Friday, January 30, 2015

Last chance to confirm 2015 reservations

The organizers of all groups coming to camp this summer should have either received an e-mail or a letter from me by now. Most of these were sent out in early-to-mid-December. If you are such a person and have not heard from me, something is wrong. Maybe, we had the wrong e-mail or street address for you. You need to contact me immediately, either by e-mail:  or telephone: 807-475-7246. Mail is too slow at this point. It takes us about two weeks to get a letter from the U.S.
I will attempt to call all such people -- group organizers -- who haven't yet given us deposits on their trips next summer. We need to know immediately if you are still planning to come to camp because there are people waiting to take your cabin if you aren't going to use it.
If you are among those people waiting, keep an eye on the Reservation Availability the next couple of weeks. There will probably be some openings popping-up in June and July.

Click to go back to our website
Click to see the latest on the blog

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Broken rod evidence of small lure-big fish

Kinsey Baughman with Little Cleo that caught rod-breaking northern pike
If you look closely at the small spoon my great-niece Kinsey Baughman is holding, you will see it is a 2/5-ounce Little Cleo in silver and blue with a hammered finish. This photo was taken right after a big northern pike snapped her rod in half. She still landed the fish, the size of which I now forget.
When it comes to catching northern pike in the summer, no one does it better than my family who comes each year during our Family Week, the first week of July.
It isn't unusual for each boat to catch and release 50-100 fish in a day. How do we do it? We cast small spoons, spinners and jigs. The spoons are 2/5 to 1/3 ounce, favourite spinners are the #4 and #5 Mepps and Blue Fox, the jigs are 1/4-ounce with 3-4-inch twister tails. Sometimes these are in the form of Beetle Spins which is basically just a jig with a hair-pin spinner attached to the eye.
The small lures catch big pike and small pike. They also catch a bunch of walleye. We even get quite a few perch.
The key is that we make thousands of casts per day each. It isn't difficult when the lures are so light.
Incidentally, we have a great many people who break rods on fish each summer. In fact, we had three broken rods in one day last fall. In the latter three cases, the individuals were fishing alone and were trying to net the fish with one hand. The big pike made lightning-quick lunges beneath the boat and the rods struck the boat's gunwales.
Click to go back to our website
Click to see the latest on the blog

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Timber wolves right behind whitetail deer

9:35:56 a.m. Deer at left crossed frame in 2/5 second. Another deer is at top right

9:38:25 a.m. First timber wolf is 2 minutes, 29 seconds behind the deer

9:38:40 a.m. He leaves at left and a second wolf enters the frame

9:38:54 a.m. The third wolf appears,
This is about as close to photographing wolves in the act of killing deer as I have come here at our home in Nolalu. The deer in the first photo are flying by. This camera clicks in 2/5 of a second once it detects motion. The deer disappearing at left crossed the entire field of vision in that split second. The deer at upper right was completely gone when the shutter clicked again five seconds later.
The first wolf appears less than 2 1/2 minutes behind the deer. He isn't alone. The next one comes along 15 seconds later and the third one four seconds later still.
 Click to go back to our website
 Click to see the latest on the blog

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Emergency fire-starting trick

 In Northwestern Ontario you can find a great emergency fire starting material -- birch bark -- everywhere -- almost.
I was moose hunting a few years ago and got dropped off by my mates on a point so I could watch the back side of a grassy bay where moose might come to feed. It was windy, snowing and raining and turned out not to be fit for man nor beast.

In pretty short order I got chilled, despite my warm clothes and rain gear. I decided to give up on the hunting idea and just sit by a fire until I got picked up. I always carry a butane lighter in my hunting vest, able to light thousands of fires, if needed. To my chagrin, there wasn't a birch tree on the entire point and the mainland was a mass of blown-down, sopping-wet, dead balsam firs. I could not come up with anything dry to start the fire. If only I could have gotten a small flame going, branches from the dead balsam would dry out in the heat and it would have been no trick to keep the fire going. Despite all my experience in the bush, I could not get the fire to burn. I ended up doing jumping jacks for about three hours.
When I came home to Nolalu that fall I was telling my story of woe to a teacher-friend of Brenda. Harry Sitch said the exact thing happened to him moose hunting one time although in his case he had waded out into a beaver pond to retrieve a fallen moose (a far better story!) From that point on, he said, he carried an old waxed milk carton in his pack (or vest, I forget which). The carton is waterproof and when lit, burns for several minutes, enough to ignite the tinder in a campfire under any conditions.
It was a good tip. Just cut the sides of the carton in strips and fold them back and forth over the base of the carton. The whole thing collapses to about the thickness of a deck of cards. When you need it,
just fluff-up the package a bit and place it under the tinder.
Click to go back to our website 
Click to see the latest on the blog

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

What makes a perfect day for fishing?

This kind of weather doesn't "reflect" so well on fishing. Vic Fazekas photos

Vic Fazekas with nice fall-caught walleye. Note the chop on the water.
The old saying is: "even a bad day at fishing beats a good day at work."
When it comes to catching, however, the weather conditions are better some days than others.
Clear, windless days are great for suntanning, for swimming, for photography, for seeing deep into the water and for "just feeling great." They are also the worst for catching fish. The very best conditions are when there is a chop on the water (small waves), is overcast or is partially overcast.
I would like to coin a new saying: "The wind is your friend." It is often the factor between a spectacular fishing day and a dead or mediocre one.
Ironically, though, if you listen to many anglers talk back at camp, wind is the enemy. It prevents them from fishing the way they wanted. That's the key -- fishing THE WAY they wanted.
There is a skill to using the wind to your advantage and it starts by recognizing that there are times where you will need to change your method just because of the wind. For example, if you like to anchor and fish vertically, this is going to be out of the question on very windy days because your anchor will drag. If you have a very good anchor, such as a Danforth, that will dig in and hold you in high winds, then you are also going to need to let out four times the rope as the lake is deep. In other words, if you are fishing in 30 feet of water, a common depth when fishing Red Lake in the fall, you will need to let out 120 feet of rope for the anchor to work. You have so much line out that your boat will swing drastically from side to side, so much that you will seldom be over the spot you wanted to fish. A better decision would be to change locations where it isn't so windy or to cast or troll for northern pike until the wind drops.
Larry Pons with hefty walleye caught on overcast, choppy day.
Except for the fall, walleye fishing on Red Lake is almost always best on the windy shoreline. Why? We really haven't a clue but some possibilities are because the waves make the light dance beneath the surface and acts as camouflage for the fish as they tear into baitfish schools, or the muddied-up shoreline provides feed for schools of minnows which attracts the fish, or the minnows themselves get blown against the bank, or the wind blows all the warm water against the bank, or who knows?
Whatever the reason, you can just look at the wind direction and figure out where the walleyes will be biting the best: on the windy shore. It usually works the best to troll, usually backwards to slow you down but sometimes it is just too windy for this and you must front troll.
Something that more and more of our guests are bringing with them are drift anchors. These canvas or nylon cones are fastened to the boat and thrown overboard and significantly slow down a boat's motion. Using these it is possible to drift and jig in walleye hotspots on windy days, and also just to slow down the boat's trolling speed.
There are some days where it is just too windy to fish the windy shores. In these cases the best places to fish are usually on the protected side of islands and points. Treat the big waves like you would the current in a river; you want to fish the sides and eddies of the current. Anchor in the calm water and pitch a jig into the current (waves).
Windy days are excellent for front-trolling artificials, like Rapala's Shallow Shad Rap. You can keep adjusting your speed with the throttle handle as the wind gusts and wanes. Lots of times the fish are extremely shallow in these conditions -- even just six feet of water -- so work closely to shore.
Northern pike like windy and cloudy days too but unlike walleyes, are as apt to be on the lee side of the bays as they are on the windy side. That's why it is usually a better bet to fish for pike when it is extremely windy. You can do so in protected waters and don't have to deal with the wind so much.
As always, casting is probably the best bet although you will do well front-trolling too. Pike love the weeds and it is usually easier to cast in these spots than to troll.

A good tactic is to fish the big bays when there isn't much wind because there is more chance of a chop. Jason Pons photos.
 Click to go back to our website
 Click to see the latest on the blog

Sunday, January 18, 2015

What causes fish wounds and scars?

Skin is missing from top of walleye's head. Photos by Larry Pons

Every once in awhile you catch a fish with a gash in its side, a fin missing or a sore of some kind. What causes these things?
It's a dangerous world if you are a fish. There are predators everywhere: other fish, bald eagles, ospreys, otters and people. Often you can make an educated guess about what happened.
It is unusual to see skin missing from the top of a fish's head. If it had a torn lip or gill, you could surmise it was the result of a fisherman. But the wound right atop the head in the photo above makes me think this walleye had escaped from a big northern pike. The entire top of a pike's mouth is a mass of small teeth, all pointed toward the throat. When a pike catches its prey it usually first grabs it in the middle and after a period of time, lets go and grabs it head first.
Most fish swallow their prey headfirst because the fins all collapse as it goes down the throat.
Somehow, this fish may have wriggled loose from the vise-grip-like hold but lost its scales in the process.
A wound that is more frequent is the gash type on the side, shown in the bottom photo. This is most common on northern pike. In this case, the wound has healed entirely, just leaving a scar, so it could have occurred years ago. Many of these types of wounds either come from the pike thrashing in the shallows while spawning or from fighting with another fish. Northern pike become territorial once they reach a certain length, about the mid-30 inches. They will defend their bay or cove against other similar-sized fish.
Sometimes you catch very large pike -- 40 inches or bigger -- with a fresh scar on its side or back. This will most certainly be a territorial fight scar. Nothing is trying to eat a 40-inch pike!
You also see fish with a rash that encircles its body, often right behind the gills. This is the telltale wound caused by fishermen who handled the fish either with dry hands or with a very rough glove. You should always either wet your hands or better, use a wet, soft, plain cotton glove when handling fish that you intend to release. This prevents your stripping away the slime layer on the fish's skin that protects it from viral and fungal infections.
Small red holes in the skin are almost certainly bloodsucker wounds. Incidentally, bloodsuckers that get on live fish are about the size of a pea. The long lake leeches you see swimming around the shoreline only feed on dead fish.
A puncture wound on the side, especially if it is matched by a puncture on the opposite side, was likely made by bald eagles or ospreys.
Chunks of flesh missing from the face of a fish could have come from an otter. This would especially be likely if the fish was small.

Jason Pons with a nice-size pike with an old wound on its side

Click to go back to our website Click to see the latest on the blog

Thursday, January 15, 2015

How to find more information on the blog

There are more than 800 postings on this blog, almost all of them about fishing and outdoor life in Northwestern Ontario. But if all you do is scroll down on your screen, you will just see the latest 20 items. How can you find more? There are a number of ways.
One of the best is to put a topic in the little search window at the top of the page. That will bring up 20 postings on that subject. Be aware that there are likely far more than these 20. At the bottom of the page will be a link to the next group of 20 postings. And at the bottom of that page will be another link to the next 20, etc.
Clicking on the link at the bottom of the page is also just a way to work your way backwards through time on the blog. It's been going on since 2007!
Finally, a third way to find more things on the blog is to look at the archive of postings on the right side. There will be a link to each month for this year and titles of blogs for that month. There is also a list of years. Click on the year and it brings up the months. Click on the month and it brings up the titles.
Newcomers to Bow Narrows Camp or to fishing in Northwestern Ontario can do a lot of research on equipment, lures and techniques and get a good feel for life in the Boreal Forest just by "hunting" around on the blog.
 Click to go back to our website
 Click to see the latest on the blog

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

This moose was bit by a wolf!

Ham string shows wolf bite. Photos by John Andrews
Bow Narrows Camp angler John Andrews sent me a CD of photos he took while at camp the first week of the season in 2014.
He had a couple of shots of moose along the Red Lake Road or Hwy 105. Upon enlarging one, I noticed the telltale wound of a wolf attack. Wolves grab onto the hindquarters of moose while they are trying to run away. Once the moose is slowed down, others may grab it by the nose or anywhere else. But sometimes the moose escapes, as happened in this case.
I've seen this exact wound before. One fall, back in the old days when we offered commercial moose hunts at Bow Narrows, our hunters got three sets of cows and calves. This was back in the days before the selective harvest and a hunter could shoot moose of any sex.
This exact wound was on the hind legs of both the cow and calf  in all three instances.
At the same time our hunters could hear wolves howling right in the middle of the day, something quite unusual.
Another moose has ragged coat, probably result of moose ticks

Water over road as a result of winter's deep snow melting
Click to go back to our website
Click to see the latest on the blog

Monday, January 12, 2015

Plenty of timber wolves around this winter

There are four wolves in this frame. One is walking away over the two wolves' heads. This scene is about 75 yards from our house in Nolalu, ON.
Everyone on our road in Nolalu is talking about all the wolves this winter. They just seem to be everywhere. Our neighbors worry about letting their little children play outside unsupervised.
We worry about Cork, our chocolate lab. He can hear the wolves howling even from inside the house.
The wolves have about cleaned-out the deer on our 65 acres. My daily walks on our trails show fresh wolf tracks every night and rarely any deer sign. I have a ton of trail camera photos of them, almost all of them taken at night. It has been like this since we got home in November.
Click to go back to our website
Click to see the latest on the blog

Saturday, January 10, 2015

What's the story with the moose skull & antlers?

This small bull moose rack which is hung on a tree by the fish house was one I got with my family a few years back. It's the size moose we are looking for: big enough to provide quite a bit of meat, but young enough to be tender. I would guess it was just a few years old.
Click to go back to our website
 Click to see the latest on the blog

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

This couple fished "their way" and succeeded

Tom Demory

Carolyn Demory
I love it when people come fishing to Bow Narrows and do something totally different from everyone else and catch fish!
Tom and Carolyn Demory was a couple who did exactly that late last August. While everyone else was fishing in one type of location, they tried another and guess what? They did just fine!
Sometimes you just need to follow your instincts. If your gut tells you there should be fish in an area, then go with it.
Click to go back to our website
Click to see the latest on the blog

Monday, January 5, 2015

Everybody has room for nature's best insulator

Jacket and shell are ultimate cold weather gear for travelers

Puffy jacket looks too big for small pocket in duffel bag

But it stuffs right into that tiny space
Years ago I wrote about a cheap, down-filled jacket sold by Cabelas that I figure is the ultimate packable clothing item that will ensure you will never be cold on a fishing or hunting trip.
I have had one of these down jackets for years. It has gone on sale at Cabelas in past seasons for just $29!
Anyway, if you've never owned a down-filled item, you might not be aware how small a space you can pack it into. When I was leaving camp last fall I took a couple of photos of where I packed my jacket. It was in the end pocket of my duffel bag, a place I normally would fit about a dozen pairs of summer socks.
You might notice a bit of duct tape on my jacket in one of the photos. The Achilles heel of down garments is that their fabric rips easily. That's why I almost always wear my jacket inside of a waterproof but breathable shell. But if you do rip it, there's always duct tape!
We're in the midst of a cold snap here in Northwestern Ontario. But even in actual thermometer temps of -30 C (about 20-below F) with wind chills in the -40s, my combination of the down jacket inside the shell jacket is perfectly comfortable. In fact, it is my go-to-town outfit.
Down is nature's best insulator and you don't need to pay hundreds of dollars for garments made of it. It packs in such tiny spaces that virtually every traveler has room for it.
See Jacket for original article.
Click to go back to our website
 Click to see the latest on the blog

Saturday, January 3, 2015

New conservation fishing net in action

Ken Chipongian nets fish one-handed. Photo by John Andrews
Wish I had found this photo when I wrote about our new conservation fishing nets a few postings ago. It is a great action shot of a single angler, in this case Ken Chipongian, netting a big fish by himself. As you can see the long handle of the Lucky Strike conservation net allows him to hold the net under one arm while he deals with his fishing rod and reel.
Ken was fishing at camp the first week last season and by the looks of it, was anchored and probably using dead bait when photographed by angler John Andrews.
You can read more about the conservation net's attributes by clicking here.
It is the most impressive net I have seen and will be in all our boats in 2015.
 Click to go back to our website
 Click to see the latest on the blog