Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Minn. law to affect all boats coming to Canada

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

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

Total switch to Lucky Strike conservation nets

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

Egli's Wool Shop one of a kind

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

Reconyx HC600 Hyperfire camera catches me and my walking stick

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

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

Top pike anglers make own lunker lure

The blank lure

Luminescent eye is painted

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


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

Tom Cieplik" 

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

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

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Bull moose 'rises' from the lake

Dan and Sharon Sharp, mentioned in the last posting, also got this great photo of a bull moose in velvet when at camp last summer.
The thing I like most about the shot is that it seems to have been taken with such a long zoom lens that it shows the curvature of the Earth! Doesn't it look as though the lake is higher between the camera and the moose?
Thanks, Dan and Sharon.
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Many anglers bringing self-inflating PFDs

Dan and Sharon Sharp got some nice walleye, such as this 24-incher, when they were at camp in June. They are wearing their own self-inflating PFDs which are proving to be a hit with more and more boaters
It was wonderful last summer to see so many of our guests bringing their own PFDs or life vests.
I believe wearing a PFD (personal floatation device) when you are in a boat should be as common and natural as putting on your pants in the morning.
If you are wearing a PFD, nothing bad can happen to you on the water. It's as simple as that.
I see that most people are opting for the automatic-inflating PFD. These inflate with a CO2 cartridge when they are submerged. Some of them actually qualify as a life jacket. The difference being that a life jacket will keep a person's face out of the water even if they are unconscious. Life vests do not do that. They keep you afloat but you need to keep your head erect.
It's almost never an issue. Just about all drowning victims were conscious. But they didn't come to the surface when they reflexively inhaled a bunch of water from the shock of unexpectedly being thrown into the water such as when the boat strikes an object.
A life vest or a life jacket will immediately bring a person to the surface. It's better of course if it will do that even if they are unconscious but if a person will wear a life vest and not a life jacket, which are more cumbersome except for the auto-inflate types, then wear a life vest! If they would wear a camo one rather than an orange one (a better safety colour), then wear the camo one! Do whatever it takes to get in the habit of always wearing a PFD.
I always wear one. Mine is a standard life vest but I like it particularly because it has mesh over the shoulders, something like a kayaker vest although it is made for sportsmen, not paddlers. Mine is brown, not orange, because I like to wear it while duck hunting in the fall.
I fear some anglers think a PFD is a needless expense. For one thing, they aren't expensive. I got mine on sale from Cabelas for $20. Even full price it would only be something like $40. The self-inflating ones now routinely go on sale for about $100.
They come in every size and the various models will fit any body shape or idiosyncrasy. I personally don't prefer the self-inflating ones because I don't like things rubbing against my neck.
Everybody's different but we all sink just the same. And if you haven't been wearing a PFD in the past because you never needed one, consider this: the northwoods is full of stories about people such as life-long trappers who ended up drowning. In all likelihood you will need your PFD just once.
If you don't bring your own PFD to camp, note that we provide life vests to all our guests. These are the standard type. Make sure we find one for you that fits your size. We have them from small to XXL and also have some children's models.
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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Lots of timber wolves already

My trail cameras have already gotten a bunch of photos of timber wolves here at our home in Nolalu. That's unusual as we don't typically see wolves until mid-winter. The cameras also have captured plenty of whitetail deer too and that, of course, is the big draw for the wolves.
Nolalu is about 300 miles southeast of Red Lake and is near Thunder Bay on the north side of Lake Superior.
At our tourism summit conference in November camp operators were talking about the huge packs of wolves they have witnessed. Some have seen packs of up to 50. Those are incredible numbers. My cameras have only gotten up to three wolves in a group and that is more natural -- packs of three to five.
The best guess on the extraordinary groups is that they are actually many packs that have foregone their usual territorial instincts due to the extra-high numbers of deer.
In normal circumstances, pickings are few and a pack of five wolves will drive away any other wolves from its territory.
We all expected deer numbers to plummet after last winter's deep snowfall but whitetails are incredibly resilient. It will probably take successive deep snow winters to lower the herd.
Meanwhile, the deer are spreading a parasite that is harmless to them but fatal to moose. The meningeal brain worm has wreaked havoc with moose in Minnesota and Northwestern Ontario. In fact it has just about wiped them out from the U.S. border all the way to the south end of Red Lake Road. Lots of deer there now but few moose.
Fortunately, in Red Lake deer are still a rarity. It is one of the last areas with a healthy moose population.
Climate change is mostly the reason for the deer influx. The northern Ontario winters used to be too harsh for deer. Only the long-legged moose could make it through. That's just not the case these days.

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Sunday, December 7, 2014

First deposits get first dibs on boat schedule

It takes 35-45 minutes one way for each 9-10 people. Photo by Lonnie Boyer
I forgot to mention in the last posting that we will continue with our policy of scheduling arrivals and departures on the Lickety Split, our trip boat, when you make your deposit.
Arrival times in Red Lake on Saturdays and Sundays are 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Departure times from camp on Fridays and Saturdays are: 6:30 a.m. and 8 a.m. All of these times are approximates and are dependent on weather and lake conditions.
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Saturday, December 6, 2014

We did it again; now we're back

Mountains along the Strait of Georgia

Trumpeter swans on coast in front of our B&B

Cow and calf moose cross Hwy 3 near Princeton, B.C.

Ferry to Powell River, B.C. crosses strait
For the second consecutive year, Brenda and I took a cross-continent driving trip in late-November. We just got back yesterday evening. We were visiting our son and grandsons on Vancouver Island.
And, once again, Mother Nature was kind to us. We made the entire 8,000-km round-trip without ever being stopped by a snowstorm. Whew!
This time we drove west to British Columbia via the Trans-Canada Highway which navigates through the high Rocky Mountains via the Kicking Horse Pass and Rogers Pass. We came east through the southern B.C. Route 3 highway that has the very highest pass - Kootenay -- at 1775 meters.
This latter route was a bit slower but was extremely beautiful and we saw a load of wildlife along it such as moose, elk and mule deer. On the more northern Trans-Canada route we also had a very large bighorn sheep step right over the guardrail in front of us. It was on a hairpin turn where we were only driving 40 km-h but on the snow-packed road we still slid to within a couple of feet of the big sheep before stopping.
Now it's time to get back to business. Let me catch-you-up on what has been happening.
Brenda was elected president of Nature and Outdoor Tourism Ontario, a province-wide organization that serves all of the outdoor tourism industry in Ontario. That happened in early November at the first annual Northern Ontario Tourism Summit in Thunder Bay. This summit combined the efforts of NOTO and Tourism Northern Ontario, a group that encompasses government, marketing organizations and tourism operators.
In Bow Narrows Camp business, it's time to contact everybody with existing reservations to secure those bookings with deposits. I will start sending letters to everyone immediately. You don't need to wait for a letter, however. You can call us at our winter number: 807-475-7246 with a credit card for the deposit. We require $100 per person to hold reservations. This is completely refundable upon 60 days notice of cancellation.
Our rates will be unchanged for 2015.
American guests should realize substantial savings this year due to the favourable exchange rate on U.S. currency. It is currently trading at more than 10 cents higher than the Canadian loonie. Our rates are in Canadian so when you pay with a U.S. credit card you will actually be charged 10 per cent less. If you send us a check, it will be worth 10 per cent more, i.e. a $100 deposit becomes $110 Canadian if the exchange rate is 10 per cent.
As in the past, you can also send us your HST rebate check that you got from last year's trip as part of your deposit. Just make sure you sign the back. Many of our guests do this because their banks charge them an outrageous fee to cash the Canadian government check.
One more thing, exchange rates change daily and experience has shown there is no accurate way of predicting the future. A lot of our guests will likely pay for next summer's trip this winter while they know for sure they will get a great exchange rate. You are welcome to do that. If for some reason you need to cancel, we will refund the entire amount unless the cancellation comes less than 60 days of the trip in which we will refund everything but the $100 deposit fee.
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Sunday, November 16, 2014

A fishing camp faux pas

These are finely-tuned instruments
At Bow Narrows Camp we clean all our guests fish for them. We've done this for more than 40 years.
Three times a day our outside worker and frequently myself come together at the fish cleaning shack where our guests have put their fish in blue plastic tubs in a system that we have pretty much perfected over the decades. We know from how the fish are placed in the tubs whose fish they are and whether we should clean and package them to go home or take them to the guests' cabins to eat in camp.
I got to thinking this summer about how many fish I've cleaned in my life. For about eight years I was the sole fish cleaner and that was back in the days when the limits were six walleye, six northern pike and five lake trout per person. It was also in an era when virtually everybody gauged the success of their trip on whether they took home "the limit." Needless to say, a lot of fish needed to be cleaned.
Since then limits and standards have changed. Now, if you have the full limit license you can keep four walleye and four northern pike. On Red Lake, no lake trout can be kept at all while this species rebuilds their population. However, most anglers today opt for the conservation fishing license which allows them two walleye and two northern pike to take home. So there are fewer fish to clean than in the old days. But since anglers also keep some fish to eat at camp before putting some in the freezer to take home, we still clean lots of fish.
My best guess is that I personally have cleaned at least 200,000 fish and probably far more.
The entire reason we began cleaning our guests' fish in the first place is because I learned how to take out the Y-bones from northern pike. It was a technique showed to me by one of our moose guides -- Jimmy Duck -- who had himself been shown by an American fisherman at another camp.
It's a slick method which results in two fillets per fish that are 100 per cent boneless.
But the technique is as much of an art as it is a science. I have shown it to hundreds of sportsmen and women and the only ones who have ever been able to duplicate it were our own outside workers. That's because you need to clean about 10 fish within a day or two with me by your side giving you instructions, watching your knife the whole time and alerting you when you start to make mistakes. There is very little margin for error or you end up with fillets that look like lace curtains.
To accomplish the task you not only need to know where to make incisions but how to angle your knife. You need to understand fish physiology and, oh yeah, the Y-bones are invisible to you.
One other thing, what you do with your non-knife hand is as important as the one holding the blade. It needs to support the fillet in a particular way that makes the cuts you make with your knife take out the bones, but not the meat surrounding them.
As you might guess, it takes a very sharp knife to accomplish this. I always use two knives, one for filleting and another for skinning. The reason is skinning dulls a blade quickly and doesn't require a razor-sharp one in the first place. Our outside workers always use two knives as well.
This means you not only need to learn how to Y-bone a pike but you also need to learn how to properly sharpen a knife. It's a process that takes about half an hour per blade, if the knife is seriously dull. Once sharp you can keep it that way by touching up the edge every few fish. So we never let our knives get very dull. In our three-times-a-day ritual, we have about one hour maximum each session to clean everyone's fish. If it takes longer than that then we aren't completing our other daily tasks like picking up the garbage, cutting firewood, filling up the gas tanks, mowing the lawn, filling the generator with fuel, etc., etc.
This is where the faux pas comes in. Every once in awhile we descend upon the fish house planning for a rapid fish cleaning session only to find someone else has used our knives. Not only did they use the filleting blade for skinning but they also didn't place one of the cleaning boards beneath it and cut right against the metal cleaning table. Our razor sharp edges now wouldn't cut warm butter and we are now going to spend two hours in the fish house, one hour sharpening our two knives and the next cleaning fish.
In my mind, this is a cultural gaffe as great as wearing your buddy's underwear.
If you lived next door to Eric Clapton would you wander into his house and play his guitar, maybe re-tune it? It's the same thing.
Our knives may not look like much but they are finely-tuned instruments and we are highly skilled artists.
People who want to clean their own fish or who decide at midnight to clean some fish for a snack are welcome to do it. Just use your own knife, that's all.
Incidentally, fish brought into the fish house after our 5:30-6:30 p.m. fish cleaning time are put on ice until the next morning. This sometimes causes concern among our anglers who think the fish might spoil, hence their taking our knives and cleaning the fish themselves.
I can absolutely guarantee that the fish will be in excellent shape when we clean them the next morning. I say this because I've seen it happen hundreds of thousands of times.
Sometimes anglers, fearing the fish will spoil, keep them on a stringer overnight at the boat or hang our burlap keep sacks in the water. Now the fish really will be spoiled.
Just do what we advise: put the fish in the tub in the fish house in the evening. The last thing I do before I go to bed each night is to cover all the fish in the tubs with wet burlap bags and a milk jug of ice. They will be exactly identical in condition the next morning.
I don't claim to be an expert on anything else but when it comes to cleaning fish, more specifically -- northern pike and walleye -- I have never met anyone who knows more about it.
You would need to have cleaned hundreds of thousands of them since you were six years old to understand what I'm talking about.
Remember the first moon landing? It was in 1969 and my dad came to get me so I could watch it on TV. I was in the fish cleaning shack at the time and probably ended up cleaning 50 or more fish that day, just like I did every day. I was 16 years old at the time and already had been cleaning fish for 10 years.
By my estimate I had already cleaned as many fish by 1969 as most anglers clean in their lifetimes, at least pike and walleye.  And that was 45 years ago and I've been at it ever since.
I've cleaned fish when I was so tired I fell asleep standing up. I've cleaned them with mosquitoes eating me alive. I've cleaned them in the dark and in below-freezing temperatures. It only takes me a minute or so per fish. At least, it does when I don't have to spend an hour sharpening my knives!

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