Sunday, June 10, 2018

Wilderness Report #2

I really enjoy watching the boreal forest come alive.  Just over a week ago most trees were just budding and emerging after a long harsh winter.  Today the poplar and birch leaves are fully grown and wild strawberry flowers are in full bloom along with the blueberry bushes.  Mother nature really blossomed last week due to having rain five of the last seven days. 

Although the rain can put a damper on fishing trips, we really needed the precipitation.  Thanks to ample rain we no longer have a fire ban in place.  Guests can once again have shore lunches and burn outside.   A downfall to warming temperatures and precipitation guessed it, bugs.  Yes, its that time of year where the black flies and mosquitos too, have emerged from their winter slumber.  Make sure to pack some bug spray and/or mosquito coils to help keep the bug bites at bay.

With the rain, water levels are holding steady at about average height.  A cold front at the beginning of last week really knocked the water temperatures down.  After peaking at 62 degrees on the surface the water temps sank back into the lower 50's.  However, they are on the rise again and should continue to climb with warm weather in the forecast.  Weeds should be developing soon with the ample sunshine and warming waters. 

Fishing started off on the slow side last week.  Heavy easterly winds and cold rainy weather shocked the fish into a light bite.  However, as the week progressed and the temperatures stabilized; so did the fishing.  Central led the charge with numerous pike between 32-40" while Southwest dominated the walleye catch.  Biggest walleye was once again boated at South measuring 27.5".  The perch at West, SW, and Burnt really heated up last week with lots measuring in the 12-13" range.

Typical hotspots for walleye are still in the moving water and shallow windblown mudflats.  Small 1/4oz jigs and shad raps seem to be the favorite among fisherman.  The pike are roaming with the walleye schools at the moment.  Small bucktails like a Mepps #5 copper blade or a floating Rapala work great in the shallow water.  The perch are holding in developing weedy areas and are caught with 1/8 or smaller jigs. 

Top Spots for Each Lake the past week. 


The perch were hitting in shallow weed beds.  While the walleye were slamming in the skinny narrows to the upper end of Burnt.


The channel leading to the South rapids and the South falls were the top areas to catch both species at Central.  The shallow mud and current were holding millions of baitfish. 


Guests had great luck around duckling island and the burnt lake falls.  As usual, the Cocos double rapids held walleye throughout.


Fishing started slow and ramped up at the end of the week.  The incoming water at the far SE end of the lake was a continued hotspot. 


When asked where was fishing the best, guests replied: "Everywhere, just get your bait in the water." The perch bite was on fire just to the west of the cabin on the north shore. 


The walleye came alive in the narrows heading to the fish bowl.  The islands and bays along the north shore of the fish bowl seemed to hold the best schools of walleye.

Good luck on the water everyone! Remember to send some pictures.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Wilderness Report

A Central Lake glassy sunrise.
My apologies for a delayed blog. Mid May to the first of June is always a mad dash to open up Big Hook Wilderness Camps and I have very little time to sit down at the computer.  However, around the end of April to the beginning of May, I am glued to about 20 different weather sites hoping for one to report warm weather around the Opasquia Provincial Park.  Once the ice begins melting at Big Hook in early May the long days begin.  For the 2018 season, I arrived at the Central Lake dock in good ole XZK (our camp airplane) on May 15th.  May 15h will go down as an average ice out. We have had the ice disappear as early April 30th to as late as June 2nd.

The flight north from Vermilion Bay to Central was tense as I watched a snow storm descend from the west and just about forced me to land on an unnamed lake somewhere between North Spirit and Sandy Lake.  Fortunately, as I pressed north I was able to outrace the storm and land safe and sound at Big Hook.  The storm did eventually catch up to me at Central and dumped 3-5 inches of snow leaving me socked in at Big Hook with camp dog Shadow.  Since that first day of arrival, everyone here with Big Hook has put in long days and nights readying every camp and wiping away signs of winter damage.  Just about every camp survived the harsh winter. Central must have endured a harsh ice/snow/wind storm as dozens and dozens of trees were snapped.

The weather has been all across the board this spring for opening camp.  We have seen nights as cold at 24 degrees and days as hot as 96 degrees.  Water levels are average due to a heavy snow runoff but May only brought one sprinkle of rain.  Fortunately, we are finally seeing some of our first spring rains today.  Conditions are extremely dry as NW Ontario was under a burn ban last week. However, I suspect that to be lifted after today's rain.

We have had one full week of guests so far in the 2018 season.  Reports from all guests were positive.  No reports of post-spawn activity from walleye were mentioned as fish were hungry and grew more aggressive as the week progressed. The biggest walleye was boated and released at South lake measuring at just shy of 30", with many other big females released.  Largest northern went to West Lake at 44", caught on...a jig.  Northern pike was striking smaller baits, which is typical of this time of year until the water warms.  Both species were found to be grouped together on shallow mud flats chasing bait.  Some walleye were returning to the rapids and should continue to do so for the next couple of weeks.

Central Lake

Best action for both species at Central Lake took place at the south rapids and the west narrows.  I managed to fish an hour last Wednesday and boated twenty pike in an hour near the east rapids.  Tossing and slow twitching a suspending F18 Rapala was deadly.  Several 32". 33" were released accompanied by a chubby 38".  Walleye are striking small jigs in the shallows right next to the pike.  Water temperature in the sun-soaked shallow bays peaked around 59 last week.

South Lake

The far SE end of the lake was holding the most active fish.  As mentioned before, pike and walleye were mixed together.  The north end of the lake was slower as heavy winds Wed, Thursday and Friday churned up the shallower water.  I expect that end of the lake to heat up as the week progresses.

West Lake 

The north shore of the Fishbowl produced the most action.  The East portage had an active perch bite along with hungry walleye.  A 40, 42, and 44" pike were all caught in an hour on the same spot.  Those big female pike were hunting a huge school of walleye.  Guests claimed they were catching walleye just about every cast and then nothing.  Suddenly, the pike moved in and began smacking their jigs.  The deep north end of the lake was slow as the water was almost ten degrees cooler.

Looking forward to seeing everyone this season and good luck on the water!

Monday, May 7, 2018

Spring Update: Ice report

Eagle Lake ice 5/5/2018 
Spring has finally sprung in NW Ontario and warmer temperatures are on the way.  Mother Nature has released her chilly grasp on the north country and has blessed us with some favourable temperatures the past couple days.  After a brutally cold winter and near record ice levels, some warmth and sunshine is a welcomed sight. 

Mom, Dad and I are currently at Eagle Lake, some 300 miles south of Big Hook at the moment.  We are briskly staging for the up and coming 2018 season at Big Hook.  Just about all the snow has melted here in the area and the ice is rapidly disappearing thanks to temperatures creeping into the 70's today.  Similar weather is warming the Opasquia Provincial Park to the north and putting a hurting on the ice situation.  We had a chance to talk with Sandy Lake Seaplane yesterday and there is still plenty of ice in the area, unfortunately.  After this past winter, it is expected.

However, predictions for the ice to less loose is getting more favourable as we monitor the future forecasts.  Highs in the 50's and 60's are on the way and nightly lows are to remain at or above freezing.  According to Sandy Lake Seaplane, ice in the rivers and creeks has melted and crept off the shores in some bays.  We will get a more accurate report Thursday when Seaplane is going fly north into the Opasquia Provincial Park and get a birdseye view of the area.

Two weeks ago, it looked dismal for us to have any sort of time to arrive and open camp on or before guests arrived.  However, if the future forecasts hold we could possibly be arriving at Big Hook sooner than later.  Fingers crossed for warm weather and rain!  Looking forward to seeing everyone in the near future.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Winter Road Adventure

The 2018 winter road is in the books.  During the week of February 7-14th, Dad, Ryan, Ed and myself completed two round trips to Sandy Lake from Red Lake ON.  Utilizing three 4x4 trucks and one trailer, we managed to transport approximately 10,000+ pds of materials and goods.  A new boat, three brand new Yamaha 4 stroke motors along with pressure treated lumber were just a few of the items we delivered. Since the winter road only extends to Sandy Lake, all the materials await springtime for the final haul to our camps.  All in all, Dad and I tacked on about 3000 miles of driving during the week.

Overall, the weather conditions were perfect for ice road trucking.  As many of you may remember, last year we were unable to complete the ice road journey due to temperatures hovering around 60F in February.  In a stark contrast, the average morning temperature this year was -30 C, with one morning clocking in at a frigid -42 C.  The cold weather is beneficial as it causes the snow packed road to bind together rather well.  The impressive road conditions allowed us to complete each trip in just under ten hrs.  Attached right is a quick video of the trip.

Our first round trip to Sandy Lake was completed without incident.  A smooth ten hour trip up, a day of unloading and storing materials in Sandy was followed by an uneventful trip back to Red Lake.  However, upon our departure for the second trip, Ed's truck blew a power steering -40C.  Fortunately, we were just outside Red Lake and not in the middle of the wilderness.  We limped Ed's truck to a friends place and loaded as much as we could in the other two vehicles.  Also, that same morning, Ryan came down with the flu and quarantined himself in the Super 8 motel.  Fortunately, we had three drivers available for two vehicles. On our way northbound, we immediately noticed the road was getting severely chewed up by the numerous fuel and freighter semis.  Another 10 hr drive was followed by a quick unload of goods in Sandy and we were back on our way southbound.  We encountered 18 semi transports our final trip back to Red Lake; that is incredibly heavy traffic for a seasonal road.  All in all, it was another interesting journey into the wilderness.

Only a couple more months till open water!