Saturday, February 20, 2010

The joys and trials of fishing with a dog

Sam, the camp dog
"The guy in the boat with the big dog in the front," is probably how a lot of people who I don't know would describe me.

That's because for the last 16 years at camp I've almost never travelled in one of the fishing boats without my dog.

I've had two dogs in that period, both Labrador retrievers. The first was Bud, a 120-pound black Lab and now Sam, an 80-pound chocolate Lab.

I always take the staff boat which has a piece of plywood fastened from the bow seat back to the second seat. This is to make it easier to lift out the fish gut buckets when we dump them on a rocky island for the birds: eagles, gulls, ravens, crows and vultures. But it also doubles as a great platform for a dog to stand upon.

I enjoy fishing with a dog for many reasons. Perhaps the main reason is the dog doesn't talk.

I'm not anti-social, really, it's just that when I'm out on the lake or in the bush, I want to hear the sounds of nature. The funny thing is I've lost a great deal of my hearing and another reason why I like having a canine fishing partner is he lets me know when I'm missing some sound. I'll look at him and see that his ears are perked up and he's staring intently at a moose or a bear or some other creature.

There are plenty of problems with taking a dog fishing too. Sam has grabbed a lure dangling from a line and had to get a hook pulled from his mouth.

If you are sitting still the dog can get bored and go looking for something to do. One time I was fishing with my nephew, Mike, and one of us pulled in a piece of chukuni (beaver stick). Sam seized it and proceeded to gnaw on it all the while banging the stick against the bottom of the boat.

We hadn't caught anything when another boat pulled up and started to fish too.

Mike called out, "You probably don't stand a chance without a fishing dog in your boat."

Although I like fishing with the dog, I would advise against it for most of our guests. The reason has to do with the comfort of the dog.

Biting flies can sometimes make the dog absolutely miserable. These are flies that leave people alone but will pester a dog mercilessly. Many of our guests who have brought their dogs end up leaving the dog in the cabin the whole week. That's no fun for the dog. He would have had a better time either at home or in a kennel.

For some reason flies don't seem to bother Sam much. They did sometimes get to Bud, and our first dog, Lady, also a black Lab, was a continuous whirling dervish when she was in the boat, biting at the flies that were biting her. We owned Lady before Brenda and I came back to the camp business.

Our dogs have been trained from pups not to harm the wild pets like woodchucks that we have at camp. Guests' dogs, or course, don't have this opportunity and therefore must be kept on leash at camp.

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