Thursday, July 19, 2018

2018 Wilderness Report #7

We are about halfway through the 2018 fishing season here at Big Hook Camps.  It is hard to believe just two months ago I was being chased by a snowstorm on my way to open up the camp.  As I write this blog, the temperature outside is a sweltering 88 degrees with high humidity; so a snow flurry sounds kind of refreshing at the moment.  July has brought a rollercoaster of temperatures so far.  Just two days ago our high for the day was a chilly 48 degrees.  A 40 degree temperature swing in just under 36 hours sounds appropriate for NW Ontario.  I've always said, "In this neck of the woods, wait 12 hours and the season will change."

We are still in need of rain here in the north country.  Aside from a couple random showers throughout July, conditions remain incredibly dry. I urge everyone to use caution when having outdoor fires, please make sure the fire is completely extinguished.  Due to the lack of rain lake levels are down roughly 12-18" throughout the Opasquia Provincial Park.  Water temperatures on most lakes are still hovering in the high sixties and creeping into the seventies. Just about all the weed beds are now fully mature. 

40" caught jigging for walleye on Central
The up and down temperatures this week have had the walleye scattered throughout the water column.  Guests have reported best luck around the 12-16 ft range however, some are still be caught on the edges of weed beds.   Hot colors for walleye the past couple days have been pink, flouro orange and purple.  3" Ripple Shads are quickly replacing Gulp as my favorite jig tail. Vertical jigging while back trolling over structure has been the most effective technique for catching schooled up walleye.  Trolling 15' flats or shorelines with Reef Runners or Shad Raps are a great way to locate the schools.  Walleye should continue their descent through the water column as the summer progresses along. On a side note, guests at Central Lake are having excellent luck walking the rapids and fishing walleye in the slack pools.  Guess our walleye are behaving a bit like trout lately. 

A Central Lake 40" caught well after sunset.
Cloudy days or evenings are the best times for northern fishing lately.  Guests at Central have boated three fish over 40" with two of them being caught well after sunset.  The usual suspects Johnson Silver Minnows and orange-bladed black skirted bucktails have been hot lures.  If you want to run the risk of throwing a Bulldawg, they get to be hot baits as the summer marches on.  Trouble is those 24" northern love to bite the tail off of them, which is why I don't toss Bulldawgs as much anymore.  Don't forget to pack at least one topwater bait.  Whopper ploppers, top raiders, zara spooks and buzz baits are among my favorite.  Find your favorite weed bed or wind blown rocky point and start slinging, the pike will be sure to respond with some high flying antics.  Another side note, numerous pike have been caught in deeper water while fishing for walleye the past couple days.  It might be worth packing a rattle trap or jigging rap.

Most guests have been out fishing when I have visited the outposts this week so I don't have the most informative outpost report.  South Lake has reported steady action with walleye, however, the northern have been a bit on the slow side. Most walleye are holding on structure in 15 ft of water.  In a quick chat yesterday, West Lake said the fishing was very good.  Trolling crankbaits along shorelines was catching plenty of both species.  West Lake has also boated and released a pair of 41" northern.  Both fish were caught trolling large F18 husky jerks.  I have not seen Cocos, Burnt or SW lake yet this week.  I noticed many 35-38" northern written on the bragging board at Cocos this week.  The water at Cocos is really low. Guests are having no issues navigating the two sets of rapids into the Sagawitchewan River. However, lots of new rocks are present in the river, so please go slow the first time through. 

Good luck on the water everyone and remember to send pictures. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

2018 Wilderness Report #6

The beginning of July has brought lots of wind thus far.  20 mph warm westerly winds have dominated the last week of fishing, causing lots of wet feet for those who enjoy back trolling for walleye.  Daytime highs have been averaging in the high 70's, however, the nights have been dipping into the low 50's.  The cool nights and churning waters have dipped the water temperatures into the mid 60's.  Some rain has fallen the past couple days but the lake levels are still very low.  

The walleye bite has slowly improved the last couple days.  The week started rather slow due to the tail end of the mayfly hatch.  Walleyes were barely nudging the baits and most of the time you couldn't determine you had a fish on the hook.  As the week has progressed, however, the bite became more distinguishable as walleye have disgested last weeks mayfly hatch.  

Presently, walleye are scattered throughout the water column.  Fish are being caught anywhere from 3-25 feet of water but not in huge numbers.  Walleye are transitioning away from the mud flats to rocky points or 10-20 ft reefs.  The majority of fish are being caught with jigs and twisters or crawler harnesses.  The bite should vastly improve as we distance ourselves from the mayfly hatch.  Little to no mayfly carcasses have been spotted the last couple days.   

Northern pike are harboring along their typical summer patterns.  Deep weed edges or windblown rocky points hold the most fish.  Orange bladed and black skirted #6 bucktails, Johnson silver minnows tipped with a twister tail or any type of surface bait have been the most effective lures.  The weed beds are beginning to thicken up in most lakes, so a weedless lure or two is a must in your tackle box.  
A sunrise take off from Central Lake at 4:50 a.m.

Cocos Lake leads the pack lately with lots of the walleye in the 20-23" range along with several pike in the 38-40" range.  Water levels are low and guests are easily able to navigate the rapids.  The perch bite has improved for Burnt and a beauty of a 44" northern was boated and released last week.  In a change of pace, South Lake managed a 40.5" northern and many in the 30-35" range. Nice walleye were also caught along the Midlake reefs.  Southwest Lake boasted some impressive 20-24" fat walleye that were located in the northeast arm.  The hotspot on Central Lake has been near the north rapids.  Schools and schools of walleye have flocked to the shallow reefs in the area.  Most fish are holding in 3-5 ft of water, odd for this time of year.  The deep reefs east of the camp at West Lake are holding lots of nice walleye.  Horseshoe Bay has been a great hotspot for pike and as a bonus, it's sheltered from the strong winds of late.  

Good luck on the water everyone!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

2018 Wilderness Report #5

A nice pike from Husker Rock at Central
A Happy Canada Day to all! Today, July 1st, marks Canada's 151st year of independence. I tell you what, nothing screams Canada like a fly-in fishing trip, shore lunch, Labatt Blue, walleye....I could go on and on.  Here at Big Hook we try to get inventive with our festivities on this day.  Our activities include moose yodeling, waterskiing behind the plane, and playing tag the wolverine, only kidding. All joking aside, Canada Day usually involves a walleye fishing contest amongst the friends and family here at Central. Winner gets bragging rights (and maybe a beer or two after the day is over), while the losing parties get to fillet the fish and wash dishes.
New floater for Cocos Lake

 The weather was hot hot hot last week, with plenty of sunshine and minimal rain.  Conditions once again are super dry as we have only received 1 millimeter of rain in the past 17 days here at Central. I can only ask everyone to be super careful with outdoor fires.  Dad, Ryan and I took advantage of the warm weather and built a new (and bigger) floating dock at Cocos. However, today a cold front has descended upon NW Ontario and plummeted temperatures into the high 50's with heavy SW winds. It looks to remain cool for several days before once again heating up.

Another Husker rock beauty 
Fishing reports last week were superb.  The stable weather conditions made the fish quite predictable.  However, the fisherman's nemesis starting hatching last week Wednesday. That's right, the mayflies have begun.  Last Friday was a pretty intense hatch as mayflies littered the surface of Central, Cocos, and Burnt when I visited.  The hatch should only last a day or two more and conditions should return to normal. 

Walleye have started to move a little deeper, with the bulk of the schools holding in 10 feet of water.  Vertical jigging 1/4 oz jigs near weed edges, rock piles or windy shorelines boated the most fish. Trolling shad raps. flicker shad, or reefs runners along mud flats and weed edges was also effective.  I'll mention again the Berkley Ripple shad is outperforming the Gulp.  I think Gulp has changed their formula as the tails fall apart after maybe one or two fish. 

Northern were active last week.  The favorite baits were silver spoons and Johnson silver minnows tipped with a twister tail. Topwater action was great on calm days.  Lots of reports of 30-40" pike poured in from the outposts this week.  Casting windblown weeds or rocky points was effective for bigger fish. 

Good luck on the water everyone!

Sunday, June 24, 2018

2018 Wilderness Report #4

The days are running long here at Big Hook.  Our official sunrise is at 4:44 am with the skies getting light around 4 am.  The official sunset 9:51 pm and darkness doesn't truly settle in until after 11 pm.  However, our long days disappear rather quickly as the summer progresses along.  Now that we have passed the summer solstice, we lose an average of four minutes a day.

The fisherman have been taking advantage of the extra daylight.  The early bird gets the worm, right? Walleye fishing generally is better during the morning and evening hours, but not always.  The walleye around this area will feed all day long, and they have been. Reports from all the outposts this week stated the walleye fishing was amazing.  Burnt, Central, and South all released multiple walleye exceeding 27". West stated they boated the most 20-23" walleye in over a dozen years of fishing that lake.  Central had the biggest for the week measuring at an impressive 30". Most fish are still holding near the shallow mud flats, with some beginning to hold on rock reefs and windblown points.  Trolling Hot N Tots or jigging 1/4 oz jigs with Berkley Ripple shad tails were the best techniques for walleye.

Some mayfly larvae have been found in the bellies of filleted fish.  With the water temperature hovering around the 70 degree mark on the surface, I expect the mayfly hatch to begin any day now. The hatch will most likely occur a bit earlier than last year with all the hot weather we have been experiencing. 

The big northern pike were a bit finicky last week. A good number of pike were boated however, the big girls were timid.  I attribute that to the massive amount of walleye holding near weed beds and mudflats; those big northern could easily pluck all the rouge walleye they wanted at their leisure.  Also, we had a high glaring sun all week long, that allows a fish to see an artificial bait quite easily.  Now don't get me wrong, many fish between 30-38" were boated and released.  We just didnt' see those big 40+" moving as much.  The lures that were most effective were shiny spoons and bucktails.  Williams wobblers, Johnson silver minnows and Mepps #5 bucktails were some of the favorites.  Top water baits started to move some fish also.

As mentioned earlier, we had copious amounts of sunshine last week.  The temperature held between 78-94 degrees just about all week long. A sprinkle of rain dropped on Friday and that is about all the rain we have had in the last couple weeks.  The hot sunny days have caused a lot of evaporation to occur on the lake and the levels have dropped considerably from the prior week.  We really could use some precipitation.  The weedbeds, however, have enjoyed the sunlight.  Weeds sprung from the depth and are just about reaching the surface in many spots. 

Good luck on the water everyone,

Thursday, June 21, 2018

2018 Wilderness Report #3

Greetings all. Ryan here, writing for a change… Nathan has been busy the last few days flying and guiding. 

A Central Lake trophy walleye
It is currently a tale of two seasons here in the Opasquia Provincial Park. For some inhabitants it is summer - a few others are clinging on to spring. The birds have all made their nesting grounds. We haven’t seen any flights of northbound migrants for over a week. This bodes well for flying ourselves. Geese and Cessnas don’t mix well. Conversely, the Hartles and I have to prepare for a dive bomb attack anytime we try to get to the generator shed at Central - a robin has taken up residence inside and is quite protective of her chicks. 

All of the bigger critters are out and about too. There have been several sightings of moose and bear. Thankfully they have remained out in the wilds so far, but it is a good reminder to always keep a clean camp. 

Shadow’s nemesis, “The Beaver” has begun its nightly swim past the dock - a right of summer for the both of them. 

The fish, however, are still hanging onto their spring-time patterns. The walleye continue to relate to shallow mud-flats and flowing water /channels. Wind blown shores are producing well too. The fish are feeding ravenously. Many boats have reported numbers in the hundreds daily and many groups are tallying catches in the thousands for the week! Lighter jigs continue to be favored, but no reports on any preferred color combos yet - seems they’ll eat just about anything. Various colors of Berkley Ripple shad tails have been a new favorite jig tail for Nathan as they are more durable than Berkley Gulp. 

The big winner for walleyes at Central yesterday was Ellen A. with a pair of dandy’s (28” and 29”).  The outposts are also reporting great walleye fishing. South camp has reported a large number of fish between 24-27". 

Big pike are hanging out in many of the same spots - many fish in the mid-30” to low 40” range have been boated while trolling for walleyes. Casting silver minnows into the shallow weed beds on sunny days has the best technique for moving northern. Smaller bucktails, like a Mepps #5 have been out producing larger baits. 
All smiles with a walleye double. 

Summer is in the air, however, and it is only a matter of time before it is in the water too. As we near the peak duration for daylight hours, the forecast is for several sunny days back to back to back. This will help the weeds continue to develop and bring the water temps. up. Fish will catch on quick and find their usual summer spots. I know I am excited for some top-water fishing around the weed beds really soon. 

And it wouldn’t be summer in the Canadian Shield with out a few fires. The first of the year have popped up in viewing distance from our flight paths. They aren’t of concern to us just yet, but always a good reminder to be extra safe with campfires and shore lunches. 

Summer is just about in full swing here at Big Hook. We hope to hear from and see you soon!

All the best and good luck on the water, 

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!