Friday, November 13, 2015

Fall Waters

A scenic U.P. rapids 
19" Largemouth 
As I have written in years past, fall is hands down my favorite time of year.  The vibrant colors and crisp days amplifies the sportsman in me. Fall time also kicks off my favorite sporting passion, college football.  Needless to say I REALLY look forward to autumn.  Most outdoors folk have traded out their fishing rods for bows and rifles in search of the almighty buck and other woodland creatures.  As for myself, I keep on casting.

With the doors closed after another successful season at Big Hook Camps, I finally have some time to explore NW Ontario waters and bodies throughout the Midwest.  I suffer from the ailment known as "whats around the next corner" syndrome. Often I find myself exploring the water rather than fishing.  On many of the endeavors I embark, I don't catch a single fish; and you know what...I have just as much fun.  Remember there is no bad day on the water, some are just better than others.

Everyone, especially myself, is likely enjoying this fall and the mild temperatures.  From angling for musky on Eagle Lake, Green Bay and Lake Monona to tube jigging bass in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan I have been extremely fortunate with fishing this fall.  Pictured right are a couple nice released fish that I and my wife have stumbled across.
Lake Monona Musky 39"

The fall time also allows me to test out some new lures that I believe would excel in the waters at Big Hook.  One particular favorite was the Custom X 5" or 8" Mini X, found HERE.  This crankbait worked extremely well for pike or musky around weed beds this fall.  Designed to be an effective twitch bait or high speed troller, it is a lure I really look forward to using at Big Hook.

Fall Projects 

We managed to close up shop at Big Hook this fall around our usual time, the end of September.  For the first time that I can remember, we did not experience a hard frost before leaving.  Typically we see frost in late August and snow in September. 

The pleasant weather allowed us to complete several projects around a couple of the outposts.  South Lake received vinyl siding on the porch addition. West Lake had new tongue and groove pine interior siding installed in both bedrooms. Cocos Lake received two new windows and a new stairs/deck for the entryway.  SW Lake we installed a new grey water drainage system.  

Monona Musky 
Planning for next years projects is in full swing, as we are gathering items already for the 2016 winter road. The warm fall may mean a late ice road this winter but who know how the weather will turn as winter progresses.  Until then enjoy the outdoors as much as possible!  

Good luck on the water...and in the woods everyone! 

_Nathan 
www.bighookcamps.com 




18.5" Large Mouth 

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Home Stretch

Smile for your close up Mr. Walleye
We are in our final weeks of business for the 2015 season. It always amazes me how fast the summer streaks on by; it seems just weeks ago I was just struggling to find open water with the float plane.  Thankfully, the summer weather is still holding on as we progress into September.  The past several days have been pleasant, 75 degrees and sunny with occasional rain.  However, last Saturday  (Aug 22nd) we experienced the monsoon of 2015, over 91 millimeters (or over 3.5" inches) of rain fell in a 24 hr period.  As a result, the lakes have skyrocketed back to spring time ice melt levels.  The level of Central Lake seems to have peaked today, rising around 14".

With the massive rainfall all the rapids throughout the park are gushing and drawing plenty of fish to the super oxygenated water. While guiding last Thursday my guests and I chose to take full advantage of the roaring north falls at Central. In a short period of time they managed to boat over 100 walleye easily and we left them biting. Oddly enough, we did not see a single pike in the flowage.

The walleye bite is still good.  As mentioned before, lots of fish are moving to the rapids although plenty are hanging in deep water.  Open water reefs in 20 ft are optimal places to start hunting.  1/4 oz jigs with orange or pumpkinseed tails have been most effective.  Surprisingly, trolling has been lackluster lately, the bite seems to be favoring the slower presentation of a jig.

A Reef Runner boated this Central Lake 40" on Friday 
 The pike bite has been on fire the past several days.  Most fish are holding in the dying weeds and attacking larger baits.  A few have been found patrolling the deep reefs while jigging.  Favourable last week boated 9 fish over 39" while Cocos the week prior had an astonishing 51 fish over 31" topping at 42.5".  

Central Lake 41" couldn't resist an Esox Assualt Bucktail
yesterday 
The higher water has been just perfect for pike anglers.  With the weeds about a foot under the surface, fisherman are able to cast without constant salad on their lures.  I managed to hit the water for a short time yesterday throwing mainly bucktails and delong eels.  Never did I have to worry about snagging weeds as long as I kept my baits high in the water column.  Pike will often explode out of the water when burning baits just subsurface, and it is exhilarating. Pictured right is a nice 41" pike I boated 8/30 while burning a bucktail about 6" under the water.  

Dad and I will  be tackling some fall projects shortly.  In short, Cocos and West will be seeing some touch ups.  New windows and stairs are coming to Cocos; while West is getting a new front door and bedroom interiors.  If time and weather permits we will tackle others.

Good luck on the water everyone! Send us your 2015 Big Hook pics.
-Nathan
www.bighookcamps.com  



Portaging northbound amongst the rapids at Central Lake 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Change of Season

Mom photos a curious loon at Central
It amazes me every year how fast the seasons change here at Big Hook Camps.  Although the temperatures are still holding in the 70s and 80s here in the Opasquia Provincial Park, small hints of fall are beginning to step forth.  Tiny bits of yellow are speckling the birch and poplar leaves, the days are quickly becoming shorter (we are loosing approx 4 minutes of daylight each passing day) and even some of the sand hill cranes have begun their migration southbound.

The transition to fall isn't necessarily a bad thing, especially when it comes to pike fishing.  The seasonal shift triggers something in their brain that they need to fatten up quick for the impending winter.  Generally, I have found northern start shrugging off the smaller baits and start looking towards something with some substance.  Around the first week of August I'll begin throwing my larger lures and begin seeing more and more large fish take interest.  Hellhound, Bulldawgs, Depth Raiders, large spoons and #8 bucktails all fight for room in my tackle box.

36" deep water pike from Central caught on a tube jig
Pike will bounce between rock reefs and weed beds a fair amount this time of year; to wherever the largest food source is dominant.  Lately at Central the big fish have been hanging on deep rock shelves and shunning the weeds.  This is because of the large schools of walleye congregated on these reefs.  The latest weather pattern also has something to do with it, the hot sunny clear days we have been experiencing this last week have the fish seeking deeper water.  When catching pike off of deep reefs I have found you will only boat one or two fish, then it is time to move on. Try to focus on reefs that come up to about 12-15 ft with some nearby deep water.

The pike at several of the outposts are following similar patterns.  Yesterday, after chatting with the group at West Lake, most fish have been caught on rocky shoals.  The biggest was a fat 43" released right off the rock 100 yards in front of camp.   However, don't totally count out the weeds. The bite has just been occurring early in the morning or late in the evening.  Bucktails, top water baits, and silver minnows are the go to baits in foliage.  #8 Orange or copper bladed bucktails with a black skirt are at the top of my list (see pic right), due to their quick retrieve.  Bucktails allow you to cast a lot of water in a short period of time.

As mentioned before, walleye are dominant on any windblown point or deeper reef in about 12-20 ft of water.  Trolling windy shorelines with Reef Runners or Shad Raps will produce good numbers. South, Central, Burnt and West all reported fish over 27" caught on deeper rock structures.
The majority of the fish have been boated on 3/8 oz jigs.

The water temps have received a huge boost jumping from 64 in the beginning of the week to 71 degrees this morning.  Water levels are still ticking downward due to hot temperatures and lack of rain.  As of right now 2015 is one of the driest summers we have experienced since 1990.

Good luck on the water everyone,
-Nathan
www.bighookcamps.com

Friday, August 7, 2015

Dance a Jig

As the summer progresses along walleye will begin to slip down the water column.  As a rule of thumb these fish will descend 5-10 ft every month.  May-June you will find schools in 2-6 ft of water, July 10-15 ft  and August the bulk of your strikes will come from 15-20 ft.  The bigger female walleye tend to hold in the deeper waters 20-30 ft in August.  The best way to target those big slabs is to practice your jigging technique.

23" walleye couldn't resist the blade bait vibration
Various jigging combinations work very well.  3/8oz gumball jig with a twister tail trailer is by far the most popular among guests.  Recently, I have been keeping the jigs in the box and have been experimenting with other tactics such as: blade baits and the Clackin Rap.

Blade baits are a great change of pace to the jig.  They are super versatile cast em, troll em, and jig em.  Two of my favorites are the Echotail 1/4 oz and the 3/8 oz Zip Lure.  The Echotail gets the slight nod due to the fact you can customize your lure with the interchangeable tail.  Last Thursday (8/6) guiding at Central Lake the customers were casting pike along the edges of a massive weed bed while I casually dropped an Echotail to see if any eyes were holding in the area.  I struck gold with several fish in two drops.  The guests promptly switched to walleye, one using an Echotail and the other a traditional jig/twister. We were surprised with about 20 walleyes, several over 22", in a 30 minute period.  Interestingly though, the walleye would just tap and hold the tail of the jigs, whereas they just slammed the blade bait.

The Clackin Rap by Rapala is another great walleye catching machine later in the year.  Lots of people cast these baits into rocks and along weeds.  As a change of pace, I really enjoy vertical jigging these lures, the 7/16 oz is my preferred size.  The loud clack of this bait is a great stimulant for walleye down deep.  Two colors excel over the other: silver/blue and the Helsinki Shad.  As I mentioned before, the jig is the all time classic walleye catcher.  Hopefully, the previously mentioned baits will produce some fish for you when the jig just doesn't seem to be working.

Weather 

The weather has been truly up and down all week long.  Daytime highs have ranged from 52 to 72 degrees.  From Saturday to Wednesday last week we did not see the sun.  Some mist and showers hampered our fishing and flying Sunday and Monday.  We didn't see any significant amounts of rain to raise the water levels.  The water is down on most lakes a good 1-2 ft, as we have had minimal rain all summer long.  The water temperatures are fluctuating between 66-68 degrees on the surface.  

Fishing 

37" Central Lake pike landed on a silver minnow
After chatting with most of the outposts this week fishing improved at the week progressed.  As mentioned earlier, walleye are grouping up in deeper waters.  15-20 ft rock humps and wind blown points seem to have the highest congregations.  One cannot over stress the importance of a depth finder as it will help you find those reefs.  Weeds are still holding some walleye.  Not many fish are being found near rapids at the moment but that will change if the weather turns cooler. 

Pike are in their typical weed beds.  A wind blown weed edge will almost always hold a decent fish.  Afternoon and evening bites have been more productive than morning.  Top water is still the most entertaining method of catching pike and is always a blast on a calm clear evening. Don't forget your deeper baits this time of year.  Depth Raiders, bull dawgs and various other deep running baits will catch lots of fish on reefs and deep points this time of year. 

Good luck on the water everyone, 
_Nathan
www.bighookcamps.com

Friday, July 31, 2015

Blue Moon Over Big Hook

43" West Lake beauty, released

The title of this blog could very well be a good title for a movie someday. This Friday, there will be a once in a blue moon occurrence. If you step outside, you might find yourself gazing out at a brimming, full moon. Disappointingly, it won't actually be blue; the term is a misnomer. In fact, a blue moon isn't any different to any other full moon. In the past, a blue moon was used to mean "rare," but now the name is given to any full moon that is the second to appear in one calendar month.

According to some fishing/lunar calendars, and take their advice with a grain of salt, fishing should be slow during this time. Now after talking with the majority of our clients today on the round of camp checks, fishing is by no means slow.  Good numbers are being boated at just about every outpost.  
However, the big trophies for both species have been a little shy this past week and maybe, just maybe, the moon does have something to do with it.  


40" West Lake released
SW Lake porch all painted and completed 
 As a guide, I can understand the effects of a full moon.  When I used to fish in the Gulf of Mexico all winter, a full moon absolutely meant that fishing was going to shut down, as the fish fed during the evening hours.  Up here at Big Hook, I believe fish will feed during a moonlit night but not to the same extent.  This week, we had a huge low pressure track right over the top of NW Ontario.  This drastic barometric change will affect the fishing.  The front side of a low, as the barometer is falling, is a fisherman's friend.  However, the backside of a low and a skyrocketing barometer, in my opinion; is a fisherman's enemy.

Fishing  


Pike

Pike are being found just about everywhere throughout the bodies of water.  Most fish are prowling through thick weeds chasing perch. Ripping bucktails and johnson silver minnows though the cabbage are a favorite technique of mine.  Remember not to cast in the same place twice, work your casting pattern like a clock.  First cast at one o'clock, then two, three and so forth.

 Contradicting my previous paragraph, several lakes like Central for example, the bigger fish have been located on deep rocky humps while walleye fishing.  Big open water baits are in order to reach those deeper fish. Depth raiders and bull dawgs are two of my favorite lures to reef fish.  Black is always a good color.  You'll need to beef up your tackle as these lures pack some poundage.  
A Cocos Lake monster pike

Last week, Cocos was the hot outpost with 30 northern released over 35".

Walleye 

Walleye are beginning to descend as the summer progresses.  Most fish are hovering around 15 ft on reefs and points.  Trolling is still effective along ledges.  However, jigging is still king.  The wind blown shores have been dominant.  This week we have had west winds about every day and looking at the extended forecast, our westerly winds should continue for several more days.

A steady west wind is good news for walleye fisherman, as the fish should be stacked on the eastern shores. The majority of the time, bait fish will congregate along the windy shores chasing bugs and other sources of food. Toss 3/8 oz jigs with various tail colors or slowly back troll and jig next to the boat (my favorite).  Try to match the colors with atmosphere; light days, use light light colors and conversely with dark days.

Last week, the big walleye lake was non other than South.  Although the boys didn't crack thirty numerous 25-29" fish were boated and released.

Good luck on the water everyone,
_Nathan
www.bighookcamps.com

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Beautiful Summer Days

Time to practice glassy water
takeoffs and landings
The weather in the Opasquia Provincial Park has been absolutely gorgeous this past week.  Daytime highs have varied between 70-80 degrees with plenty of sunshine.  Bring your swim trunks as the water temperature has been hanging around 73-75 degrees.  There is nothing more refreshing than a dip in the lake after a hot day on the water.

The weather has been, well, too nice.  I hate to wish for rain on fisherman's vacations, however it has been several weeks since we have received a good ole dousing.
The lack of rain has resulted in water levels dropping somewhat throughout the park.  Nothing drastic, but they keep creeping lower and lower due to evaporation and out flowing rapids.  The lower water has allowed guests to navigate the Cocos lake rapids much more effectively.

Fishing

SW Lake walleyes were loving the echotail
Wind is always a key element to note when searching for fish.  Having a dominant wind for a week of fishing is terrific.  Focus on hot spots that fall on the windy shorelines.  Yes, it may be a bit more difficult to hold a boat but the dividends will be great. 

The typical summer patterns are now in full effect on the majority of the lakes. Walleye are now beginning to hang on windblown rocky points and shorelines in about 10-15 ft of water.  Rock reefs and humps in the middle of the lake will hold plenty of fish this time of year.  However, don't limit your hunt to just the rocks, after chatting with West and Burnt today, they were slaying walleye on the edges of weeds.  Jigging with 3/8 oz head and 3-4" white, pink, yellow, pumkinseed and flouro orange tails have all yielded great results.  Worm harnesses are also great rigs.  My personal favorite technique this time of year to locate schools is trolling a Shad Rap #5 or #7 along a 12 ft break, then turning around and jigging once I get a strike.  

Other hot walleye lures include: echotail blade baits, flicker shads, tube jigs.  

Pike have been blowing up on top water baits.  Central, West, Cocos reported lots and lots of action fishing the surface in the late afternoons.  Zara Spooks, Dancing Raiders, Giant Jack pots and Top Raiders are all great baits in my book. 

The edges of weeds are a primary focus for trophy fish. The best lure to navigate the weeds is the Johnson Silver Minnow.  The weedless action will result in a lot less down time pulling grass from your bait.  Remember the twister tail trailer! Thats is a must. The tail makes the bait 100% more effective.  Bucktails are also great bait to jockey around and blast through thicker weeds.  Burn them as soon as they touch the water.  

On sunny calm days I'll often postpone my pike hunting until after 5 o'clock.  Still, glassy days will result in a lot of follows from big fish and a little light distortion from a setting sun is just enough to encourage a bite.  However, after about 9:30 pm the bite will completely shut down.  

Other hot lures for pike this week:  five of diamonds, delong killer eel, doctor spoon. 

Good luck on the water everyone! 
-Nathan 
www.bighookcamps.com


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Heat wave

The heat is on! The past several days have been scorchers in the Opasquia Provincial Park.  Friday, Saturday and Sunday all surpassed the blazing 30 degree, thats about 86 farenheit mark.  Coupled with high humidity, light and variable winds, makes for a muggy day.  But hey, a great way to cool off is a jump in the ole pond.

West Lake rapids 
As many people in the States have heard from the news and seen in the sky, is smoke from Canada,  There are a lot of fires in Western Canada at the moment particularily Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Fortunately, none are in the vicinity of the Opasquia Park. Conditions are very dry, as we have received minimal amounts of rain over the past month.  As of right now, no fire bans exist but we are advising customers to use extreme caution when preparing shore lunches and bonfires.

SW Lake porch
Last week Dad and I managed to knock out some summer projects.  Southwest and Burnt were the two outposts we focused on.  Southwest Lake now has a 16 x 8 screened in porch while Burnt received a new cribbed dock and walk way paired with a 16 x 8 floating dock.  See pics on the right.

Fishing 

Burnt Lake dock and walkway 
The big question everyone is asking, "What's happening with the mayflies?" The answer: the hatch occurred several days after my last post on most lakes.  Walleye fishing was slow at the beginning of last week and slowly returned to normal at weeks end.  Many fish are traversing into deeper waters and rock piles with the water temperatures on the rise.  Trolling Shad Raps, Flicker Shads, and Reef Runners are great ways to cover ground and locate schools.  If you are struggling to find fish on rocks,  they can still be found on the edges of weeds.

Pike are now primarily stalking in weed beds. I truly enjoy chasing them with top water baits late in the afternoon and early in the evening.  The dancing raider is probably my favorite bait to toss.  It is a frustrating bait to use as the fish miss A LOT of strikes.  Half the enjoyment of top water action though, is just the boil.  The sound of the fish smashing the surface gets my heart pumping.  

Hot lures

Walleye:  Shad Rap #7 chartruese/white, jigs with pumkinseed/flouro orange/white tail 3"
Pike:  Johnson silver minnow 1 1/4 oz with a white twister trailer, bucktails, top water baits

Good luck on the water everyone!
-Nathan
www.bighookcamps.com

Monday, June 29, 2015

Kiss the Fish

Central Lake trophy 
My goal every time I debark on a guiding trip is 100 fish.  Now as a rule, which ever guest is lucky enough to boat the century mark gets to plant a big ole kiss on the fish with photo evidence for everyone to witness.  Well, this past week there were plenty of opportunities kiss the fish.  The walleye action just absolutely exploded on every lake.  The main contributing factor for the aggressive bite was weather stability.  Five straight days of  70-80 degree weather just sent the fish into a feeding frenzy.  Hopefully, the bite continues into our first ever Big Hook Canada Day Fishing Tourney at Central Lake.

Another Central Lake, West Portage trophy. 
Many of you are probably asking an important question....what about the mayflies?  Well, they are another contributing factor to the walleye activity.  The fish could be feeding on the larvae in the mud flats.  However, there haven't been any sightings of the winged creatures just yet.  Our water temperatures have surged past 70 degrees which is the magical number to stir the mayfly larvae.  I believe we will start seeing carcasses in the next day or two.

Now don't fret, walleye fishing doesn't completely just shut down when the mayfly take flight.  Fishermen just need to adjust their tactics slightly.  First of all, scale down on jig size, 1/4 oz heads and 2"-3" tails should be on the end of your line; not 1/2 oz heads or 4" tails.  Lots of fish are going to be full on mayflies but their predatory nature will still keep them feeding, just on smaller fare.  Second, the bite will be light so having the right line is key.  Full walleye will lazily strike lures and it is up to you to detect that teeny tiny tap on the line.  Braided line is better at sensing extremely light strikes.  Finally, I have found spinner rigs/worm harnesses encourage great bites during the momentary slow down. Fortunately for fisherman, the mayfly only lives for 24 hrs.
Delong Eels catch....walleye?

Burnt  

Some great perch opportunities exist here.  Finding the thick weeds are key for a great perch bite. Walleye are also moving on the edges of weeds and transitioning to rocky points.  Big boy bay and moose creek continue to produce trophy pike. 

Central 

The West rapids have been absolutely on fire for walleye.  Guests have sat for hours boating and releasing fish after fish.  The north narrows produced many big pike last week.  The west portage has one spot and one spot only for your next big pike.  Johnson silver minnows take the award for lure of the week.  Fish are beginning to smash top water lures. 
A terrific father/son trophy pic.  Congrats Alec on the 41" fish. 

Cocos

The See party had a blast searching out big northern.  Most were found in four feet of water basking in the warm shallow weeds. The rapids is still holding large amounts of walleye.  Current guests are tossing #7 Shad Raps into the flow with a slow retrieve for big walleye.  The water levels are slightly down, so shooting the rapids is a breeze. 

Lemonade/Favourable 

Guests last week focused on Lemonade Lake boating fish just about everywhere.  Fish weren't schooled up in huge numbers but were found every single spot.  Numerous sauger were boated in the deeper waters and perch were caught along the western shoreline within the reeds.

South

Trolling Hot N Tots were key for finding big walleye last week. Color wasn't much of an issue just finding the right windy mud flat to troll along.  The big pike have been elusive but that should change now that the weeds are growing strong and are almost at the surface.  

Southwest 

The guests last week tried to find lures that didn't produce a strike and were stumped.  The walleye were found just about every where.  According to the guests, the island just east of camp was far and away the most productive spot in the lake.  

West 

 The Steeves party raved about the fishing last week at West. They have been customers of ours since 1989 and claimed this year was the best fishing EVER.  Many big fish were found in the Horseshoe and in the SW corner of the Fish Bowl.

Good luck on the water everyone!
-Nathan
www.bighookcamps.com

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Mid June Report

We are about a month into the 2015 fishing
Timber Wolf spotted at South Lake 
season and it has been great visiting with all the fishermen and women that have visited us thus far.  Some exciting fishing stories have already been exchanged ranging from giant northern smashing walleye at the boat to the BIG one that got away. "I swear that pike was 50+!" shouted one electrified fisherman.

However, out of all the big fish stories that have entertained me this season, it has been the little species that has truly surprised me.  2015 has been the season of the perch, thus far.  Southwest, West, Burnt, and Lemonade/Favourable Lakes have strung together some impressive perch totals.

Just this past Tuesday (June 16th), I flew to Favourable for a camp check and the guests were just raving about the fishing.

I commented "So you guys are catching some impressive walleye and pike?"

"Not at all, the PERCH are biting like crazy!" Replied the guest.

Perchin at Lemonade/Favourable Lake Outpost
After another camp check that day at SW Lake, I received a eerily similar report.  "What is making the perch so active this year?" I asked myself.  Truthfully, I don't have an answer. Perhaps several years ago a record hatch occurred throughout the area, or maybe the early ice out has something to do with it.  All I know is I am excited to see a healthy perch population exploding.  Various lures are enticing this species; from a simple hook and worm to 1/8" jigs with 2" tails to tiny silver rattle traps.  Just about all the perch have been boated in 4-6 foot muddy/weedy flats.  For those of you that are planning your trip for this summer, don't count out a couple perch baits for the ole tackle box.

Weather 

The past several days have been cooler that average.  Day time highs have crept to the mid 60's with nightly lows into the high 40's.  A massive low pressure spinning over Hudson Bay is the direct cause of the cooler weather.  Water temperatures have slipped to about 60 degrees on the surface.  The lake levels have come up a tad after receiving some decent rain showers last Saturday, Monday and Wednesday.  Weed growth has begun in the shallower bays, with some small amounts of cabbage being seen in the deeper beds.

Outposts 

Burnt 
Great numbers of perch were found in the far SW section of the lake along with walleye and pike.  Some larger pike have been boated on the beach of the north end.  Hotspot #5 should be a must when fishing this lake.

Central 
The south and west rapids have been the place for big walleye.  No Fish Bay, despite the name. has been another productive place for both walleye and pike. The West portage has been giving up numerous active trophy pike. 6-8 ft and mud should be a starting focus for anglers.

Cocos  
Dandy 27" South Lake Walleye
The rapids is active for walleye all year round and should be one of your first stops.  The creeks near Duckling Island will hold big pike for another week or so.  A dandy of a 37" northern was boated off the dock last week along with a 40" from the north rapids.

Lemonade/Favourable
Lemonade fishing reports are rather repetitive,  fish near the west side of the island and enjoy.  Plenty of other shorelines will produce walleye. The west shoreline has been the magic spot for perch.  Favourable's top pike spot has been Pike Alley.

South 
The guests yesterday showed me a pic of a dandy 28.5" walleye caught and released from a secret location.  I was told the north end of the lake was holding large schools of walleye.  The bigger fish seemed to have moved a tad deeper into 10-12' of water.  Trolling #5 Shad raps along mud flats were productive.

SW Lake perch dinner. 
SW
Perchin has been great just about 1/2 mile from the cabin on the north shore.  Shallow muddy/weedy flats are areas to focus on.  Walleye are hammering 1/4 oz jigs with 3" yellow tails.  Yellow has been the hot color.  A dandy 40" pike was boated in Hotspot #4.

West
The horseshoe has begun to turn on, bot pike and walleye are beginning to congregate where the deep cabbage grows.  The narrows towards the fish bowl has been holding several large northern.  Hotspot #6 is a go too area this time of year.

Good luck on the water everyone!
-Nathan
www.bighookcamps.com

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Northwoods creativity

About a month has passed since I arrived at Big Hook Camps Central Lake.  Mom, Dad and myself were incredibly thankful for an early opening this year.  The early season scramble is always a tense and busy time.  Flying freight until dark is a common scenario for me as we have over 15000 pounds of goods to transport from Sandy to the main camp and outposts.

Shadow inspecting the East Portage on Central Lake
Diagnosing the winter damage every spring opening can be a bit overwhelming.  Two significant mishaps occurred this past winter, both at Central Lake.  First, two windmills were inoperable as a major windstorm fried the internal electronics.  Having two of our three out of service is a huge deal since solar and wind are our primary sources of power. After many phone calls we were able to track down some parts....in Oklahoma. Turns out we purchased the last remaining parts that exist for our particular windmills, at least we lucked out on that! Now, ponder this, take a guess how long it takes to receive a shipment from the Oklahoma to the Opasquia Provincial Park.  I'll let you stew on that and will answer at the very end of this blog.

The second major issue we faced from winter damage was, no internet.  A shift in the cabin from  ground frost and an ice sheet from the roof caused the dish alignment to point awry.  Now calling a technician to come and tune in a dish is no small matter, as only TWO exist in NW Ontario.  An area almost the size of Texas and only two people are able to assist thousands of customers.  Needless to say Dad and I took it upon ourselves to solve the problem and after dozens of hours on the roof we managed to snag a signal from the sky.  It was an enjoyable moment to say the least.

Blue filter shot while having lunch.
Just yesterday (June 6th) after an excellent Saturday change over.  Dad and I stopped at our Cocos Lake outpost for a camp check and a chat with the customers.  After some friendly bantering we all decided to go our separate ways; the guests drove off in search of trophy pike while myself and Dad hopped into the plane...which did not start.  After a crank or two, the battery was dead.  Uh oh! First diagnosis, we have a faulty alternator on our hands. Hmmm now what? Our McGuyver instincts kicked into full swing.  After a sweep through the outpost Dad and I determined we had enough materials to jump start the airplane.  With my Leatherman pocket tool, I disconnected a line of 14/2 wire from the solar system while Dad removed the two 6 Volt batteries from our solar water pump.  After a couple brief minutes of stripping wire and combining the two batteries to make 12 volts we had our jumper system ready.


Those of you unfamiliar with 185 Cessna airplanes may find it interesting that the battery is located in the tail.  So, for our jump to work, one person (Dad)  had to sit in the tail of the aircraft and touch the wires to the old dead battery while the pilot (myself) starts the plane.  Well, sounds easy right?  Mother Nature decided to challenge us by suddenly notching the winds up to 20 mph right in our direction. After several different dock tethering scenario's we successfully started the plane and were able to make it home for a late dinner.  Sometimes it just takes a little creativity in the northwoods to solve a problem.

Numerous other fix-this and repair-thats have been performed in the last month and progress is being made.  All the camps are fully operational and customers have been enjoying the beauty of the north woods for a couple weeks now. The weather for our season opener was interesting to say the least;  32 degrees was the high for our first Saturday of the year.  Flying through ice pellets and snow showers left everyone longing for warmer weather.  Fortunately, warmer weather has settled upon us and the winter coats were shed in exchange for t-shirts.  The bugs have started to pop at bit and are no where near as bad as last year during this time.  During the evening they can be feisty so bring your spray if you intend to be out late.
A beautiful Burnt Lake CPR 

Fishing  

Fishing the week of May 30th-June 6th started rather slow after a wicked cold front.  Water temperatures fell 17 degrees from May 28th-May 30th after snow, ice pellets and sleet bombarded us.  However, the week ended on an uptrend after stable warm weather moved into NW Ontario.  Water temperatures are now back around 60 degrees on most lakes and the fishing has been excellent.  Walleye are holding in shallow mud flats or areas with rapids or current.  Pike have invaded sun struck shallow bays chasing bait and can also be found close to schools of walleye.

Most lakes reported several 40+" pike being boated and released; with hot lures varying from bucktails to delong eels.  Baits with slower presentations seemed to have the best success for trophy fish.  Largest pike reported to me was a 43.5" from West Lake on a jig.

Walleye have been hot after 1/4 oz jigs with smaller 2 or 3" tails.  Color hasn't been much of a factor as they seem to be striking just about everything.  I always have white, yellow, pumkinseed and flouro orange tails stashed in my tackle box.  Slow trolling #5 shad raps has been effective along 5-8 ft flats.  Fish should continue to hang in the shallower water for the next several weeks until the may flies hatch.

Good luck on the water everyone and make sure to send us your best fishing pictures.
_Nathan
www.bighookcamps.com

Oh yeah....it takes 22 days to receive windmill parts from Oklahoma to the Opasquia Provincial Park, the windmills are now in full operation.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Ice is Out

Yesterday we received the much anticipated phone call from Sandy Lake Seaplane that the majority of Central Lake is free and clear of ice.  According to the pilot report, some ice still remains on the north end of the lake.  As many of you know, last year was a late late ice out.  I taxi'd the plane around icebergs on the 24th of May and some lakes were not free and clear of ice until the 28th of May.  Our all time latest ice out was June 1st roughly 10 years ago.

My plan was to travel northbound today, however snow and wind has decided to grace it's presence as winter refuses to relinquish it's grip on NW Ontario.   Currently, Sandy Lake is basking in sunshine and warmer temperatures.  Unfortunately, visibility and ceilings are holding it far from flyable here on Eagle Lake.   But, warmer weather is on the way and the season will get steam rolling before we know it.

Food Restrictions 

Do your research before heading northbound.  Just recently, Canada has banned transporting numerous foods into the country in an effort to combat the spread of the Bird Flu.  The majority of the restrictions are related to poultry products such as: eggs, uncooked chicken and turkey. Attached is a link to an extremely helpful article on the details of the restrictions. 

Click HERE for the article.  

Customers have the option to purchase chicken products in Canada.  Grocery stores on your way north of the border are: 

Safeway in Fort Frances

Dryden Walmart
 


Safeway in Dryden



IGA in Red Lake



I hope to arrive at Big Hook tomorrow, weather permitting, and am excited to get the 2015 season rolling.
Good luck on the water everyone!
-Nathan
www.bighookcamps.com




Friday, May 1, 2015

Major warm up

Things are beginning to heat up in the north country.  An incredible warming trend has caused the snow and the majority of ice to vanish in the Eagle Lake area.  I arrived to Vermilion Bay two days ago with my travel companion Shadow the wonder dog. On my travels north from the States I didn't witness any ice on the lakes adjacent to Hwy 502.  Needless to say, if the future forecasts hold true, we should be experiencing an early ice out this year.
Sunset view on Eagle Lake 4/30

Preparing 

Mom, Dad and myself are beginning the early season scramble; gathering last minute supplies and staging goods to head northbound.  I am hoping to retrieve the airplane from Selkirk as early as Tuesday.  Word from Sandy Lake is that a fair amount of ice remains in the area but is melting quickly.  Temperatures the next several nights will remain above freezing and Saturday's forecasted high is a toasty 73 degrees.  Several days like that and open water throughout the Opasquia Provincial Park will appear in no time.  Rain is also in the forecast for Sunday and will only aid in the erosion of ice. 
  
Another positive to consider, is the majority of our lakes throughout the park have a considerable amount of flow. Both Cocos and Central lead the charge, having numerous rapids pushing water and are typically the first two bodies of water to open.  We will keep in touch with Sandy Lake Seaplane often for current ice reports. 

I expect fishing patterns to be well ahead of last year.  Official ice out for 2014 was May 24th.  The late ice and cool weather last year caused a delayed spawn for both species.  I remember catching walleye full of eggs into the first part of June.  The earlier ice out this season should have both species shaking off their post spawn laziness by the time guests arrive. 

Good luck on the water everyone, we are excited to get the ball rolling for the 2015 season. 
-Nathan 
www.bighookcamps.com 
 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

News From the North Country

The warm weather everyone experienced recently, and yes that even included Northwestern Ontario, has spawned visions of spring and summer.  A recent change in the jet stream brought temperatures well above freezing into the greater Sandy Lake area yesterday. Maybe we will get lucky and experience an earlier ice out this season. Finger crossed! The area just weeks ago was bombarded with temperatures reaching well below 0 and as cold as -45 F without the wind chill.

The Winter Road Adventure

Mid February Dad, myself and a close friend ventured up the yearly ice highway.  The cold temperatures mentioned above accompanied us the entire voyage.  Six of the eight mornings we traveled dipped below a frigid-35 C (-31F), creating excellent ice conditions.  All in all, we managed to transport approximately 15000 pds of materials. Two boats, a new solar fridge and thousands of pounds of lumber were just some of the bulk we lugged.

The cold of the north. -40 C=-40 F
This years journey was fairly uneventful.  The extreme cold held the road together amazingly well and allowed quicker travel.  When I say "quick", I mean we were able to accomplish our 226 mile drive in under 10 hrs. The only drawback to favourable road conditions meant more traffic on the highway. Drivers encounter dozens of blind twists and turns throughout the journey and must exercise extreme caution driving the narrow road, especially during the day. Twice over the years I have had to abruptly bury my truck into the snowbank to make last minute room for a barreling fuel transport. This year no such drama unfolded even though we encountered several fuel transports, freighters and many locals taking advantage of the ability to drive to Red Lake vs flying.

Only one animal was spotted in our four trips.  A single otter trotted down the middle of the road one morning oblivious to his whereabouts and even failed to notice a half ton truck immediately behind him.  Where this otter was attempting to travel was beyond me due to the fact no open water existed for miles.  Several signs of other wildlife was present such as fresh moose and wolf tracks.   One evening, I attempted several times to capture the dancing northern lights, however neither my GO Pro or cell phone camera were able to capture the aurora borealis.

One unfortunate instance however, cost us.  The morning we scheduled to pick up the majority of our lumber Dad's Ram 2500 began acting unusual, revving up unpredictably.  After about 20 miles, the RPM's failed to drop below 6000 and Dad burned through an extreme amount of gas.  All the signs pointed too, you guessed it, a busted transmission.  The only positive to that situation, we weren't 100 miles in the middle of nowhere when it occurred.  We parked the truck at a friends in Vermillion Bay and after several phone calls, were able to track down a Chevy Silverado half ton for the drive.


March Madness Begins

Dad with a frosty mustache unloading freight 
Every year Big Hook gives their guests/friends/family an opportunity to test their NCAA basketball knowledge against other fisherman. Join our tourney pick'em, top three places win! Just click HERE to create a bracket. 1st place is a Cabelas gift card, 2nd place is a Big Hook shirt and 3rd is a Big Hook baseball cap.
Pool # 28122
Password: bighook


Good luck in your early season fishing adventures.  Spring is just around the corner.

-Nathan
www.bighookcamps.com
This semi took a corner too fast on the ice highway
 






Inattentive driving will cause you to fall off the already
slippery and steep road.  







Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Punxsutawney Phil

Yesterday, the worlds most famous groundhog poked a nose out from his slumber and witnessed a shadow.  And according to Punxsutawney, we are in for six more weeks of winter.  However, don't fret and let the little critter get you down. History shows Mr. Phil is about as reliable as our local weatherman with a meager 39% accuracy rate.

sunset airplane
The airplane sees its shadow during this amazing sunset.
A cold long winter benefits Big Hook at least in one way; the winter road.  Basically, the more cold Mother Nature can unleash the better the road.  This winter has been no exception; plenty of frigid cold has settled in NW for some time creating excellent ice conditions.  Unfortunately, the last time I chatted with Sandy Lake Seaplane they informed me there was very little snow in the bush.  Limited amounts of snow means we will be in for one bumpy ride along the ice highway.

All of our goods have been purchased and await our pick up in Dryden, ON.  A new screened in porch for SW Lake, several new boats, and about 2 tons of lumber for new docks and countless other projects are just some of the items we plan on hauling this winter.  Also, an eight passenger van, that dad purchased last fall, will be making the voyage to Sandy Lake.
video

As usual, I'll try my best to document our expedition northbound.  With the help of a GO PRO camera I have a feeling I'll capture some great footage.  In years past, we have experienced exciting moments from vehicle brake downs to semi-trucks jack knifed across ice bridges to narrowly missing lethargic moose.

video

For those of you who are a little down from the cold weather,  I have posted a couple warm weather video's from this past summer.  The first video, is just a simple boat ride on glassy water. My brother and I enjoyed a warm relaxing ride down the west arm of Central Lake during an amazing sunset in August.  While the second, is a nice northern boated and released at SW Lake in mid July.  Now, just imagine yourself at Big Hook in true north amongst friends and family enjoying the outdoors.  See life is good.

Good luck on the water/ice everyone!

-Nathan
www.bighookcamps.com

Monday, January 12, 2015

Happy New Year

Happy new year to everyone from Big Hook Camps.  We wish the best to everyone as 2015 has just begun.  January is a great month to finalize your fishing vacation plans for the spring/summer/fall. We have embarked on the 2015 sport show tour.  Last weekend the Pheasant Run All Canada show was a success and we now turn our sights to Green Bay. Stop by and pay us a visit at the Radisson Convention Center  at the Oneida casino Jan 15th-18th. I have a funny feeling the show may be a tad slow on Sunday, especially during a certain NFL matchup.

Bonus points if you can name that body of water.  Hint: it is one
of our outposts.

The Winter Road Looms

Dad and I have been following the weather closely in the north country.  Our winter road travels will begin soon after the shows.  As of right now our journey north will begin on February 9th. NW Ontario has had bitter cold for the past month or so and the winter road should be open for business shortly.  As usual, we will be transporting 13000-15000 pounds of materials.  A new screened porch for SW Lake, several new 16x8' floating docks, and 2 new boats are just some of the items we will be hauling.

Black eyed Susans are a common flower at Central in August
Nature Shots

The winter can be a deary time for most fisherman.  For me I enjoy several outings of ice fishing, however I truly enjoy the open water.  As a remedy to the cold, I would like to post some great nature shots we received this winter from a gentleman named Dan Probst. Mr. Probst traveled with Dan Gapen Sr this past August and was a member of the film crew. Enjoy the pictures and we hope to see you at the next sport show.

Ferns do not grow very tall at this latitude.
The northern boreal forest looks rather mysterious when
the right camera filter is applied
Cranberries are plentiful and rather small.
They are edible but extremely tart


It is amazing how many wild flowers exist so far north.  

Nothing beats fresh raspberries.  My favorite in cereal. 

The forest floor exhibits hundreds of types of fungus. 

Shadow "the wonder dog" strikes fear into the heart
of squirrels as she races up the trees after them. 




I just love seeing the sunrise and the stars in the same shot.