Thursday, April 30, 2009

Remember, everybody needs a passport

New border-crossing rules go into effect this June.

Everybody now needs a passport.

Make sure everyone in your group knows about the new rules.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Dan's favorite lures for northern pike fishing

My favorite fish is the northern pike. I like to fish for them and I prefer them for eating over all other species, even walleye.

And although I know you can catch pike by trolling and dead-baiting I much prefer to cast.

Casting by itself is a fun and challenging exercise. You have to develop the skill to accurately plop your lure right next to stumps and rocks and into holes in weedbeds and do this in all sorts of wind conditions.

So when I say these are my favorite lures, you'll know that the only way I fish them is by casting.
At the upper left is the Blue Fox Vibrax spinner. I like the #5 in this. Best colors are the red, orange and silver.
Next to it is the Mepps Long Cast Spinner. I like the #5 and the #4. The same colors are good in this as the Blue Fox but I also like the fire tiger color shown and the blue-bodied spinner with silver and red blade. Although I like the Mepps Long Cast because it sinks the deepest, the other Mepps models are also excellent, again in the same sizes as mentioned.
Then there is the Len Thompson Five of Diamonds. For sure you want this exact color scheme: yellow with red diamonds but also the nickel, brass and nickel-and-blue patterns. Most importantly, you want these in the 1/2-ounce size.
These spoons are made in Canada and can be hard to find in the States although I see Cabelas sells them. I would highly recommend stopping at Bobbys Sport Shop in Vermilion Bay at the corner of Highway 17 and Highway 105 to buy these spoons. They always have a marvelous selection.
Speaking of spoons, the Johnson Silver Minnow is the ultimate in weedless spoons. If you have the weed guard adjusted correctly it will come through just about anything. However, be warned that you must have a trailer of some sort on the hook for this lure to work effectively. I would suggest 3 and 4-inch plastic twister tails in various colors and also an old time favorite -- pork rind trimmed to about three inches.
Make sure you keep the single hook on this lure ultra sharp. My favorite is the gold spoon but you also want the silver and I've done well with some of the painted options too, especially the red-and-white.
To the right of the Johnson is the Acme Little Cleo. This is a wonderful spoon, especially in the nickel, gold, rainbow trout and fire tiger patterns. You absolutely want the size to be 2/5 ounce.
Finally, there's the old reliable leadhead jig. For pike you want both the same 1/4 ounce size you would use for walleyes to be used on clear, calm days and the 3/8 ounce size for all other times.
Use a single 3-inch plastic twister tail on the 1/4 ounce jig and a 4-inch single or double twister tail on the 3/8 ounce. Bring a dozen different colors of twister tails. It's amazing what a difference changing the color of the tail makes throughout the day.
And that's all the lures I use for pike. You'll notice there are no stick baits or crank baits on the list. Lots of our guests use them almost exclusively but I don't. I just find they have too many sets of hooks to extract every time I catch a fish, are too light to cast accurately and cost too much.

You've probably already noticed that none of the sizes of the lures I've named here are large.

Don't I want to catch big fish? Yes, that's why I use the sizes mentioned here. Big lures tend to catch nothing but little fish on Red Lake. See Lighten Up.

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Pink Lady Slipper orchids rare spring bloomers

Pink Lady Slipper Orchid
If you are coming to camp in late May or June you might be lucky enough to spot a Pink Lady Slipper Orchid growing on the shores around Red Lake.

These rare, beautiful flowers are also known as Moccasin Flowers.

They are great to photograph but care must be taken not to disturb them as they are disappearing from most areas of the world and need to be left alone.

If you do spot one, look carefully around the flower for the distinctive leaves of other plants that may not yet be flowering. This will allow you to pick a route that won't harm other orchids before getting a picture.

Usually you find just a few orchids at any one site.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Great photos come from more than just fish

This summer when we are at camp we could all take a tip from a great group of anglers that generously provide me with their photos each year.

This is the Lehmann-Olaskowitz-Heneise-Jeffery-etc. group (Sorry if I don't mention everybody).

These guys always get some unusual shots that the rest of us never think to take, like this photo of two River Jewelwing damselflies (I think).

Just as there is more to a fishing trip than just catching fish, our photos should be of more than just people holding lunkers.

It's great to look back the next winter at shots of fishing lures that have taken a beating, flowers that graced the edge of a waterway, scenery that changes with the light conditions, boats skimming across the waves, itsy-bitsy fish that somehow got on our hooks, strange fish like suckers and tulibees, action photos of fishing rather than after the fact, critter shots of all the birds and animals we encounter, scenes around the little town of Red Lake, the boat trip to camp, inside the cabin and the lodge and of course, most importantly, photos of our buddies and families.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Summer birds are here, we just need ice to melt

Signs of warm weather are everywhere but summer itself seems to be coming at glacial speed.

Every day brings a new species of birds from down south.

A few robins have actually been here for a couple of weeks. The first robin is always a bittersweet sight. It's a sign of spring but robins always get snowed on several times.

There are flocks of robins here now but also a lot of other summer birds as well. A wave of yellow-shafted flickers landed today. I've also seen and heard song sparrows, ruby-crowned kinglets, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, sandpipers, red-winged blackbirds, killdeer, all species of ducks and geese, eagles and even a great blue heron.

The water birds are crowding around wet spots in fields, ditches, creeks and rivers. The lakes are all still frozen tight.

The lakes are melting both from the top and the bottom. Daytime temperatures are only about 10 C (50F) with some days colder and most nights below freezing. About once a week we get rain which turns to snow but luckily there has been no significant accumulation for more than a week.

People who are still drilling holes through the ice report the ice structure is changing. It's starting to "candle" which is what it does before it breaks apart. That's the good news. The bad news is there is still 20+ inches of it out there. Still the days are long now and the melting process is accelerating.
Barring a tropical heat wave, it still looks like ice-out on Red Lake will be approximately May 16 or a week later than normal.
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Monday, April 20, 2009

Encouraging report on Red Lake ice

Check out yesterday's (Sunday, April 19) blog of Enid Carlson, from Viking Island Lodge and Outposts for some encouragement on spring ice-out on Red Lake.
Last week's beautiful weather really did a number on the ice of Red Lake.
The same cannot be said down here near Thunder Bay.
We got six more inches of snow last night in Nolalu and it may continue snowing for another day.
That will set back spring ice-out in this area for many days if not a week or more.
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Try Berkley Gulp Alive minnow grubs for walleye

Berkley Gulp Alive 3-inch leeches and nightcrawlers were a hit with Red Lake, Ontario, walleye fishermen last year and I would suggest this year anglers also try the Berkley Gulp Alive minnow grubs in the 3-inch size.
These should be fished on 1/4-ounce leadhead jigs.

I feel confident they would catch fish as you can also catch walleye with the same jig rigged with nothing other than 3-inch plastic twister tails. The main problem with plastic-only twisters is the fish pick up and drop the bait lightning fast. For this reason most anglers have always added some live bait to the jigs with plastic tails.

With the scent-enhanced Gulp Alive, they should hold it long enough for you to set the hook.

If you aren't familiar with Gulp Alive it's the bait that comes in a jar, not a package.

Of course you should rig the Berkley minnow grub by skewering it through the end, just like the plastic tails.

Do not use a steel leader when fishing with jigs for walleyes as this spooks most fish. The exception is when you are fishing in weeds in which case you can use a 12-pound ultrathin wire leader. In this kind of cover the walleyes don't seem to see the leader like they do out in open water. By using the ultrathin leader you are able to land a lot of the pike that also hang out in these spots.

Speaking of pike, you might want to try the four-inch Berkley Gulp Alive swimming mullets on either 1/4-ounce or 3/8-ounce jigs. Pike love jigs and the smell on the Gulp Alive might trigger even more strikes than using similar-size plastic tails.

One problem with the Berkley baits is they don't come is as many colors as do plastic tails.

I would suggest pearl white minnow grubs for walleyes as well as the chartreuse and any of the colors for the swimming mullets for pike.

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Long-range forecast for above-normal summer

Brenda says I'm driving her crazy with my analyzing the spring weather, trying to get a bead on ice-out time. When the ice goes out, she says, it's out. Until then the lake is frozen.
Hah! If only it was that simple!
OK, it may be that simple but what fun is that? Besides, I'm itching to get into camp, get things ready, get firewood cut, docks fixed, etc. before the first fishermen arrive.
So my ears perk up every time I hear or read any weather news.
Weather expert and climatologist Graham Saunders who writes a weekly weather column in the Thunder Bay newspaper, the Chronicle Journal, thinks the lake ice will go off earlier than normal this year! His reasoning is the snow has mostly melted and last week was a great one for melting with temperatures in the teens.

After first making this post an old friend, JP Fraser, e-mailed me to say a flock of white pelicans was seen at Amethyst Harbor on Thunder Bay of Lake Superior today. That's great news because white pelicans need open water to feed so there must be an ice-free patch somewhere.
Another bit of heartening news comes from Environment Canada's three-month long range forecast. It predicts above-normal temperatures for the period April-May-June.
So why am I not cheered by this?
Because I'm looking out the window at snow falling. The temperature is a hair above freezing and we're supposed to have below-normal temperatures the rest of the week.
My best guess for ice-out on Red Lake is still May 16 which is opening week for most camps. The average ice-out for Red Lake is May 8 so, I'm guessing it will be a week later than average.
We are actually opening one week later, May 23, just to be safe.
If those above-normal temperatures are coming they better do it soon.
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Is climate change harming loon populations?

beautiful loon
on the nest

loon and chick

Red Lake must have one of the most abundant loon populations in the world but I'm afraid an effect of climate change could be harming them.

These beautiful and inspiring birds can be found nesting literally at every turn in the lake. Nesting loons are highly territorial and will claim all the water in sight as their own. So as soon as you go around the corner (and out of sight of one pair) there is another pair doing the same thing.

Loons are probably the oldest species of birds in the world. Fossils have proven there were loons on earth during the Cretaceous Period, the age of the dinosaurs.

Unlike most other birds, loons have solid bones. This could be a result of their being on the first step of the bird evolutionary ladder. It also lets them sink better than other birds and to dive deeper.

Loon also have the least amount of wing area for their body length. They fly at speeds of up to 90 mph and take off and land exactly as an airplane does -- into the wind.

They truly are a wonder and their incredible calls, from tremulos to wolf-like howls, are the real call of the wild. In fact, the word loon is Norwegian meaning "wild, sad cry."

It would be heartbreaking to see them decline so I hope I'm being a pessimist when I say I see something happening with the weather that is detrimental to loons.

For about the past five years now we've been getting all of our rain in incredible downpours rather than longer rain periods that might last several days as in the past. This is especially true in June, when the loons are nesting.

The result of getting 2-4 inches of rain in a single night instead of over a period of a week is that most of it runs off into the lake before it can be absorbed by the ground. This makes the lake level rise and rise rapidly.

Loons cannot walk on land. Their feet are placed too far back on their bodies. Their feet are almost on either side of their tails. It's one of the reasons they are such great swimmers. It's as if their feet were propellars.

To build a nest a loon stacks water weeds in a pile in shallow water until it is about a foot higher than water level. The loon can push its way on its belly up to the nest which is never more than one loon's-body-length away from the water.

They build their nests in May and traditionally this is the high water period of the year. After all the snow has just melted and drained into the lake. From that point on the water level should continually go down and should be at its lowest just before freeze-up.

The loon usually lays one to three eggs and the pair, which mate for life, takes turns sitting on the nest for about a month before the eggs hatch.

It is during this one-month incubation period that things have been going wrong the last five years or so.

The problem is the heavy spring storms raise the water level and flood their nests. I don't believe one per cent of Red Lake's loons have successfully fledged in five years.

Although most bird species will re-nest if their first nest is destroyed, my observation is that most loons do not re-nest and of the few that do most do not successfully raise young.

So what does this have to do with climate change?

The predictions (and I would have to say "observations" these days) of climatologists is that global warming causes ever-more drastic weather events -- in this case, cloudburst rain storms.

Incidentally, if you don't believe in climate change and don't see it occurring right now it's probably because you don't live in Canada. The effects of climate change are more pronounced the farther north you go. For instance, there's hardly a thing happening in the southern U.S. while the Arctic sea ice and glaciers are disappearing rapidly.

Five years of big storms, of course, are only evidence of weather, not climate. Climate is measured over many decades. So hopefully things will improve in the coming years for the loons.

Fortunately there are still plenty of them on Red Lake. They are a long-lived bird, both individually and obviously, as a species. I just wish they would get a break from the weather and successfully fledge a new crop.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

How to help make the boat trip out to camp

boat trip to Bow Narrows Camp
In a little more than a month from now we will make our first trip of the season with guests to Bow Narrows Camp, 20 miles by water from the town of Red Lake.

Our cabin cruiser, the Lickety Split, can make this journey with 9 passengers in as little as 35 minutes in favorable weather.

It's a beautiful journey, past islands, through narrows, and alongside of ducks and loons. We sometimes encounter moose, deer and black bear swimming from island to island.

There are several things you can do to help make this trip from the parking lot in Red Lake to your cabin at camp go as smooth as possible.

You will already have been given a pickup time to meet the Lickety Split in Red Lake. If everything is working according to plan, and the wind and waves allow us to travel at normal cruising speed, each round-trip takes 90 minutes, including loading-unloading.

When you reach the parking lot, back your vehicle up to the dock and unload onto the large wagon waiting there. Take the wagon to the end of the dock and off-load your luggage and fishing gear, leaving the wagon -- and a travel lane on the dock -- clear for guests leaving camp. This will let us quickly unload the boat and take on your gear.

Dan will show you a designated parking spot.

After a quick goodbye to the departing guests, we will be on our way to camp.

Unless your group is exactly eight or nine people, there will likely be more than your party aboard the boat. All the luggage is going to be placed in the same place in the boat; so, make sure you can easily identify yours when we get to camp. (Some duct tape and a marker are great for this.) This is especially true for cases of refreshments.

We will form a human-chain to relay the luggage into the hold of the boat.

Once at camp, a couple of our staff usually form the chain inside the boat while the guests make up the chain on the dock. This lets them sort the luggage as it comes off the boat.

Then the next group's luggage is put on the boat for the outgoing trip and we're off again.

It's a real help to all of us if none of the luggage items weighs more than 40-50 pounds. This includes coolers.

Another helpful tip is not to have lots of loose items like shoes and flashlights. Stick them all in a duffel bag or packsack brought just for this purpose.

We don't place a weight limit on you like the fly-in camps do but obviously, weight is a consideration. The boat can only carry so much of it. We just ask you to use your head. Don't bring heavy items if you can avoid it.

A good rule of thumb is if each person has one duffel bag or suitcase, one tackle box, a couple of cases of refreshments and a rod case.

Speaking of refreshments, please bring beer and soft drinks in cans, not bottles, as they are much lighter. Liquor and wine, of course, usually only come in bottles so there's no other way of bringing those.

If coming on the Housekeeping Plan, you can avoid the necessity of back-breaking coolers by buying your groceries in Red Lake instead of hauling them all the way from home. Believe it or not Red Lake has a modern supermarket with virtually the same items you have available in your stores, including fresh produce, probably from the same sources as in your home town.

The prices at Sobeys Supermarket in Red Lake are comparable to at home, especially when converted to American dollars. You may also be able to bring a smaller vehicle or fewer vehicles on the trip if you don't need space for grocery coolers. You can either buy your groceries just before catching the boat to camp or if staying the night in Red Lake, buy them the previous night and have them stored at the store.

If you do buy food at Sobeys in Red Lake, ask to have it packed in cardboard boxes. This is done all the time at the store and it allows us to pack your food into the boat without anything becoming damaged.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

How to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit; don't

Since we're on a weather bent, I thought I would pass on this gem of weather-related trivia.
In Canada, we measure temperatures in Celsius, much to the confusion of our American friends and guests.
We often hear them at camp trying to remember the formula on how to make the conversion to Fahrenheit as they look at the day's weather forecast.
(To convert Celsius to Fahrenheit, you multiply the temperature in Celsius by 9/5 and add 32.)
Who are you, Einstein?
Can you multiply a number by 9/5 in your head?
If you can then why are you wasting your time thinking about the weather? You should be a mathematician or a statistician or even a bookie.
I overheard one of our guests point out one time that it's meaningless to go through complex calculations just to precisely estimate the temperature.
This little poem tells you all you need to know about Celsius, he said.
Zero's freezing.
Ten is not.
20's warm.
30's hot.
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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Beautiful spring weather across Northwest Ontario

All regions of Northwestern Ontario are getting beautiful spring weather now.

Daytime temperatures are as high as the low teens Celsius (50s F) and in Red Lake, at least, there are supposed to be some nights ahead where it doesn't go below freezing.

This is great news for the spring thaw but alas, there is a long way to go.

Hugh Carlson of Viking Island Lodge and Outposts said on the radio today that there is at least 32 inches of ice on the lakes.

So when will spring breakup occur?

No one can tell yet but since it is now April 14 and there is 32 inches of ice out there it's guaranteed not to be an early-record which, for Red Lake was April 22.

Hugh was optimistic that it would be gone by the start of walleye season, May 16.

All that matters is the weather from now until then.

Meanwhile, as you can see in the photos, some people (like Brenda) are catching some rays by breaking out the lawn chairs and putting their feet up on snowdrifts.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Fly fishing for northern pike is a blast

Dave Heneise fly fishing for pike
You don't hear or read about it very often but northern pike can be caught readily on a fly rod.

In this photo Dave Heneise uses his fly rod while Paul Heneise fishes with spinning tackle.

We've had many fishermen bring their fly rods and the ones who stuck with it for awhile discovered pike are a great fish to catch on these limber sticks.

In fact, we once had a father and son who refused to fish in any other manner.

The key is to use streamer flies on a short wire leader.

Flies 3-4 inches in length seem to work well and ones with lead eyes that make them sink a little more rapidly seem to work even better.

We've also seen people use similar-size plastic squids with good success.

One problem with fly fishing for pike is that it takes a while to work each retrieve, so you often want to have a good idea you are into a mess of pike before cracking out the fly rod.

A lot of guys use their spinning rod until they catch a couple of fish in an area, then switch to the fly rod.

You can also just figure that some places are always going to have a concentration of fish: beaver houses, coves, rock piles, sandbars, weedbeds.

We had one fly fisher who nailed a big pike, I forget the exact size but it was in the mid to high 30+inches, on his fly rod right across the narrows from camp and we all got to witness the thrilling fight it put up before it was released.

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Cavity dwellers thank Pileated Woodpecker

pileated woodpecker
John Muir, America's most famous naturalist, made what I believe to be the most far-reaching
observation of all time when he said: "Whenever you tug on a single thing in Nature, you find it attached to the entire universe."

I think of that line every time I hear someone rant about how "progress" is being unnecessarily halted because of environmental regulations that protect the spotted owl, or some obscure minnow or frog or even woodland caribou -- creatures that are not seen as having any importance compared to parking lots or roads or pulp that can make toilet paper.

So what's that got to do with the pileated woodpecker in the photo above?

The pileated, North America's largest woodpecker, is solely responsible for providing the homes to all kinds of creatures.

Each year this bird which was the model for Woody the Woodpecker cartoons, whacks out a new hole in a sound, living tree to use as a nest. Those holes continue to exist for dozens of years afterwards.

They subsequently become the nesting site for a bunch of cavity nesters including all species of merganser ducks and goldeneye ducks which you can observe whizzing through the trees at camp as they come and go from their nest holes in large quaking aspens. Ducks, you see, can't make their own hole, their beaks and heads aren't made for the job.

The same thing goes for kestrels and merlins (small hawks), flying squirrels, red squirrels, pine martens and many other mammals.

When you tug on the string connected to the pileated woodpecker, a whole lot of creatures are attached to it.

The same can be said of everything else.

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Clue discovered in lake trout mystery

trout released after spawning
eggs removed from female

spawning project on camp dock

Nadine Thebeau, the area biologist for Red Lake, says the Ministry of Natural Resources has discovered a potential reason why lake trout are not reproducing in Pipestone Bay.

Sediment samples taken from spawning areas of the lake trout show levels of manganese high enough to be lethal to lake trout eggs.

Thebeau and her band of MNR researchers have known for quite some time that trout eggs were not surviving in most areas of Pipestone Bay but that the eggs would survive if taken to virtually anywhere else in the lake.

Manganese, she points out, is naturally occurring in the rock of Pipestone Bay. It remains to be seen why manganese is causing a problem now when, presumably, it wasn't a problem in the past.

Nadine's research also has shown that Pipestone is by far the favored spawning place for lake trout.

The MNR discovered in a study in 2001 that there were no lake trout in the lake that had been born since 1989. The MNR subsequently changed fishing regulations for Red Lake's lake trout to catch and release only and began netting spawning lake trout in the fall, stripping them of eggs and milt and raising the fingerlings in a hatchery. About 100,000 fingerlings have been released back to the lake each year since.

Nadine didn't speculate on what caused the manganese problem but a likely culprit was the forest fire that burned off the north shore of Pipestone Bay in 1986. We may never know how that increased manganese levels in the bay sediment but it occurs to me that perhaps the manganese from the soil around the rock had been taken up by the trees, as are other elements. The fire turned the trees to ash and the ash would have eventually made its way into the bay.

If that's what happened then the problem should diminish over time as there is now a dense covering of new trees growing in the old burn site. That would stop further manganese from leaching and eventually the manganese that's in the bay will be covered by normal sediments.

And there's evidence that the trout situation might indeed have started to turned around.

We are finally seeing young trout again. Our anglers caught and released many lake trout in the 22-26 inch range the last couple of years. These fish were likely less than 10 years old.

None of these were the nursery-raised fish. They can be recognized because they have one of their fins clipped, a different fin for each year. So the trout are successfully spawning again, at least a little, on their own.
The MNR team, however, did catch one of the hatchery fish as part of their spawning project last fall.

The hatchery-raised fish have been released at the eastern end of the lake in an attempt to get them to spawn somewhere other than Pipestone Bay. It may be working since only one was caught trying to spawn in Pipestone.

It should be noted that no one has said the elevated levels of manganese in Pipestone's sediments pose a health hazard to humans. It also doesn't seem to have any effect on other species of fish. Northern pike and walleye populations are very healthy.

Lake trout eggs are about the most sensitive organisms known in nature. Anything out of the ordinary can disrupt their development.

Forest fires, of course, are natural phenomena in the Boreal Forest. In fact, virtually every inch of the Boreal Forest burns every 80-120 years.
Red Lake's lake trout must have lived through hundreds of forest fires over the 10,000 years since the last ice age.

They are a long-lived fish and perhaps were just able to outlive the effects of the forest fires on Pipestone.

While we wait for the lakers to once again become a self-sustaining population, there are a number of things anglers can do.

1. Record the numbers of tagged fish and also note their length and where they were caught.

2. Check any lake trout you catch for a clipped fin before releasing it.

3. Record lengths of all your trout. Don't weigh these fish as the weighing process can harm them. Always quickly return the fish to the water. If possible, don't even bring them aboard the boat, just measure them in the water and turn them loose.
4. Follow fishing regulations that require you to use lures with single, barbless hooks when fishing specifically for lake trout. (You can use any type of lure for other species.)

Regulations also stipulate that you cannot use live or dead bait when lake trout fishing.

5. And finally, of course, follow regulations that require you to immediately release any lake trout you catch.

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Timber wolves kill whitetail deer

My dog, Sam, and I recently found where timber wolves killed two more whitetail deer behind our house. This brings to three the number of deer killed by wolves that we've found on our property in Nolalu.

It sounds like a lot but it's probably no more than normal. The deer come to our property as the winter progresses each year. We have a lot of mature conifer trees that prevent much of the snow from reaching the ground. The deer come to the area to get out of the deep snow and also to eat tree lichens such as several species known collectively as Old Man's Beard.

Wolves show up each year in February and March and start picking off the deer.

Wolves have been known to kill dogs here and for that reason I always keep a watchful eye on Sam once I know the wolves are around.

I've learned, however, that most wolves don't go after dogs. About once every 10 years, it seems to me, there will be a pair of wolves -- a male and a female -- that go on a dog-killing spree. Eventually they get shot and then there's no more problem with wolves killing dogs for a long time even though there are always a lot of wolves in the area.

About 20 years ago our neighbor's dog was killed by wolves and the Thomsons warned me that our dog, Lady, might be next. The very next night I was wakened by Lady barking outside from her house. In about 10 minutes a large wolf came out of the bush and headed right for her where she was tied on a line. When it was about 20 feet from her I stepped outside and the wolf took off. I let a load of buckshot fly in its direction. Never hit the wolf but I got my point across that this wasn't a good place for a wolf to get another dog. The instant after I shot a second wolf howled from the bush.

They never came back to our house but the dog-killing in the village continued for a couple of weeks until finally someone shot both wolves as they came up to a deck to get a small dog tied there, right in the middle of the day.

I heard from trappers in the area this year that most of the wolves this winter are suffering from mange. In the past they have been known to get inside barns at night to keep warm when they had the mange and lost their fur. I knew of one case where the horses caught mange from the wolves.

Even though wolves are a potential threat to Sam, I try not to tar them with the same brush as the dog-killers. Sam has grown up with wolves all around him and he's good at staying close to the house when they are around.

The wolves just go about their business of thinning down the deer herd and so my policy is to let them do their thing.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Late snow will delay Red Lake, Ontario ice-out

Heavy snowfalls that fell on Northwestern Ontario last week will certainly delay spring ice out on Red Lake, Ontario this year, as well as most lakes in Northern Ontario.
Red Lake got about 10 inches of snow while farther to the south some areas such as our winter home in Nolalu got 20 inches.
Until that snowfall most exposed areas, such as lakes, were nearly barren of snow, setting the stage for the spring thaw.
Now the meager warm temperatures, barely above freezing to this point in the day and far below freezing at night, will take a week or more in the case of Red Lake and probably several weeks in the Thunder Bay area to melt away the new snowfall. Until then virtually no melting of lake ice will begin.
There is currently three feet of ice on Red Lake and approximately that much snow in the bush although there is likely only about a foot on top of the lake ice.
The new snow reflects sunlight and discourages the lake ice from thawing, even when the temperature is above freezing.
The weather forecast, at least, is encouraging. Temperatures in the high single digits (Celsius) and even low double digits are in the offing. If driven into the snow by strong winds these temperatures will start to eat the snow away. Once it's gone we could be looking at up to a month before the 36 inches of lake ice melts.
You can check out the forecast yourself by clicking on it on our website's weather page.
Speaking of ice, the U.S. Coast Guard reported there was three feet of ice on about two-thirds of Lake Superior this spring. The big lake only freezes completely across about once every 40 years. It nearly did it this year.
It's been a long, cold winter up here. January and February saw just about every night go down to -30 C. We're used to it being cold but that's a long stretch for such bitter temperatures, even for us.
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