brace the handle under their arm long enough to net a fish and put down their rod to finish bringing the fish into the boat.
The nets are quite expensive, about double what traditional nets cost, but since their mesh doesn't get caught in hooks or fish's jaws, they should last longer. They are probably worth the extra cost.
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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Egli's Wool Shop one of a kind

It you are driving between Dryden and Vermilion Bay on Hwy 17 (the Trans-Canada Highway) you go right past Egli's Sheep Farm.
I highly recommend you stop at this unique establishment and look at their incredible selection of wool and sheepskin products.
In these days of cheap made-in-China crap it is wonderful to know there are still high-quality apparel items for sale. This is the real deal: sheepskin everything, woolen everything and a lot of it made right there on site. Other items are from Newfoundland, Iceland, the Andes and Scandinavia.
I own just about one of everything in the store: mad trapper's hats, sheepskin gauntlets, woolen mittens, sheepskin neck warmer, sheepskin boot liners, even a full sheepskin I keep on the chair.
They have things for men, women and children.
Their website is:
They also have a mail order service which could be handy this Christmas season.
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Walking stick helps aim trail camera

Reconyx HC600 Hyperfire camera catches me and my walking stick

I use the walking stick to zero-in on where exactly the camera is looking

Three whitetail deer follow their trail which intersects mine
Timber wolves, exactly where my camera is focused, are hours behind deer
I carry a cedar walking stick when wandering the trails here in Nolalu. On the top of this stick I have fastened a small piece of 1/4-inch waferply and drilled a hole in the center where I drove in a small wooden peg. This tiny "table" works quite well as a quick rest for my compact 35-mm Olympus SZ-14 camera.
In deep snow I can just poke the stick down and put the little peg in the camera tripod screw hole. The camera  sits there by itself just fine if I want to let go but most of the time I just rest the camera there while I click away.
It makes a world of difference on photo blur when using the camera's 24x zoom lens. This lens is so powerful that many times I have spotted some creature crossing the road a mile away and snapped its photo with the zoom, then enlarged the photo on the camera to see what it was.
I have also discovered another use for the walking stick with its curious little platform on top. It makes a great aiming device for my trail cameras. It can be difficult to figure exactly where a camera is focusing when you hang it on a tree. Now I use my walking stick and camera platform sort of like a T-square. It's easy to keep the platform parallel to the face of the camera and the long stick points right to where the camera is looking.
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Friday, December 12, 2014

Top pike anglers make own lunker lure

The blank lure

Luminescent eye is painted

Finished product -- a delicious little walleye
Tom Cieplik, the young man whose one-week catch of monster northern pike made everybody's jaws drop on this blog a couple of seasons ago and his father Carl may be on to something. And knowing the Cieplik clan, it's probably on to something big.
Tom just sent me this e-mail:


Last year we hooked many walleye, and our lines became heavier a number of times while reeling them in. Trophy Northern pike made a meal of our walleye nearly 10 times last year. This is by far the most that it has happened to us since coming to Bow Narrows Camp. Loving to cast for big pike, and without a walleye pattern lure, my dad and I took on a winter project of creating our own walleye. This is what we came up with. Look forward to giving this a try this year.
(Added glow and the dark paint to the eyes and tip of the tail)

Tom Cieplik" 

Here's some links to a few of the Ciepliks' other contributions to the blog:

Holy cow!
10-minute fishing video
Trip video
Spro lure
It just gets better

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