Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Best fishing rods for northern pike, walleye

(This blog item was updated on Jan. 12, 2015 to reflect changes that have taken place in equipment since it was first posted in 2008.)

You can purchase excellent quality fishing rods and reels for northern pike and walleye quite  inexpensively.
The trick is to stick with top name brands which although probably made in China like the real cheap junk are usually still better quality than lesser-known companies.
For reels, the best deal will always come on open-face spinning reels. Companies like Daiwa, Shimano, Phlueger and Penn are usually good bets. Look for models that are made for 8-12-pound test line. Then spool this with the new fusion super fishing lines, rather than monofilament. Lines like Fireline Crystal are excellent and nearly as invisible as monofilament but far, far stronger. Although these lines are smaller in diameter than the mono recommended by the reel company, it's best to still get the same-rated line. For example, get 10-12-pound test fusion line, NOT 20# line that is the same diameter as 10-12 pound. The reason is the smaller diameter allows you to cast smaller lures and is less visible than the heavier line. If you tie proper knots and check your line for fraying from time to time, this stuff absolutely will not break provided you have your reel drag set properly. It is also has less stretch than mono and is more sensitive. These two attributes make it better for trolling (thinner line is less resistant to the water so pulls less and its sensitivity lets you know the difference between bumping the bottom and hits from fish.) You can also feel the tiniest bites from picky walleye when still-fishing or jigging. These eagle-eye fish can't see the line if it is 10-pound test or less. But if you still worry you can always make a leader out of mono or fluorocarbon.
A very good quality spinning reel in today's market should cost $75 to $150.
What about the spinning rod? Again, stick to name brands like Daiwa, Fenwick, St. Croix, Shakespeare, Berkeley. You want a medium (sometimes called moderate) to medium-light (sometimes called medium fast) action. You never want a heavy action.
Choose rods made of graphite. They are lighter and more sensitive than fiberglass. The best lengths are 6-7 feet. Although one-piece rods may have a slight edge for sensitivity, they are a pain to transport. There's nothing wrong with two-piece rods that will fit in a conventional rod case. You can get very good quality rods for $50 to $100.
What about spincast, also known as closed-face, reels? These are not as versatile as the spinning reel, can't cast as small of lures and in particular, their drag systems don't function as smoothly. However, in most instances they will handle most of Canada's gamefish. A tried-and-true performer is the Zebco 33 and an upscale model is the Zebco Omega. The 33 sells for about $25 and the Omega about $65. Something to keep in mind with spincast reels is they are very short-lived. It wouldn't be a mistake to get a new one for every major fishing trip.
Casting (sometimes called baitcasting) reels are always more expensive than spinning. They have a more complicated type of mechanism and if you want a decent one, expect to pay at least $150. Same advice goes on the brands -- get the well-known ones.
Casting reels cannot cast as small of lures as spinning and so aren't as versatile but their drag systems are far superior. When a lunker pike is streaming away from you at 10-20 yards a second, the casting reel drag plays out as smooth as silk. Spinning reel drags are far rougher. For this reason a casting reel is a better choice for northern pike but is not so good for smaller walleye.
Again, use the new fusion superlines and don't be tempted to get extra-heavy line strengths. 10-pound to 14-pound is plenty. I believe you could anchor the boat with just 10-pound. The smaller weight lines let you cast further and also let you cast smaller lures although 1/3-ounce is probably the limit. With a spinning reel you can cast 1/8-ounce, even 1/16-ounce lures with light line.
Casting rods are a little pricier than spinning but you can still get very good ones for $50 to $150.
A medium to medium-light action is best for casting. For trolling go with a medium action. It doesn't bend as much from the drag of the lure and line behind the boat.  A casting rod and reel is a premium setup when trolling crankbaits. For larger lures or trolling with deep-diving crankbaits, a medium-heavy action rod might be better.  You never want a heavy action rod. It's like fishing with a pool cue -- no feeling and no bend to help fight the fish.
 See Trolling for Walleyes and Pike.
Rods have their actions usually written on them down near the butt.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Which is better rubber or mesh landing net?

Frabill rubber landing net
Frabill Sportsman landing net

We have some of each at camp and I think I speak for everyone when I say that the rubber landing net is way better UNTIL you need to net a northern pike of 40+ inches. Then you wish you had the standard string mesh net.

The advantages of the rubber net are numerous:
1. Fish don't get wound-up in it like they do the mesh nets so you can release them more quickly.
2. Hooks don't get skewered in the rubber net the way they do in the string of the mesh net.
3. It doesn't develop "holes" like the mesh net does after someone has cut out a lure with a knife or after a northern pike has chewed through the string.
The rubber net is a hit with walleye fishermen. It allows them to quickly boat walleyes without fear of losing them or their breaking the line as sometimes happens when you just lift them by the line.
Northern pike fishermen like the rubber nets too for landing any small or medium-sized northern.
The problem comes when you try to land a lunker pike. The idea that the rubber landing net will sag and create a bag for the big northerns usually isn't realistic. These big guys just bridge across the opening of the net instead of limply sagging into the rubber.
So for big northerns the large mesh net is far superior.
Should a person carry two nets then?
There just isn't room in the boat. Most anglers already have their boats filled with extra rods, tackle boxes, coolers, fish finders and totes for rainwear, etc., and a landing net is a pretty cumbersome piece of equipment. It fits the best tucked neatly behind the boats' mandatory paddles that are wedged into side braces. You must have two paddles so theoretically you have places for two nets but I just think it isn't worth the extra clutter.
Just choose one net and stick with it.
Even though we furnish nets with our boats it's a good idea to bring your own. Then you are assured of getting the net you like and trust.
One option with the rubber nets and exceptionally large pike is to tire the pike out a little more before netting them.
They do also make very large rubber nets but these are quite heavy due to the weight of the rubber.
It's something to mull over this winter.
If you have any ideas or experiences you would like to share, just click on the little green window below this posting.
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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Our bird feeder getting some big birds

Now that hunting season is over we're getting some big visitors to our bird feeder here in Nolalu.
This video was taken out of the kitchen window. The bird feeder is about 30 feet away.
This is one of two identical bucks that have come to eat sunflower seeds.
Brenda and I would like to extend everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Stay safe and warm this winter.
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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Looking back: How Red Lake got its name

Artery Lake pictograph mural
In just one more year Bow Narrows Camp under Baughman family ownership will celebrate its 50th season!

A long-time guest and good friend, Dave Myers, suggested I write something about the history of Red Lake and it got me thinking about the years gone past.

There are several books already written about Red Lake's history but most of these probably aren't sold anywhere but in the little town of Red Lake itself.

So, I thought I would follow Dave's suggestion and from time to time write a bit about what I know of the history of the area. It's too involved to do all at once so I'll make a series of it and call them Looking Back. I thought I would start with how Red Lake, Ontario got its name.

The fact is Red Lake is one of the most famous towns in the world. At one point it was the scene of the world's busiest air traffic based on landings and takeoffs. That was in the early 1930s.

The reason was gold, or maybe better expressed as GOLD!!!

In 1926, there was a gold rush to Red Lake that saw 10,000 people rushing to the lake by dogsled and canoe and eventually, by floatplanes and ski planes. What made it all the more remarkable was there was no road to Red Lake until 1948. These people came from the nearest railroad stop which was in Hudson, Ont., near Sioux Lookout. That was more than 100 miles away.

Despite the remoteness of the area, they came from all over the world. To this day it is still the world's third-largest gold rush. Only the Klondike gold rush and the San Francisco rush were larger.

That's the history that most people are interested in -- the gold rush.

But I always think history should begin with the first people in the area -- the native people. It was one of the blessings of my life to have grown up with the Ojibwa people who walked the land and paddled the waters of Ontario for countless generations.

There is evidence that native people lived in the Red Lake area for many thousands of years. I would like to read history books about them. The names of some of these ancient peoples are now lost. We know them by the terms archeologists have given them such as the Paleo-Indians and the Laurel Culture.

The problem, of course, is that they weren't lugging typewriters around or snapping photographs as they pursued the herds of caribou that are believed to have roamed this area after the glaciers retreated at the end of the last ice age 10,000 years ago. Book publishers were also scarce in those days.

So today, what we find of these ancient cultures are stone tools such as spears and arrow points along with some pottery shards and most intriguing -- pictographs or rock paintings.

I've seen copies of the first maps made by explorers to Canada and they called this Red Ochre Lake, or Red Paint Lake, not Red Lake. Red ochre is the iron oxide that some of these ancient peoples mixed with animal fat to make brilliant and incredibly long-lasting paint used to make images on flat vertical rock surfaces.

The funny thing is there is only one known pictograph on Red Lake but there are many on lakes just to the west in what is now Woodland Caribou Wilderness Park. The park borders the west end of Red Lake just a few miles from Bow Narrows Camp.

The pictograph mural shown in the photo above is from Artery Lake, on the border between Ontario and Manitoba, perhaps 40 miles west of camp. It is one of the largest such murals in the world and one of the reasons that the United Nations is considering making the park a World Heritage Site.

In one of our first winters in Red Lake, perhaps 1961, we lived near the Forestry Point and the home of Isaac Keesick, one of the oldest Ojibwa men in Red Lake. My father, Don, asked Isaac why this was called Red Lake. Isaac replied it was because this is where the ancient people came to get the ochre to make their paintings. Red ochre just doesn't exist most places in the Canadian Shield which is mostly granite. But here at Red Lake, along with gold and many other interesting minerals, there is iron that makes red ochre.

I believe that is the real story of how Red Lake got its name.

However, one of the first explorers to Hudson Bay wrote down a different tale and that's the one you'll find in the history books.

It recounts a story told by the native people that there was once a Matchee Manitou or evil spirit on the lake and that the people here killed it and its blood turned the water red, thus Red Lake.

Curiously, the one pictograph on the lake, which incidentally we pass every time we go to and from camp, depicts people in a canoe apparently attacking some sort of creature. The creature has no head, and some think this means that it wasn't an ordinary animal like a moose or a caribou but was a spirit.

So that's an alternate theory of how Red Lake got its name.

You can explore the history of Red Lake yourself. Next time you're here, try stopping at the Red Lake Heritage Centre.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

What bears do in the cold of winter

Black bear den
When the mercury is cringing in the thermometer as it is during these coldest days of winter here, you might wonder how do the animals survive?

Temperatures in Red Lake are falling to -30 to -40 C. If you don't know Celsius temps just remember that -40 C is the same thing as 40 below Fahrenheit. These are cold temperatures any way you measure them.

Some animals have found ways to avoid the cold. The most obvious is the black bear who puts on a thick layer of fat over the summer and snuggles into a den in October before the winter snows arrive.

You might think they would dig deep below the frostline, like the true hibernator, the woodchuck, does. But surprisingly their dens are almost on the surface. Their favorite places are where a tree has fallen over and left a bit of a cave where its roots have been raised from the ground.

I found one of these occupied dens right near our home in Nolalu a few years back. You can see from the photos how unimpressive the den was. There's actually a bear in this den. The root ball that it crawled under measured about two feet high and was created when a small balsam fir, perhaps 8 inches in diameter, was tipped over by the wind.

The bear dug under this spot to enlarge the space so it could just squeeze into it. It then curled up and turned its back toward the hole.

Bears don't really hibernate. They just sleep and you can wake them up as I and my dog, Bud, did in this instance.

Bud, a Black Lab, would always growl when he smelled a bear and he started growling here. I knew he must smell a bear den but I couldn't see where it would be. Finally Bud would go no further ahead and I looked right at my feet and saw the little opening with black hair sticking out of it. About this point the bear started growling inside the den and we beat a hasty retreat.

Bears give birth in the den in a marsupial-like manner. The tiny, hairless cub or cubs as there are often two, must find its way from the womb to the teat, then spend the rest of the winter surrounded by its mother's warm fur. It's similar to how a kangaroo gives birth except there's no pouch.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Spinners and bait the best walleye lures

Red Lake walleye
A great many of our fishermen are walleye experts and if you were to ask these people what they fished with just about every one of them uses a single blade spinner on a piece of mono with some beads and a hook. They bait the hook with either a nightcrawler or a leech. A common trade name for this outfit is Little Joe but most people just call them walleye spinners. Many people buy the components and make their own.

This outfit is back-trolled behind a sinker which can be a bottom-bouncer type with a piece of wire running through the sinker to feel the bottom or, more often, a walking type of sinker that is flattened and bent to do the same thing. Some just use rubber core sinkers.

Most of them place the sinker just ahead of the snell on the walleye spinner. So that puts it 18 inches to 30 inches away from the spinner. After a cold front when the walleyes are skittish, they might double the distance between spinner and sinker.

Early in the season these sinkers might be 1/2 ounce to 3/4 ounce because the fish are in very shallow water, no more than 12 feet. By mid-summer to fall, the size of sinker might increase to 1.5 ounces, just to get the rig to the bottom in the 20-30 foot range where the fish will be laying.

There is a wide variety of spinners used. Early in the year a favorite are floating spinners. These are usually made of foam with Mylar wings glued to them. The foam raises the rig off the bottom so it can be better seen by the walleyes. You can do the same thing by adding a foam float that threads through your line.

By mid-summer everyone is using metal blade spinners in a wide variety of colors and finishes.

The key when fishing with these rigs is to always be in contact with the bottom. You don't want such a heavy weight that your line is hanging right beneath the propeller but you don't want your line a mile behind the boat either. So choose the right size sinker for the conditions which can change with the wind and the depth.

A problem with some of the commercially made spinners is they use too large a hook. You always want to use the least amount of metal possible when fishing for walleyes. Usually the spinners meant to be fished with leeches or nightcrawlers have better, smaller hooks. If you buy the nightcrawler ones, they usually have two hooks and if you want to use them for leeches you can just cut off the rear hook.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Northern pike fillets are boneless, delicious

Y bones removed
boneless pike fillets

If you aren't a regular at Bow Narrows Camp you may not know that northern pike are every bit as delicious as walleye.

And since we clean all of our guests' fish for them, northern pike fillets are absolutely boneless here. Not only do we remove the infamous Y bones from pike but also a half dozen other bones that have no name but which I call "X bones." I've never even heard mention of them anywhere else.

The result is a one-piece fillet from each side of the fish, perfect for the fry pan.

It comes as a surprise to many people that northern pike and not walleye are the favorite of my family and our staff at camp. They taste nearly identical to walleye but the reason we prefer them is that after removing the bones the fillet is thinner and fries more evenly that do walleye fillets that have thick portions and thin portions.

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

The best fish unhooking tools for pike

jaw spreader
Bass Pro Fish Grip

Baker Hookout

You need some specific northern pike unhooking tools to safely and humanely extract your lures from these powerful fish with their mouthful of teeth.

First, you need good jaw spreaders of the type pictured above. This type has two T-shaped ends that go into the fish's mouth. It spreads the pressure so that the tool doesn't puncture the flesh of the fish. Poor versions have a single wire that will poke right through the mouth.

If you can't get the spreader in because the fish won't open its mouth, use a set of wide fishing pliers such as the yellow ones above to open it enough to insert the spreaders. These pliers are probably all you need to hold open the mouths of smaller pike and for walleyes. Don't use the jaw spreaders on small fish because the pressure is too great and can injure their jaws.

Finally, use the Baker Hookout to safely reach down into the maw and take out the hooks. Nothing is better at doing this but you can also use long-handled needle nose pliers.

Make sure you tie a length of something like parachute cord to the spreader and then fasten it to the boat. This will prevent your throwing the fish overboard with the jaw spreader still in its mouth.

Keep in mind when taking out lures from a fish that the best method sometimes is to slip the lure out backwards through the fish's gills, unsnap it from the leader, then resnap the leader so it can be pulled back out the mouth without catching on anything.

Oh yes, remember to re-tie your line to the leader, cutting off a foot or two, because it will likely have been nicked by the rows of diamond-shaped teeth in the roof of the pike's mouth.
Often it takes two people to get the lure quickly out of the mouth of a big northern pike. One holds the fish while the other does the "surgery."

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Fishing with kids is a lot of fun

It's great to see many of our guests bringing their families, including children, to Bow Narrows Camp.

Just like they do with everything else, youngsters develop the skills for fishing very rapidly.

The best idea is to start them with lures with single barbless hooks, like jigs, Johnson Silver Minnow with a trailer, Beetle Spins, crankbaits and buzzbaits. These lures are less likely to get snagged on the bottom and also in the skin!

There's no point in starting a kid off with an expensive rod and reel. It's no big deal if a $20-$30 outfit accidentally gets dropped in the lake or stepped on. Most kids do best with a spincast and graduate to an open face spinning reel after a few years. Bring a couple rod and reel combos, just in case something happens to the first one.

Kids always prefer action and so I would suggest concentrating on northern pike fishing unless you know for a fact that the walleyes are on a feeding frenzy. Pike are fun to fish for because the kids get to cast for them. It's amazing how fast they become adept at this.

They couldn't care less how big the fish are, just as long as they catch a lot of them. The perfect place is a cove that's filled with hammer-handle pike. You run into these all the time. They're usually small coves and shallow and just about every fish you get there are exactly the same size. The fish are hungry and aggressive and will hit anything that moves. To a kid, this is fishing paradise. Maybe I'm a kid at heart because I feel the same way. My wife, Brenda, our youngest son, Josh, and I spent an afternoon in such a cove one time and hauled in pike three at a time for an hour. When they finally quit biting we had caught and released 100 and we've called that place Hundred Fish Bay ever since.

The thing to keep in mind when fishing with a young angler is just to have fun. If they're thrilled with catching little perch, than just stay at that spot and catch perch. Many times kids have a ball catching and letting go rock bass from around the dock cribs at camp. These little panfish are especially thrilling because you get to see them bite the hook!

It's also good to remember that kids' attention spans aren't as long as adults. They may get tired of fishing during the day; so, plan on getting out at a beach for lunch or exploring islands and the shoreline several times a day. Also, take along a lot of snacks and drinks.

Bring some games to play in case of rainy days and for the evening.

Most of all, enjoy how different kids see the world. They're more observant and are curious about all the new sights and sounds. Help them explore and investigate when they want.

Some kids quickly become ardent fishermen. We've had many boys and girls who simply wear out their elders when it comes to fishing. Others just like to mix fishing with all the other things they can do: swimming, games, exploring.

We're glad to have kids at camp and offer a couple of savings for guests who bring theirs.

There is no charge for kids under 6 and kids 7-12 are half-price.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Our small staff works in all weather

Bow Narrows kitchen staff
What happens when the camp generator shuts down and it's mealtime at the lodge?

The kitchen staff dons headlamps and keeps on working!

This was taken last year when we actually shut down the generator at noon because of a severe thunderstorm. (We shut it down to prevent its being struck by lightning) As you can see it was very dark, even at midday. But the show always must go on, even in a thunderstorm.

From left, cook Helena Spizarsky, Brenda Baughman, waitress Meghan Perry.

We have a very small staff at Bow Narrows Camp and they deserve all the credit in the world for making things go smoothly, even in sometimes trying circumstances such as inclement weather.

The only people missing from this photo in 2008 are myself and Ben Godin, our outside worker.

With just five people we do absolutely everything: take our guests to and from Red Lake on changeover days, load and unload tons of luggage and supplies from the camp boat Lickety Split, clean all the cabins, clean all the boats, clean all the fish, mow the grass, cut and split firewood, cook all the meals, do all the dishes, do all the maintenance work, pickup and sort garbage for recycling, build new structures, and of course, keep our guests informed on where the fish are biting and on what lures and baits.

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Friday, December 5, 2008

Best time to fish Red Lake, Ontario

Dan and Sam with fall pike
A common question we get is "What's the best time to come fishing?"
This is a legitimate concern because on some lakes fishing is way better when the water is cool but is not so good in the heat of the summer.
However, that is not the case when fishing Red Lake, Ontario, and particularly the west end of the lake where anglers at Bow Narrows Camp fish.
Our anglers do excellent in all months and in all weather and water temperatures. The reason comes from the lake itself.
Red Lake is a big lake, about 30 miles in length and with bodies of water that are five miles in width as well as small shallow bays and winding narrows and rapids.
There are lots of shallow bays that appeal to walleyes and northern pike when the water is cool in the spring and there are deep water bays where the water never actually warms up, even in the warmest part of summer.

Our anglers just fish different areas to suit the weather conditions.
For instance in June walleye fishermen spend most of their time in the bays that are 10-20 feet deep and which warm up rapidly with the sun. Mostly the fish will come from 6-12 feet of water in these bays.
In July anglers continue fishing the shallow bays but also start fishing the edges of the deep water bays, probably also in 6-12 feet of water. It's at this time that it seems like walleyes are everywhere. While some anglers are catching them in shallow bays, others will be doing the same fishing deeper.
By the end of July many fishermen will be concentrating on 16-20 feet of water at the edges of the deep bays. They will locate very large schools of fish around points and underwater structures like reefs and humps.
Meanwhile other fishermen continue fishing in the shallow bays and will concentrate on fishing windy shorelines. It is possible that some of the fish they catch there have swam into the area to feed from deeper water.
Some walleyes will stay in the shallow bays until the first cool nights of late summer in mid-August. That seems at odds with what happens in other, shallow lakes, but it is exactly what happens here. After a couple of chilly nights that cool off the shallow water, the walleyes start streaming out toward the deep. By the third week of August just about all the walleyes will be out there and will be in 26-30 feet. They show up easily on fish finders and we catch a great many of them at this time.
But something else happens as the summer progresses as well. Large numbers of walleyes from other parts of the lake start appearing at the west end where camp is located. No one really knows why but the west end is deeper than the east and that may have something to do with it.
What about northern pike?
By and large we catch them in exactly the same areas in all months and we catch just about as many of them in any particular month. The methods for catching can change a bit.
For instance, the dead bait system for northern pike works the best the first couple of weeks in the spring and in September. The first week or two it works far and away better than casting or trolling. But after awhile casting and trolling work equally as well and by mid-June these systems work better.
There can be a slight change in preference for size of lures as the season changes too. Larger lures work better in spring and fall but aren't worth a hoot in mid-summer. How big is larger? In a Dardevle the 3/4-ounce is good spring and fall whereas the 1/3-1/2 ounce is best in the summer. For a Mepps spinner, the #5 is best early and late while the #4 is better in summer.
In a Rapala an 8-10 incher will catch fish in June and September but is like fishing with a piece of kindling in July and August when a 6-8 incher is way better.
Although we fish for pike in the same bays from month to month the area we fish in those bays varies with the water temperature. Early on the fish will be right on the shoreline. As the season progresses they back out into the emerging weed growth and by season end will be on the deep size of those weeds, perhaps as deep as 12 feet.
Some northern pike will follow the walleyes all year. We catch a great many while walleye fishing (with leaderless jigs and spinners!) However, it seldom pays to purposely fish for northerns in the walleye spots unless it just seems like you are getting bit off by northerns as fast as you can get your bait down. Then put a leader on your jig and get to northern fishing!
So the best month to come fishing is just whenever suits your schedule best.
There's also the weather to take into consideration.
May, June and September can sometimes be cool while July and August are almost always warm. This can make a difference when your fishing partner is very young, very old or the fairer sex.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Steel leaders for northern pike fishing

Northern pike have a mouthful of razor-sharp teeth so a steel leader is a must when fishing for them. Yet this is one of the most-ignored pieces of tackle for most fishermen.

Take the photo above. This leader is kinked and its wire is unravelling after a hard day of pike fishing which also took its toll on the black and white dardevle. All the paint missing from the spoon came from the dozens of northern pike which bit down on it.

Leaders are made of finely braided wire which flexes pretty well but which eventually will break. When you see your leader getting kinks in it or starting to unravel then it's time to put on a new one. If you are doing a lot of pike fishing this can happen a couple of times a day.

The leader doesn't need to be much heavier than your line strength. We advise using just 8-10-pound test fishing line for anglers who like to cast and 10-12-pound test for those who like to troll.

For leader strength, 18-30 pound weight is all that's needed. The point of the leader is that pike cannot cut the wire with their teeth, not that it is stronger than your fishing line. And just as heavy fishing line will prevent you from hooking many fish (See Lighten Up for Pike), a heavy leader will also spook away the majority of pike. It also interferes with the action of your lure. Your spoon won't wobble, your crankbait won't wiggle and your spinner won't spin right. So there's no point in using them.

The longer your leader, the faster it will kink. Most people use 9-inch leaders and I prefer 6-inch ones. Both sizes are excellent for casting.

There's no good evidence whether a black leader works better than silver but my personal preference is black.

If you like to troll, you can get away without using a leader at all if you use straight stick baits like Rapala, Rebel, Bagleys, Cotton Cordell, etc. The pike will just about always grab these 6-8-inch baits sideways leaving your line safely exposed outside their mouths. Leaders of any sort also interferes with the action of these baits when trolling at a steady speed.

Steel leaders are more of a necessity when casting these baits because the angler can impart twitches and pauses that entice strikes but which also results in the fish taking the entire lure into their mouths.

You should probably figure you will need 4-6 leaders for each day of fishing. You are going to lose a couple of them (and lures) to snags and you'll wear out a couple more just in the normal flexing that goes on with each cast.

They aren't expensive and don't take up much space in your tackle box so bring a good supply and change them often.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

When you're in the Fishing Zone

Dan Baughman fishing
There's nothing like it.
When you cast your lure up beside that log along the shoreline, or drop your jig overboard feeling for the bottom, you leave the world of fluctuating stock markets and sub-prime mortgage fiascos and enter a different dimension. You could call it the Fishing Zone.
And when you're in the zone your head is so far from Wall Street that you lose track of time and space.
In the Far East they would call it meditation.
In the North we call it fishing.
The principles are the same. Concentrate to the point of exclusion of other stimuli. It takes years of training to meditate well but it comes quickly when you start fishing.
Some of it comes from necessity. If you aren't giving your cast your full attention your lure ends up in the trees. If you drag your lure across the bottom you get snagged.
Before long your mind is visualizing underwater structures that you are getting your lure next to without entangling your hooks into them.
After a bit you can also imagine the fish: they're lying at the base of a mound of underwater boulders or cruising a steep drop off in search of prey or lying in shadows watching for bait to come swimming out of a patch of weeds.
Soon you become aware of other little things: the way the waves are ever-so-slightly disturbed by a hidden reef, a couple of minnows jumping, a little line of mud in the water -- all things that could lead to fish.
Eventually your sense of touch becomes heightened. Your fishing rod becomes an extension of your hand and its line connects you to the unseen world below the surface. You become adept at differentiating between the slow grip of weeds and the more sudden bite of a fish, the bumping of the bottom and the rat-a-tat-tat of a perch.
The wind that at first caused you so much consternation as it blew you every way but the one you wanted to go now becomes an ally. You let it move you silently along and adapt your fishing presentation to meet its speed and direction.
You hear the calls of terns as they plunge into the lake catching minnows and you know that there are fish catching minnows in that place too.
You smell the rain coming long before clouds can be seen.
And then your buddy says, "You want to head in for supper?" and you realize that in what seemed like only a moment, the entire afternoon has passed.
And you smile and reply, "Yeah, I'm hungry as a bear!"

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How to see and photograph moose

Bull moose on Red Lake, Ontario
Moose, the largest members of the deer family, are abundant around Bow Narrows Camp on Red Lake, Ontario. and seeing them is always a thrill.

Here's the best way to see and photograph these magnificent creatures.

Get up early! I know you didn't want to hear this but it's the truth. Probably 90 per cent of your chance to see these animals will occur in the first hour or two of daylight.

Moose are most often seen as they swim from one island to another or when they wade out into shallow weedy areas to feed on aquatic plants.

These plants are higher in sodium than are land plants. After a winter of doing nothing but browsing on woody stems --the tips of hardwood trees-- moose crave the sodium-rich aquatic plants. The amount of sodium in this vegetation is only a few parts per million, but to the moose it's a big difference.

They also need the sodium to bring into balance the potassium and sodium in their bodies. Winter twigs are high in potassium; water plants are high in sodium.

Moose also wade out into the lake to get away from bugs such as deer and horse flies and, in the spring, black flies.

They'll also come to the water to escape the heat. We've seen moose that will lie in the water on beaches, the same as people do. This can occur any time during the day.

In the spring and early summer, getting away from camp at daybreak is harder than it sounds.

It gets light about 4 a.m. and doesn't get dark until 11 p.m. But by mid-July to the end of August, the sun comes up closer to 6 a.m. You can always see very well one-half hour before sunrise, so that's when you want to leave camp.

Head to a grassy bay or where a creek comes into the lake. Turn off your outboard motor and be quiet. Sounds carry great distances over the water. Voices, in particular, can be heard clearly a half-mile away. If you must talk, whisper.

There's no reason you can't fish at the same time. In many cases the motor, at idle speed such as when trolling, doesn't spook the animals either.

Watch for wakes in the water that could be caused by an animal swimming or for black spots along the shoreline or on land.

Obviously a good pair of binoculars will be an asset.

Listen for splashing in the water or sticks breaking up on land.

Moose will usually wade out until only their heads are above water and then periodically submerge. Although they are normally standing on the bottom, I've also seen them swim and dive to get weeds that were out of their reach.

When the moose puts its head underwater, you can paddle towards it, then freeze when it lifts its head again.

Although you can get incredibly close using this technique, we ask that you keep a respectful distance. Mostly it's just to keep from scaring them to death when they finally realize you are there but there's also some danger from getting too close.

It is rare for fishermen to ever hear moose vocalize. However, if you are quiet and close to them you might detect a very, very quiet "URH". They do make louder calls to attract mates but that doesn't occur until late September and early October.

Finally, if you're like most people on vacation, you aren't an early riser. No worries! We also see moose right in the middle of the day, usually as they swim from one spot to another.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

How to fly to Red Lake, Ontario in 2011

Bow Narrows Camp guests who are coming from great distances will be interested to know they can fly to Red Lake, Ontario. (Note this blog entry was updated in December, 2010)

There are several ways to do this. The best is to fly any of several major carriers to Winnipeg, Manitoba which is a few hundred miles to the southwest of Red Lake.

Winnipeg is a major city of nearly three-quarters of a million population and has a large international airport.

Some of the carriers that I know of who fly into Winnipeg are Air Canada, Delta, United and Westjet but there may be others as well.

From Winnipeg the connecting flight right into Red Lake is via Bearskin Airlines. Bearskin flies what most people would know as commuter aircraft. They are small, very fast, turboprop planes that can fly in just about any weather. This non-stop flight from Winnipeg to Red Lake is just 45 minutes and there are several flights a day most days in the summer.

Another way to reach Red Lake by air is to fly to Thunder Bay, Ontario, at the top of Lake Superior via either Air Canada or Westjet and then take Bearskin from there to Red Lake. This flight usually makes at least one stop and takes considerably longer than the one from Winnipeg.

There is also a third option taken by quite a few of our guests. That is to fly with the major carriers to either Winnipeg or International Falls, Minnesota, and then rent a car and drive to Red Lake. From either airport the drive takes six hours and probably means you will need to spend the night either in Red Lake or along the way and catch the camp boat in Red Lake the next morning. It still means you only spend one day travelling up here.
There could be significant savings in flying to International Falls and driving from there. A price check in November, 2010, showed this route to be about $200 less expensive than the Winnipeg route.

You should check with the airlines that you will use to see how many pieces of luggage and their weight that you are allowed to bring without paying extra. You should also find out if there are going to be extra costs for bringing a fishing rod case.

Long rod cases are certainly going to be labelled as oversized and you may have to pay a fee for that.

To transport your rods you just need a conventional plastic rod tube, the kind that are sold in any sporting goods store. If it doesn't already have it, put some foam in the ends to protect your rod tips. I would suggest you not make a tube out of PVC sewer pipe because this is heavy and you might get dinged for the extra weight.

From the experience of one of our guests last summer I can absolutely tell you NOT to ship your rods via a courier. Not only will you have to pay for the shipment, you also will get a bill for duty and taxes. This doesn't happen when you bring your rod case with you.

The airlines may not charge you anything if your rod case isn't too long. One of the trade-offs you might need to make in exchange for getting to Red Lake in one day is that you will need to bring shorter rods. A two-piece 61/2-foot rod breaks down into a tube that is less than four-feet long. Frankly, these are the size rods that most of our fishermen use anyway, including those who drive up here. You might be able to get 6 rods in a 3-inch-diameter rod case if you alternate the tips and butts. A rod case that is three feet long and three or four inches in diameter may not even be classified as oversized.

However, your rod case is absolutely going to be classed as oversized if it is 7 feet long.

We recommend that anyone flying to Red Lake at least get a price quote from Red Lake Travel. These people are experts at getting people into Red Lake whereas travel agents from outside the area and outside the country can't even find Red Lake on the map. They are in no way connected to our company. We recommend them just because of the great service they have provided our customers over the years. Many times they are aware of seat sales that you just cannot find on your own. Tell them you want to go to Bow Narrows Camp. They'll do all the rest.

If you can, give them a choice of taking either of our packages: arrive Saturday, leave Friday or arrive Sunday, leave Saturday. This gives them some alternatives so they can select the quickest way of getting you here.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Weird and Wacky Walleye Fishing

fishing spot Red Lake, Ontario
I've already written about the tremendous walleye fishing we had on Red Lake, Ontario, last season but there is still a lot to mention including some of the strangest walleye phenomena I have ever seen.

Like the father and son who had picked up what looked like rubber snakes at a fishing show near home the previous winter and thought they might catch a big northern pike at Bow Narrows Camp.

These things were big, maybe 14 inches long, and floated. They had a realistic swimming motion when retrieved.

I've never seen a pike eat a snake but I'm sure they would. They will eat just about anything that moves. In cleaning thousands of pike over the years we have found ducks, warblers, mice, muskrats and even a mink in their stomachs.

So I felt they stood a good chance at picking up some pike on the rubber snakes. They actually weren't called snakes. Maybe they were eels; anyway, they looked like snakes.

When I saw the pair of anglers later in the day and asked how they did, they had caught a 26-inch walleye on these contraptions! Incredible!

A couple of other fishermen were fishing below the rapids shown in the photo above. Due to all the rain early last summer our lake was much higher than in this photo and the creek had tons of water rushing down it.

It looked possible that a fish could actually swim from the lake right up into the creek and these fishermen hypothesized that northern pike might be up there.

So they put on 4-inch red-and-white dardevles (actually northern pike here prefer smaller ones, see Lighten Up) and anchoring their boat right below the rapids, cast as far up the creek as they could, right in between the trees seen in this photo.

And they caught walleyes!

The same feat was repeated a month later by a couple of other anglers.

The walleye bite was so tremendous most of last summer that you could easily have caught all the walleyes you wanted right off the dock. Often times it wasn't even necessary to use bait.

We had one group who would bring their rods to the lodge before breakfast each day and catch and release a dozen or so walleyes before it was time to eat.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Fishing Packages Cost Less in U.S. $

Bow Narrows fishing cabin
Our American guests are welcome to pay for their fishing packages with U.S. funds and if they do so, the package price could be substantially less, depending on the exchange rate at the time.
The U.S. dollar is currently worth quite a bit more than the Canadian. The exchange rate floats around but for quite awhile now the greenback has been bringing 15-20% more than the loonie. That means BIG savings for U.S. fishermen.
Using an exchange rate of 15% as an example, our American Plan package of $860 CDN would be just $747 US.
By the same token the Housekeeping Plan Package of $650 CDN would be $565 US.
We will pay the bank rate of exchange rate on the day you make your final payment.
You can make your final payment right now if you want and realize great savings. If you want to know what the exchange rate is and can't find it on your own, just give us a call at 807-475-7246 which is our winter phone number. Or send us an e-mail: fish@bownarrows.com
and ask, "What would be my package cost if I paid today?"
We'll do the math and tell you. If you like the savings the exchange rate gives you, you can give us a credit card number and your trip is paid for. In this instance it will be the exchange rate that the credit card company is giving which is usually about three per cent from what the bank will give.
Or, of course, you can just wait to make your final payment while at camp and get the exchange rate on that day.
What happens if you need to cancel your reservations later on?
If you cancel more than 60 days from the date of arrival, we will refund 100 per cent of your payment.
If you cancel less than 60 days from your date of arrival, we will refund all but $100. This is exactly the same for people who send us deposits to hold their reservations. We require $100 per person as a deposit and it is completely refundable upon 60 days notice.
Last summer American and Canadian currencies were virtually the same but most experts are predicting the U.S. dollar to be worth more for quite some time.
Our fishing packages have always been very affordable, especially when you consider Bow Narrows Camp is as remote as many fly-in camps. Our ability to make the 20-mile trip with our big, fast cabin cruiser boat instead of an expensive floatplane allows us to keep our prices low.
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Friday, November 14, 2008

2009 Reservation Availability Up and Running

Lickety Split
If you click on the 2009 Reservation Availability in the Favorite Blog Entries at upper right, you'll see we've got all the available weeks listed for next season.
This will change daily as people with current reservations alter their plans and as other people book-in. If you are especially interested in a week that is currently booked, just e-mail us and let us know. We will then inform you if a spot comes open that week.
This year we are offering only 6-day trips instead of both 6-day and 7-day trips. (In the case of long-time 7-day guests we will still provide 7-day packages.)
We are also going to schedule groups so that about half the camp arrives Saturday and departs Friday and the other half arrives Sunday and departs Saturday.
About two-thirds of our guests already come for 6 days but sometimes they all come for the same 6 days and this creates problems getting people into and out of camp in a timely fashion.
Our boat, the Lickety Split, can carry up to 9 passengers and their gear at one time, depending on the size of the passengers and how much gear they bring.
Our new schedule means there will usually be two trips for people arriving at camp on Saturday and two on Sunday and the same for trips going to town on departure days.
In most instances, the boat will depart from camp to town at 6:15 a.m. and 8 a.m.
It takes only 35 minutes to make the 20-mile trip to town in the Lickety Split, weather permitting. So everyone can get on the road nice and early.
On Saturday the first boat from town will leave for camp at 10:30 a.m. instead of 9 a.m. as in the past. This will allow everybody to get to the beer and liquor stores that open at 10 a.m. It also will work well for people who like to spend the previous night in Dryden. Dryden has a great many nice motels. It's a 2.5-hour drive from there to Red Lake so you can easily make the drive up, even do some shopping, and catch the 10:30 a.m. boat.
The second boat will leave at 2 p.m. This will allow all those who like to spend the night at International Falls/Fort Frances to make the connection. It takes about 6 hours to drive to Red Lake from those border communities. Many folks like to cross the border in the evening because there is so little traffic at that time. They spend the night in Fort Frances and drive up to Red Lake the next day.
On Sundays our boat will leave at either 9 a.m. or 10:30 a.m., depending on demand. Since the beer and liquor stores are not open on Sunday there is no need to wait for them to open on this day and quite a few of our guests who arrive on Sunday spend the previous night in Red Lake and so are ready to go at 9 a.m.
However, if there is a large group of people who like to spend the previous night in Dryden and thus are better able to meet the 10:30 a.m. boat, then we'll schedule the pick-up for 10:30. If by chance we had lots of people who wanted to come Sunday morning, we'll make a trip at both times.
A 10:30 a.m. pickup would be better for people coming on the Housekeeping Plan if they need to buy groceries because the grocery store doesn't open until 10 a.m. that day.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Your Most Important Fishing Gear

Life vest worn by northern pike fisherman
What's the most-important piece of fishing gear to any angler?

It's not his fishing rod or reel or fish finder but his life vest.

Here are some interesting facts: most boaters who drown are excellent swimmers.

Most drown within six feet (that's not a misprint, six feet!) of their boat or shoreline.

Hypothermia seldom has anything to do with their drowning even when the water temperature is near freezing.

Most drown within seconds of falling overboard or slipping into the water.

These facts were brought to light by the Canadian Safe Boating Council at the recent annual convention of Nature and Outdoor Tourism Ontario (NOTO) held in late October in Dryden.

These folks not only had the statistics from all the drowning victims in Canada but also video of cold water immersion studies.

I wish all our guests who come to our camp and don't wear their life vests could have seen the videos because they were eye-openers.

How, you might ask, can excellent swimmers drown within six feet of their boats or the shore or dock? The answer comes from what happens when someone unexpectedly is thrown into the water, and incidentally, that's how drowning victims end up in the lake -- their boats don't develop a slow leak and gradually sink, in fact, today's boats are engineered never to sink. No, they are driving full speed down the lake and hit an unseen obstruction that flips them out of the boat, or they lose their balance and fall backwards over the side. In less than a second they are upside down in the water.

It's a shock, and their first reaction from the rush of adrenaline created by any shock is to gasp.

In that one gasp they can inhale one liter (or quart) of water!

If they aren't wearing a life vest, it's all over right there. But if they are wearing a life jacket they immediately pop to the surface where they can cough out the water in their lungs.

Being a good swimmer has nothing to do with surviving a boating accident.

The videos of the cold water immersion studies also will surprise many people.

How long would you think someone could be in near-freezing water before hypothermia sets in?

Most people would guess it would take just a few minutes. But the studies show that actually just about anybody can survive 30 minutes to an hour or even two hours.

The men and women who volunteered for the cold water immersion research were not just anybodys. They were firefighters, Coast Guard service people, triathletes and military personnel. They probably spend two hours a day in the gym or the pool or the track and were in the peak of physical fitness. Most of us couldn't do as well as they did in the cold water trials.

One by one they were filmed jumping off a boat into the Arctic waters (divers in dry suits were right beside them for safety's sake. The water was just a degree or two above freezing.

In every instance, their first reaction was to gasp, then to hyperventilate. They panted for several minutes. They were, in fact, in grave danger of passing out from hyperventilation. The gasping and rapid breathing are all effects of shock, the medical condition which we all learned in first aid can kill anyone.

The volunteers were wearing life vests when they went overboard. After a couple of minutes, their breathing returned to normal and it wasn't until that point that they could have tried to get back out of the water. The CSBC researchers said it's important to just concentrate on getting control of your breathing before doing anything else.

The volunteers continued to stay in the water to experience the effects of cold water immersion.

None of them suffered hypothermia as defined by a dictionary where the core body temperature fell. But despite that they lost mobility in their arms and legs. After 25 minutes in the water they couldn't even get out on a beach. Their legs simply refused to move.

Imagine trying to put on a life vest under these conditions. It's a trick to put on a life vest in a heated pool wearing nothing other than your swimsuit, let alone wearing all your clothes in the middle of a lake with numb arms.

The point of this article is to convince you to wear your life vest. We supply them with our boats and these are the comfortable boating vest types. But they are so important why wouldn't you bring your own? Go to the sporting goods store and try on many types until you find one that fits your build. Make sure it is expandable enough to fit over your heaviest clothes but which can be cinched in for warmer weather. Besides the traditional boating or fishing types there are canoeing and kayaking models that leave lots of room in the armholes. There are even CO2 operated ones that self inflate when you hit the water. They come in all colors, including camoflage.

Everyone in my family wears them; all of our staff wears them. All Ministry of Natural Resources personnel wear them (or floater jackets).

Why isn't it the law? (You are only required to have them in the boat, not to wear them).

The main reasons people don't wear them are 1 . ignorance (they don't understand how quickly people drown) 2. machismo (they don't need no stinking life jacket!) or 3. comfort (they are under the mistaken belief that life vests are uncomfortable, probably because they've never tried anything other than the orange neck-collar types.)

I liked the reply of long-time outdoorsman Bernie Motl at camp last summer when I mentioned how some people think the vests are uncomfortable.
"Bull___!" he said, simply.

Well said.

See also this about life vests

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Highlights of the 2008 Fishing Season

The Year 2008 will go down in history as the Year of the Walleye.
We caught walleyes like crazy right up to the middle of September. Average size from late June to early August was about 22 inches. Largest walleye brought into camp was a 29-incher but there could have been larger ones released out on the water.
We also caught some huge lake trout, mostly while fishing for walleye, but the largest, reported to be a 52-incher, was caught by our anglers looking for lake trout.
Trout must be live-released on Red Lake and must also be angled using lures with single, barbless hooks, without bait. These anglers were fishing in late June and were using large bucktail jigs with the barbs pinched down when they tied into the humungous trout.
In proper conservation fashion, they didn't even bring the fish aboard, just alongside the boat where they held its tail at the transom and made a mark on the side of the boat where its head reached. They then extracted the jig from the fish's mouth and let it swim away. On reaching camp they got a tape and discovered the fish was 52 inches. That's a record for us. Our previous largest trout was 45 inches and that was tied again this summer. Some of these 40+inch trout have weighed over 40 pounds.
These latest anglers were here in September and were fishing for walleyes when the giant trout bit their walleye spinner. It was quite a feat to get the lunker into the boat using light line meant for walleyes but they did so and grabbed a photo before releasing the fish.
Anglers caught lake trout all summer while fishing for walleyes and northern pike. It's not known why these normally deepwater fish were up in the shallows but the likely reason was the water stayed cool. We had a late spring, lots of rain in the early summer, and the lake never really warmed up.
That same weather phenomena might explain why northern pike were not at their best most of the summer. We did get some 45-inchers but in general the pike weren't as abundant as usual. The "eaters" that folks brought us to clean had been eating crayfish just about the whole summer. That's unusual. They usually only eat crayfish for a couple of weeks in mid-summer. The best pike fishing came late in the year when they were back in the regular haunts and eating their usual things, like white suckers and walleyes.
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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Early Winter Visitors Arrive

There are small flocks of snow birds or more properly, snow buntings, in the yard at camp this morning.
These cheery medium-sized songbirds always appear just ahead of the winter snow.
Yesterday the lake was still as glass and I could see schools of fish breaking the surface in the narrows.
They were probably tulibee or lake herring which we have seen other years forming spawning "balls" in which females and males release their eggs and milt in open water and just let the eggs fall to the bottom.
All the leaves have fallen and the yard looks like it is covered in giant corn flakes.
Other than the snow birds which are migrating from the Arctic tundra to the south, about the only birds around now are bald eagles, ravens and whiskey jacks (Canada Jays).
There is a bite in the air that makes us want to cozy up to the wood stove at night.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Whew! What a month!

It's hard to believe a month has passed since my last posting.
Time seems to be flying by. Some of it is the season -- daylight hours are considerably fewer than 12 now -- and some of it is all the years I've been on the planet. Time speeds up as you get older. What once were hours are now minutes and weeks are now days.
Brenda and I have been totally occupied for the past three weeks with putting camp to bed for the winter and also with the Ministry of Natural Resources lake trout study and rehabilitation project.
Lake trout reproduction slowed to a trickle here about 20 years ago and to date, no one has a clue as to why.
A graduate biology student from the University of Manitoba may now hold the best promise for solving the riddle. Leslie Carroll and her advisors at the university have a number of experiments underway to figure out why the trout are not successfully spawning in Pipestone Bay.
She is working closely with MNR area biologist Nadine Thebeau who has been studying the problem for years and has eliminated all the likely possiblities.
In the meantime, while Leslie and Nadine continue exploring, the MNR is capturing wild lake trout from Pipestone Bay each fall, stripping them of eggs and milt and raising the eggs in a hatchery at Dorion, near Thunder Bay.
They are planting about 80,000 fingerlings back into Red Lake each year so that the population remains viable.
This year the MNR also did a lake trout assessment in which they netted, tagged and released as many trout as they could to get a population estimate. The same study has been done in the past. It was good to hear that many of the trout caught by the netters this year were untagged and that quite a lot of them were young fish. Only one might have been a stocked fish. Stocked fish have a clipped fin. The fin varies from year to year so it is easy to tell what year a fish was stocked. The fact that many young fish were caught indicates that the trout are reproducing somewhere. But the overall level of reproduction is still way below what it used to be.
Brenda and I play a support role in the study. We provide lodging and meals to the MNR staff who can number up to 12 during the several days it takes to gather the eggs (known as the "spawning") for the hatchery. I'm sure the general public would be surpised to see all the people involved in the spawning as well as the trout study. Besides Nadine and this year, Leslie, there are all sorts of MNR fish and wildlife techs, fire techs, conservation officers, supervisors and just about everybody else in the Red Lake office.
Their dedication to this task is truly impressive. They work in all sorts of weather, pulling heavy nets into their boats and, eventually, stripping the eggs and milt from the fish right here on the dock at camp.
They've pretty much got it down to a science now.
So that's what we've been doing and, oh yes, I also went moose hunting for a week. I have been hunting with my two brothers-in-law for about 25 years now. This year we got a spike bull moose which is about perfect for us. We don't look forward to carrying massive quarters of big moose any more. Besides, young moose "eat better."
Brenda and I will be pulling the plug on the season very shortly.
We're beat and we need a rest. It will be good to get home again.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Zen of Grouse Hunting

Ruffed Grouse at Bow Narrows, Red Lake
If there is a more soul-satisfying activity than hunting ruffed grouse in Northwestern Ontario in the fall, I haven't discovered it.
So far I have honored a commitment to myself and my Chocolate Lab, Sam, to get out grouse hunting every day.
After a fishing season where Brenda and I and our staff have worked 24/7 for months, the time I spend with Sam walking quietly over trails while crimson and yellow leaves are falling all around us is worth more than all the gold and diamonds in the world.
Yesterday we explored a new trail left by prospectors and were fascinated by all the tracks of moose and deer we found. So fascinated, in fact, that I was totally unprepared for the thunderous whirr of a grouse taking off right at my feet. By the time I remembered I was carrying a shotgun this grey-tail variety bird was gliding out of sight. We could have pursued him but decided to stick to the trail instead and see what lay ahead.
The autumn leaves are slow to change color this year. Despite what the expert say about frost having nothing to do with this annual event, anyone who lives in the bush knows that a frost will make the entire forest explode with brilliant golds and reds within a few days.
There have been many flocks of snow geese and sandhill cranes passing overhead. They are going from their summer breeding grounds on Hudson Bay west to Manitoba where they will rest and feed before heading south for the winter.
They mostly don't land here at Red Lake unless they encounter bad weather or head winds.
We are approaching our last week of fishing for the season. The weather has been beautiful with highs in the 60s F (17 C) and quite dry.
The morning air smells of wood smoke as our guests build fires in the stoves in their cabins.
It's a fine way to end the season.
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Monday, September 8, 2008

Fall bird migrations have begun

We've seen and heard the first flocks of snow geese and sandhill cranes in the last couple of days.
It won't be long before the sky is filled with the Vs of these magnificent birds as they make their way from Hudson Bay to the southern U.S.
The weather is decidedly fall-like now with daytime highs in the 50s and 60s. We still have not had a frost.
A cold front that went through over the weekend slowed down the walleye bite but it should be back on by today. The trick for us is to get our fishermen -- almost everybody in camp this week is new -- to go back and fish the places we sent them earlier but which didn't produce anything due to the cold front's effects. The best fishermen have poor memories. They keep trying the tried-and-proven fishing spots until they connect with the fish.
Fish here move with the wind, move with the weather conditions and move with the season.
After 50 years of fishing this lake we have a pretty good idea where they are going to be and at what time although we also learn something new every day as well.
I would suggest walleye fishermen coming here the next few weeks buy some nightcrawlers at places like Fort Frances, Vermilion Bay and Ear Falls as they are becoming difficult to find at Red Lake bait dealers. You only need a piece of worm on a jig to catch a walleye and so can catch many fish on each whole worm. With minnows, you need one minnow per fish. Minnows also die far easier.
Live bait is now working considerably better than Gulp Alive but there seems to be no preference about the kind of live bait. Worms, leeches and minnows are all working.
Spinners are still the favorite of northern pike. Make sure you have #4 and #5 Mepps and Blue Fox models. Gold and orange are still good colors.

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Monday, September 1, 2008

Fall weather may finally be coming

The unseasonally warm weather may be on the way out tonight.
It has been near 80 F (27C) here the last few days but there is a major cold front coming through tonight.
We love the heat -- there isn't that much of it up here -- but it will be nice to have some cool nights for sleeping again.
Meanwhile, the walleye extravanza continues. Everybody in camp is catching walleyes on whatever bait they fish with -- minnows, worms, leeches, Gulp Alive, chewing gum!
It would seem every walleye in the entire lake system is right near our camp. All you need to do is to get your jig or spinner and bait to the bottom in 20-30 feet of water.
The northern pike are back in a big way too. Lots of pike in the 30+inch range are being caught and the fish can be found right in the weeds again.
Virtually anything is working for pike but gold or yellow spinners like the Mepps #4 and #5 and Blue Fox #5 are still good.
The Acme Castmaster spoon in silver with chartreuse also did well last week. It also caught walleyes!
I was able to slip away from camp for a couple of hours last week and was lucky enough to land a 39-inch pike on a #4 Mepps. What made it all the more interesting was another fish of similar size was following the one I caught and released.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Fall Fishing on Red Lake, Ontario

It's ironic to think that fall fishing is beginning here at Bow Narrows Camp on Red Lake, Ontario right after we've experienced two of the warmest weeks all summer, but the calendar shows August is nearly gone.
Fishermen (and women; there were several couples here this week) will attest the walleye action last week was out of this world. People caught walleyes whether they were trolling crankbaits or back-trolling Little Joes with bait. Walleyes were everywhere from six to 26-feet of water and came in all sizes, from pint-sized to 28-inch lunkers.
Most people used nightcrawlers and Little Joe spinners and fished them behind bottom-bouncer sinkers . They had the very best success in 15-22 feet of water around the edges of the big water bodies. That's the recipe for the rest of the season now, although we are still also catching walleyes in shallow bays as well.
Northern pike are becoming more numerous but we're not seeing as many big jobs as in the past; however, that situation could be changing. We've noticed small white suckers in the stomachs of several of the pike we cleaned this week. Last season, when the pike turned to eating suckers, the fishing was great.
We've no idea where the pike disappeared to for awhile mid-summer but the ones we did catch had crayfish in their stomachs. They`ve been biting better and better every week for a month now.
The trees have started to change colors. It's a process that will take several weeks before all of them are yellow and red. This is about normal for this time of year.
The weather is still very warm, in the mid-70s to 80 F or 24-28 C.
Our very tame wild woodchuck, Gully, has hibernated! She`s the one seen with our chocolate Lab, Sam, and 0ur former cook`s border collie, Cole, on the Photo Gallery page of our website.
Woodchucks at camp hibernate when they get fat enough, not when the weather gets cold. Gully is a master at getting our staff and guests to give her pieces of bread to eat. By mid-August Gully has the shape of a bleach bottle and she settles into her den for a long winter`s nap.
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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Gorgeous weather; pike biting again

The weather the last couple of weeks has been spectacular: highs in the mid 70s F (25 C) and dry.
Northern pike are largely back in their old haunts such as weedbeds as well as around rocky shoals. Slightly larger lures than usual seem to be working as well as the smaller lures. Try spoons about 3/4 ounce such as Little Cleo, Dardevle, Doctor, Red Eye, in gold colors and with orange or red stripes.
Be careful not to get too big with the stick baits. Six-to-seven-inch stick baits like Rapala, Rebel, etc. are great, especially for trolling. Huge baits either catch nothing or nothing but little fish.
The Blue Fox #5 spinner in red and orange is a standout. Mepps #5 is also good as well as spinner baits and buzz baits.
Walleyes are mostly in the 20-25-foot range and are still being taken on bottom bouncers and Little Joe spinners with either worms or leeches. Many people are still using the 3-inch Gulp Alive leeches. Minnows are not yet necessary.
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Monday, July 21, 2008

Wet and Wild Walleye Fishing

This is the walleye year of the century!
Walleye fishing this summer is nothing less than spectacular.
We are catching walleyes in all areas of the lake, at every depth, using every kind of lure and technique imaginable.
Anglers are catching so many 26-27 inch walleyes they are growing tired of the sport and go looking for northern pike instead. And when they do they are catching as many walleyes casting pike lures as they are pike.
The weather has been extremely wet the last three weeks. Make sure everyone in your group has excellent quality rainwear and rubber boots. You don't want to miss any of this fishing because you are waiting in the cabin for a sunny day.
The wet weather has also prevented us from getting on the Internet and updating this blog. From what we can tell the soggy ground let water into the buried telephone wire from our microwave tower to the lodge. The phone works but the signal is of such poor quality that we were unable to connect to our dial-up server.
If you have an urgent message you need answered, phone us rather than e-mailing.
Getting back to the walleye fishing. The very best success is coming from anglers using walleye spinners and live bait, either leeches or nightcrawlers, and backtrolling in about 22 feet of water.
For northern pike, #5 Blue Fox Spinners in red and gold colors are great. The fish are much deeper than usual. They are probably 8 feet deep instead of the usual 3-4. This may be a function of the flooded conditions on the lake which is about two feet higher than normal.
Rattle Traps and Rattlin Raps that dig down 6-feet or so on the retrieve are working good.
The weather seems to be changing of late and hopefully I will be able to update the blog more often as things dry up.
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Thursday, July 3, 2008

Northern Pike are on the rocks

Almost everybody in camp this week are fishing for northern pike.
For some reason, most of the fish being taken are coming from rocky shores with boulders and near deep water.
The exception was a 42-inch pike taken on a top-water lure right across from camp one evening.
Little Cleo and Len Thompson spoons about 2 inches long, #4 and #5 Mepps, 3/8 ounce jigs with 4-inch plastic twister tails and 5-6 inch stick baits like Rebel and Rapala are doing the trick.
Some anglers are catching up to 60 pike a day with many of these in the slot size or larger.
Although no one is fishing for walleyes, many are being caught while fishing for northern pike.
For walleyes, back troll walleye spinners with worms or leeches. Walleyes are still in the shallow areas but probably some are now in 16-feet of water around the edges of the big water too.
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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Berkeley Gulp Bait Catches Walleyes

Berekely Gulp bait, the artificial bait that comes in a jar, is outperforming live bait for walleyes or at least proving its equal.
Two types of the bait are reported by our anglers to be especially deadly: the 6-inch worms and the 3-inch leeches.
These can be fished on walleye spinners or Lindy rigs (just a hook and a sinker).
I would suggest everybody bring a jar of each as well as their preferred live bait.
Walleyes are being caught everywhere now. The average size is 22-24 inches with many 28-inchers beight caught.
Lots of northern pike also are being caught, especially in the 30-39 inch size.
Lake trout are now in deep water.
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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Summer walleye, northern pike fishing

The days are now nice and warm and fish are in their early summer patterns.
Walleyes are being caught in large numbers by backtrolling walleye spinners with either leeches or nightcrawlers. They are in 6-12 feet of water, depending on the wind and cloud conditions.
Spinner colors that are working well this week are gold, red and chartreuse.
I would also have some blue and orange shades ready as these also usually work.
Northern pike are now preferring the smaller lures as discussed in Lighten Up for Northern Pike (see item at right).
Little Cleo and other spoons in 2 to 2.5 inch length are working. It's now time to downsize spinners. Where Mepps #5 was working well, now Mepps #4 is a better choice.
And the good old 1/4-ounce Beetle Spin, that little favorite with bass fishermen, is producing well.
For trollers, try using 3-5 inch floating stick baits like the Shallow Running Shad Rap. Let out about 100 feet of line and troll as close as possible to the windy shorelines. Blue is a good color.
The water is now warm enough for swimming, at least for the brave-hearted.
We're seeing our first mosquitoes of the year.
Quite a few moose are being seen along the shorelines and yesterday a brown-colored black bear was spotted swimming.
Ducks and loons are still sitting on their nests.
The water level is more or less normal for this time of year.
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Sunday, June 8, 2008

Weight consideration: you're killing us!

So many of our fishermen are bringing excessive weight that I wonder if our asking them to "use their head and only bring what is necessary" on our website was written in Swahili.
Our boat that we use to bring people the 20 miles to and from camp can only carry so much weight. We expect to take 9 passengers and their gear and have scheduled our pickup times in Red Lake accordingly. Each round trip takes 1.5 hours.
When some people bring excessive baggage it means other people cannot get on the boat. This means they must wait while we take the heavyweights out to camp. This means delays in some people going fishing. This means they are angry at the heavyweights. This also means much higher transportation costs and time expenditure for us. We will have no choice but to pass these higher costs on to you, our customers, next year.
Housekeepers are the worst offenders. We are seeing many of them bring 100 pounds of food and drink per person per week! That's 15 pounds per person per day! It isn't humanly possible to consume this.
On loading the boat to camp in Red Lake they all say they won't have this much weight at the end of the week. But of course they do because as we just pointed out, it isn't humanly possible to consume this.
Besides food and drink, the next biggest weight problem is fishing gear. Many of you are bringing multiple lead-heavy tackle boxes PLUS totes stuffed with batteries, etc.
It's a real drag.
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Friday, May 30, 2008

Red Lake Walleye Spawn Mostly Finished

Anglers at Bow Narrows Camp on Red Lake in Northwestern Ontario are catching walleyes now that have already spawned.
Walleyes are showing up in everybody's catch and when we clean them they are empty of eggs.
This is good news as walleyes bite the best after spawning.
We're also catching some smaller walleyes as well as the big trophies. This is also good news as it allows us to have meals of eating-size fish. In the past few years it has been hard to find anything but 24-inch-plus fish until mid-summer.
The weather has been beautiful and anglers are still catching lots and lots of big northern pike, both on dead bait and artificials.
One of our groups caught a large number of big pike yesterday on Sluggo plastic baits.
Lake trout are still being caught right on the surface but with the warming water temperatures they will soon be found in slightly deeper water.
Overall fishing has been excellent.

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Stunningly beautiful fishing weather arrives!

One week into the fishing season and our normal gorgeous spring weather has arrived!
It was T-shirt weather here yesterday afternoon and as I live and breathe, there was a mockingbird flying about the camp! It's the first mockingbird I have ever seen here and I hope it's a harbinger of a beautiful summer.
Speaking of birds, loons are nesting everywhere and their haunting calls fill the air throughout the days.
There are many bald eagles flying up and down the narrows in front of camp and there is a new eagle nest built at the "Falls."
As the ice was melting we saw a flock of about 30 black-headed Bonaparte's gulls sitting on the edge of the ice sheet.
White-throated sparrows are calling each morning and evening from the brush; pileated woodpeckers have made a new hole in a large aspen in front of Cabin 9, and previous holes by these huge woodpeckers around the cabin are filled with hooded merganser ducks, common mergansers, red-breasted mergansers and goldeneyes.
One of our young staffers went fishing in front of camp yesterday evening and caught a 35-inch lake trout, probably 16-18 pounds. It was only Meghan's second fish, the other being a white sucker. She released the big fish as required by law for Red Lake.
Our guests are picking up walleyes regularly now but the real action is coming from the big northern pike and the lake trout which are biting very well.
Since I'm connecting to the Internet via a radio telephone which has an exceptionally slow speed, I'm unable to include photos of what's going on. So, you'll just need to use your imagination.

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