Friday, May 22, 2015

Fish are biting again

Our group of anglers got some nice pike yesterday. The weather looks great from here on. It has been frosty at night but the days are sunny and warm with light northerly winds. Next week, our official opener, should be perfect.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

It was like a winter hurricane

Sunday and Monday were the two coldest days I can remember at camp.
It wasn't just the below-freezing temps but the wind that made it feel far colder. I heard that we had gusts of up to 90 km-h and sustained winds of about 50 km-h. It felt like the windows would break at any moment.
Water lines froze and quite a few trees came down. We had minor damage to one dock. Our protected location saved us. Others around the lake weren't as lucky. We know of boats that were sunk at the dock and docks that were badly damaged.
It rained buckets on Sunday turning to freezing rain as the day went on. On Monday we got a bit of snow, just missing the area that got nearly a foot, 100 kms to the north.
Our two cabins of guests never even came outside until Tuesday when it turned back to calm and sunny. When they went fishing they discovered the lake was as muddy as the Mississippi and the fish not biting. The forecast for the remainder of the week is for continued calm weather and sunny skies. By our official opener on Saturday it is expected to be about 20 C.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Thank goodness you're not here

After two consecutive years when the ice was not off the lake before we started our fishing season, we decided this year to open one week later. So next Saturday will be the start of our first full week of operation. What a smart idea that has proven to be, even though ice-out actually happened May 6.
Although yesterday was beautiful with highs near 20 C, the temperature has fallen dramatically all day today, Sunday, and at noon stood at 0.7 C or just a hair above freezing. It also has been raining buckets and there is a 30-50 km-h (18-30 mph) east wind. And that's the good news. Tomorrow it is supposed to snow up to 10 centimeters (four inches).
As it turned out we actually do have two cabins filled with guests. They were people scheduled next week and who, at the last minute, needed to move to another week. Since the ice was off, we took them a week early. They got out fishing yesterday but not today and won't likely get out tomorrow either.
Everybody, including ourselves, are currently hunkered down around the wood stove while the waves are making whitecaps even in our protected narrows and the rain is coming down in sheets sideways.
The weather is expected to smarten-up on Tuesday and the temperature should climb continuously throughout the week until it is back to normal by next Saturday, our actual opening day.
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Thursday, May 14, 2015

We are in camp and very busy

We came into camp by boat last Saturday with the staff.
We had a couple of warm afternoons since then but it has been below freezing many nights. Today was cold and wet.
We got the water plant operating on Wednesday. It is such a high-tech facility that it needs to be started by an expert from Kenora.
The lake level is low for this time of year. It is more like the level late in the summer. The trees are beginning to leaf-out -- a result of the warm weather that occurred before we arrived. There were some black flies on the warm afternoons, otherwise it has been too cold for bugs.
We spent one day cutting firewood and another bringing out new boats and motors from town.
So far I've only succeeded in getting the water running into the lodge and one cabin. Lots to do and not enough time to do it -- typical for this time of year.
All three of our staff are new this year and are quickly learning the ropes. They are all from Sault College in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.  They are hard workers and hoping to pay for their college year with their earnings and tips from camp.  Brenda and I visited their school last winter and tried to impress on the students there that outdoor tourism is one way to make a good living in the bush. Today was a good example of their work ethic; it was only a few degrees above freezing and rained the entire day. No matter, they just put on their rain gear and carried on, cleaning cabins and getting boats ready for the guests.
We have not operated the generator much for lack of fuel. I got a boat-load of it yesterday and we should have the power on 24 hours a day from this point forward. When the generator was off our telephone didn't work, of course. I mention this in case you called and wondered why you couldn't get through. There is a message service, however. The phone should work from now on.
Our only phone number now: 807-727-0439. 


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

It is dry; take care with ashes, cigarettes

Barbecue and wood stove ashes go here
A common question in the summer is where should a person dump the ashes from their barbecues?
We have a couple of galvanized garbage cans tied to trees at each end of camp just for this purpose.
This is a safe way to dispose of what could be a source of ignition for a forest fire.
Another source of ashes are the wood-burning stoves in all the cabins. It is best if you ask a staff member to remove these as it takes a metal pail and shovel to accomplish the task. We will put them in the same ash disposal garbage cans.
Incidentally, it is not necessary to remove the ashes from the wood burning stoves daily. Once a week will do it when the stove is being used continuously.
It has been a gloriously warm, dry spring so far and therefore the forest fire danger is quite high.
Smokers are going to need to take extra care with their cigarette butts. Proper protocol in the Boreal Forest is to always sit down on mineralized soil, like clay or sand or rock when having a smoke outdoors. Butts should be placed in a metal container, like a can. It's also smart to pull the butt apart.
Think of it as smoking in a vast sea of fuel. You need to be very careful.
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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Summer-time creatures are on the move

Mating ball of red-sided garter snakes
The warmer-than-normal temperatures at this time of year have meant we are seeing lots of summer birds already and other creatures that usually take awhile to show up.
I recently spotted this mating ball of red-sided garter snakes, basically Northwestern Ontario's only snake species. Only the border area between Minnesota and Ontario has another species -- the red-bellied snake, an equally harmless reptile.
Northwestern Ontario marks the eastern boundary of the red-sided garter. It exists from there all the way west to British Columbia.
A common size is about two feet but they can get as long as three feet. I repeat that they are harmless, non-poisonous snakes. They primarily eat frogs and toads but also catch mice, including the bane of every cottager and camper -- the whitefooted deer mouse.
We see them from time to time around the edge of the yard at camp. They are good swimmers and you sometimes also catch them crossing a small bay or narrows. They are poor climbers.
People seem to have an instinctive fear of all snakes but there is absolutely no reason to be afraid of garter snakes. The irrational fear of snakes is called ophidiophobia. I would bet that more people are afflicted from this condition than any other phobia. In some cases people need to seek counseling to help them deal with this fear. But for most, they just go through life saying, "I just hate snakes. I don't know why!"
I would like to suggest an alternative. We only actually fear one thing  -- the unknown. If you want to conquer your fears and I think everyone does want that, then you need to learn all about the object of  your fear. In this case, look up garter snakes in a book or on-line. They are a pretty neat animal. For instance, can you believe they travel up to 20 kilometers (12 miles) from their denning sites to their summer range and then do the same thing in reverse in the fall?
How do they find their way? How do they survive the winter? How long do they live? Since they aren't poisonous, how do they defend themselves? What are their predators? How do they give birth?
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Monday, May 4, 2015

Today, May 4, 2015, is official ice-out

Floatplanes are taking off from Howey Bay today because the ICE IS GONE!
There still are a few pans floating about but aquatic navigation can resume again for another season.
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Sunday, May 3, 2015

Breaking up not so hard to do this year

Potato Island basin with West Narrows at top

Middle Narrows with Marten Bay at top right

The Stretch off Forestry Point, still mostly ice

Howey Bay with ice road melted through, open along shore
Enid Carlson forwarded these aerial photos showing the ice breaking up in Red Lake on Saturday. Thank you, Enid and pilot husband Hugh!
Summer-like temperatures and a pretty decent wind are quickly destroying the remaining ice in the lake. As reported by pilot Dave McCleod earlier, the west end of Red Lake is open all around Bow Narrows Camp.
The biggest bays, like the Stretch off Forestry Point as well as Howey Bay, will probably take a few more days to clear. If so, that would make official ice-out about May 6.
Speaking of Enid and Hugh, last fall they sold Viking Island Lodge on Douglas Lake to Vito Tarantino of Red Lake. Hugh will continue as chief pilot for Viking Island and Viking Outposts and Enid plans to be in camp a couple of days each week this summer.
We welcome Vito and his manager, Mel, to the fishing and hunting business and wish them the best of luck in this, their first year. Vito has a well-known welding and fabricating business in Red Lake and in fact is the person who made us a trailer for our former 30-foot inboard ChrisCraft, the Raven Quill.
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Saturday, May 2, 2015

Ground zero in just a couple of weeks


The fish cleaning shack is like "the office" at work. It's where everybody checks in at least daily. It's where you can learn all the fishing news, see what other anglers are catching and share tips and techniques.
We clean everybody's fish for them as part of our fishing packages. The sign beside the door lets you know what to do with your fish and what you want us to do with them. If they are to eat in your cabin or in the lodge, leave them in the burlap bag when you put them in the blue tub. If they are to take home, put them in the tub without the bag. You can do some of each if you want. Cabin numbers are hanging inside the shack.
That is all you need to do. We will take care of everything else.
If you leave them at night, we will make sure they are covered with a wet burlap bag and ice is put on them. We guarantee they will be exactly identical in condition when we clean them in the morning. How do we know this? Because we have done it hundreds of thousands of times for more than half a century.
We give everybody a burlap bag to keep their fish in while fishing. Just dip this bag in the lake, put your fish inside and lay the bag on the bottom of the boat. As it evaporates it cools the fish inside, just like we do when we sweat. It works beautifully, far better than a stringer, far better even than a livewell. The last two techniques make the fish become excessively slimy. Not with the bag. The fish die in the bag but it is like they were on ice but without becoming slimy the way they do if you really put them on ice.
More bags are hanging on the side of the shack. Every time you bring fish into the hut, grab one of these to take back to your boat.
Starting late last summer we placed a new sign inside the shack. It states that we need to inspect the condition of your boat by 9 p.m. the night before you depart camp at the end of the week. That means you will need to be back in camp by that time. The operator of the boat is responsible for any damage done to it. That statement is on your weekly boat operator's licence that you must fill out before going fishing for the first time. Nine o'clock is also the latest you can bring fish in to be cleaned the night before you leave. We all need to be done with boat inspections and fish cleaning and get to bed by 10 p.m. because the next day sees us getting up very early in order to get the first departure boat out of camp by 6:30 a.m.
Most people do no damage at all to the motors. The most common thing that happens is that a prop needs replaced. If you strike anything, you will probably need to buy a new prop. They cost $100 last season. If you had your motor locked down (the outside worker will show you how to make sure your motor will always tip up if you strike anything), you might break a skeg (the very lower end of the leg) - again often about $100 to fix. But if you were traveling fast and had the motor locked down when you struck something, you could be facing the worst repair which is a broken oil pan on four-stroke outboards such as our Honda 20s. That cost $950 last year!
We only had two of these expensive repairs last summer and both occurred on boats that the operators kept out until after dark on the night before their departure -- as if they were trying to hide the damage until they were gone the next day.
That is not going to happen this season. All the boats need to be inspected by 9 p.m.
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Friday, May 1, 2015

Pilot reports our end of Red Lake is ice-free

Dave McCleod, who with his wife, Marg, owns and operates Howey Bay Resort in Red Lake, took a look by floatplane at our place today and found everything around the camp was free of ice!
Only the big bodies of water between West Narrows and Red Lake were still frozen over.
Thank you, Dave!
Dave also reported that all of Howey Bay's outpost lakes were open as well.
And the best news of all: all the docks -- his and ours -- looked in great shape. Apparently, said Dave, the ice just melted in place rather than shifting as it sometimes does and knocking dock cribs over.
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Thursday, April 30, 2015

2015 ice-out near for many NW Ontario lakes

Summer-like temperatures and bluebird days are putting the ice-melting on area lakes into hyperdrive. Many could be clear in just days.
Brenda and Laurie Marcil from NOTO are traveling throughout the Northwest right now as they attend spring functions for various camp operator associations. Brenda is president of NOTO and Laurie is executive-director. NOTO or Nature and Outdoor Tourism Ontario, is the provincial organization that represents all outdoor tourism businesses. The majority of those, like Bow Narrows Camp, are in the fishing and hunting business.
Brenda reported from Kenora last night that all the small lakes along the road between Thunder Bay and Kenora are ice-free. Thunder Lake at Dryden, one of the last places to melt in that area, was clear around the shorelines and the remaining ice looked sick.
I've heard that a lot of Lake of the Woods is already clear.
In Red Lake, I heard from a friend that McNeely Bay, a shallow bay near the highway by Balmertown, could be clear in just a couple of days. There is open water around the edge of the channel between Cochenour and McKenzie Island. The little lake near Tim Horton's became clear of ice last weekend. That lake is one of the guides many people use to predict when Red Lake will clear. Most people think the big lake will follow suit about 10-14 days later. So that would make Red Lake ice-out between May 6 and May 10.
Brenda and Laurie will be at the Red Lake Sportsmen's Dinner on Saturday and will file a report on what I consider the best predictor of all, Skookum Bay. This long, shallow bay that crosses Forestry Road is virtually always seven days ahead of the rest of the lake.
Everybody agrees that all it would take for the remaining ice to be history would be a big wind to send it crashing into the shore.
The last place to melt on Red Lake is Howey Bay, right where the town is located. This is a deep bay that has an ice-road to Cochenour cleared on it in the winter and that lets the ice get exceptionally thick. A high ridge also shelters the bay from the prevailing west wind so often the ice there has to just melt, not be broken up mechanically through grinding of ice sheets or against the shore.
The clearing of Howey Bay, however, is what most people consider the official ice-out date for the year.
All areas are reporting dry conditions in the bush and already the forest fire danger is high. That's not unusual. The time between snow-melt and green-up is one of the times of year when fire-fighting crews of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests are on high-alert. It really complicates matters if there is still ice on the lakes since it prevents water bombers from refilling their tanks without needing to fly long distances to a river or some other water body that is ice-free.
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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Knockout punch is coming for Red Lake's ice

We just finished a cold week here in Northwestern Ontario but luckily areas on the west and south of the region, such as Red Lake, Kenora, Fort Frances, Dryden and Thunder Bay, got mostly rain and only a dusting of snow. Northern and eastern areas were not so fortunate. Places like Big Trout Lake and Pickle Lake were buried in up to 60 cm (two feet). Ouch!
But that is all history now. The stalled low pressure weather system that brought this unseasonal weather has now finally moved off and there is nothing but good times in sight.
Weather forecasters are predicting highs in the teens C (50-60 F) for the next two weeks. Also, in just a couple of days from now, overnight lows are not supposed to go below freezing. And bright sunshine is forecast almost every day.
This should absolutely ruin the remaining ice on area lakes. That ice is only a foot or so in thickness or about one-third of what it was last winter. So there isn't much left to melt.
The lack of fresh snow means the ice will quickly turn black and absorb the sun's heat.
Incidentally, the length of daylight here is now about 16 hours. It starts getting light at 6 a.m. and is still light until 10 p.m.
I think we are still on track for the 2015 ice-out to occur the first week of May for most Northwestern Ontario lakes and around May 8 for Red Lake which is deeper than other lakes. A factor that could hasten the process is wind. No strong winds are currently in the forecast but if any do appear, they will multiply the ice destruction force, particularly toward the end. Once the ice has melted around the edges of a lake, a strong wind can make the entire sheet start to move. The momentum of the ice sheet is incredible and will smash the remaining ice against the shore. It is possible for a lake, even big ones like Red Lake, to see its entire surface clear in just a day or two under such circumstances.
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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Mystery solved on "Zero Hour Bomb Co." reel

Advertisement that Mike found
No sooner did I ask readers if they knew anything about the old Zebco reel hanging in our dining room than Mike Miller sent me an e-mail. Mike is actually our closest neighbour at camp. He has the cabin that is "hidden" in the trees right across the narrows.
The reel is the Model 22, manufactured in 1953 by the Zero Hour Bomb Company which later changed its name to Zebco.
 Model 22 with thumbing brake
It was actually the second model the company produced. The first was called the Standard and looked very similar.
The Zero Hour Bomb Company started in Tulsa, OK, in 1932. It made electric bombs used in oil drilling. In 1947 a Texas watchmaker named R.D. Hull invented the world's first fishing reel guaranteed not to backlash and took his idea to Zero Hour. The first spincast reel rolled off the assembly line in 1949. The first Zebco 33, with the push-button back used today, appeared in 1954.
The company changed its name to Zebco in 1956 after a friend of President Dwight Eisenhower sent him a reel and White House security threw the parcel into a tub of water when they saw it came from Zero Hour Bomb Company.
The company came out with a redesigned Model 33 in 2004 to celebrate the reel's 50th anniversary and an all-new design for its 60th anniversary in 2014.
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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Things with a history in our dining room

Our dining room at camp is a treasure trove of fishing and hunting history. Take the photo above. That old chair is actually a relic of the 1926 Red Lake Gold Rush. It is made of planed lumber and held together with clinched nails.
Sitting on the chair is a hand-carved mallard decoy that came to us from my great-Uncle Bill's camp -- Rainbow Lodge on Pickerel River. It and other old decoys on display would have been used in the 1920s and '30s in the Georgian Bay area.
Finally, the three grey boxes are our shore lunch boxes that we give to guests when they cook their fish for lunch out on the rocks. They are packed fresh each time with all the ingredients and utensils needed for the feast. They might seem new by comparison but are actually over 50 years old. This is our 54th year of operation.
Not pictured but hung on all the walls are old steel fishing rods and fishing reels that we all used at one time. There are some real relics including a Zebco that has a rotary dial where the thumb push-button is these days. This reel doesn't have a drag. You played the fish by putting pressure against the rotary dial which I would guess is made of Bakelite. To cast the reel there was a tiny push button on the top that engaged a free-spool. You held pressure on the rotary dial with your thumb until your rod was in the right position, then released the dial. It was sort of like using a baitcaster.
I've never seen another like it and would be interested in knowing when it was made. Anybody know? Unfortunately I don't have a photo handy.
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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Don't leave home without these this year

Outdoors card, side-cutters, bandages, blue Deepwoods Off. And yes, that is snow this morning.
Bring your Outdoors Card!
Even if it is expired!
Say what?
Yes, even if it is expired!
We have so many people come to camp without their Outdoors Cards it is incredible, perhaps as many as half.
So what?
If you have an Outdoors Card -- even an expired one -- it means you can get your fishing licence in no time flat. We just run the card through a machine, select the licence you wish, and press the button.
If you don't bring it, then you are the person that holds up your entire group from going fishing! That is because now the licence issuer has to key-in all the data all over again. You know -- height, colour of hair and eyes, birth date, etc., etc.
If your card is expired, then the licence machine just prints you out a temporary one along with your licence. The plastic wallet-size card will come later in the mail.
And another reason to bring your card -- it costs $9.
Besides the oft-forgotten Outdoors Card, make sure you bring a set of sturdy side-cutters, another item missing from most tackle boxes. What are these for? Mostly, they are for cutting the split ring that fasten those tiny, incredibly-sharp, treble hooks on your Rapala fishing lures. You need to do this whenever one of those hooks are sunk beyond the barb into your hide.
 Remember, cut the split ring, not the hook itself, because if you make the mistake of cutting the hook, it will slip right inside your flesh. If you come back to camp with a whole treble hook dangling from you, we can remove it, quite painlessly, in about 30 seconds. If you cut the hook and it disappears into flesh, you are looking at a trip to the doctor, possibly in some distant place like Kenora where there are surgeons. Big mistake!
Are you on blood thinners? Lots of us are these days. Then make sure you bring a Ziploc-full of BandAids and a tube of ointment and put these in the bottom of your tackle box. And if you aren't on blood thinners, do the same thing. Along with the nicks and fish-tooth punctures that come from catching a lot of fish, these will come in handy for torn fingernails, minor burns and the like.
Finally, unless a miracle happens, there are going to be some bugs out there. The type of bug varies a bit with the month: May and June -- blackflies; June, July and August -- mosquitoes; July and August -- ankle biters (stable flies); September -- blackflies.
Although there are a myriad of insect repellents out there, if you bring just this one it will work for everything -- blue-top Deep Woods Sportsman Off. I repeat, BLUE Deep Woods Off. Not the green one; it will not work on ankle biters. The difference is the amount of DEET. The blue-top Off has 30%. Anything less than this is just a flavouring for when the flies bite you. ("Mmm, nice and spicy!")
If you want a longer-lasting repellent (the Deep Woods spray may only last a couple of hours on ankle-biters) bring Repel Sportsman Max which comes in a lotion form and is also 40% DEET.
It will keep the ankle-biters away all day when you wear shorts and sandals!
Do you still need reminded to bring your passport? I didn't think so.
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Saturday, April 18, 2015

Ice-out for Red Lake likely first week of May

What a difference a week makes!
We're just finishing up a wonderful week of weather here in Northwestern Ontario with very warm temperatures and strong winds. The result is the snow is gone and the ice on the lakes took a severe beating. Reports from Red Lake are that the ice is black and sick-looking. If the great weather would only hold for one more week the ice might be gone before the end of April. Unfortunately, that scenario isn't exactly in the cards.
Next week is supposed to bring day-time highs in the single digits on the Celsius scale and the nights are supposed to be below freezing. So, the big melt is going to stop for awhile. The week after next, however, is seen to bring a return of the sun and fun and my guess is that there is only a week or two after that before the ice will be finished. That would make it about the first week of May, probably right around May 8 which is the average ice-out date.
The summer-like temperatures of the past week, combined with the strong snow-eating winds, has meant most of the winter moisture went straight into the atmosphere through evaporation rather than sending stream and lake levels soaring. So things are kind of dry.
That should end this coming week. Lots of rain is forecast starting Sunday. Rain is also good for ruining lake ice but with the single-digit highs predicted, there is also a good chance some of that precipitation will turn to snow, at least flurries, but enough to whiten the ice back up. White reflects the sun and retards the melting process. So, overall, I think next week is going to put the melt into a holding pattern.
No matter, everything looks good for an on-time ice-out. After being burned with airplane costs the previous two years, we at Bow Narrows Camp aren't opening this year until the actual second week of the fishing season, May 23. It will be a real pleasure for us to get into camp a week or two before the guests and get everything running and into shape. It is utter misery for us to basically get there the same time as the guests which is what happened the last two years.
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Sunday, April 12, 2015

Unconventional walleye techniques

A loon takes a stretch by a likely-looking walleye spot. Vic Fazekas photo
Right from the start let me say that if you want to catch large numbers of walleye, and almost nothing else, than you should stick to regular walleye fishing methods like back-trolling walleye spinners laced with worms, leeches or minnows, or fish with 1/4 or 1/8 ounce jigs with the same bait attached. That is how the best walleye fishermen do it. But I'm not one of those people. I'm a northern pike fisherman who, while casting the shorelines and weedbeds for my favourite fish, notices a likely walleye spot and with no live bait whatsoever, tries a bit for walleye. And I frequently get some, maybe not as many as the dyed-in-the-wool 'eye anglers, but enough to make it interesting.
I find these fish in places that I strongly suspect normal walleye fishermen never even consider, like weedbeds and lily pads, and I always cast for them, with the same lures I'm using for pike. One of these is the quarter-ounce Beetle Spin which catches the daylights out of northern pike and does pretty darn good on the golden fish as well. It's just that I fish it differently when I think there might be walleyes at hand.
For northern pike, a Beetle Spin, or just a plain quarter-ounce jig with a three-inch or 3.5-inch twister tail should be cast to shore or through a break in the weedbed and reeled steadily back to the boat while letting the lure run about three feet down, at least after it clears the shallows. For walleye I use the exact same rig but usually cast it to a likely-looking spot, let it sink all the way to the bottom, then slowly crank it in, letting it run as deep as possible.
The trick, if there is one, is knowing what is a "likely-looking" spot.
I look for a pile of boulders among the weeds or for a place where the bottom drops off to deeper water, often signaled by the fact there is no weed growth. Sometimes I fish for walleye right in the midst of the weeds but only because I have caught walleye in this place before, probably while fishing for pike.
In the photo above, the water looks like it gets deep pretty close to the weed growth on this little island; so, it would be worth a try.
Usually I just get a walleye or two and move on but sometimes I hit the mother lode and find a cluster of fish in these spots.
I would probably do better on the walleye if I didn't fish with a steel leader but since it's northern pike that I'm really fishing the most for, I always have a leader. However, I usually make my own out of 10-pound-or-so Knot2Kinky wire which is so fine I don't think walleye pay it much attention. I also use small swivels and snap-swivels which don't shout METAL! to keen-eyed walleye.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Now is the time to sharpen your hooks

The weedless Johnson spoon needs its hook honed every day
Everybody is itching for the ice to melt on the lakes and get out there fishing, at least as soon as the season opens. Now is a good time to do something that most anglers never get around to -- sharpening your hooks.
This is especially important on spoons for northern pike. Many of these have cast hooks which aren't sharp even right out of the box. How do you know if your hooks are dull? Well, one clue is when you get strikes but not hook-ups.
The thumbnail test
It is amazing the difference once you have put a fine point on the hooks.
If there is one gizmo that most fishermen don't have, it would be a hook sharpening stone or other honing system.
The simplest is just a small stone but you can also get diamond-surfaced rods, such as the one in the top photo, and even battery-operated systems.
The Johnson Silver Minnow, with a single cast hook, needs honing every day. Other lures, such as the Dardevle probably only need touching up once a week. Of course, if you hook a rock or something like that the hooks will need sharpened again.
Straight hooks are not so good
You know a hook is at its sharpest if its point can catch on your smooth thumbnail. Some, like the Johnson, may never quite get this sharp but treble hooks usually will.
Wire hooks, like those on jigs, are very sharp and stay that way longer than cast hooks.
Another trick to help you with hook-ups on fish when using spoons is to flare the trebles outwards. Did you ever notice how an older lure that has already caught lots of fish works better than a new one? Part of that may be due to the beat-up finish to the lure but another reason is that the hooks naturally get bent outward as you remove them from many fishs' mouths.
Just use needle-nosed pliers to flare the hooks outward a bit. A real handy device for many fishing applications that works here as well is the needle-nosed Vise Grip. You can clamp it on to the shaft of the treble and then use standard pliers to grasp the hook and bent it. Unless you want to have barbless hooks, be careful not to grasp the hook on the barb, because you will flatten it.
Flared hooks are better
I find that flattening the barbs is an excellent idea on plugs like Rapalas that have more than one set of trebles. Fish never seem to get away, even with the barbs pinched. But on lures with one set of trebles and especially on single hooks like a Johnson, you better leave the barb. Otherwise the fish can wriggle off.
Pinching the barbs on plugs not only makes these lures easier to remove from fish, but also from yourself.
Something like 90 per cent of the hooks that we have removed from anglers over the years at camp have been attached to one particular lure maker -- Rapala. These hooks are so needle-sharp and tiny that you can actually drive them through your skin just by picking them up roughly.
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Sunday, April 5, 2015

Scene is set for normal ice-out on Red Lake

This spectacular shot of a loon is by Dave Myers who will be in camp opening week.
In only a month we may be watching loons again on Red Lake. Although the weather has been nippy the last few days, the forecast for the next two weeks looks wonderful with highs in the mid-teens C (50s F). That should take off the remaining snow and seriously damage the 30 inches of ice still on the lake.
We have our fingers crossed.
Ice-out was exceptionally late the previous two springs, coming near May 20. Normally the ice would be off the lake by May 8.
Late breakups are bad for spring fish spawners like walleye and northern pike. They do best with early ice-outs and then lots of warm weather. Getting a late start is also miserable for all fishing camps but especially so for remote ones like ourselves. It means none of the work we needed to do before camp opens gets done. Once fishermen are in camp we all have our hands full until things quiet down again. That often means September or even October.
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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Tricks for when the walleye turn finicky

Bass Pro XPS walleye spinner rig
No sooner does your walleye spinner trolling rig and 1/4-ounce sinker hit the bottom behind the boat than you get a walleye. So does your partner. And not far away, your buddies in another boat both connect to walleye with 1/4-ounce jigs baited with worms or leeches. And it happens again and again, for maybe an hour. Then, as if someone threw a switch, it stops. The feeding frenzy is over.
What happened?
No one really knows, but this is a common scenario: walleye hit like crazy for awhile, and then they stop. They will start again but it might take hours.
What happens to most of us is that we work the area thoroughly with exactly the same tackle, perhaps picking up a couple more fish, before we change locations and look for another frenzy.
Some fishermen, however, don't switch areas, they change how they are fishing. As a general rule, when walleye turn finicky you want to use less metal and fish slower. The fish aren't as aggressive now so you need to cater to their whims.
Instead of trolling with a metal-bladed walleye spinner, you might try just drifting with a Lindy rig that has a small float and hook. And instead of a 1/4-ounce sinker you should probably switch to a split shot. If you were jigging with the 1/4-ounce, switch to a 1/8-ounce, even a 1/16 ounce. Or even better, use a split shot and a floating jig head and just let the floater with a bit of worm or leech rest just off the bottom and wait for a fish to pick it up.
Think of it as the walleyes that were gorging on minnows (and your lures) earlier are now full and lazy, kind of like us after Thanksgiving dinner. They may be lying on the bottom doing the equivalent of watching football games on TV.  However, when someone passes a plate of snacks, well, there's room for a little bit more, just as long as they don't have to chase it.
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