Sunday, May 31, 2009

Weather is chilly but the fishing is hot

The predicted high for today is only 5 C!
Yesterday we had to delay taking guests out of camp for 45 minutes while we waited for the sun to raise the thermometer to above freezing. It was quite windy and I feared driving the boat in below-freezing temps could lead to spray turning to ice on the windshield.
These are cold days.
Some forecasts are even including the S word for today (snow).
Mostly though the weather has been pleasant since we opened for fishing a week ago. There was only one rainy day. The rest of the week was sunny and although the temperatures were a little below seasonal were still enjoyable.
I didn't hear anybody complaining about the weather last week. Probably because they were doing very well with the fish.
Our first-week pike experts did their usual thing by catching loads of humungous northern pike on dead bait. The largest I heard about was a 46-inch pike that weighed 22 pounds. It was caught and released by Dave Myers. Way to go, Dave!
Virtually everybody caught a 40+-inch fish.
There were nothing but big walleyes caught which is typical for this time of year. We don't get the eating-size fish until the water warms up. Most walleyes were caught on dead bait (half a ciscoe) or on crankbaits. For some reason live bait didn't work as well.
There were also many lake trout caught and released. We are catching more and more lake trout each season. The average size trout was 32 inches but we also are catching small ones again, including one 24-incher caught and released by angler Boyce Privett.
I forget who it was in Joe Overman's group that also hooked a giant 42-inch trout that they figured weighed in excess of 30 pounds. If it wasn't Joe then it was Fred Specht or Dee Hall.
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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What's happened so far

We flew into camp aboard Viking Outposts' Beaver floatplane on May 12.
The only ice in the lake that day was at the east end where Red Lake was located. It broke up entirely two days later on May 14.
The weather immediately turned cold, windy and wet.
On Friday, May 15, we received 12 inches of snow. It was one of the largest single-day snowfalls of the winter!
Desite the snow staffer Joe Cox and I took a fishing boat to town on Saturday, May 16, and got our big boat Lickety Split.
Temperatures were very cold, far below freezing at night and not much warmer in the day.
However, when our first guests arrived May 22 they must have brought the warm weather with them because it has been quite seasonal since then. Other than a little rain yesterday our fishermen have not had any inclement weather.
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Monday, May 25, 2009

We're on the air again, sort of

It's been a couple of weeks since our last post. We are into camp now and our first guests arrived Friday.
Fish of all species are biting well. We've already had many giant northern pike, lake trout and walleyes caught.
Only one of our two telephone systems is working.
If you need to call us, call 807-727-2730. Our other number, 727-0439, is currently not working.
If sendiung e-mail, please keep messages very short and do not include any graphic material. We must download this over a radio telephone and it's like the slowest version of dial-up imaginable.
We're working on improving communications but it will be awhile before we're finished.
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Friday, May 8, 2009

Take care to measure northern pike accurately

Jerry Olaskowitz 2008
This one's a slot-sizer

As we wait these last days for the ice to breakup in Red Lake, it's a good time to remind everyone about the importance of accurately measuring the northern pike they catch.

Under Ontario fishing regulations it is illegal to possess any northern pike that is 27.5 to 35.4 inches in length.

This measurement is made by placing the nose of the fish at one end of the ruler (provided in your boat) and then pinching the rays of the tail which makes it longer.

You should also be aware that a pike will lengthen a bit once it dies. For this reason we advise not keeping any northern pike larger than 26.5 inches which is one inch shorter than the legal limit.

For conservation reasons we also advise releasing all pike larger than the slot size unless you intend to have them mounted by a taxidermist. These big fish are almost all females and constitute the breeding stock of the lake.

It is a myth that really big fish no longer reproduce. In truth they continue reproducing until they die. This myth do doubt comes from the fact that the number of eggs per pound of fish decreases as the fish nears the end of its life. However, a big fish still produces more total eggs than does a smaller fish.

Incidentally, the slot size was chosen because it represents two-thirds of the reproductive pike in any Ontario lake. This is so not only because these fish are prime breeders but also because there are more of them compared to larger fish.

So here's a test: can you keep a fish that is exactly 27.5 inches?

No! A fish at the start of the slot size is just as illegal as one right in the middle.

Can you keep a fish that is 35.5 inches long? Yes, but would you stake your life that you've measured it this accurately? If you're wrong by 1/10 of an inch you will be fined!

Also, it is a bad idea to keep big fish to eat. By doing so you are not only hurting the fish population, you are also consuming a top predator that has lived a long time and so has accumulated more environmental toxins than young fish have. This is true whether you are fishing in a pristine Ontario fishing lake, in the ocean or in your local river.

It's a better choice to grab a photo and let it go. It will be even bigger next year and maybe the next time you meet it will be at the end of your kids or grandkids' fishing rod!

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Ice is nearly out in narrows in front of camp

Hugh Carlson of Viking Island Lodge and Outposts flew over camp yesterday and could see the narrows is now clearing of ice. Thanks for the update, Hugh!
Enid Carlson published a couple of views of camp from Hugh's plane on her blog today. Click on the link to see these pix.
We are delaying until Tuesday flying into camp on the hope that just possibly the ice will be gone from the rest of the lake by then and we can take the Lickety Split.
If there's still ice in the way for this 20-mile trip we'll see if the Viking planes can ferry us over the ice from town to camp.
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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Skookum indicates Red Lake ice-out next Tuesday

I learned today that the ice left Skookum Bay on Red Lake today.
My late father, Don Baughman, who spent many a year waiting for the ice to break up in Red Lake, always said that seven days after Skookum Bay was clear, the ice will break up on the rest of the lake. If that holds true this year then ice-out would be next Tuesday, May 12.
Enid Carlson of Viking Outposts notes on her blog today that husband Hugh drilled a hole on Howey Bay today and there were just 13 inches of candled ice!
Melting conditions have been great the last few days and are supposed to continue tomorrow but then a three-day cold snap is forecast.
There are mixed predictions on tomorrow's weather too. One weather service calls for a thunderstorm which would be death to the remainder of the ice and the other simply calls for light rain which wouldn't have as much effect.

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Monday, May 4, 2009

We supply required on-boat safety equipment

Kim Gross with life vest
Bow Narrows Camp fishing packages include a boat and motor for each two fishermen and also the safety equipment required by law for each boat.

This includes a life vest for each person, bailing device, two paddles, emergency flashlight, a sound-signalling device and a 15-metre buoyant heaving line.

By far the most important of these items is the life vest. If you are wearing your life vest you will be safe in almost every boating situation. However the world's best life vest is useless if you aren't wearing it.

I always wear a life vest, so does our family and so does our staff. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources conservation officers and all other Ministry of Natural Resources personnel wear them. So do all police officers. So do most of our experienced guests including long-time angler Kim Gross, above.

Even though we provide comfortable life vests for each person we still recommend that you bring your own for the reason that you can find one that fits your physique the best and is the most comfortable for you. There are many varieties to choose from including ones that have mesh backs and shoulders for ventilation, models with handy pockets and C02-operated ones that self-inflate if you end up in the water.

The next two critical pieces of boating equipment are the bailing device and the paddles.

We place a bailing scoop made from a bleach jug in each boat. This allows you to bail a lot of water in a hurry if you need to and also to empty the boat each time it rains.

The paddles let you manoeuvre your boat even if something happens to the outboard engine.

The flashlight in your boat kit is meant for emergencies, not ordinary use. You should never be on the water after dark but if it does happen you can use the emergency flashlight to signal help and warn other boaters of your presence.

This year our boats will have new wind-up flashlights that do not need batteries.

The sound signal device in the kit is a pealess whistle. A whistle carries farther than the human voice.

The final piece of equipment, the 15-metre buoyant heaving line is the kind of thing our friend Bob Moninger who owns a cabin near camp would call "mouse milk." This is meant to be a line that you could throw to someone who was in the water. Why you wouldn't just motor over to the person or paddle to him is a mystery. And if you wanted to actually throw a rope to someone, I would think you could untie the 3/8-inch floating rope from the anchor and use that quicker than you could open the safety kit and get out this useless wad of 1/4-inch spring-like heaving line. But it's required by law so there it is.

Anyway, the person in the water should be bobbing safely around in his life vest that he wisely always wears. He could then just swim back over to the boat.

New this year is all of our boating safety equipment will be contained in a waterproof Sealine dry bag clipped to one of the boat braces. In the past this stuff was in an orange jar that would frequently open and let water into the contents.

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Saturday, May 2, 2009

Red Lake ice-out "probably" two weeks away

Chukuni River was open, May 14,2008
Pipestone Bay was frozen, 2008

Ice-free water at Bow Narrows

It's all up to the weather.

Will the next couple of weeks finally turn above normal and finish off the ice in Red Lake or will it stay unseasonally cool and delay the process?
Brenda and I, our dog Sam, and our staffers: Ben, Jenn, Emilie and Joe, are chomping at the bit to get into camp and get to work.

For sure it looks like we will see if our good friends at Viking Outposts can fly us from the Chukuni River in town to the narrows in front of camp as soon as the ice is clear in those places. This usually lets us get into camp a week before the ice goes out in the rest of the lake. Our hope is we will be able to do this next weekend.

We are so fortunate that Bow Narrows Camp is located in an area of the lake where the current melts the ice early, just as it does at the river in town.

There have been times where we were able to get into camp three weeks before ice-out in the main lake.

Last year, however, it ended up being only a few days advantage. If I remember correctly we were able to fly into camp on a Wednesday and our first guests arrived two days later, on Friday. Then a big wind came up on Saturday and smashed the ice out of the lake.
Hugh Carlson of Viking Outposts, phoned us at camp Saturday night to say he could see from the air that we should be able to get to town by boat if we favored the north shore which was clear.

On Sunday, staffer Mike Biloski and I took one of our fishing boats back to town to get our cabin cruiser, Lickety Split. We had to skirt a few ice sheets but made the trip OK. Ice sheets continued floating around the lake for about a week after that.

This shows how unpredictable ice-out can be.

Red Lake Publicity Board thoughtfully is posting a list of recent ice-out dates in its May newsletter.

They were: May 17, 2008; May 5, 2007; April 23, 2006; April 21, 2005 (a record); May 9, 2004.

From a camp operator's point of view, we need a couple of weeks ahead of guests arriving to get camp into shape for the upcoming season.

Docks always need rebuilding, firewood needs cut, boats need put in the water and cabins need maintenance before we settle in to the routine of fishermen coming and going every week.

The photos above are from our trip into camp last May.

We took off from the Chukuni River and as you can see Pipestone Bay was frozen shore-to-shore. So was the rest of the lake. It looked then like it could be weeks before it would clear.

But the narrows in front of camp was open and JB from Viking Outposts was able to land Viking's Beaver aircraft easily at our dock.

This year Bow Narrows Camp isn't opening until May 23, one week after walleye season opens May 16. After last year's experience with the late ice-out and with walleye season opening one day earlier than last year (it's always the third Saturday in May) we just felt it was better to be safe than sorry.

So when will ice-out come this year? No one can say but it looks possible that it will occur sometime in the next two weeks, or in other words, before the regular walleye opener May 16.

It just depends on the weather.

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