Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Deep snow is starting to become a problem

Deer using our driveway watch the neighbour

Our home's big propane tank is about buried

Cork and I aren't the only ones walking the road
We got nine inches of snow last weekend and that now puts about 30 inches on the ground.
That's good for some things and bad for others. It's good for keeping the ground from freezing. During my daily snowshoe walk with Cork the end of my walking stick comes up muddy when I plunge it down through the snow in low areas -- unfrozen even though the temperature is dropping to -20 C to -30 C at night (-4  F to -20 F)
The snow depth is beginning to restrict the movements of deer. They now must leap rather than walk and that takes a lot more energy. Whenever possible, they stick to traveling beneath conifers where the snow depth is less or they simply take to the road.
The deer could be in serious trouble since we haven't even started the time period when we typically get the most snow. That is March when we could get as much snow as the rest of the year combined.
The deep snow is also insulating the lakes resulting in less ice than normal. That's bad for snowmobiling but should be good come spring. We might be in for an early ice-out.
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Saturday, February 6, 2016

Today's timber wolf photos

For size comparison, 75-pound Cork in same place as second photo
This is a splendid example of a timber wolf, also known as a grey wolf.
This shot came from my oldest trail camera but one which always seems to be in the right place at the right time. It's about 500 meters from our house here in Nolalu.
I'm pretty sure that this is the same animal we saw from our front window two or three weeks ago. He was trotting through the deep snow fairly easily and seemed destined right for our neighbour's across the road. He got about half way across our field when he changed his mind and came back to our bush. I at first feared that he had intended to go after the neighbour's dogs but on further inspection of tracks in the field I realized he was just following a deer.
Nolalu seems to be a wonderful place for wolves. I get photos of them regularly on my trail cameras which are just placed on our own 65 acres. There seem to be many more wolves here than at our camp on Red Lake. The reason is almost certainly that there is a high population of whitetail deer in Nolalu while Red Lake is still one of the few places with almost nothing but moose.
Wolves prey on moose, that's for sure, but the bigger moose are much harder for them to kill. It definitely takes a pack of wolves to bring down a moose and I suspect it is pretty risky business. One clip from a big hoof and a wolf is probably done for.
Deer are much easier. This wolf seems to be hunting by himself and as the photos show, he is not lacking for food. Check out that muscular neck in the first photo in particular.
This is a big fellow, twice the size of Cork, our 75-pound chocolate Labrador. Could he weigh 150 pounds? I can't tell but I do know that wolves are always lighter than you would expect, a function of having zero fat on their bodies.
The question often arises about safety when around these big canines. I have never personally known anybody who was either attacked or threatened by a wolf. They are almost supernatural in their ability to avoid people.
It is true that they can be a threat to dogs. About once a decade, it seems to me, there will be a rash of wolves killing dogs here in Nolalu. Eventually the offending wolves are seen and shot and it always seems to be just two individuals, a male and a female. That probably indicates the dog-killing has something to do with reproductive behaviour, but reproduction occurs every year and not the dog-killing so I don't really know what is going on.
Wolves are pretty single-minded. They want ungulates -- deer and/or moose.
In deer territory there are obviously far more wolves and when deer expand into traditional moose territory the resulting increase in predators means more moose are killed than normal.
It's a double whammy for the poor moose. The deer also bring with them a fatal parasite called brainworm that devastates moose populations.
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Friday, February 5, 2016

Camp boats in evening

Ciepliks photo of Pipestone Bay
They went far and wide, the boats, after supper
seeking fish, seeking solitude, seeking grace.
Now they come flying back, racing the darkness
leaving widening Vs behind them
watched by the Evening Star

The lake and the sky meld together
The boats skim the heavens as easily as the water
They give wide berths to islands of dark matter
and search the horizon for silver openings,
trails that lead them vaguely onward

The path flows narrower and narrower
twisting through a blackness that crowds in everywhere but ahead
Suddenly there springs the lights of camp
A mother calling her children in.
They have made it home.
Vic Fazekas photo of Bow Narrows camp

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

What happens to fish after line breaks?

My brother, Bill Baughman, removes a hook that was caught deep in a pike's mouth
I think we have all had a sinking feeling when our line snapped and we realized a fish was stuck with an ungainly lure in its mouth. Did it eventually die?
Probably not, at least if it was a northern pike, according to a study by a researcher at Carleton University in Ontario.
Chris Pullen placed crankbaits that had two sets of treble hooks in the mouths of northern pike and then monitored them to see if and when they were able to get rid of the lures.
On half the lures he pinched down the barbs. He also placed the lures in the backs of the mouths of half the fish and in the front on the rest.
Lures with the pinched down barbs came out in just 24 hours. Lures with barbed hooks took longer  but surprisingly fish that were hooked deep in the mouth shed the lures quicker than the ones hooked in the front. That could be the case, he speculated, because the fish just aren't bothered by the front-hooked lures so much and don''t try to get rid of them as fast.
The results could easily be different for other species, he noted. Northern pike are a hardy group, better able to withstand stresses that might kill other fish.
When it comes to pinching down barbs, my advice is to always do it on lures with more than one treble hook. The fish do not seem to get away during the fight and it makes removing the hooks way easier once you get them into the boat. It also makes it easier to take the hooks out of yourself, always a big danger in lures with multiple trebles.
For lures with a single treble or with just single hooks, I would suggest not pinching down the barb unless you must do so for legal reasons. These are pretty easy to remove from the fish and they rarely hook you.
Thanks to Bow Narrows angler Tommy Cieplik of the famous Cieplik videos found on this blog for bringing this study to our attention.
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Monday, February 1, 2016

Last call for people with reservations to pay deposits

It has been a month and a half now since I wrote and e-mailed groups with reservations asking them to secure them with deposits.
There are still several that I have not heard from.
I will call them this week and if I still can't get a response, those cabins will be put back on the Availability list.
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Sunday, January 31, 2016

You never know what might be on the line

Jeff Kinzenbaw with redhorse sucker

Rob Kinzenbaw with blue walleye
Just when you think you know what to expect while fishing in Red Lake, you latch onto something totally strange.
Mostly, you catch northern pike and walleye. Then, you reel up and think, "What the heck is this?"
In the photos above, Bow Narrows angler Jeff Kinzenbaw shows off a beautiful-if-odd redhorse sucker. You see some that are very large, like 10 pounds, but for some reason we only catch the smaller ones.
Brother Rob Kinzenbaw noticed something unusual about a nice-size walleye that he boated. It was blue rather than golden-yellow. It is, in fact, the blue-morph walleye, also called the blue walleye which is a colour variation of the species.
Walleye and perch both can show this color variation. A researcher in Wisconsin is studying this phenomenon which seems to becoming more common all over the North. See Dr. Wayne Shaefer's blog. He is with the University of Wisconsin-Washington County.
You might catch a "walleye" with a camo look to it and lacking white on the tips of its fins. That would be a sauger, actually not a walleye at all but because of its similarity in looks counts as part of your walleye limit.
And, of course, you might hook a lake trout. These can be anywhere during the first few weeks of the season when the water is cold. You'll know it's a lake trout when you wonder if you have hooked some sort of submarine. They are extremely powerful.
I mentioned perch, of course, which are all over the shallow water bays. In our family we always strive to catch the "P trifecta": pike, perch and pickerel (aka walleye). Incidentally, we have a 10-inch minimum size limit on bringing perch to the fish house for cleaning.
There's another fish that can be really perplexing and I'm going to relate an actual story from two of our fishermen to show how mysterious it can be.
These two guys were fishing in Golden Arm, a long narrow bay about four miles from camp, and had done well on walleye and pike when it was lunch time. Since they had taken bag lunches from the lodge, they just let their walleye jigs tipped with worms dangle while they munched on their sandwiches. There was a fair wind blowing the boat right down the bay. One of the rod tips started twitching and the angler dropped his sandwich and set the hook. Nothing. Then the other guy did the same thing with the same result. Perch? Probably not because they were right in the middle of the bay -- too deep for perch. They baited-up again, let their lines out, and no sooner did they resume their lunch than it happened again. So they baited-up another time. Then the whole thing happened again only this time they let the fish "take it" for a few seconds before setting the hook and they both latched onto something a lot bigger than a perch, that was for sure. They started cranking their catches in when each lost their fish. So they baited again and right away, both hooked up to fish. This time they played the fish more gently and got them all the way to the boat. When they netted them they were flabbergasted. "What the heck?"
The fish they had boated had small heads, big bodies, were covered in large silver scales, and had large fins. They also had tiny mouths.
They were whitefish!
The anglers correctly reasoned that they didn't hook the fish at first because their mouths were so small and also that by horsing-in the fish the first couple of attempts they had ripped the soft mouths and the fish had gotten away.
So there's another unusual species: whitefish.
And then there's the tulibee. It looks almost identical to the whitefish except its mouth goes straight ahead while the whitefish have a mouth that is longer on the top and shorter on the bottom, making it look like they have a nose.
Redhorse suckers aren't the only type of suckers you might run into. There is also the white sucker which is mostly silver with a darker back.
If you drop a hook and a worm around any of the dock cribs at camp you will immediately come up with a rockbass. It looks kind of like a crappie with a red eye.
The strangest fish you might encounter, however, has got to be the ling, also called about twenty other names but burbot might be the most common. It seems to be half catfish and half eel. It also has the surprising habit of wrapping around your arm when you try to remove the hooks. This scares the bejeebers out of newcomers to the species and they fling it away which is too bad because it is absolutely delicious. Tastes like lobster.
Rarest of all to catch but which occasionally make an appearance are smallmouth bass and musky.
Finally, there is a tiny fish that you might hook accidentally that isn't a fish at all but rather a minnow. It is the emerald shiner which is commonly four-to-six inches in length. I mention this because for the last few years at camp you can encounter schools of this big-water minnow that are so dense you cannot help but hook one if you cast among them.
They are currently at astonishing levels. I've seen schools that measured twenty feet in width by a half-mile in length and I have no idea how deep in the water they went. You only find them in the big bays, like Pipestone, Trout, Potato Island basin, etc. Fish love them.
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Friday, January 29, 2016

This is one incredible lake trout!

Kenny Bock of Iowa caught and released this lake trout while ice fishing on Gullrock
Iowa angler Kenny Bock was ice fishing at Wright's Wilderness Lodge on Gullrock Lake this winter when he caught and released what has got to be Red Lake-Gullrock's most-amazing lake trout.
It was Good Old RL02-4178, that is, it had been tagged by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests and its tag number was RL02-4178. It was a female and she is well known to MNRF fish and wildlife personnel.

Red Lake biologist Toby Braithwaite said they have been tracking the movements of  Number 4178 since 2012 when she and 24 other lake trout had sonic tags surgically implanted in them.

Although lake trout have always been caught by winter fishermen on Gullrock, it was generally  believed that they moved upstream to the deeper waters of Red Lake as soon as the water began to warm in the spring.
Number 4178's sonic tag has shown that she spends most of the summer in Gullrock and only begins to head west in late July. Finally, in October, she makes a sprint to Pipestone Bay to spawn and then zooms back to Gullrock covering more than 31 miles in a single day!
Red Lake trout at Dorion hatchery.
When she was tagged in 2012 she was 33.8 inches in length. Her age was also determined. Today she is over 44 years old! That is the oldest fish I have ever heard about coming from Red Lake.
 Biologist Braithwaite notes fishes' ages are determined by taking a ray from a pectoral fin (one of the fins on the side near the head) and examining it through a microscope. The ray shows rings like a tree.
Back in 2002 it was determined that Red Lake's lake trout were in jeopardy and a program was begun to restock the lake using its own fish.
Each fall the MNRF stays at Bow Narrows Camp while lake trout are caught and their eggs and milt taken before the fish are returned back to the lake. These eggs are taken to the MNRF fish hatchery in Dorion and are brought back as fingerlings 18 months later. More than 500,000 fish have now been stocked in this fashion.
There will be 85,000 yearlings and 50,000 fry released this year.
The 2015 egg collection was the largest ever and the fish researchers hope to release 178,000 yearlings in 2017.
Adult fish that are caught by the MNRF during the fall spawning project have little yellow tags attached to them, just like Number 4178. If you catch a fish with such a tag, write down the number or take a photo of it before releasing the fish.  Fishing regulations require that all lake trout must be released on the spot.
In addition, however, make a careful inspection of the fins of the fish. All of the stocked fish will be missing a fin since the hatchery personnel clip a different fin each year. You should report tag numbers either to the MNRF or to us at camp who can relay the information to Braithwaite and his fellow researchers. A report of a trout with a clipped fin would also be welcomed since it signals that the stocked fish are surviving. If you could also get a length on the fish, that would be helpful because when combined with the information on which fin was clipped, it would tell the researchers when the fish was stocked.
Braithwaite says the latest assessments show lake trout are now spawning in the Potato Island basin and the Trout Bay areas in greater abundance but seem to still be declining in Pipestone Bay.
Hatchery personnel clip fins of anesthetized trout. Toby Braithwaite photos

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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

What a beautiful, wonderful winter!

Did you ever see such a smiling, happy guy? I'm even having fun clearing trails
Call me Pollyanna, but I'm finding this winter to be one the most enjoyable in decades. I don't think a day goes by when I don't say to Brenda, "We live in the very best place in the world!"
From the front window of our home in Nolalu we can see a ski hill that is 40 miles away. A week ago we saw a beautiful grey wolf or timber wolf crossing the field right in front of our house. Yesterday there were three whitetails walking down our driveway. Our birdfeeder is loaded with colourful pine grosbeaks, blue jays, redpolls, chickadees and others.
Every day I strap on the snowshoes and Cork and I wander around the mile or so of trails we have on our property or alternatively, we take to our country roads and put in three-to-four-miles of brisk walking. Saw three deer doing that yesterday too.
The temperature has mostly been terrific. It's below freezing but this is Canada, don't forget. We actually like it to be below freezing; we count on it even.
Frankly, it's too nice to come inside and I'm falling behind on all of my desk work. I just keep thinking that sooner or later it will be really cold, like -40, but it just hasn't happened. Now the days are markedly longer again.
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Monday, January 25, 2016

Odonata always serves up humble pie

Imagine someone holding up a creature before me. It has fins and gills and there are scales covering its entire body.
"What's this?" he asks.

If I were to reply, "It's a fish," he would think I was just being a smart aleck. But I don't say that. Instead I reply, "It's a tulibee," or a redhorse sucker, or rockbass, whatever the specific species happened to be. That's because I know my local fish species.
Yet, if he held up the creature in the photos above, in most instances I would have to say, "It's a dragonfly." I'm ashamed to say that's about as specific as I could get without comparing it to my dragonfly book first and maybe even afterwards.
Part of the problem just comes from the numbers in the Order Odonata. There could be upwards to 100 species of dragonflies and 40 species of damselflies in Northwestern Ontario alone. By comparison, there are only about 20 species of fish and probably about the same number of minnows.
I really need to study dragonflies more because I think they are just the most amazing things. For starters, they are absolutely beautiful with their intricate wing patterns and neon colours. And their style of flight must be the envy of every airborne creature. They hover, make right-angle turns, and reach amazing speeds for such small bodies.
Some dragonflies hover as they hunt; some fly back and forth to a perch. Some stay strictly around the water; others will go miles inland. Some are territorial; others are communal.
But they all eat other flying insects, including the ones that like to feed on us humans.
I love the feeling of symbiosis I get when I'm mowing the grass in the summer and behind me are dozens of dragonflies, like helicopters in a scene out of Apocalypse Now, killing every mosquito and blackfly that take wing after being disturbed by the mower.
These miniature choppers are just the adult stage of the insect. They spend years underwater as swimming and crawling -- but still predatory -- bugs that look more like crickets than dragonflies. Each species emerges at a different time during the summer, goes through a type of metamorphosis something like a butterfly, and takes to the air. These adults mate and lay their eggs back in the water to start again. Some live as adults only a few weeks but others make it through the entire summer. There are even a couple of species that migrate to the U.S. south. There they deposit their eggs in the water and, when they emerge as adults, fly all the way back up here.
Although they are considered to be cold-blooded in that they lack the system to create body heat, they do in fact, get warm, up to 110 F, just by burning calories in flying. If you see a dragonfly that periodically plops into the water, it is trying to cool off.
The very name -- dragonfly -- conveys a mythical and romantic vision. They have been around for a long time, at least 300 million years. Back then they were a foot and a half long or about the size of a large duck!
So, getting back to the photos up top. What species is this? If you know, please leave a comment.
My best guess, after consulting my favourite field guide, Dragonflies of the North Woods by Kurt Mead, published by Kollath-Stensaas Publishing of Duluth, Minn., is that it is a Shadow Darner.
I'm led to that conclusion by the shape and yellow colour of the marks on its thorax as well as the blue spots on its abdomen. It's scientific name is Aeshna umbrosa.
My book says it likes to follow along streams and wooded edges and sometimes hunts in swarms. I found this one in the yard at camp last summer. It could have been part of the squadron following the mower.

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