Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Basket nets new this year; good luck sign?

Flat bottom and small rubber-coated mesh should make net easier to use, aid fish
About half of our landing nets this year will be this basket net model from Lucky Strike. It has a flat bottom rather than a V like a standard landing net. This is said to prevent the fish from bending into a V itself when landed, something that is purported to cause the fish harm.
I'm not sure of that fact. I've never netted and released a big pike that seemed injured from being bent in the net. However, the flat bottom should make it easier to extract the fish and therefore it can be returned to the lake quicker.
These nets also have a fine mesh that has been coated in rubber. The small mesh size is also expected to cause less harm to fish by preventing them from getting their mouths and fins entangled. I'm hoping that the rubber coating also prevents anglers' hooks from being ensnared in the fabric of the mesh. This is how most of our existing nets get ruined. Tiny hooks, like those on Rapalas, get stuck right through the fabric and out come the knives. I wish people would take more care with our nets. This model, for instance, costs $70.
We also have some rubber nets which are excellent for netting walleye of any size but can feel like a serving spoon when you are staring at a 44+inch northern pike.
This new basket net, I'm hoping, will do both. It looks deep enough that a small alligator will fit into it, at least if it curls just a bit but at the same time it offers the ease of extraction that comes with the rubber nets.
We'll run the new nets in half of our boats this summer and see what anglers think of them.
The bottom photo is something I don't believe I've ever seen before: a rainbow with snow on the ground and first thing in the morning too. This scene is looking west at about 7 a.m.
I'm hoping it is a sign of good luck for ice-out. We could use some right about now. Our daytime temperatures are above freezing but are pathetic compared to normal. It is going to take a miracle for ice to be gone from most lakes in Northwestern Ontario before May 17.
Brenda will be in Red Lake this coming weekend and will send a report on the spots we watch closely for a clue as to what is happening: Skookum Bay, Chukuni River, the little lakes south of town along the highway.
I think it is a foregone conclusion that there will be ice in Red Lake after May 17. Our only hope for the first week now is that water will open in the river and then in front of camp so we can fly in. Our guests that first week are used to this and, I think, even look forward to it. These are almost all dyed-in-the-wool northern pike fishermen who fish with dead bait. This system works the best in ice-cold water.
Unusual rainbow over snow in early morning

Click to go back to our website 
Click to see the latest on the blog

Friday, April 25, 2014

Just what we didn't need in Nolalu but Red Lake escapes

Up to a foot of snow hit the area around Thunder Bay, Ont., Friday, April 25

Cork has to bound to get around in same place there was grass a few days ago
We got a foot of slushy snow here in Nolalu last night and today! What a bummer!
This is the kind of weather event that is a real kick in the pants when most of last winter's snow had just about melted, at least from the open areas.
It will set back the lake-melting process by at least several days here.
Red Lake, however, dodged this bullet. It only got some rain. Temperatures both there and here are below normal but on the + side of the thermometer.
Despite the colder-than-average days, streams are opening up more or less normally. In the Nolalu area all the rivers are open -- the big Kaministiquia and also small streams like the Whitefish River.
In Red Lake, Jody from Red Lake Marine told me today that there is open water appearing downstream from the Chukuni River bridge on the road to Cochenour and Balmertown. That is the spot we often fly from when we go out to camp by floatplane and which is how we will undoubtedly travel again this year.
I also heard there is open water at the Skookum Bay bridge on the way to the Forestry Point. The bay, however, is still frozen shore to shore.
Those signs of spring are encouraging.
Except for the weather, spring seems to be occurring: geese are flying north, sea gulls are sitting on the lake ice, ruffed grouse are drumming. Jody even saw an otter going down the sidewalk in Red Lake!
Enid Carlson says on her blog that there is actually less snow in Red Lake at this date than last year. She figures ice-out will be late (after May 8) but still in time for fishing season, May 17.
We've got all our fingers crossed -- and our toes!
Lake Superior is going to be another story. The world's largest lake was 98% frozen this winter, the most in recorded history. I heard an expert on the radio today predict that there will probably be ice somewhere in the lake until June!
Click to go back to our website
 Click to see the latest on the blog

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Factors that can affect Red Lake's 2014 ice-out

Everybody has their fingers crossed that the 2014 ice-out for Red Lake, Ontario, and other Northwestern Ontario lakes will take place before fishing season opens May 17. It is going to take a perfect alignment of a number of factors for that to realistically happen and apparently, the main catalyst-- warm temperatures -- isn't going to be among them. Although Red Lake is getting daytime highs above freezing, they are still far below normal and nighttime lows are still way too cold. You would be forgiven for thinking the ice will never melt but as the photos of Douglas Creek at the end of Trout Bay taken by Hugh Carlson show in the previous blog, there is a little open water showing up. How can that be?
The reason is that even though we can't quite pry Old Man Winter's bony fingers off us, other things are

Longer days

We are a month past the vernal equinox now and daylight hours significantly outnumber the dark ones. Sunlight, the giver of all life on Earth, will warm up every dark surface, regardless of the air temperature. Rocks, logs and weeds stuck in the ice will absorb the sun rays and holes will appear through the more than three-feet of existing ice.  Marshy ends of bays will melt entirely. The lake ice will break free of the shoreline, rising up so that it is higher than the water level when it froze.
Dirt and debris on the lake will melt holes down into the ice, some will go all the way through. Water will pool on the surface, turning it darker in colour and this too will warm up from the sun.
But longer days will have little effect if the sky is cloudy. So we need lots of sunny days, even if they are cold, for the sunlight factor to overcome the colder-than-normal temperatures.


Snow and ice melt far faster on warm windy days than on calm ones. The wind both blows the warm air in and carries the cold air away. In the West they have a name for this -- chinook. It is a First Nation's term and means snow-eating wind.
The good news is that the wind that blew relentlessly all winter, that created frightening wind chills, is still with us. This spring may not be as warm as normal but it is also far windier. The meager above-freezing temperatures are being multiplied by the wind, at least as far as melting snow and ice go.
There is still a couple of feet of snow on the ground but it is rotten. It would only take a couple of really warm days to finish it.
The wind also plays another role -- it actually creates a current under the ice, at least in some places. Here's how. When the wind blows it pushes down on the ice where the ice expanse is widest -- the center. This displaces the water beneath the ice away from the big sections, sending it rushing into the bays. This is most evident in long, narrow bays. But wind is seldom steady; it gusts and lays and then gusts again. So the water moves into these bays and then moves out again, back and forth. That's why there is a sandbar at the entrance to virtually every narrow bay. Think of Green Bay in Pipestone, Golden Arm, Marten Bay. The sand came from the action of the wind on the water, underneath the ice. Sediment in the water falls out every time the current reverses.
Every bush-wise snowmobiler and lake traveler knows that the ice is no good at the entrances of long bays. The back-and-forth current here makes the ice thinner and the sandbar makes the water shallower. In the spring, the sunlight will warm the water up here quickly so that these are the second places to open after the mouths of creeks that have continuous current.
Although we are still a long way from it happening, eventually it will be the wind that dashes the ice pans to bits. This will occur when the ice has melted a few feet from the shore and has room to move.

No more snow

If the lake ice is going to disappear before the season opener, we cannot have any more snowfalls like we had a few days ago. About three inches fell in Red Lake, much more in other places. A snowfall like this sets back the melting process by several days.


A warm rain really rots lake ice quickly. It will create pools on the surface that will find cracks that go all the way through. The water will pour through these, widening them and weakening the entire sheet.
Rain also sends torrents of water from land onto the lake, bringing with it dirt that absorbs sunlight.


Obviously, nothing melts snow and lake ice like warm temperatures. Even if they aren't normal, they must be above freezing, especially at night. If it freezes at night, it takes half of the next day to melt the new ice. So we still need it to warm up. We should be experiencing highs of 10 C to 15 C (about 40 F to 50 F) and lows of 0 C to 5 C (32 F to 40 F). Instead we are getting highs of 5 C to 10 C and lows of -5 to -10 C. That's not good. The weather forecasts continually predict it to warm up within a week. So far, it hasn't happened.

Click to go back to our website
 Click to see the latest on the blog

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Scenes to warm our winter-frozen hearts!

Bay in front of Douglas Creek. 
Douglas Creek pours into Trout Bay
Hugh Carlson's  freighting system loaded with dock segments. In the background is Frank Paishk's cabin.
It hit 25 C or about 75 F in the sun in Nolalu today
Brenda and Cork enjoy the sun and disappearing snowbanks
The top three photos of spring scenes at the west end of Red Lake were sent to me today by Enid Carlson who owns Viking Island Lodge along with her husband, Hugh.
They had made a freighting snowmobile trip out to Viking Island on Douglas Lake. The two scenes of open water were at the entrance to Douglas Creek at the end of Trout Bay, a familiar place to all Bow Narrows anglers. Despite the below-normal temperatures and late-spring snowfalls, the lake is melting there pretty much as-usual. Of course, this place has a lot of current and such areas are the very first to melt. Still, it is heartening and makes us still hopeful that we will be able to get into camp by the opening of fishing season, May 17.
There is current also in the narrows in front of Bow Narrows Camp and this fact has often let us start the season on time by flying from the Chukuni River in town, usually with Viking Outposts aircraft, and landing in the narrows, even when the main part of the lake is still frozen and impassable to our cabin cruiser. In fact, that is what we did last year.
The third photo shows one of the Carlson's snowmobiles and the boat they are pulling loaded with freight. In the background is what most people know as "The Trapper's Cabin" at the eastern entrance to West Narrows, about two miles from our camp. It was built by Frank Paishk, the Ojibwa man who trapped the west end of Red Lake and who died many years ago. Frank was also one of the guides at Viking Island Lodge.
You can see more about the Carlsons' trip at Enid's blog.
The bottom two photos were taken today at our home in Nolalu which is about 300 miles southeast of Red Lake and is only 30 miles from Thunder Bay, Ontario.
The thermometer was on the sunny side of the house but still, this is pretty impressive. The warm temperature and light wind are helping melt the two feet of snow that still remains in the bush here. There may only be eight inches of snow left in the fields.
Brenda took advantage of the sunny day to "suntan" while reading her book. Our 4.5-month chocolate Lab puppy, Cork, finds the remaining snow patches perfect for eating and cooling off his tummy after dashing wildly about in what must be his expression of spring fever.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Will ice-out for Red Lake happen before fishing season?

With only one month to go before fishing season begins in Northwestern Ontario, everybody wonders if the ice will be off the lakes in time.
Well, let's put it this way: it isn't impossible. I say that despite the -20 C (0 F) temps of the last couple of days and the six inches of new snow. By next weekend the mercury is forecast to jump to normal and even above-normal for the next couple of weeks, at least for Red Lake. If that indeed does happen, the remainder of the snow and still-nearly four feet of lake ice could disappear rapidly.
Bare ground was just starting to show up when the latest snow and bitter temps hit. Let us pray it was the last gasp of Old Man Winter.
Predictions of ice-out are notoriously fickle. The only thing we can say for certain is ice-out won't be early. At the best it will be on time, and most people would probably bet it will be late.
For Red Lake, the average ice-out date is May 8. A week either side of that date would be considered normal. Fishing season begins May 17.

Recognizing a potentially dangerous situation

Calf and cow moose are frequently seen by our anglers. Larry and Jason Pons photo.
There's never any problem observing a cow moose with her calf, or calves, as long as you are at a respectful distance such as these photographers were in their boat while the moose walked along the shore.
Never, however, approach a moose and her calf on land or get between them on the water. Cows are extremely protective of their young and will almost certainly attack if they think you are a threat.
Click to go back to our website
 Click to see the latest on the blog

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Hopefully the lake level won't be this high

When water levels rise unexpectedly, loon nests can be flooded and the eggs lost. The high water left this loon and its nest the only visible thing on the surface a few years ago. That's not the best situation for keeping predators away. Eagles are among the predators of young loons and loon eggs.
Click to go back to our website 
Click to see the latest on the blog

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Loons are the most devoted of parents

Photo by Larry or Jason Pons
No chick could have a more loving parent or as fierce a protector as a loon. The mother and father -- the sexes look alike -- dote upon their young and never leave their side until they are nearly full grown.
We are blessed on Red Lake to have pairs of loons at virtually every turn of the lake. Their voice is the true "call of the wild."
Click to go back to our website 
Click to see the latest on the blog

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Red Lake 2014 ice-out countdown begins

With the arrival of April, the countdown for ice-out on Red Lake, Ontario and everywhere else in Northwestern Ontario begins.
Nothing that happened last winter will make a bit of difference. The severe cold, the deep snow -- all meaningless. What matters is the weather from here to the opening of fishing season May 17.
If temperatures are near-normal and there are the usual number of sunny days then Red Lake's ice-out should take place within a week or so of May 8.
Don Aitkin, owner of Red Lake Marine reported today that there is two feet of snow and probably 40 inches of ice. The weather forecast is for normal temps so the outlook is promising.

Bald eagles probably already finding open water

Bald eagles sit in jackpines. Photo by Charles Howard
One of the first birds to show up at rapids in creeks and rivers in the spring is the bald eagle. The fast-flowing water in these places are the first to become ice-free in the spring and will soon be stuffed with spawning suckers and walleyes, both favourite meals for the big raptors.
Click to go back to our website
 Click to see the latest on the blog