Monday, November 30, 2015

Outdoors store right near our dock

Red Lake Outfitters store is kitty-corner from our dock
Next time you are in Red Lake you might want to check out Red Lake Outfitters store, right across the street from our dock at Red Lake Marine. This place has a good selection of outdoor stuff including tackle and hunting supplies but especially gear for canoeing.
Red Lake Outfitters offers all kinds of canoeing services, from fully-outfitted trips to Woodland Caribou Wilderness Park to shuttles to and from drop-off and pick-up spots. It even offers winter camping trips.
Woodland Caribou Park borders Red Lake at the end of Trout Bay near Bow Narrows.
Click to go back to our website
Click to see the latest on the blog

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Did you see the forecast for today?

Yeah, I saw it this morning. It's calling for precipitation.
I'll always remember the exact moment I decided to throw away my smart phone. I was walking across the yard one night at camp last summer when I encountered one of our guests who was navigating his way between cabins while using the flashlight app on his own smart phone.
The night was crystal clear and the stars and the constellations in the pitch-black sky seemed so close you could reach up and grab them.
"If I could only get cell service here, or if you had wifi, I could tell you the name of those constellations. I've got an app that lets you point your phone at the sky and it will identify them. Isn't that amazing?" he asked.
I agreed but then added, "I know some constellations, which ones are you interested in?"
"That's just it," he said, "you don't have wifi, so I don't know."
"Well, I bet you know Ursa Major, better known as the Big Dipper," I said.
He looked at his phone.
"You know, the Big Dipper, it's shaped like a water dipper, like a sauce pan?"
No reply.
"Do you know how to use the Big Dipper to find the North Star?"
"You line up the two stars on the end of the pot and extend them to the first star. That's the North Star, or Polaris. It's at the end of the handle that makes up the Little Dipper or Ursa Minor."
"I just need wifi," said the man.
I pointed to a group of stars making a big W. "That's Cassiopeia, the Queen. The W is a crown."
"That tiny dipper-shaped one is called the Pleiades."
The man looked at his phone again. "Are you thinking of getting wifi?" he asked. "This app is absolutely amazing. I wish I could show it to you."
That's when I had my epiphany. This guy had no interest in learning the constellations. If he wanted to know the name of a constellation, his phone would give him the answer which he wouldn't even commit to memory.
I started thinking about my own growing reliance on the same technology. The first thing I was doing when I got up in the morning was check the weather report. Before the smart phone I would have stepped outside, looked at the sky, gauged the wind speed and direction, estimated the temperature and made my own prediction. Back to the photo up top, taken at sunrise here in Nolalu, our winter home. Red sky in morning means precipitation. The east wind I felt meant the same. The temperature was just below freezing. So, it was going to snow, unless it warmed up in which case it was going to rain. And rain it was.
The point is, I used my brain to figure out the weather rather than relying on a piece of plastic and silicon chips. It's a good thing to use your brain. Use it or lose it, the health professionals tell us.
I like my brain. I think I'll keep it .
So about a month after the conversation in the yard, I scrapped my smart phone and went back to the flip phone. It works better for actual phoning up here in the North anyway. Cell towers are few and far between and the flip phones must have better antennae as you can get calls in many places where the smart phones cannot. My flip phone will work in some spots at camp, for instance. I don't carry it  there, of course, but there have been times when the generator has gone out and I needed to call an expert. The flip phone will also work in the spring and fall when we don't even run the generator.
How will I identify things like constellations? I've got reference books on all kinds of things, including stars, and for some reason, the act of looking something up in a book better imprints the information in my head than does the instant answer on a smart phone. To put it a different way, books -- or people -- teach me things. The smart phone just told me things which I couldn't remember minutes later.
Use it or lose it. I like my brain.
I bet angler Jerime Williams didn't need a smart phone app to tell him it was going to rain when he snapped this shot while fishing at camp this summer.

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

Sunday, November 22, 2015

We just did the Lake Superior Circle Tour

Nipigon River suspension bridge is partially completed
Lookout along the Trans-Canada Highway between Nipigon and Wawa
We just returned from the Northern Ontario Tourism Summit held in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. It was the second such convention which combined the efforts and interests of Tourism Northern Ontario (TNO) and Nature and Outdoor Tourism Ontario (NOTO).
TNO has been tasked by the Ontario government to enhance and promote tourism throughout Northern Ontario while NOTO is the industry group that is funded by outdoor tourist outfitters and represents them throughout the province.
There were something like 350 people in attendance, a sellout. There was even a waiting list in case someone cancelled.
The attendees included municipalities, government ministries, experts in social media, suppliers to the tourist industry, local tourist groups and training firms, just to name a few. There were also tourist outfitters like ourselves but they were in the minority. That always puzzles me. There is a lot to learn at these events including the latest trends in travel, what the industry is actually worth, why the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests is implementing the regulations it does and tons of other things. It's also great to meet other outfitters and chat about common problems and solutions. The good news is that there were more outfitters this year than last.
On our way home we decided to duck a snowstorm hitting the north and east shores of Lake Superior by traveling through the States along the south and west shores. Since we had taken the north route on our way to the Sault, we effectively took the Lake Superior Circle Tour. The circumnavigation of Lake Superior makes a wonderful trip and I recommend it to anyone.
While in the Sault we attended a summit reception held at the Canadian Bushplane Museum. This impressive facility located on the banks of the St. Mary's River is filled with historic floatplanes, firefighting equipment and has two theaters. We took in one of the theaters when we were at a NOTO convention two years ago and it was tremendous. The show gave you a chance to be in the cockpit of a CL 415 waterbomber as it dropped water on forest fires. You could even smell the smoke.
Canadian Bushplane Museum in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The best way to tie a boat to a dock

Which boat is tied correctly?
I was pulling boats out of the water this fall when I noticed how these two boats were tied to the dock. Do you see the difference between the two?
The boat on the left has its bow pulled tight to the dock and the stern tied farther away. This happens when the person in the front seat is the first to tie to the dock. As soon as the driver guided the boat alongside the dock, this passenger got out and tied his end (the bow) first. Unfortunately, this is incorrect.
Most of boat is tight to the dock when stern is tied first
The driver should tie his end (the stern) first as was done with the other boat. The reason is evident in the two smaller photos at the right. Most of the boat's side is straight and when the stern is tied first, as shown in the first photo, almost the entire boat is parallel to the dock. This is important because it is easier and therefore safer to disembark and re-enter since the boat is closer to the dock.
When the bow is pulled tight to the dock, as shown in the second photo, only the bow is close to the dock while the majority of the boat is pulled away. It creates a large gap between the boat and the dock. This could lead to someone or something falling into the lake.
A big gap is created when the bow is pulled tight to the dock.
The boat is also more stable when the stern is tied tight since it prevents a lot of the rocking motion of the boat when entering and exiting.
The actual knot used to tie the boat can vary, from a slip knot to a simple one that is easy to tie. We covered this once before in Great knot.
Incidentally, when the boat has its stern tied first and the boat is close to the dock, passengers can better use our new assists shown in the photos. Just grasp the uprights and step on to the seat just ahead of the driver.
These boats are the latest Lund SSV 16-foot models that we are gradually switching to. Each year we get a few more. They will make up about half the fleet next year. Most of our guests prefer them for the double split-seat arrangement that allows easy movement up and down the boat. They also like the fact there are floors throughout the boat. Shorter people, however, find them more difficult to reach the tiller handle of the outboard.

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

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

These lures really had northern pike hopping

I'm not sure what Chad Haughenberry used to catch and release his monster northern pike in early June, top, or what Jim Zabloudil, bottom, used in late August but surface baits worked great throughout the season
From Day One last year in May until the final group left camp in September, anyone who tried hard-bodied surface lures for northern pike were astounded at how well they worked.
In fact, I would say there were many times when these plugs more commonly thought of as better suited for bass outperformed more traditional spoons and spinners. And they are a whole lot more thrilling.
At the very least, a pike will swirl or "boil" at the surface lures. But they also frequently come sailing completely out of the water, tail-walk or even do flips. It is a blast.
Walking Frog is example of hard-bodied surface lure
From the start, I should define "hard-bodied" surface lure. I mean just that: lures that are made of hard materials, like wood, hard-plastic or fiberglass. They are meant to either stay on the surface as they are retrieved or to dunk under when given a jerk and then float immediately back up.
Since a lot of these baits are frog imitations, it's important to differentiate them from a common bass bait -- the rubber frog. The rubber frog does not hold a candle to its hard-bodied cousin when it comes to pike.
Rubber frogs not so good
Take the manufacturer Live Target, for example. The Live Target Walking Frog with two treble hooks, works night-and-day better than the Live Target soft or rubber frog. Incidentally, the name Walking Frog comes from the fact that this lure "walks the dog" which means it zigzags as well as hops up out of the water when retrieved. The "walks the dog" action seems to be essential for triggering pike strikes. Rubber frogs or poppers simply move forward with each tug of the line. This doesn't interest pike as much.
The Zara Spook is another walk-the-dog standout. Although the one shown here is in the frog pattern, other colors and patterns that work include those that mimic shiners and perch or even plain black.
Other companies offer similar lures. As long as they "walk the dog" or zigzag on retrieve, they will produce.
Zara Spook in frog pattern. Other colours and patterns work great also
Here's how to fish with these baits. Cast the lure toward any structure, reel up a bit but with still about a foot of slack line out, give your rod tip a small jerk. The bait will move one to two feet about 45 degrees off line. Reel up all but a foot again and repeat. The bait moves 45 degrees in the other direction. You can do this in a continuous manner so that the lure goes left, right, left, right, all the way back to the boat without a pause. Or you can do it several times, take a slight break, and resume.
You only need to move your rod tip 16 inches when you give each jerk and you do not need to change the position of your rod. In other words, you don't need to jerk left to make the lure go left, then jerk right to make the lure go right. You just always jerk the rod in the same direction and the lure does the rest. You can jerk too hard and too light. Just watch the bait. Is it zig zagging a foot or two each time?
So why are fish so interested in this? The action obviously imitates something on the surface that is in distress. It might be a frog, but it could just as easily be a fish.
One of my favourite surface baits is a small, silver lure with Bill Dance's name on it. I'm sure fish think it is a dying shiner minnow.
Baby Suick in frog pattern
Suick, the famous musky plug maker, also makes a smaller floating lure that works wonders on pike. When the angler gives it a pull, it dives under the water with an exaggerated wiggle and then goes back to the surface. We've all seen injured fish, like perch, do the same thing. They try to go down but cannot.
You might think any floating lure, such as floating Rapala, would accomplish the same thing but they are not nearly as successful as the above-mentioned lure. The Suick has a kind of unpredictable movement as compared to the totally predictable wiggle of the floating Rapala.
Suicks come in gigantic sizes for musky, but you don't want those. Try the 4 1/2-inch model. Ditto for the Zara Spook and the Walking Frog. These work great, don't break your arm to cast and provide the action with little more than a flick of the wrist.
They absolutely work the best when the water is calm or nearly so. I'm sure that is when the fish can see the lures' erratic behaviour the best.
A non-floating surface lure -- boy does that sound like an oxymoron -- that will also work with a little chop is the buzz bait. It's not to be confused with the similar-looking spinner bait. Although made of metal, the buzz bait is designed to rise to the surface when retrieved steadily. Its metal spinner chops through the surface, making a buzzing sound. Some buzz baits have a little rudder that the propeller strikes on each revolution, adding to the noise. Others simply make the sound by the propeller chopping the water and air.
Booyah buzz bait
I note that a lot of anglers are misinformed about where to use these surface baits. They seem to think they are only to be fished near weed beds. That probably comes from the fact that so many of them are frog imitations. In reality, they can be used anywhere there might be pike including boulders, rock cliffs, logs, etc.
I think some fishermen also see the lures as a novelty, not a mainstay for northern pike. If they give them a serious try next summer, their attitude may change.
Take my own experience from last summer. During our Family Week when only my family is at camp (the first week of July) I went fishing with my grandson, Raven. We were casting spoons and spinners for pike and doing so-so in the early afternoon when the wind dropped. I switched to a Zara Spook and went back to the same area we had just covered. I literally had a strike or a fish on every cast.
Click to go back to our website 
Click to see the latest on the blog

Friday, November 6, 2015

'The bite' and an extraordinary fishing family

Josh with his 25-inch walleye

Nathan and Josh with Nathan's 25-incher

Josh with dad Scott's 29-inch walleye
I was working down at the boathouse after supper last August and was trying to be as quiet as possible so I didn't disturb the Manni family who were fishing off their dock nearby, just like they do every evening.
Scott and Amy Manni have been coming to our camp for a few years now along with their sons Nathan and Josh and Amy's dad -- the boys' grandfather -- Tom.
Every once in awhile I would hear a splash as they netted or released a fish and sometimes one of the boys would run a keeper-walleye over to the fish house. I think I bumped into Josh as he was on one of those latter errands.
"How's fishing off the dock tonight, Josh?" I asked.
I wasn't expecting the depth of his reply which revealed reams about this extraordinary fishing family.
"The bite tonight didn't start until 8 o'clock," said Josh. "We've got 12 so far. The bite the first night we were here started at 6 o'clock and we got a lot more."
I did a double-take. I'm not sure of Josh's age but he is a young guy and here he was using terms like "the bite."
When you talk about "the bite" it means you are cognizant of the fact that walleyes have spells when you can catch them and other periods when you cannot. It also means you possess the most important quality any angler can have -- patience.
The Manni family had been fishing off the dock this particular evening without success at first but had stuck with it because they knew that sooner or later, "the bite" would begin. And they were correct.
The Mannis use slip-bobbers and leeches, the primo method for fishing from shore. They are a quiet group, another indication of their fishing expertise. You could be sitting on the porch of your cabin right next to them all week and never even notice that they were rhythmically catching and releasing lots of fish every night.
I noticed that their bobbers were only a few feet from the dock. Last year they were casting them farther out and even anchored their boats sometimes about a cast's length from shore.
I asked Scott about that later. He said yes, for some reason, the best spot this time was indeed right beside the end of the floating dock, likely only in eight feet of water.
There probably were fish in those other places this year too, he said, but for some reason they would come to this one spot on shore whenever they fed.
So, they had obviously tried their bobbers in the other locations this year and then picked up the pattern of the fish biting mostly near the dock.
Contrast this entire scenario -- experimenting on micro-locations and waiting for the bite -- with so many other anglers who give any spot a single try and sometimes won't even drop a line unless they can first "see" the fish on the fishfinders.
The Mannis don't spend the entire day sitting on lawn chairs on the dock, just the evenings. The rest of the time they are out on the lake back-trolling more or less like other people. But even out there they are experimenting -- and learning-- watching their fishfinders and "feeling" the bottom with their sinkers.
Before long this year Scott saw a pattern that no one else at camp had found -- the biggest walleyes, the 25-29-inchers, preferred an aggressive presentation of the spinner and leech. He sped up his trolling speed and caught some of the biggest walleye of the year.
The Mannis are one of only two groups at our camp who do much dock fishing. Both catch more fish off the dock then most people do out in their boats. Both fish off the docks either in the early morning or after supper. The other group uses tiny jigs with bits of worm.
Watching Josh and his brother, Nate, it is pretty obvious that these boys have done a lot of fishing already. I would suspect they have just about grown up with a fishing rod in their hands.
It makes me think about our youngest son, also named Josh. He might be the best angler in our family. He just seems to have an instinct for it. Could that have come from the fact that his first fishing trip took place hours  before  he was born? For a fact. When Brenda was nine months pregnant we and another family had gone ice fishing on Hazelwood Lake, near Thunder Bay. We had walked out on the ice about half a mile, caught some fish, including some nice walleye, just at dark and had taken them back to our house for supper. Right after the Camerons went home, Brenda announced we had best go to the hospital. Josh was born soon thereafter.
To this day Josh's favourite type of fishing is ice fishing.

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

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Lake trout project truly spectacular this fall

Jerime Williams, above, and brother Jason, below, caught and released these beautiful, chubby, lake trout this past July while fishing near Bow Narrows Camp. The fish are likely 7-10 years old and are proof that lake trout are making a comeback in the lake.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry's project to restore the lake trout in Red Lake exceeded all expectations this fall.
This program, which began about 10 years ago, collects eggs and milt from lake trout in Red Lake and then transports them to an MNRF fish hatchery at Dorion, near Thunder Bay. There the eggs are developed and the fish raised to fingerlings that are transplanted back into Red Lake 18 months later.
The goal has been to gather about 340,000 eggs but due to the scarcity of wild fish in Red Lake and other factors, that target has seldom been met.
This fall the program succeeded in sending over 500,000 eggs to the hatchery!
There were so many, says project leader biologist Toby Braithwaite, that the hatchery cannot raise them all to fingerling size (4-6 inches) and therefore a bunch of the smaller fry or eyed-up eggs will likely be sent back to Red Lake this winter to be transplanted through the ice.
The MNRF group stays with us at Bow Narrows Camp while they catch the wild trout, strip them of eggs and then release the fish back into the lake.
Brenda and I have always been impressed at the hard work and dedication of this group. They are absolutely outstanding. The weather is usually cold, windy and even snowing but that doesn't faze them one bit. They are out there each day, setting and hauling-in nets and racing back to camp with fish every half-hour. The fish are separated into pens tied to our front dock, according to sex and where they were caught. The researchers carefully create families of trout which they can monitor in the future to see which succeeds the best. These may be families of strictly Pipestone Bay fish, non-Pipestone fish, or crosses between the two.
All the adult fish are tagged before release. At the hatchery, the fingerlings are fin-clipped before they are sent back to Red Lake so that they can be identified in the future. Our anglers are asked to take careful note of any trout they catch to see if they are missing any fins as well as report any tag numbers.
The fin clips are the most important because it means the transplanted fish are surviving to adulthood.
None of our anglers has reported a fin clip so far but then they virtually never look for it either. However, at least two of the fish caught by the trout study group this fall did have clipped fins.
The spawning project by the MNRF will end in two more years when Red Lake fish that have been raised to adults in the hatchery as brood stock will be used for egg-gathering instead of catching the wild fish each fall.
The trout project began when Red Lake's world-class lake trout fishery drastically nosedived in about the year 2000. Preliminary research found about the only fish left in the lake were in Pipestone Bay where it was also found they were unsuccessful at spawning. See New Direction for possible reasons for the decline.
This year the MNRF crews found lake trout spawning in other bays besides Pipestone, areas that the researchers know the eggs will survive. So this is great news and shows the lake trout population is making a comeback.
Ontario fishing regulations require all lake trout in the Red Lake-Gullrock water system to be released. Not many anglers fish for them these days but the ones who do are finding success.
Witness the photos at the top of this blog, taken this July. These fish are young -- probably 7-10 years old -- and are the picture of vibrant spawners.
Mostly we catch lake trout by accident the first week or two of the season while trolling crank baits for northern pike or walleye.
When fishing specifically for lake trout, such as in deep water in the summer, regulations require anglers to use lures with single barbless hooks and to not use any organic bait, either live or dead.

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