Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Better bring worms from home

Red Lake bait dealers are angry and frustrated at the quality of nightcrawlers sent them by suppliers this summer. Anglers are returning flats of 500 crawlers because the worms are either dead or in poor condition. In some cases the dealers simply have no crawlers at all, even for orders placed last winter. There have also been concerns with leeches.
Until the supply problem is rectified our advice is to bring worms from home. You can bring worms across the border if they are packed in bedding but not dirt. You cannot bring leeches or minnows across the border.
Leeches might best be purchased as soon as you cross the border.
There is no problem with minnows.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Fishing is great, so is the weather

This double caught and released were chubby 30, 31-inchers

Stable water levels should see a good loon hatch. Bob Preuss photos
Lots of walleyes are being caught now. The best story I heard was yesterday when two boats caught and released 200 fish in two hours.
Temperatures are expected to be 25-26 C (80 F-ish) this week.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Sunset Lodge anglers do not eat big fish

Here's a correction to an item a few postings back. We had reported that some boats from Sunset Lodge had kept two big northern pike caught opening week at this end of the lake. It turns out only one fish was kept and that was just for mounting purposes. It is Sunset's policy that other than fish for mounting, all over-sized fish must be released. In fact, Sunset owner Rene Franczak has spearheaded a movement on the lake to release all big fish. It's a conservation movement followed by just about everyone, including all but one group of anglers at Bow Narrows.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Monday, June 6, 2016

Wet weather ending; fishing excellent

Last week was cold and rainy but fortunately the fishing was hot. Lots of big pike caught and released and the walleye bite is on with great quantities of eaters boated and many in the 22-24 inch range released. Don't eat the big ones!
The forest fires near here are now history after all the rain.
Sunny, warm weather is in the offing all this week. Yay!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The season so far in pictures

Terry Ditsch opening week smallie

Don Ballinger 28-inch walleye

And 45-inch, 25-pound northern pike. All fish released.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Big, big fish are being caught

Matt Andrews with 51.5-inch pike which he released
John Andrews with 38-inch, also released
Opening week saw oodles of lunker pike caught, all on dead bait. All but one group at our camp released every one. There were also two boats from Sunset Lodge in Red Lake that killed the big fish they caught. This is such a senseless thing to do. These huge fish are the ones sustaining the fish population in the lake! They are also the very worst fish to eat. Twenty-to-30 years old, they have been absorbing whatever heavy metals there are in the environment all that time. Such toxins exist everywhere, even here. Eat the young, smaller fish and let the big ones go! It's interesting to note that at our place the only people who didn't set records on big fish last week were the ones who kept them.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

2016 spring fishing report: it's hot

This is our first fishing week and everyone is doing great. Lots of very large northern pike are being caught as well as good catches of walleye.
It is extremely dry and there are some big forest fires in the park to the south and west. We're starting to get evening thunderstorms and that will probably ignite more fires. None is threatening camp.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

New lure looks like a winner

The staff and I went looking for a few pike for supper yesterday and I tried one of Dwayne Kotala's hand-carved wooden lures, a five-inch Redbelly Dace. I got a chunky 25-inch pike on my second cast!
We also found a dead moose floating in the lake, apparently a victim of thin ice this spring.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Warm at first then cold and snow

Nick and I flew into camp with Viking Outposts on May 2 and then ice-out happened May 4.
We got some major projects done before driving a fishing boat into town May 7 for the Sportsmen's Banquet. We came back to camp on May 8 towing some new boats and motors.
It had been warm and dry and several big forest fires were burning to the west in Woodland Caribou Provincial Park.
Brenda arrived with the other two staff on May 11 and the weather soon turned wet and very cold. It has snowed at least part of the last three days.
The forecast is for warming every day now until it reaches 28 C (80 F) on Friday.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Heading to camp, can't be reached for awhile

The best way to reach us for the next couple of weeks will be by e-mail. I'll be leaving shortly for Red Lake where Nicholas, Cork and I will fly out to camp and get to work. Once there we will not be operating the generator and so will not have the telephone or be filing reports on the blog.
Brenda will be on the road attending a bunch of spring meetings with tourism groups all over Northwestern Ontario as part of her duties with NOTO (Northern Ontario Tourist Outfitters aka Nature and Outdoor Tourism Ontario.) She will likely access e-mails each night.
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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Contact artist for your customized lures

Finescale dace, redbellied dace and fathead minnow
We were overwhelmed with requests for lures that look like native baitfish after I published a couple of posts about them. See Outstanding and Minnows.
Now you can contact our artist neighbour, Dwayne Kotala, yourself and place your own orders.
You can find him at: CrankyFinnGuy.
Just a reminder of what Dwayne offers: he can paint lure bodies to match your requests as well as producing his own products.
In our case, Dwayne produced lures in various body styles that look like the various species of daces, chubs and shiners that are native to Red Lake, Ontario. Dwayne is an airbrush artist and his paint jobs are absolutely top quality.
He is also working on wooden lures that could be especially of interest to anglers of big northern pike and muskies.
And, he can repaint your old mounted fish trophies to restore them.
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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Eyes in the sky Tuesday show ice-out isn't far

Open water starts just north of Cabin 1, where the current is strongest

Ice is still solid from camp south to Trout Bay

Lots of open spots between camp and Pipestone Bay. Harriet Carlson photos
Looking south, Big Red is at top of photo
Hugh Carlson and his daughter Harriet flew over our camp yesterday and got these great aerial photographs showing a patch of open water in the narrows just north of camp.
Hugh was moving his planes from the ice to Chukuni River in preparation for the upcoming season.
We are often some of Viking Outposts first customers as they fly us from the open water at the river over the ice in the main part of the lake to Bow Narrows Camp.
I hope to do that very thing next week, along with Nicholas, one of our staffers, and Cork, the dog. I've got a couple of things I would like to do even before Brenda and the rest of the staff arrive.
By next Monday I would imagine all of the narrows north to Pipestone Bay will be clear and probably Middle and Sadler Bays as well.
You can see from Harriet's great shots that the ice in those places is sick-looking. Four or five days of sunshine and, after a couple of days, no freezing temperatures overnight will do it in.
The rest of the lake probably won't be far behind. May 8 is a good guess.
We sure thank Hugh, Harriet, Enid and Viking Outposts for taking the time to check out our camp.
We're so fortunate to have such good friends and to have the location that we do. The current in the narrows means our location is the second spot in the lake to be ice-free each year. The first is the Chukuni River, the outlet of Red Lake, right at town.
Our great spot has always let us get into camp by the opening of fishing season, even when the opener was early and ice-out was late. (That's not the case this year. Fishing season doesn't start until May 21.)
We would prefer to always boat-in of course. It's cheaper that way, but our ability to get into camp by floatplane early in the season is a godsend. 
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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Pilot's first report on 2016 Red Lake ice-out

The good news is that the Chukuni River had melted enough that Howey Bay Resort owner Dave McLeod was able to move his floatplane to it last week. The bad news is that he flew all over the country and couldn't find open water anywhere else.
But don't panic, early season fishermen, there is more good news coming.
A week ago Red Lake had several days of very warm 20-ish C (70 F) temperatures that decimated the ice sheet. It appears to have melted enough around the shores that the sheet lifted, always a precursor to ice-out. But then it got cold again and lots of spots that had been open re-froze. Dave said that near his camp the new ice was one-inch thick.
But don't panic, early season fishermen, there is good news coming.
The entire ice sheet is only about a foot thick. It would only take a week of warm weather to melt it and guess what? There is nothing but blue skies and warm weather ahead in the weather forecast, including positive nighttime temperatures!
Check out the 14-day forecast yourself at The Weather Network.

So when will Red Lake breakup? Probably sometime in the first week of May. The average ice-out date for Red Lake is May 8. Fishing season doesn't begin until May 21.
That's a two-week margin of error. OK?
For those who are still experiencing chest pains and tightness in their necks and shoulders as evidenced by recent comments to this blog and e-mails, may I suggest coming later in the season in the future? You are stressing yourself out for nothing here.
All together now: Stay Calm. Be Brave. Wait for the Signs!

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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Life and death scenes on trail camera

Many does with fawns were photographed
Four timber wolves caught on same camera
The next day one wolf walks by with a small deer's rib cage
I had not picked up my trail cameras for about a month and when I did a couple of days ago I was surprised at these photos on one of them. The camera had about 1,000 photos of deer, a dozen of wolves and a few of a dog.
There were so many deer pictures, before and after the wolves appeared, that it's clear the wolves didn't decimate their population.
It is equally obvious that at least one of them didn't make it.
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Friday, April 22, 2016

Hybrid solar flashlight could meet all needs

Charges with its own solar panel

USB port and micro USB port will recharge cell phones
I picked up HybridLight's 160-lumen Hybrid Solar flashlight recently and it seems to be ideal for fishermen, hunters, campers and, really, everybody.
It has a solar panel on its side that continuously recharges the flashlight. It is said to hold a charge for years.
It is made of very durable polycarbonate. It is waterproof and it floats.
If you unscrew the end cap there is a USB port to recharge digital devices like cell phones and a micro USB to rapidly recharge the flashlight, if needed.

I tried it out and the flashlight recharged my near-dead cell phone in just an hour or so.
The solar panel will charge the flashlight using any light source, even firelight!
With a full charge the flashlight is said to last 30 hours on low beam and seven hours on high beam.
That is exceptional all by itself and speaks to the efficiency of its LED bulb.
Imagine having a flashlight that never needs batteries and recharges from the sun.
HybridLight also makes a 250-lumen flashlight, an 80-lumen model, a headlamp and lantern models.
Their website is www.hybridlight.com

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Artist's lures are absolutely outstanding

Lures are hand-painted to look like minnows of Northwestern Ontario
We just got the first batch of lures from our artist neighbour, Dwayne Kotala, and they are incredible. Imagine fishing with a lure that actually looks like the minnows native to your lake instead of idiotic patterns mass-produced in China. What a concept!
We gave Dwayne photos of the most common minnows of Red Lake, Ontario, and he airbrushed blank lure bodies to mimic those baitfish.
Check out the two photos below. The first shows two actual redbellied daces, the most common minnow used for fishing in Northwestern Ontario. The top minnow is the female and the bottom the male. Then look at Dwayne's reproductions, actually done on two different lure bodies. They are stunningly lifelike.
Redbellied dace, female top, and male bottom

Artist's version
These two lure bodies, the top with an unusual round lip and the bottom with an L-lip, will probably troll at about six feet of depth. That's my guess. The best walleye lure we have seen up until now has been the Shallow Shad Rap, also with the L-lip. The smaller version of this -- just a hair longer than the lure above -- runs at six feet. This depth catches walleye from ice-out until late-July.
In this first batch of lures Dwayne did four daces, seen at right.
The top two are the female and male redbellied daces.
Third from the top is a pattern that resembles a whole bunch of Red Lake's baitfish, including fathead minnow, pearl dace, lake chub and blacknose dace. Not a colourful lure but then with the exception of the male redbelly dace, most real baitfish are drab. I would suspect evolution and survival have a lot to do with that. The bottom lure is a reproduction of a finescale dace.

Dwayne created four different four-inch floaters: shown at left. They are, from the top, emerald shiner, white sucker, smelt and perch.
The details on these are outstanding. I include a close-up of the emerald shiner at the bottom just to show this. Incidentally, did you ever wonder what advantage shiners might have with their mirror-like sides? It's actually a cloaking mechanism. From beneath they look like the sky. They mirror their surroundings. With that in mind it is probably not the best idea to make a lure that is, for all intents and purposes, invisible. It needs to look like the target fish but it also needs to be seen. I don't know about you but I've never had much luck with chrome-finished lures in the past. This could explain why. Dwayne's lures are not chrome. They're bright but you can actually see the sides. I think this is great.
Close-up of emerald shiner shows amazing detail on this hand-painted lure.

Dwayne has included some crayfish lures that also look outstanding. There are times, especially mid-summer, where every northern pike we clean has crayfish in its stomach. These are deep diving lures, probably crawling down to 9-12 feet and are extremely lifelike. I hadn't mentioned
 crayfish to Dwayne when we first thought about his painting lures for us but it was a great idea. His first crayfish looked great but, hey, I thought, let me send him a photo of our actual crayfish species, Orconectus virulis -- sorry, it doesn't have a common name that I'm aware of.

The next day, Dwayne sent me images of his first two O. virulis lures. They weren't ready for my photo shoot of lures because they still had many more coats of paint to be added. Some of these lures have six coats of paint!
All of his lures also have extremely sharp, and expensive, Mustad hooks.
We've ordered another 10 sets of five lures as well as some others Dwayne is working on, including hand-carved wooden ones. Whoa boy!
Just when larger lures are beginning to work for northern pike again too!
Incidentally, a really unusual lure that will be included in a lot of the sets, if not all, is the wounded minnow, seen below. This is a floating lure that floats on its side and when twitched, dives and wiggles off in a sideways direction, just like a crippled minnow.
You know how pike love to grab a small walleye when you reel it in and it is pulling sideways? Yeah, like that!

For all those people who have ordered sets of lures, we need your feedback on how they work. Please take notes.
I'm getting requests for lures, not only from our guests, but those from other camps and even other camp operators. I think Dwayne has found a niche in the ultra-competitive fishing lure business. Just think, lures that look like the minnows in YOUR lake. What a concept!
So, we're getting more sets of five lures and the price is still just $10 Cdn per lure for a total of $50. If you want a set, you can e-mail me until May 1. After that I will be at camp and will be too busy. Hopefully Dwayne will have a web-presence by then and you can contact him directly. When he does I'll report it and put a link to it here on the blog.
(Update, April 28, 2016, see CrankyFinnGuy which is Dwayne's site.)
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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Summer residents showing up, ice-out two weeks

Red-sided garter snake

White-throated sparrow
Cork and I saw these sure signs of summer on our walk today. The red-sided garter snake, basically Northwestern Ontario's only snake and completely harmless, had come out of hibernation and was looking for some action with members of the opposite sex.
The white-throated sparrow is the bird that makes the mournful calls you hear everywhere in the summer, especially in the mornings and evenings. If you hear one calling in mid-day it just about always means it is going to rain.
The weather here in Nolalu has been spectacular this week with highs in the mid-20s C (70s F). Red Lake has been cooler but still fairly decent except for yesterday and today when it has been getting freezing rain. That was good because the lake was right on the boundary between rain and about 10 inches of snow.
I checked out Whitefish Lake near Nolalu today and it is still frozen shore-to-shore. With all the warm temperatures we're getting -- which have almost wiped out the snow -- I would guess Whitefish could break up in 7-10 days. I haven't seen Red Lake but considering the temperatures in the forecast it will probably go about May 1.
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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

How to speak Canadian, eh?

So you're coming to Canada! Beauty! (Great!)
Here's a short primer on how to speak the most common form of the language. Like, this isn't West Coast surfer talk, dude. Nor is it East Coast rapid talk, b'ye. It's what you hear just about everywhere you go in between. It's Geezer Canadian!
So why are you coming? Fishing? Take off! (No way!)
First thing, stop at a Timmies (Tim Horton's coffee shop) where for just a couple of loonies (dollar coins) or maybe a toonie ($2 coin) you can get a double-double (coffee with two sugars, two milks) ask around and find out what the fish are biting on.
Then grab a Two-Four (a 24-pack of beer) or some pops (sodas) and head for the bush (the Boreal Forest).
But before you leave town and at every town you come to on the drive, make sure you use the washroom (restroom) because it's a lot of klicks (kilometers) to the next one! With that in mind you might want to stuff some serviettes (napkins) in your pockets in case you can't wait.
Got your tuque? (knitted cap or watch cap) Got your bug dope? (insect repellent) Got your Two-Four? Then you're packed!
No seriously, you better also stuff some butter tarts (a yummy dessert, like tiny pecan pies) or some Smarties (similar to M&Ms) or some ketchup chips (ketchup-flavoured potato chips) in your knapsack (backpack) to munch on too.
By the time it's supper (dinner) you'll probably be giv'n her (doing your best) on some lake pulling in pickerel (walleyes) or jacks (northern pike). Don't get in a kerfuffle (a fuss) if there's no hydro (electricity) because this is where the fish are! Just kick off your runners (athletic shoes) and settle down on the chesterfield (couch) and say, "I'm really in Canada, eh?"

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Sunday, April 10, 2016

Other 'fishermen' you see out on the lake

Bald eagle snatches fish from the surface. Jerry Olaskowitz photo.
Red Lake, Ontario, has a lot of bald eagles. In fact, it sometimes seems that there is an eagle perched on a tall tree or broad limb in every bay.
We know of about six eagle nests at the west end of Red Lake where camp is located but judging from the numbers of eagle pairs, there must be many more. The big raptors are territorial so you don't find one nest near another.
Their diet is mostly composed of fish. Their favourite method of hunting is to watch from a perch for a fish to come near the surface, then swoop down and sink their big, needle-sharp talons into it and carry it away. If there are still young in the nest, they will haul the fish back there. Otherwise they will usually take it to an exposed rock on the shoreline where they rip it open and devour it.
Our guests get great photographs of eagles, usually perched majestically on some snag. It is rare to actually capture them in the act of fishing as Bow Narrows angler Jerry Olaskowitz did in the photo above.
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