Thursday, December 29, 2011

Down jacket on sale at Cabela's great for fishing

I mentioned in a previous blog about what to pack for a Canadian fishing trip that Cabela's makes a great down jacket that is the ultimate in warmth and which goes on sale once a year. Well, that sale is on right now. It's Cabela's Mid-Winter Inventory Clearance Sale and lasts until Feb. 7.
The jacket is Cabela's 550 Goose-Down Jacket which normally sells for $59.99 but is on sale for $29.99.
I bought one of these many years ago and can vouch that it is well-made.
This is a better alternative to bring for unexpected cold weather than a heavy sweater. It stuffs into a smaller space and is warmer.
Down garments look puffy but crush down to fit underneath whatever you are wearing. If you wear this jacket underneath your breathable rain coat you are prepared for anything nature can throw at you.
I bring my down jacket to camp each year and wear it under my Dry-Plus rainwear for those times when it snows or is near-freezing. The rainwear blocks the wind and precipitation and the down jacket provides the warmth.
In fact, this is also the very combination I wear all winter long here at our home in Nolalu, even in -30 C temperatures.
I don't believe you can find anything warmer or more versatile, especially not for $29.99.
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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Perfect weather for kicksledding and ice fishing

Jumbo Perch Whitefish Lake
kicksled with icefishing gear
Salmo Darter
I've been out ice fishing on Whitefish Lake several times now and caught one real jumbo perch. It weighed at least a pound.
Conditions are perfect for using my kicksled which is to say there is almost no snow on the ice. The lake is covered with about eight inches of pure blue ice. I am able to cut through that with my Nils ice auger in about 15 seconds.
I've had the best success the last couple of years using two relatively new ice fishing lures, the Salmo Darter and the Lindy Darter. These short, lipless crankbaits are meant to be jigged vertically such as when ice fishing but would also work at camp to vertical jig beneath a boat. I don't think I've seen any of our guests using them. They should give it a try.
I like to remove the end treble hook and replace it with a single hook on which I place a bit of bait such as a Gulp waxworm or perch eye.
The single hook does not catch the sides of the hole like the treble. Nothing is more frustrating than to watch a fish escape at the bottom of the hole because your lure is stuck on the edge of the ice.
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Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas from our family to yours

We have about eight inches of snow at our home in Nolalu which is about 30 miles from Thunder Bay, Ontario, so it seems certain that we will have a white Christmas.
We are fortunate this year to have all our family home for Christmas including our son Matt and our grandsons Raven and Quillan (pictured) and also our son Josh and of course, our dog Sam.
We would like to wish you and your family a safe and joyous holiday.
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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What makes a great fisherman?

Ben Godin and Joe Magee with nice pike
Troy Bechtel released large pike
It is our good fortune to have many truly great fishermen at Bow Narrows Camp.
So what is a great fisherman? In my opinion, a great fishermen is someone who meets the following four criteria.
1. Adapts to the conditions.
The difference between shopping and fishing is that fishing is different every time you do it.
Conditions out-of-doors are dependent upon the weather and the season. Not only does the location of fishing spots change but so do the preferences of the fish themselves.
There is much more to know than just the water temperature, for instance, which is indeed an important factor. Perhaps the water temperature plus the photo period (length of daylight) make fish behave in a certain manner. Sometimes though, there are just unseen factors that can only be guessed. For example, maybe the water conditions have created a hatch of aquatic insects, maybe this happens only cyclically every unknown number of years. Maybe conditions years ago created a great year-class of a certain species of minnows or other forage. Any of these things might lead the fish to being in a certain place and behaving in a certain manner.
The point is, if a person always fishes in the same place and in the same way his success at catching fish is going to vary drastically from outing to outing.
The adaptable fisherman, however, will try different methods and different locations, sometimes guessing at what is going on and guessing right and sometimes just being lucky to find the right combination of technique and location.
We have one excellent walleye angler whose favorite technique is to use jigs with plastic tails and live bait. He usually drifts or anchors and casts the jigs into known hot spots.
This just about always works, the only thing that changes is the color of the tails. But on one trip I was surprised to hear him say that a better system that week was to troll Rapalas. He didn't know why, but that's what was working. He had adapted.
Similarly, sometimes northern pike are lying on the deep side of weedbeds, sometimes right up on shore, sometimes in the logs or in the rocks. They might prefer spinners on one occasion and spoons on another. Inexplicably they might even prefer top-water baits. Or, they might want dead bait.
You usually can't look at the lake and determine what is going to work. You have to try different spots and techniques and be alert to what is the best. That's the key, be aware of what is happening and adapt.
2. Releases large fish.
For probably 20 years now it has been obvious that to ensure fish populations remain sustainable, it is necessary for anglers to release the big ones and keep smaller or mid-sized fish to eat.
Big fish are the big spawners. They are almost all females and produce the most eggs. They also have the genetics for fast growth and large size. When a person kills a big fish he is reducing the lake's potential to sustain harvesting of that species. In my mind he is being disrespectful to the fish and the lake.
The world's population just passed 7 billion. That's more than three times as many people as were around when my mom and dad took over Bow Narrows Camp in 1961. The planet just can't support this many people by following ignorant and wasteful practices of the past, such as keeping big fish.
Big fish are also unhealthy to eat. They are old, the top of the aquatic food chain, and all the heavy metals that occur naturally in nature are accumulated in their tissues. A 10-pound walleye probably has 30 times the contaminants as a two-pounder. That's because a 10-pounder might be 30 years old while a two-pounder is only a few years old.
3. Shares his knowledge. A great fisherman always tries to help others enjoy the sport in a sustainable manner. Every week at camp we see some of our guests help others who aren't doing as well. They give them tips on what is working, share lures and bait and even invite them to join them. It's great to see and why not? If you are fishing in a sustainable manner, which is to say you are releasing large fish and not keeping more than you can eat, you are not harming the fish population. There are fish enough for everyone.
4. Appreciates all of Nature. A great fisherman just enjoys fishing; the catching of fish is a bonus. A day can be gloriously sunny or excitingly windy. There are magnificent thunderheads to see, eagles perched on snags, moose standing in the grass, beavers cutting trees and all sorts of wonderful things to take in. There is also the company of your companions to enjoy, stories to tell and to listen to, jokes to share. And silence to contemplate in.
Fishing is all about the experience. If all you want is the fish, then just go shopping.

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Requests for deposits are in the mail

Bow Narrows Camp morning scene
Every group with tentative reservations at camp for 2012 will be receiving a letter from me in the next week or so asking them to confirm their reservations with deposits. We require $100 per person to continue holding reservations. Deposits are fully refundable upon 60 days notice of cancellation.
Many people have already sent their deposits and I will have written them confirming their reservations.
New this year is that guests get to choose their departure boat time at the end of the week when they make their deposit. They can also choose their pickup time in Red Lake at the start of the week. That part is unchanged from the past. So, those who send or call in their deposits first get the first choice.
You can make your deposit by check, sent to our winter address or by credit card by calling us at our winter phone number. You can include your HST rebate check from last year's trip as part of your deposit. Just sign the back and send it to our winter address.
Although we have been holding many of our reservations without deposit since last summer, we will now move quickly to secure them with deposits. We would like to hear from everybody in the next 30 days.
I always caution group organizers not to pay the entire group's deposit out of their own pocket. If they do, they don't really know who is coming. It is when the organizer asks each person for his $100 that the rubber meets the road. Those who are serious about joining the group will step up. Those who aren't will change their mind.
From our end, we need to know how many people are really planning to come. We realize, of course, that some people may need to drop out later for personal reasons. That's why we have our refund policy. But it hurts us when someone books a cabin for 8 and only four show up and we had turned down another group of 8.
Planning is always an imperfect process but we just ask that everyone do their best and keep us informed as the group's numbers go up and down. We know from years of experience that people who ante up their $100 are serious and those who don't are not. So, if you are a group organizer, tell your members to give you their deposit or send or call it in to us within the next month. If they don't, they aren't going.
The photo on this blog was taken by Bow Narrows angler Doug Billings. It is of camp on a misty morning in July 2011. It is our guests who continually renew our appreciation of the natural beauty of Red Lake and Northwestern Ontario. It really is breathtaking, isn't it?
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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Fishing off the dock can be a good technique

bobber fishing
Every summer a number of our anglers "discover" how good the fishing can be right off the dock at camp.
Usually they fish for walleye with live bait in the evening and are delighted to find they can do as well as out in the boat. Sometimes they even do better!
We've had several groups where someone simply couldn't fish in the boat, usually because of back problems. So they took a lawn chair down to one of the many docks we have and tried their luck.
When their buddies came back at lunch they were astonished to find the man on the dock had not only caught a lot of fish but big ones as well. We're talking 26+inch walleye, 44-inch northern pike and in the spring, lunker lake trout.
I remember one elderly gentleman, probably in his 80s, who got a nine-pound walleye and 20-pound pike on the same day. They were netted by his wife and the pair of them were absolutely thrilled. Soon the rest of their family joined them and they were all hauling in fish.
While it is possible just to cast a spoon or spinner and catch a fish at any time, the people who do the best use live or dead bait and a float. The very best system is a slip bobber because the bobber slips down your line right to the hook or jig and lets you cast it out in a natural motion.
The old red-and-white plastic bobbers also work but since they are clipped to the line they have to be flung out in a cumbersome manner. You usually want the bobber about 8 feet or more from the hook. It's a difficult thing to make a cast with eight feet of line, bobber and hook beneath your rod tip.
What you are trying to do is let the wind or the current (there is a current in our narrows) take your bait down the shoreline while keeping it within a foot or two of the bottom.
If your bobber that was moving along stops or tips over, it indicates the hook is on the bottom. You can reel it back in, move up the bobber or stopper in the case of slip bobbers, and cast it out again.
In this manner you can also detect underwater structure that may hold fish.
There is as much to know and learn about bobber fishing as any other technique.
The dock is a good place to master this.
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Monday, December 12, 2011

Tips on renewing Non-Canadian Outdoors Card

When you go to renew your non-resident Ontario Outdoors Card on-line, you are going to find a lot of pages of info to wade through first.
Here's some tips on short-cutting the process.
1. Click on this link or cut and paste the following URL address into your browser window:
Buy an Ontario Licence Online - Provincial Services Division, Ministry of Natural Resources - Government of Ontario, Ministry of Natural Resources
2. Go half way down the page and click on START YOUR LICENCE PURCHASE HERE
3. On the left side of the page click on Licence/Permit Purchase
4. At the bottom of the page click on Begin Licence Purchase
(If you don't have a recent version of Adobe Acrobat Reader you will be prompted to download it)
5. Choose Non-Canadian Resident
Choose Yes to being an existing customer with an Outdoors Card Number
Type in your Outdoors Card Number and Date of Birth and Zip Code
6. Purchase the Outdoors Card for $9.63 and check out.
You then pay with a credit card and your new card is mailed to you. You can also print out a paper temporary card. That's a good idea. You don't know for sure how long it's going to take to get the mailed one.
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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Renew your Outdoors Card when notified

Ontario Outdoors Card
Pleasure Craft Operators Card
The first non-residents to get an Ontario Outdoors Card, back in 2009, are beginning to receive renewal notices. The card cost $9 and was good for three years.
You want to go ahead and renew your card. It still costs $9 plus change and is good for another three years.
What is an Ontario Outdoors Card?
First of all, it is not your fishing licence but rather the card that contains all the information that you or we tediously filled out when you got a fishing licence. You know, where you live, when were you born, how tall you are, colour of your eyes, etc.
Although for the past three years you had to give that information anyway, even though you had the Outdoors Card, that is all going to change next summer.
Starting in 2012 we at camp and all other licence issuers will have an electronic machine like those used for credit cards. When you get to camp we will just swipe the card, punch in a code for the type of fishing licence you want, and print out your licence. The whole process should take just a couple of minutes. This is going to save everybody, including you, a whole lot of time that could better be spent fishing.
You need to have both your Outdoors Card and fishing licence together when you are fishing.
What happens if you forget to bring your Outdoors Card? You will have to buy another which will be sent to you the next winter. And you will have to input all your info the old-fashioned and time-consuming way again.
So, bring your card! If you get a card renewal notice, renew it. There may be options to get the fishing licence too but it might be a good idea not to do that. For one thing, we supply a free conservation fishing licence with all our fishing packages.
Speaking of cards, every Canadian boat driver now has a Pleasure Craft Operators Card, similar to the one in the second photo. It comes from taking a course on boating safety and is a requirement to operate a vessel in Canada. The card is good for life.
If you are a non-resident of Canada, you must either have a card like this or fill out our Rental Boating Agreement which acts as a one-week boating safety certificate. It is free but takes about 10 minutes to complete. If you do have a Pleasure Craft card, we just write the number on the Rental form and you are on your way.
Pleasure Craft Operators courses are available on-line and typically cost about $40. Again, the card is good for life. A card from the U.S. is also good in Canada.
You must carry the Boater's Card or the Rental Boating Agreement anytime when you are boating. A Conservation Officer or police officer may ask to see your boating credentials as well as your fishing licence. They may also ask you to identify the required safety equipment in your boat. The Number One safety item is your PFD -- personal floatation device or life vest.
Seat cushions do not qualify as a PFD.
We supply PFDs and the rest of the safety kit in all our boats but you need to know where it is, what's in it, and what it is used for. It is specified on the boat agreement but it's a good idea to ask our staffer who shows you your boat at the beginning of the week.
Incidentally, if you are wearing your PFD, something that every boater should always do, you probably won't be asked for anything else. Ninety-nine per cent of being safe in a boat is to wear a PFD at all times.
Conservation officers and police are also always on the lookout for alcoholic beverages. It is illegal to have any type of alcoholic beverage, including beer, in a boat. Actually, the law states it is illegal to have an opened case of beer or container of liquor. So it is OK to bring full cases of beer in our camp boat, the Lickety Split, on your way out to camp. You can consume the beer anywhere on shore at camp or in your cabin, just not in a boat, whether you are driving it or not. You cannot drink in the Lickety Split, for instance, even though you are just a passenger.
We occasionally see boaters who not only take beer with them but also proudly line up their empty cans in the splash tray at the back of the boat. They would be certain to get charged if they were inspected.
In Canada, drinking and driving, be it a car or a boat, is a felony. People convicted of this offence are not allowed back into the country for 10 years.
So please, do the beer drinking on shore.
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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The best top-water lures for northern pike

Zara Spook
Live Target Walking Frog
Live Target Hollow Body Frog
Snag Proof Moss Mouse
More and more, it seems, anglers are discovering that top-water baits can be an excellent choice for catching northern pike.
There are some excellent new northern pike top water lures on the market. We saw a few of these at camp last summer and the fishermen who used them reported great results.
The first lure, however, is an old-time favorite, the Zara Spook.
This lure is basically a floating torpedo that zigs and zags with each flick of your rod tip. It comes in many colours and sizes but for fishing northern pike on Red Lake, don't get too large on your lure size. Four-to-six inches is plenty big to catch pike that can weigh up to 30 pounds. Bigger lures tire you out and catch fewer fish.
The next two lures are very new. They are the Live Target Walking Frog and the Live Target Hollow Body Frog. Live Target is becoming known as a premium-quality lure maker. It's lures are extremely realistic. They are also pricey.
In our experience, the Walking Frog, which is a hard-body lure, worked the best of the two but it might be too early to decide. These lures just recently came on the market. The Hollow Body Frog is soft-bodied. Again, you impart the action to these lures by twitching your rod tip.
The final lure may seem the cheesiest (pun intended). It is the Snag Proof Moss Mouse. We had one person last summer who caught 35 pike in one day on this, basically a rubber mouse. It isn't exactly a top-water lure as it sinks about a foot deep. It is simply reeled back to the boat and has an enticing swimming action.
You won't catch many pike on either the Hollow Body Frog or the Moss Mouse without making a modification to these lures, however. We have discovered that it is practically impossible to hook a northern pike with lures that have the hooks pointed upwards. The pike strike at them, just seldom get hooked. All you have to do is turn the hooks around, so that they point downward. Instantly those strikes turn into fish!
Of course, a lure with hooks protruding downwards is no longer weed-proof but there just doesn't seem to be any alternative. Do you want to catch fish or just not catch weeds?
If you really want a weedless lure, try the Johnson Silver Minnow but always use a trailer on this lure's single hook.

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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Buck and Sam the best of buddies

Our outside worker, Ben Godin, brought his two-year-old black Lab, Buck, with him to camp last summer and he and our chocolate Lab, Sam, instantly became the best of friends.
Just about every day you would see them play-wrestling and sleeping against each other. Both dogs' favorite thing to do was to go in the boat when Ben emptied fish guts on an island in the evening.
Sam is considerably older; he'll be nine in January, but he really enjoyed the younger Buck's company.
In the fall we took both dogs duck hunting. It was the first duck hunting Sam had ever done. Previously I had only hunted him for grouse. But Ben is such an experienced duck hunter I thought it a shame not to learn from him while he was at camp last fall.
Buck had hunted the previous year and knew all about it. The whole experience was an eye-opener for Sam. But after a couple of trips, he wanted to retrieve ducks too. Unfortunately, I didn't get any after that. But there's always next year.
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