Monday, December 31, 2012

Eagle gets "buzzed" by a broad-winged hawk

Broad-winged hawk swoops on bald eagle

Smaller hawk leaves the much-larger eagle to its perch
A bald eagle has to duck from a broad-winged hawk and the entire action is recorded by Bow Narrows angler/photographer Doug Billings.
From time to time you see smaller birds attacking, or maybe feigning attacks, on larger birds but they are playing with fire.
Doug Billings with northern pike
I once saw a raven dive at an eagle. Usually the larger bird just rolls a bit when the smaller one comes by and that is what happened the first two times. Then, I don't know if the eagle was just having a bad day or what but on the raven's third dive the eagle did an abrupt loop and was now above and behind the smaller bird.
The black raven tried to use its shorter wingspan to outmanoeuvre the big eagle but it didn't work. The eagle could pull swallow-like turns, loops, climbs and dives. Whenever the raven got a little separation the eagle, pumping its big wings faster than I thought possible for such a big bird, closed the space in an instant. The two birds twisted and turned around and around in what was pretty much a freefall until finally, just before striking the ground, they pulled apart. The raven streaked away in a panic and the eagle resumed its bomber-like flight.
The broad-winged hawk is a small hawk, about the size of a crow. It is probably the most conspicuous of the Boreal Forest hawks, most of which are small to medium in size. The broad-winged has a very high-pitched screech that you often hear when you are fishing. It soars in circles, always with its mate nearby. A good way to identify the broad-winged is to note the dark bands on its tail and the light colour of the underside of its wings. They show dark just on the trailing edge.

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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Footprints of the "Ghost of the Woods"

Tracks of the Canadian lynx
The fuzzy, indistinct footprints of a Canadian lynx proves that the "Ghost of the Woods" paid us a visit at our home in Nolalu.
Sam and I found these tracks yesterday. It was a solitary animal, roaming throughout the bush looking for snowshoe hares, virtually the only thing it eats.
Last year I got photos of an entire group of these rare wild cats. See Lynx Family.
Lynx are not endangered here but are naturally an unusual animal. They claim vast territories and wander incessantly, making it virtually impossible to predict their whereabouts.
The lynx that made these tracks may come back tomorrow or a month from now or never.
Their rarity, the total silence with which they move (they have huge, fluffy feet) and their gray colour has earned them the nickname "Ghost of the Woods."
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Friday, December 28, 2012

Digitally capturing the largest bird of prey

Bow Narrows angler Ken Lehmann doesn't always have his nose to the fishing grindstone when he comes to camp -- he's also scanning the skies and shores for wildlife like these bald eagles.
In the top photo Ken has photographed both a mature eagle and an immature eagle in the same frame. It takes the immature bird four years to get its distinctive white head and tail feathers.
The immature bird is frequently confused with a golden eagle. They have very large wingspans, bigger even than the parents; this must come from having longer feathers. Unlike golden eagles, however, immature bald eagles have a lot of white feathers showing throughout their plumage. It looks like they are wearing a down vest that's losing its stuffing.

In the bottom photo a mature eagle flies off with a fish carcass, perhaps from the rocky island where we put out the entrails each day.

We can see more than a dozen eagles at a time when we empty the fish guts. They get to know the fish cleaner's boat and will come quite close but are skittish when newcomers come by. For the best photos, ask to ride along with the fish cleaner and get ready to snap away as soon as the boat leaves the island.

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

The only vehicle you will ever see at camp

One of the most wonderful things about coming to Bow Narrows Camp is you leave the world of the automobile behind. There's no roaring of truck engines, squealing of brakes, spinning of tires, car doors slamming or smell of hydrogen sulfide. There is no constant roar of a nearby highway -- the nearest highway is 20 miles away at the other end of the lake and anyway, it never has more than the occasional vehicle on it.
We have an electric golf cart which is totally silent that we use for all our transportation chores at camp including hauling our guests' luggage from the dock up to their cabin as shown here by Bow Narrows angler Ed Dziubinski in these photos.
We also use the golf cart for pulling boats out of the lake in the fall and pushing them back in the spring, hauling firewood, moving propane tanks and everything else.
The golf cart's electric motor is incredibly powerful. It can pull what the largest gasoline engine-powered ATV can pull and probably more. I think the power of the electric motor is something the petroleum industry does not want people to know. The golf cart works all day on a single charge of its batteries.
We know of a golf cart down in the States that is used to manoeuvre 40-foot travel trailers into the tight confines and around the trees of a campground.

It is an awesome machine.
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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Sam and I aren't the only ones out for a walk

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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas on this crisp and clear day

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Fishing couples are special people

Doug and Maggie Billings were fishing buddies at camp in 2011 and their T-shirts showed a bit of the special bond this couple has for each other and the outdoors.
We get many couples at Bow Narrows Camp and it's interesting to see how they differ in their approaches to the trip.
Some dyed-in-the-wool male anglers who hardly come back to shore when they are with the guys take a more relaxed attitude toward fishing when their spouse joins them.
Some fish exactly the same as they did with the guys and their wife, after a solid morning in the boat, may choose to spend the afternoon reading a book on the cabin porch.
Sometimes both the man and the woman are ardent anglers, up-and-at-'em before breakfast and coming back to the dock in the last light of the day.
Most often, I guess, the men are just happy to share their outdoor life with the person they care the most about. That's more important than the fishing.

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Friday, December 21, 2012

A quiz for the day of the long shadows

Longest shadow of the year was cast today
Which way am I headed and what time is it?
I took this photo today, Dec. 21, the winter solstice, on my daily walk on the road.
Which direction am I walking and what time was it when I took this photo? You should be able to figure it out.
This is the shortest day of the year. Every day from now on brings more sunlight.
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Don't you hate it when this happens?

Surprise! Young buck trips a branch-load of snow
You are taking a walk out in the woods right after a snowfall. It's like walking into a Thomas Kinkaid painting, everything still and white and beautiful and then -- whump! -- a load of snow goes down your neck.
"JEEZ but that's cold!'
The same thing happened to this young whitetail buck in front of my trail camera here in Nolalu.
We have enough snow to make it a white Christmas but that's about all. So far it has been a very mild winter, only -10 C tonight. It's been a little colder in Red Lake, probably -20 C or about 0 F there.
Today is the shortest day of the year. We need to turn the headlights on in the car at 3 p.m. if it is cloudy which it usually is this time of year.
We have put solar Christmas lights on a couple of trees out in the field the last few years but they don't turn on until January. There just isn't enough light in December to charge them.

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Drift sock slows down your troll too

Cabela's drift sock
How many times would you like to have slowed down when you were trolling for walleye?

This is the reason some anglers use electric trolling motors but these are a hassle because they are in the way and carting around the heavy battery is no fun at all.
We have one group who simply uses drift socks like the one in the photo. They use it tied to the bow when backtrolling and tied amidships when drifting. The drift sock sinks just beneath the water surface and acts as a drag that significantly slows down the boat. This is especially useful on windy days.
I like the drift sock because it is simple and effective, requires no fuel, packs flat in your trunk and stows out of the way in the bow of your boat.
It's a great thing when you can work with Nature instead of fighting it.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Guess who is coming to dinner!

I left the top off our compost bin and this gorgeous red fox took that as an invitation to help himself.
He had no problem leaping four feet over the edge of the plywood box and even perching on a support in the corner.
There aren't many things as beautiful in the wild as a red fox, in my opinion, especially in the winter.
There are two of these delicate canines hanging around our house in Nolalu. This is the larger of the two.
They respect our chocolate lab, Sam, enough to run when he barks at them but they never go far. Sam is starting to develop a symbiotic relationship with the foxes. He can't leap over the walls of the box and the foxes often leave a lot of tidbits behind. So Sam only half-heartedly chases them away. The way to a lab's heart is definitely through his stomach.
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NOTO members are leaders in the outdoors

Bow Narrows Camp is a long-standing member of Nature and Outdoor Tourism Ontario (NOTO) and I would strongly recommend that every fishing and hunting, hiking and canoeing, river rafting and adventure-tourism business in Ontario join this tremendous group.
Here is why: NOTO is Ontario's preeminent tourism organization. NOTO camps must follow a code of ethics that ensure guests, wildlife and the environment are treated with the highest respect. NOTO members are not fly-by-night operators; they are skilled professionals who make their livelihood in Ontario's great outdoors.
NOTO membership is the gold standard when it comes to outdoor tourism. When camp owners join NOTO it shows they are serious about their business, that they want to excel in their field.
NOTO provides many levels of support to its members, from information about laws and regulations to lower credit card fees to professional development seminars at its annual convention.
Every fishing and hunting camp, canoe outfitter and all other outdoor-related businesses in Ontario have benefited from NOTO's advocacy with provincial and federal governments. Now is the time to support the very organization that has been tirelessly fighting on your behalf.
Be a leader in your field. Keep on top of the latest developments and products. Show your customers that you are striving to make your business the very best for them. Do all this by joining NOTO.
Click on the NOTO website and learn more about being part of Ontario's greatest tourism organization.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Buy yourself this gift for Christmas

I've always considered myself to be in "pretty good" shape. It is really impossible to run a wilderness fishing camp and not be. Each day at camp is filled with lots of walking, climbing, and most of all, carrying. I probably lift, on average,  a ton of things every day: groceries, lumber, gas and diesel barrels, boat gas tanks and of course, lots and lots of luggage. I don't do as much lifting at home in the winter but then I do a lot more aerobic exercise: walking, hiking, skiing, snowshoeing. I also do body core strengthening, mostly because I have a bad back. When spring comes around I also frequently go jogging each day, preparation for the daily workout of camp life. So, I'm usually in "pretty good shape," at least for a guy who just turned 60.
So, I've been alarmed that I have been gaining a spare tire around my middle the last few years. I've tried dieting -- always with just temporary benefits -- exercising even more and still, to my chagrin, I can only lose a few pounds at best and feel terribly hungry and tired in the process.
I've also been studying, book after book. And, I've been observing the general population. EVERYBODY is getting fat. What the heck is going on?
The generally-held belief that people are just sitting on their butts all day, watching TV or the computer and not exercising is shattered when you look at today's marathon runners, at least the amateur ones. Many, many of these people who run dozens of miles each day and over 26 miles on occasion, are absolutely chubby! It used to be you could easily identify long-distance runners because they were as thin as beef jerky. What the heck is going on?
A lot of recent dieting books have seen the connection between the obesity epidemic and advice from health agencies about 30 years ago to switch to a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet. The graphs for the population gaining weight, developing diabetes and lots of other diseases and medical conditions (i.e. hip and knee replacements) are identical over that period.
Enter Wheat Belly, a book by cardiologist William Davis, MD.
Back in the 1970s, he explains, wheat underwent a transformation, part of the Green Revolution to increase production of food to feed the exploding population of the world. The result is the wheat we are consuming today in bread, pastas, desserts, etc., has nothing in common with the wheat our parents and grandparents ate. It is chemically different, genetically different, and among a litany of bad things it does to our bodies and joints, it also penetrates the blood-brain barrier, creating narcotic-like receptors in our brains. It makes us get hungry every two hours. It makes us tired. And, more than ANY other food, it makes us get fat.
A slice of whole wheat bread makes us fatter than does a tablespoon of white sugar!
You really need to read the book to understand the mechanism of how it does this.
His advice: learn to lead a life without wheat. You don't need to be gluten-intolerant. Everybody should do it. No wheat at all. Forget the "healthy whole grains." There's no such thing.
So, I started a wheat-free regimen a month ago. I actually began on the week that Brenda and I took a Caribbean cruise, probably not the best atmosphere to lose weight. I ate all I wanted but did so with vegetables, meats, cheese and some fruit. I had a great time and really enjoyed the food. By the end of the week I had lost six pounds. More importantly, I lost an inch on my waist.
Nearly a month later now, I have lost another inch. And I've made no attempt to reduce my caloric intake. I always eat until I'm full. I just do it with foods other than those made of wheat.
Best of fall, I'm not tired any more. I don't need to take a nap in the middle of the day. And my back has felt wonderful.
A blog about wilderness life might seem a strange place to recommend a diet book and I do so only because our guests are also our friends. I would be a poor friend if I didn't let you know about this book.
Again, it is Wheat Belly, by William Davis, MD.

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Spider, snow fleas out already in December

Spider on snow
Snow fleas, Nolalu, Ontario, Dec. 15, 2012
I once wrote that snow fleas are the first sign of spring . If that is true then we really had a short winter this year as I took this photo of snow fleas today, Dec. 15. There was also a spider out on the snow surface.
The temperature here in Nolalu, ON, has crept up to the melting point, 0 C or 32 F. Apparently that's all it takes to bring out the snow bugs. Nolalu is 50 kilometres or 30 miles southwest of Thunder Bay at the top of Lake Superior.
Snow fleas aren't really fleas, just flea-like creatures called springtails. They look like pepper on the snow surface.
The spider, however, is really a spider. I've noticed that many of the spiders you see in the winter are missing a leg or two. That might be one of the perils of winter insect life, sort of like losing a toe to frostbite for humans.
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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

View of the heavens from Cabin 1

You didn't need a nightlight when this photo was taken in Cabin 1. The moon shining through the gable window would have done the trick.
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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Giant fish and giant conservation ethic

Somewhere under the giant pike is the measuring trough
Brett Styve with replica of his trophy fish
Bow Narrows angler Brett Styve and a giant northern pike in Red Lake know each other well.
Brett knows this spectacular 45-inch pike can put on a rod-warping, drag-screaming fight, and the pike knows that Brett is no novice with a rod and reel.
They might meet again next summer because Brett is coming fishing with his dad, Paul, once again and the enormous pike is still out there. Only now it is probably even larger.
The saga did not end when Brett and Paul finally boated the leviathan in August of 2012. Instead, after grabbing a quick  photo of the fish in the measuring trough -- as you can see the fish wouldn't even fit in it -- the magnificent creature was released back into the waters of Red Lake.
And a replica of the pike, not the skin of the real fish, now graces the walls of the Styve household in Iowa.
The Styves are perfect examples of today's enlightened angler. They keep only the fish that can be harvested sustainably -- the ones beneath the slot size -- and release the big spawners with the genes for large size and fast growth.
By following these practices anglers can not only enjoy the thrilling fishing of Red Lake today but forever. They simply are harvesting that part of Nature's bounty which is available annually and not destroying the foundation of the entire system.
Almost all Bow Narrows anglers are like these two -- intelligent, mindful conservationists. It is wonderful to see.
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Saturday, December 8, 2012

When e-mail isn't so instantaneous

Have you ever sent an e-mail to someone and they don't answer back?
I am learning that e-mail may not be the fastest way of communicating.
We have a friend and customer, let's call him Ken since that's his real name, who asked me up at camp last summer if we were having problems with the Internet. I told him no. Then why aren't you answering my e-mails, he asked. That would be because we never got any from him!
My first thought was that our computer's spam filter was erroneously labeling his e-mails as spam. Not so. None of his e-mails were in the spam folder.
Then it occurred to me that our Internet Service Provider's spam filter was doing it. Nope.
Ken's e-mails just never got here and now he thinks we are shunning him. We're not Ken, really.
I don't know what is going on for sure but here is something we've seen happen to ourselves.
You know how your computer is given a unique IP address when you sign on to the Internet? It's unique alright, unique to you and about 50 other people at the same time. If any of them have been blacklisted by a spam filter, none of you can send e-mails. And there is no message that comes to you warning that this is happening.
If you have sent us an e-mail and we haven't answered, I can guarantee you that it was because it never got here. Pick up the phone and call us! You know for sure then that you are really communicating.
Our winter phone number is: 807-475-7246
We are here most of the time and if not, leave a message on our answering machine. We absolutely will get back to you.

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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Keeping cool in the eyes of the Dragonhunter

The largest of the dragonflies takes a breather from hunting
Our grandson, Raven, stares down one of Nature's most fearsome predators, the Dragonhunter!
The sight of this largest of the dragonflies would send ice through your veins if you happened to be a flying insect. It's harmless to humans, of course, and was just catching a ride on Raven's life vest while he was out fishing at camp last summer.
At about 3.5 inches in length, this sole member of the genus Hagenius can kill and eat wasps and hornets, creatures as large as Monarch butterflies, other species of dragonflies  and even other Dragonhunters.
There are probably a hundred species of dragonflies in the Northern U.S. and Northwestern Ontario. Each has its specific habitat, time of emergence and prey preferences.
Some hunt from perches, darting out to catch a bug and then flying back. Others, like the Dragonhunter, fly a zig-zag pattern throughout their territory, ready to zoom-in on any other flying object.
All dragonflies spend most of their lives underwater as larva where they prey on other aquatic insects but also on minnows!
Depending on the species, dragonflies may spend years underwater as nymphs and only days or weeks as flying adults.
Dragonflies are really mankind's best friends as each of these beautiful winged marvels can consume hundreds of mosquitoes and gnats in a single day.
If you are interested in knowing more about the dragonflies of the North, including Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Northwestern Ontario, grab a copy of this book:
Dragonflies of the North Woods by Kurt Mead. It is published by Kollath-Stensaas Publishing of Duluth, MN. The ISBN is 0-9673793-6-9.
This book is part of the North Woods Naturalist Series and is a gem.
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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Pick your arrival and departure times now!

Our annual letters to customers with reservations will be arriving in your mail any day now.
These letters note your vacation dates, the number of people in your group, the type of plan you wanted (American Plan or Housekeeping) and also your preference for boat times both for arriving in Red Lake and departing from camp.
Incidentally, our package rates will be unchanged for 2013!
Our policy is to let you choose your boat times at the time you make your deposit.
In other words, the first people with deposits get the first choice on arrival and departure boats.
You can beat the mail by calling us at our winter phone number: 807-475-7246 and use a credit card to make your deposit which is $100 per person.
Some of you have already sent your deposits or did so when you were at camp last summer. Thank you! Unless you told us differently, we will have slotted you into the same arrival and departure times as last year. It doesn't hurt to call us and check anyway.
Our transportation boat, the Lickety Split, picks up guests in Red Lake on Saturdays and Sundays at 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.
At the end of the week it departs camp for Red Lake, both Friday and Saturday, at 6:30 a.m. and 8 a.m.
So to repeat, as an incentive for people to get their deposits in right away, they get to choose their arrival and departure times when they make their deposit.
It's the old 'early bird gets the worm ' story except you are the bird and the boat is the worm!
We would prefer you call us rather than e-mail this information as we believe it a more secure way of transmitting your credit card number. But it's up to you.
What happens if the boat you wanted is already full? The Lickety Split carries nine people and their luggage, usually, depending on the size of the people and the amount of gear they bring. If the boat is already booked, then we'll move you to next available time. It's not a long wait. The round trip takes just 90 minutes.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Red Lake's walleye population absolutely enormous

Expect lots of walleyes next summer like this one caught by my brother, Bill, in 2012
I don't believe there have ever been as many walleye in Red Lake as there are today. At least that goes for the 52 years my family has owned and operated Bow Narrows Camp.
During the last couple of years it has been possible to literally catch hundreds of these golden-hued fish in a single day. There even may be too many of them! How can that be possible? How can you have too many of a fish?
Let's start by examining some of the factors that may be contributing to the burgeoning walleye population.
1. Earlier, warmer springs
Climate change has meant ever-earlier ice-outs. The latest record was just this year, 2012, when the ice broke up on April 13, beating the previous record by more than a week. The historical ice-out average used to be May 8 with some ice-outs as late as May 20.
Walleye spawn in the spring, just as the ice is disappearing. The earlier they can get at it and the warmer the weather the faster their eggs and fry develop. In other words, warm springs mean better survival of the young.
2. Smelt
These tiny fish somehow got into Red Lake in the late '70s or early '80s along with just about every other road-accessible lake in Ontario. The exact way this happened is unknown but obviously, since a road is always in the picture, humans are responsible.
Smelt are a high-calorie food source for walleye and makes them gain weight rapidly, but smelt are also a double-edged sword. On the downside smelt are themselves a predator that eat native minnows and the larval-stages of fish, especially deeper water species such as lake trout, whitefish, tulibee (a kind of herring) and ling (aka burbot, eelpout). Smelt are likely at least partly responsible for the decline in lake trout (See Many lake trout spawned; new direction starts). Humans are also responsible.
Although smelt may have been feeding on larval lake trout, the smelt population crashed a few years back -- something that always happens when they get into a lake. The native minnows have come back and even though there are still smelt in the lake, they should never again reach the numbers they once held. That's great news, especially for deeper-water fish like lake trout.
Lake trout are voracious predators. When they disappeared from deep areas on the eastern end of the lake, they left a void. Nature abhors a vacuum; so, walleye moved to take their place. Now there are walleye in some of the deepest water as well as their former shallow territory.
At the western end of the lake, where Bow Narrows Camp is located, lake trout never totally disappeared and are making a comeback. Still, it's an uphill battle because even here there are walleye in many of the deep spots and walleye prey on tiny lake trout. When the lake trout grow larger than the walleye the tables will be turned. And when the lake trout population gets back to a certain level, then no walleye will dare go to deep water again.
3. Fewer lake trout mean fewer predators
With fewer lake trout to diminish walleye numbers, the only big predators left are northern pike which, it must be noted, are doing their best. Just witness all the huge pike our fishermen have been catching. These are well-fed fish! I think we caught more really-big pike in 2012 than in any recent year.
How could there be too many walleye?
So, back to that question posed in the first paragraph.
Walleye populations need big predators that thin them out in order for the remaining walleye to grow exceptionally large in size. Red Lake has always been known for its really, really big walleye. We don't want to lose that reputation.
Northern pike and lake trout have always done a nice job at making it a survival-of-the-fittest for walleyes in Red Lake.
Then the lake trout population took a hit and walleyes got the upper hand, at least temporarily.
The Ministry of Natural Resources has been stocking lake trout fingerlings from Pipestone Bay, just north of camp, in the rest of the lake for about 10 years now and the lakers have been slowly growing in numbers. Last fall, the MNR started a new tactic in which it will produce even more fingerlings each season with the intention of saturating some of the deepwater bays with lake trout to basically outnumber the walleye predators. 
In the meantime fishermen can continue enjoying the walleye bonanza and can do their part by keeping small fish to eat and letting the big ones go. It always makes much better conservation sense to eat several smaller fish than it does to kill one large one. You want to remove the excess in the population, not kill the reproducers that have made it to the top. (See the Stunning Reality of Keeping Big Fish).
If we all had done that years ago, lake trout would never have declined.
So what can fishermen expect of walleye fishing in 2013?
 It is going to continue to be spectacular with a horde of  fish in the 17-20 inch size range and most of the bigger ones in the 25-28 inch group and fewer in the 30+ inches. There probably will also be really small fish showing up, ones that were too small to bite last season. That's just a guess but looking back at the warm springs, it seems highly likely there are lots and lots of walleyes entering the fishing pool.
So walleye fishermen, sharpen your hooks. You are going to have sore arms from reeling in fish for many years.

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Another creature feature, something foxy

Sam and I are sure encountering the wildlife!
Yesterday we saw nine deer and a fox and today I was talking with my friend, Don Melnyk, out on the road when he spotted another fox and called it right to the truck by making squeaking noises on his hand.
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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sam and I met a creature on our walk today

Sam and I went for a hike behind our house today and met this handsome marten, called a pine marten in the U.S.
This medium-sized member of the weasel family was likely out hunting red-backed voles, red squirrels, snowshoe hares and ruffed grouse.
I caught a glimpse of him sailing over the snow and rushed toward him so that he would seek safety in a tree until I could take out my camera and get a photo.
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Thursday, November 22, 2012

My top secret lure for summer walleye


Don't tell!
I'm not going to mention my top secret lure for catching walleye in the summer. If I did, some professional tournament search engine robot would put two and two together and the first thing you know, everybody would be fishing with them. But you might be able to get a hint if you check out what's hanging from the mouths of the walleyes in these photos.
I like the 1/4-ounce version of this phenomenal lure. I plunk it right along the weedline and reel it slowly back toward the boat so that the lure is down near the bottom, at least most of the way. It is pretty good at shucking most of the weeds.
It works just as well in open territory -- on rocks and sandy bottoms.
And, it catches northern pike like crazy. That's why I always use an ultrathin wire leader, say six-pound or 12-pound test. The new Knot2Kinky wire works great for this. I make the leaders about four-inches long. That prevents almost all of the northern pike from cutting me off but it's not so long that walleyes pay any attention to it.
I put no live bait on the rig whatsoever. I use it just like it comes in the package. And boy, are these lures expensive. (Not!)  I think they each retail for an outlandish $2.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

'I wonder if this is a good spot for moose?'

Dan and Sam
Calf and cow moose
Sam and I checked out a trail near camp for moose sign last fall and decided to set out our trail camera.
Look what came by a day later.
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A real Beaver heads to the air base

Chimo Airways base in Red Lake
Red Lake is a busy floatplane base and a common aircraft here is the de Havilland Beaver. Chimo Air, however, which is located right beside our dock at Red Lake Marine, uses de Havilland Otters, like the turbine-engine model on the left, and Noorduyn Norseman planes like the one on the right as well as smaller Cessna aircraft. It doesn't have any Beavers, that is, until this actual animal swam right up to its dock last summer with a tree in its mouth.
You know you are "Up North" when critters are right in the town. Other wildlife commonly seen in Red Lake are black bears, coyotes, foxes, moose, deer, bald eagles and even, on the outskirts, timber wolves.
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Monday, November 19, 2012

Wally is looking after camp this winter

'Wally' the long-tailed weasel is on the job
Brenda, Sam and I have returned to our home in Nolalu for the winter but there is still someone looking after camp -- Wally.
Wally is a long-tailed weasel who first showed up in late August. He made it his mission to clear-out all the mice from the yard starting around the fish house and lodge. When we last saw him in late-October he was ranging around the entire clearing, all the way down to Cabin 10.
He would dash into every pile of brush we made and then reappear a minute later with a mouse in his mouth.
Wally felt completely at ease around us and even Sam, our chocolate Lab. Despite being nearly under our feet he proved a difficult model to photograph. He just wouldn't hesitate long enough to focus on. When I took this photo he had just begun to change into his winter white. He was nearly all white by the time we left. The only thing that won't camouflage with the snow will be the black tip of his tail.
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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

TechLite Lumen Master 200 a great flashlight

If you have been looking for a small, powerful flashlight, check out the TechLite Lumen Master High Intensity flashlight. This little light fits in the palm of your hand yet reaches out hundreds of yards with its 200-lumen CREE LED beam.
I've had one of these for a year now and frankly, it's the only flashlight I want to use.
The light is well-made out of machined aluminum and has rubber o-rings that make it waterproof.
Amazingly, you can stand on our main dock at camp and illuminate the far shoreline across the narrows.
A three-pack of these flashlights sells for about $28, I understand, at Costco.
We don't have Costco stores either in Red Lake or Thunder Bay near where we live in the winter. I actually got my first flashlight at Northwest TimberMart, a building supply store in Red Lake. After trying one I went back and bought all they had and gave one to every member of my family who were at camp moose hunting at the time. TimberMart has not stocked any more, to my knowledge.
However, one of my family discovered the lights are sold at Cosco and brought me a three-pack this fall.
The TechLite runs on three AAA batteries. As you can imagine, such a powerful beam takes a fair amount of power. There are three settings of light intensity, low, medium and strobe. You get about four hours on the low setting which, incidentally, is still brighter than most D-cell flashlights. The high setting will eat a set of batteries in just one hour but it's search-light-like beam is incredibly bright.
Frankly, I don't understand why every LED flashlight has a strobe setting.but there's one on this light if you can think of a use for it.
I must say the TechLite flashlight is better than any other light, is brighter, and costs a fraction of many of the high-end lights sold by sporting goods stores.
It would make a great Christmas gift!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

How to winterize the Honda 20 h.p. outboard

Each fall I must winterize all the outboard motors at Bow Narrows Camp. While not a difficult chore it does take quite a bit of time, especially when you consider the number of motors we must do. Our fishing boats are equipped with 20 h.p. Honda four-stroke engines.
I start by draining the engine oil by using a pump evacuator. This system sucks the oil right out of the engine through the dipstick tube.This is best done when the engine is still hot but it can be done with cold oil too.
Oil is pumped from engine
Now drain the lower unit by removing the bottom drain plug, then the top vent plug. This is vitally important because if water has infiltrated due to, say, fishing line being wound around the prop (like that ever happens!), then this water will freeze over the winter and break the lower unit.
This is thick, stinky stuff and when you do it in near-freezing temperatures the way I always do in the fall, will take about 10 minutes to finish draining. That means you can proceed with the next step and come back to this later. But before it is all drained out, take a look at the oil. It should be dark-coloured. If it is milky, then it has water in it. This could mean you need to get the prop seal replaced on this engine. It is best to have the unit pressure-tested to see if the seal is still good. Also pay attention to see if the oil contains metal filings. This means something has happened to the gear alignment, probably the result of striking a rock. There's nothing to do but get the gears replaced. Usually, however, the oil is just oil.
You should also take off and inspect the prop as well as the line-winder bushing on the prop shaft. If it has line on it, remove it, then put everything back. 
Oil drains from vent plug
Next, you will need to remove the cowling on the right side of the engine. It is held with five small screws. You will also need to remove the latch at the back of the engine. Take care not to lose the split ring that holds the entire clasp mechanism together. Unplug the engine vent and gasoline drain tubes from the cowling.
Remove tubes from cowling

You need to replace the oil filter. Unless the motor has been sitting on the rack for a long time, it will be full of oil so wedge a rag beneath it to catch most of the drips. Lube the rubber ring on the new filter before installing. Tighten by hand until snug.
Now fill the engine with one liter of 10W30 oil through the oil fill cap.
You now must drain all the gasoline from the engine. Even if you ran the motor dry before taking it out of the water, it will still have gasoline trapped in the fuel system. This could turn to varnish, thanks to today's ethanol-laced fuel, even if you use fuel stabilizer. So do this instead:
 Loosen the drain screw at the bottom of the carburetor . It will let any gas still in the carb drain out through the clear vent tube.Also, disconnect the fuel line that runs from the fuel pump to the vapour separator. There will be a great deal of fuel left in this. If it is clear, you can save this but if cloudy, it has water in it and must be discarded.
The fuel pump is the round object just to the right of my hand. The vapor separator is the jar-like object at the bottom right.
Gas is drained from water separator fuel line
Replace the fuel hose and reassemble the cowling.
By now the lower unit will have finished draining so fill the lower unit with 80-90w gear oil by filling from the bottom vent hole until oil appears in the top hole.
Wash off the entire cowling. Windex does a good job for this.
Store the engine upright over the winter.
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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Black wolf looks like the alpha male

alpha male of the pack, Red Lake, Ontario
This spectacular photo of a large black timber wolf was taken near camp by my brother-in-law, Ron Wink.
We think he is the alpha male -- the male leader -- of the pack. There are a couple of reasons for this.
For starters, no other wolf came near him in our photos. If you look in the background of the shot at the bottom you can see another, tawny-coloured, wolf in the background. The male black wolf was also the largest wolf.
The night Ron got this photo on his trail camera, we heard all the wolves howling. That's something wolves do when they are packing-up in the fall. Again, it takes a leader to create a pack.
Finally, when the black wolf left, he took all the other wolves with him. We had photographed many other wolves for days until the night he appeared.
Even though there were still moose parts left to chew upon, all the canines vanished from our trail cameras for a long time. Finally, a lone tawny wolf came back to finish up the scraps.
wolf pack at west end of Red Lake, Ontario

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Nice photo of a young timber wolf near camp

Wolf captured on Bushnell HD trail camera, 2012, near Bow Narrows Camp
Here's a shot I got recently with my new Bushnell HD Trophy Cam trail camera. It shows a beautiful timber wolf in the most typical colour pattern. This wolf is quite tall, likely at least three feet or one metre. Note the thin profile and legs and the yellow eyes. We have seen a lot of wolves that looked like this around camp here at Red Lake, Ontario. More wolf photos in the next blog. I also have videos if I can figure out how to post them on the blog.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Timber wolves frequently seen and heard

Timber wolves at night
We have seen and heard more timber wolves this year than any other. Bow Narrows angler Charles Howard discovered one location for photographing wolves when he and fellow angler Kim Gross were here in September. Charles got some nice shots with his trail camera so I thought I would try the same thing. This is my first photo, showing three wolves.
My brother-in-law, Ron, and I each purchased new Bushnell High Definition cameras after I got this shot. Wait until you see those pix on the blog in the coming days!

It has been a fall for firewood

Our son, Matt, came to camp in September to help us find and cut firewood. This is a big chore as we need to search around the lake for dead trees, cut them down, buck them up into four-foot lengths, haul them by boat to camp, carry them up the hill and then cut them into stove-length pieces, split the blocks, and deliver them to the cabins.
He, and our brother-in-law, Ron Wink who did most of the splitting and delivering, had just finished gathering enough wood for this fall and next spring when the winter storm hit. It broke hundreds of green trees right here in our yard. Ever since we have been cutting up these trees which will be used for firewood next fall and coming years.
Meanwhile, the weather all fall has been very cold and wet and we have used up a lot of the wood we hoped to have on hand next year.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Many lake trout spawned; new direction starts

Nadine Thibeau and Jim Castle implant a tracking device

Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources fish and wildlife personnel gathered more than 100 lake trout this fall to help regenerate Red Lake's once-burgeoning lake trout population.
Under the direction of new biologist Jim Castle, the MNR crews caught and gathered the eggs and milt from 50 female and 50 male trout. It was the best catch in many years possibly due to weather conditions. Autumn came early this year, plunging the lake temperature to the lake trouts' preferred 10-12 C for spawning. In other years the temperature has been too warm until late in October which is then too late for the trout to spawn,
This year marks a new strategy for the MNR trout project. In addition to producing about 150,000 fingerlings to be released back to Red Lake in 18 months, other fingerlings will be kept at the MNR hatchery in Dorion, Ont., and will be raised to become brood stock. Once those fish reach maturity in about seven years, their eggs and milt will be gathered for the Red Lake restocking program.
There have been several developments in the trout situation in Red Lake.
The first was the discovery by Castle that Red Lake's trout DNA shows there are four distinct groups of trout. Trout are genetically distinct in each lake that they are found. Castle had first guessed there might be two types in Red Lake: Pipestone Bay fish and those from the rest of the lake. He had reasoned that Pipestone was once a lake unto itself and only became part of Red Lake when the Snowshoe Dam was built in 1948. That raised the water level about four feet. The present tiny entrance to Pipestone Bay is only about five feet deep. It is likely that before the dam was created Pipestone was joined to the rest of the lake by either a small creek or even a rapids. Pipestone, was in effect, a lake, not a bay.
Kyle Pace brings a large trout to shore for spawning
Castle sent away samples of fish that the MNR has gathered over the years and found to his surprise that there were four different strains of trout in Red Lake. Possibly some of the trout came from introductions in the past although there is no record of this.
At any rate, his hypothesis was that since the MNR in the past had been gathering all of the trout for the restocking project in Pipestone Bay, it was logical then that stocked fish would return to Pipestone to spawn. That is something the MNR team doesn't want to happen because studies show that lake trout eggs usually do not survive in Pipestone Bay. The reason is still a mystery and making the situation all the more enigmatic is the observation that once in awhile, they do survive.
This year the MNR gathered spawning fish from three areas instead of just Pipestone. They were Potato Island basin, Trout Bay and Pipestone Bay. The Pipestone and non-Pipestone fish were kept separate and were mated with those from their own area. The researchers also implanted tracking devices in about 20 trout and will monitor their movements around the lake.
Here at Bow Narrows Camp we are in a perfect position to have witnessed the entire lake trout saga.
Back in the 1960s and 70s, we had good lake trout fishing at the west end of the lake where the camp is located. By and large our guests made up the majority of people who fished for trout. In a day's fishing you might catch 6-12 fish and they varied in size from one pound to 25 pounds.
Then, in the 1980s, the lake trout population seemed to go berserk. Our fishermen might catch 20 fish in a day and they were all huge, 16 pounds up to as large as 40 pounds. At this time Red Lake's trout fishing was ranked among the best in the world, as good as places like Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories.
About the same time smelt were discovered in Red Lake. Smelt are native only to the Pacific Ocean and were transplanted to the Great Lakes. It is likely that Red Lake residents who had gone "smelting" in Lake Superior unintentionally released fertilized smelt eggs into Red Lake. The same thing happened in just about every lake with road access in Northwestern Ontario.
Smelt are a highly nutritious fish and larger fish that eat them, such as lake trout, grow rapidly.
I believe that the introduction of smelt is what actually caused the eventual demise of lake trout in Red Lake.
Here's what I think happened: lake trout ate the blossoming smelt population and double or tripled their normal annual weight gain. When news of the tremendous trout fishing at the west end of the lake got out, anglers came from far and wide to catch them.
When Brenda and I returned to the camp business in 1992 (we had left to pursue other careers in 1978), I was stunned at the fishing pressure being placed on lake trout.
Now, instead of just Bow Narrows fishermen catching trout, there were also anglers from Black Bear Lodge, located about five miles to our east, many Red Lake residents who also winter-fished, all the camps at the east end of the lake, all of the camps on Gullrock Lake and even camps on Eagle Lake, more than 100 miles to our south!
Tiny locations such as Potato Island might have as many as two dozen boats fishing around them, almost around the clock.
The sustainable harvest of lake trout, as determined by MNR fish studies elsewhere, is one-half pound of fish per surface acre of water. I estimate that the entire year's harvest of trout by all the combined fishermen occurred in just a few days. Almost all of these boats were taking lots of fish in the 16-20 pound range every day. When you consider that each 20-pound fish accounts for the allowable yield of 40 acres, it doesn't take long before you have over-harvested the species. And this colossal overharvest went on day after day for more than a decade.
Lake trout are not a wary fish. This has been shown by an on-going MNR study on Squeers Lake, between Thunder Bay and Atikokan. Only ice fishermen are allowed to fish there and only through a lottery-type system on a couple of weekends. It's a small lake and easier for the fish researchers to watch the population. A few years ago the study purposely let fishermen overharvest the lake with the idea that the biologists would monitor how the population would respond. Surprisingly, the study also showed that even though there were fewer and fewer fish in the lake, the success rate of the fishermen didn't change. In other words, trout are eager to bite and it is plumb easy to catch every one of them.
That is what I think happened in Red Lake. In the space of just a decade or so, fishermen caught almost every trout, especially in the most heavily fished areas such as Potato Island. All the fish were big, were the spawners, and people just caught them all.
What about Pipestone Bay then? Pipestone is the farthest for all but Bow Narrows fishermen to reach. It didn't quite get the pressure. So more of its fish escaped. And in the end, those were almost the only fish left.
Why can't they spawn there today?
We don't know, except that there seems to be some naturally occurring blend of elements in the sediment that prevents their success. We also know that once in awhile, for reasons we still can't fathom, the eggs do survive. It might be a combination of temperature, wind conditions and water level.
Whatever, MNR studies have shown that the eggs do sometimes make it.
I suspect that has always been the situation. As long as there aren't hordes of anglers whipping them out of the lake, Pipestone is still able to sustain itself.
All lake trout fishing has been catch-and-release only now for about 10 years. Are there small lake trout being caught? A few and so far, none has been the stocked fish put back in the lake by the MNR.
Biologist Castle had some facts about smelt that might account for this.
First, smelt are voracious predators. They eat other fish when these species are still in the larval stages.
Smelt are also a mid-to-deep-depth species. They exist in the same water with lake trout. So, it is entirely possible that smelt are eating most of the larval-sized lake trout.
What about all the trout that have been released? It's true, they are too big for smelt to eat. There have been hundreds of thousands of them put back in the lake. Here's my theory: when the lake trout were removed from the deeper depths, the void was filled by walleye. Studies and our anglers' experience prove there are now lots of walleye in the deep depths. Walleye have been eating the trout fingerlings.
Walleye are unaffected by smelt predation because walleye in the larval stage, when they are vulnerable to smelt, exist in shallow water.
Castle calls such a situation a "predator pit." Trout can't get a start again because there are just too many predators (walleyes and smelt) down there. His plan is to overwhelm the predators. If he can release enough fingerling trout at one time, some of them will survive, and when they do, they will once again become the top predator. Walleye will be forced to stick to the safety of the shallows.

And with catch-and-release fishing, trout numbers should grow to the point where they will also overwhelm the smelt. This will let natural deep-water species such as whitefish, ling and tulibee to rebuild their populations too.
I think we are on the right track here.