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!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Year End 2017

It's a wrap.  The 2017 season has come to a close for us at Big Hook Camps.  First off, all of us at Big Hook (Dad, Mom, myself, Shadow and Luke) would like to extend our biggest thanks to all of our clientele for choosing to share the beauty of the north country with us this season.  We look forward to swapping fishing stories with everyone at the sport shows this winter.  

Dad, Shadow and myself completed last of the projects and flew south bound to Eagle Lake on the 22nd of September in the Cessna 185. With a whopping 50 mph headwind for the majority of the flight,  I felt we were moving as fast as the geese heading in the same direction.

Overall, the 2017 season began with some unseasonably cool weather in June and closed with unseasonably warm weather in the first several weeks of September.  Historically September has been a giant question mark for weather in the Opasquia Provincial Park, you can have 75 degrees one day and 35 the next. Perfect example is having one hard frost on the 19th.  The boardwalk and waterlines were completely frozen up for a couple hours in the morning.  The very next day was 72.  Precipitation was minimal during the 2017 season; overall it was probably the driest season on record.  Water levels were at least two feet below normal at the end of the season.  Also, several forest fires burned in the Opasquia park in August but nothing was threatening.

The fall in the north is my particular favorite time of year.  I've probably stated it a million times in this blog.  The cooler temperatures are refreshing and scenic shorelines with colorful changing leaves are picturesque as they come.  Fish in the fall are still very active but the patterns change considerably.  The walleye bite becomes light and they descend to deeper locations throughout the lake. Whereas the pike become more aggressive and are fattening up for the long winter ahead.

In regards to fishing, the 2017 produced some sizable catches.  The biggest northern of the season were tied with two 45" pike, caught and released at West and Cocos lake respectively.  Six walleye at South Lake topped the 30" mark for biggest of the season.  The most 40"+ pike were caught at Central Lake and the most 25+" walleye were boated at South Lake.

Starting to raise the cabin and replace exterior stringers
at Cocos Lake 
Unfortunately, fishing time is short for me in the fall while at Big Hook.  Our goals at the end of the season is to accomplish as many projects as Mother Nature allows.  This year we decided to focus on the big cabin at Central Lake.  All new interior tongue and grove pine walls were installed along with new laminate counter tops and shelving.  The new interior certainly brightens up the cabin and makes it feel even bigger.  Another project we tackled was setting a new foundation under the Cocos lake cabin. We raised the cabin about 6" and set all new pressure treated posts and pads.  We also dug and installed a new grey water septic system.   Finally, West lake received a new shower and a fresh out house hole was dug for the 2018 season.

Now that the season is over I get a chance to wet a line.  Hopefully I'll be able to trick some trout, musky and small mouth over the next week.  Good luck on the water this fall everyone.  Once again, thank you all so very much for your business! Send pictures of your 2017 Big Hook adventure when you can.


Sunday, August 27, 2017

Late August Report

It's just unbelievable how fast a summer flashes on by.  In a blink August is just about over.  We only have a three weeks of fishing left at Big Hook Camps and suddenly the 2017 season is in the books. Unfortunately, late August doesn't want to buck the heat wave as the warm dry weather marches on.  Sunny skies and temperatures in the 80's dominated the last week. Thankfully we received our first  trace of rain last night with no lightening in what seems like forever.  Less than a 1/4 inch fell but it is better than nothing. 
A foggy August morning
Vertical jigging echotails work well for walleye
this time of year 

 The daily high temperature is supposed to reach into the mid 80's tomorrow, which is unseasonably warm for this time of year.  Fortunately, the nights have been cool; the past several evenings have dipped down into the 30's.  We even had a trace of frost at Central last Wednesday. The cool nights have lowered the water temperature into the mid sixties.  Sadly, lake levels continue to recede as we still need rain badly.  At Central the lake levels are approaching two feet below normal.  The dry conditions and several lightening storms have also caused some small forest fires in the west end of the Opasquia Provincial Park around the vicinity of Burnt Lake.  Nothing threatening, just something we are monitoring. We have had some smokey mornings when the winds shift to the west the past couple days.  The majority of the smoke is a result of the massive forest fires in central Manitoba.

Big Fish Week

The cool nights certainly triggered the big pike this week.  The surface temperatures falling into the mid sixties coaxed the big females back into the weed beds.  Spoons, glide baits and bucktails fooled many 40+" fish throughout the park this week.

The walleye continue to hover around deeper reefs and rock structures.  15-25' is where you will find the majority of fish.  As I sound like a broken record, vertical jigging 1/4oz - 3/8 oz jigs with 3-4" tails works best.  Popular colors are white, black, flouro orange and pumkinseed.
40" Central Lake trophy 8/21
Central Lake led the charge with a 44" and a 43" as their biggest fish for the week.  A couple other 40" along with a 39" and 38" were also released.  The north narrows held several of the big girls along with Husker rock.   The walleye were a bit slower at Central as guests had to search deeper water to find schooling fish.  The Stop and Go jug was holding some big schools.  
44" from Central 8/21
West Lake boated five fish over 40" with a 43" topping the week.  The weed bed in the back of the Horseshoe was a productive spot for big northern.  The SE portage was on fire for walleye.  Vertical jigging the deep humps on the north end of the lake is great for big walleye this time of year. 
South Lake boated the biggest walleye for the week at 29 inches.  They also released a 28.5", 27, 26 and a couple 25" fish.  Most were caught in the 14 -20 ft range.  Vertical jigging while back trolling worked best.   
Burnt Lake noticed the walleye were holding unusually shallow for this time of year, catching many fish right along the edges of the weeds.  Big Boy bay is still the spot to beat for big northern.  The perch bite remains hot as they are still holding tight in the weedbeds.  
Cocos Lake said the walleye this week were aggressive and plentiful.  The bigger pike were a bit timid and cautious.  The water levels are close to an all time low for Cocos causing the first set of rapids to be a bit of a challenge to navigate. Fishing the deeper pools in the Sagawitchenwan was the most productive location. 
SW Lake boated plenty of fish throughout the week.  "Hoards of 17"-19" walleye," was a quote from the guests.  A dandy 39" pike was also released.  The guests noted the northern lights were quite spectacular Wednesday evening. Jigging or trolling around the island immediately east of the cabin was incredibly productive.  

Good luck on the water everyone! Hopefully we will receive some good rains here in the near future.  It would be nice to see the water levels come up a bit.  

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Mid August Report

We are just over half way through August and it feels like we are in mid July with temperatures well above normal.  The heat wave/drought continues here in the Opasquia Provincial Park.  Temperatures yesterday reached a sweltering 90F, which is highly unusual for this time of year.  We have received next to nothing for rain for the past four weeks and water levels are continuing to drop.  The fire hazard throughout the region is still critical with the woods being so incredibly dry.  Even though there isn't an official fire ban from the MNR, I would advise all guest to please refrain from burning outdoor campfires.  The MNR isn't located in the area and does not have constant feed back from our local conditions.

A nice 40" fish from West Lake 
Water temperatures also remain on the warm side averaging around 73 degrees the past couple days.  Over the years I have noticed that temperatures over 72 degrees will move big pike into deeper waters.  The guests at Central confirmed that statement noting very few big fish were hanging around weed flats.  After chatting with most guests yesterday I learned wind blown points and rocky reefs were the places to focus on for pike over 30".  Deeper diving crank baits and of course jigs were the effective lures for bigger fish.

The walleye seem to be really enjoying the warmer water temperatures.  Typically this time of year you focus in deeper water 15+' however, last week guests were boating eyes as shallow as four feet.  Walleye seemed to be feeding in every depth regardless of sun and wind.  Jigging fish along the edges of weeds or on deeper reefs and wind blown points was effective.  Trolling crank baits along shorelines was another effective technique to locate schools.

44" pike caught 8/8 on Central
West Lake  had good luck later in the week for northern, boating several 35+" fish on reefs east of the camp towards the falls and in the horseshoe. The SE portage was on fire for 18+" walleye, focus on the weeds just above the falls.  The guests also noted some excellent perch fishing within weed beds throughout the lake.  Cocos Lake noted the water was low but shooting the rapids into the Sagawitchewan river was still very easy.  Several beefy 41" were boated near the deeper pools to the SW in the river.  Some nice 20+" walleye were consistent in those same deeper pools.  South Lake raved about the quality of the walleye this week.  Though they didn't boat the fish of a lifetime, the guests claimed the average walleye was 22".  Trolling bright colored reef runners in 15-20ft of water was the magic combination for walleye.  Burnt Lake had new guests for the week and they had a great time.  Walleye were aggressive and would often smash baits just inches under the water next to the boat.  The perch were also active within the weed beds.  Walleye were holding surprisingly shallow and along the edges of weed beds.  Central Lake found constant walleye action south of airplane island and along numerous reefs on the north end of the lake. Finding rock piles in 15+ ft of water was key for walleye.  The bigger pike were a little gun shy this week at Central, many were seen and a couple were lost.  Hippo rock was holding a couple trophy fish but none committed to a lure.

Hot Lures

Walleye-1/4oz jig with pink or pumkinseed tails. Perch colored reef runner. 1/4 oz echotail white.

Northern-3/8 oz jig with a leader.  Musky killer bucktail with orange blade/black skirt.  Rapala F18 deep diver, perch color.  Rattletrap silver.

The blueberries and raspberries are fully ripened and plentiful if you know where to look in the area.  Mom, Luke, Shadow and myself picked a couple gallons of blueberries at Burnt Lake last Friday.  Our harvesting was cut short when we smelt an all to familiar odor.  Unfortunately Shadow stumbled across a skunk and was blasted right in the face.  In an effort to reduce the smell for the plane ride back to Central, I tossed her in the lake.  Let's just say that helped very little.  It was a tough twenty minute plane ride home.  She quickly received a bath in my trusty anti skunk solution.  Baking soda, dawn dish detergent, hydrogen peroxide and water did the trick.

Good luck on the water everyone.  Keep the great pictures coming.  Can't believe the 2017 season only has a month left already.