Friday, August 31, 2018

2018 Wilderness Report #13

August has been a funny month for weather.  The beginning of this week temperatures struggled to break above 50 degrees and we didn't see the sun for five days. It felt as if fall had taken hold.  Birch trees began to show yellow leaves and our first flock of geese honked their way south bound.  However, Thursday the sun broke out, temperatures skyrocketed to 80 degrees and summer returned. The question is "how long will summer stick around?" As many of you know, September can be a volatile month for weather here in the north country. 

The cool/hot weather has created very polarized fishing.  One day the bite will be on fire and the next fish barely nip the tails of lures.  Currently, water temperatures are holding on average around the 60 degree mark.  Lake levels have fallen about 4-6" in the last two weeks and are around normal.  The entire month of August we only received only five days of rain, but when it rained it was intense. Weed beds are just about done growing for the summer and many have begun to turn brown.  Days are getting shorter and the clear nights have brought about some amazing northern lights lately.

A nice Central Lake pike
The walleye have been scattered throughout the water column.  Guests have caught fish on mud flats in 6-8 ft, along weed beds and near structure as deep as 30 feet.  Back trolling around structure and jigging remains my favorite technique.  The walleye hold on specific sides of structure sometimes so it is key to slowly work the area to locate the school.  When jigging in deeper water don't get discouraged if at first the fish fail to cooperate, just give it some time.  Little ripper 600 Reef Runners are my favorite trolling bait this time of year.  If you can find the 008 perch or 009 green perch color, buy it and you won't regret it.  Trolling a windy shoreline in 15 ft at idle speed is a great way to locate schools.
The cool weather didn't stop a delicious dinner time
shore lunch at Central

Northern pike have been traversing between rocky shoals and weed beds.  One day you'll find the pike stacked with the walleye on reefs and the next they are feeding in dense cabbage beds.  Spoons, chatter baits and bucktails have worked best around the weed beds.  Bulldawgs, mini medussas, depth raiders are great baits to toss on reefs.  With the water temperatures cooling not many fish were striking top water baits.  Instead, numerous pike were caught while trolling for walleye this week.

We are in our last couple weeks for guests at Big Hook in the 2018 season.  Next week we will begin winterizing some of our cabins for the season. Several projects are in store this fall.  For example, today we installed new vinyl windows and trim on Cabin #1 at Central Lake.

Good luck on the water everyone! Thanks to those who have sent their 2018 Big Hook pictures.

Friday, August 24, 2018

2018 Wilderness Report #12

It has been a cool week here at Big Hook Camps.  Yesterdays (8/23)  high barely cracked 50 degrees and a stiff north wind didn't make things feel any warmer.  This morning was a crisp 38 degrees on the thermostat; it feels like fall is quickly approaching.  Some birch and tamarack trees have even begun changing color signaling fall isn't far away.  However, September is always a big question mark for weather here in NW Ontario.  It can be 75 degrees one day and 32 degrees the next.
A gator pike from Burnt Lake

Celebrating a 50th birthday at Central Lake 
Water temperatures have fallen into the low 60's on most bodies of water, while the water levels have remained the same as last week.  We have only received a couple sprinkles of rain the past several days.  Morning lake fog has been common lately.  Future forecast for next week shows rain and cool weather for several days.  

 As we approach September, pike fishing dominates most conversations.  This time of year the bigger fish become increasingly active to pack on the pounds for the rapidly approaching winter.  Typically the number of northern caught will drop however the average size is better.  After chatting with the camps this week, lots of 30 +" fish were boated and released with several fish pushing past 38-40".  There were also some monsters lost that will make great fish stories in the future.  

Another quality Burnt Lake northern 
Trolling bigger crankbaits such as mini depth raiders and reef runners along wind blown shorelines has been most successful.  Fish are also still hitting bucktails and spoons casting in weed beds.  The weeds are beginning to turn brown, which is another sign fall is approaching.  As the weeds begin to die, fish will begin to transition to rocky points and mid lake reefs to feed on whitefish.  As a final pike note, top water action has been decent but not stellar.

The walleye bite slowed a bit this week with the cool weather.  The bigger fish descended to 25-30 ft of water along mid lake reefs.  Lots of smaller walleye moved into the 10-15ft water column.  Vertical jigging while slowly back trolling 3/8 oz jigs with Gulp, Ripple Shad or Twister tails still out fishes all other techniques.  Fish can be caught and efficiently located while trolling deep diving crankbaits (shad rap #7 or reef runners for example). However, be prepared for catching lots of pike this time of year. Some walleye are still hanging on the edges of weeds and in the moving water close to rapids. 

Southwest lake has been the darling for walleye fishing.  The guests have reported catching lots of 18-20" fish all day long.  South Lake walleye bite slowed with lots of smaller walleye moving into the mid lake shoals.  The island just north of camp has yielded steady fish.   Central Lake best walleye action has been airplane island and hippo rock.  West Lake found most walleye on wind blown points along the north end of the lake. 

Good luck on the water. 

Friday, August 17, 2018

2018 Wilderness Report #11

Another big storm tracked through the Opasquia Provincial Park last Monday (August 13th).  In an eight hour span we received roughly 4" of rain here at Central Lake coupled with constant lightening and howling winds.  The rest of the outposts reported similar amounts of precipitation from the system. However, Burnt and Central Lake seemed to take the brunt of the storm, which is interesting considering they are on opposite sides of the park.  The massive amount of rain has caused the water levels to shoot up.  Central alone is up over a foot since Monday, with the water almost up to the front lawn.  The water at Burnt is just about to the edge of the dock.  The rain was welcomed and greatly needed as water levels had dropped to the lowest point of the season prior.   

Monday's front caused a big shift in the fish, as to be expected. Water temperatures Sunday night were a warm 73 degrees and by Monday morning the water temperatures chilled to 64.  That big swing caused the fishing to damper down considerably.  The rise in water have the rapids gushing and drawing lots of baitfish to the moving water.  I expect a good amount of fish to be holding in or around the current over the next couple of weeks. 

The walleye bite has been light, so smaller baits have been more effective the past couple days.  1/4 oz jigs with 3" tails was boating more fish vs 1/2 oz jigs with 4" tails. Trolling perch colored mini reef runners worked great also.  Fish are holding in their typical late summer patterns, 15-25 ft of water on windy points or mid lake humps.  However, with the increase in water flow many fish are migrating to moving water.  

While guiding Central on Wednesday, the hottest spot on the lake was the West rapids.  Quality 18-22" walleye were holding tight to the current and in big numbers.  We had most success pitching crankbaits down current and slowly reeling back to the boat. South Lake reported 13 walleye between 25-28.5" thus far, with the 28.5" being caught the very first cast of the trip.  Southwest Lake was catching the majority of their fish just east of the camp and around the big area to the SW end of the lake that we call Spain.  Burnt Lake reported great numbers of walleye on wind blown points, however they were finding the perch scattered. 
Red sun mornings from the smoke out west 

The pike habitat changed with the rise in water levels.  Weed beds got more difficult to locate, as the majority are now a foot under the surface.  On a good note, running baits over the top of the weeds got a lot easier.  Silver spoons (Johnson Silver Minnows, Williams Wobblers) seemed to work better than most baits last week.  Some top water baits were still drawing attention.  Mini Medussa's by Chaos Tackle activiated some hard strikes.  I've shied away from big plastics recently due to the fact little pike chomp off tails quickly. However Medussa's are great since they have three tails and are still useful after one goes missing to a pike bite off (unlike a bulldawg). 

Most of the camps have been focusing on walleye this week thus the pike report is a bit thin.  The big girls have been timid here at Central, we had some good follows in the north narrows but couldn't hook up.  South Lake boated a couple of 38" fish trolling for walleye.  SW managed a 37".  Attached right is a 42" pike boated at Burnt Lake the previous week (8/10). 

The Red Lake district implemented a total fire ban for the area.  They didn't receive any rain from the Monday front, all the precipitation fell north of Sandy Lake. Red Lake and south towards the border has been hampered from lack of rain for over a month now.  NW Ontario has been blanketed in smoke the past week from the fires out west in British Columbia, we have had numerous hazy red sun mornings and evenings as a result. 

Good luck on the water everyone. 

Friday, August 10, 2018

2018 Wilderness Report #10

It's a heat wave here in the Opasquia Provincial Park. It's 94 degrees here today at Big Hook Camps and warmer weather is on the way for tomorrow. The forecast for Saturday is a sweltering 100 degrees here in the park. That's the warmest weather we have had in almost 10 years!  Fortunately, the heat wave is only supposed to last until Sunday afternoon.  Thankfully, a cold front is forecast to bring some cooler weather and rain late Sunday into Monday. 

A West Lake trophy from earlier this
The fish have been responding to the heat in an odd fashion.  Yesterday the weather was 80+ degrees with not a breath of wind here at Central. The surface temperature was a brisk 67, cool considering the temperatures of late. I figured walleye would be harboring in deeper waters considering the elements.  After two hours of jigging and only about 6 fish to show for it, we altered our strategy and began jigging and tossing crankbaits on top of 6 ft reefs. We were quickly rewarded with dozens of quality walleye.  Apparently, walleye at Central Lake like to buck the stereotype.

I managed to get on the water just about every day this week at Central.  As mentioned before walleye were caught at just about every depth, from 6 ft to 30 ft.  Vertical jigging with 1/4 and 3/8 oz jigs tipped with 3" Ripple Shad or Fluke Gulp tails worked best. A black1/4 oz echotail boated several fish in the 22-25" range. The high sun afternoons did cause walleye fishing to slow but would pick right back up in the afternoon/evening.  Forward trolling a Hot N Tot or Reef Runners in roughly 15 ft are a great way to break up the monotony.

The pike bite has remained more productive in the
Big walleye on a medusa?! Maybe it's a new trend. 
 late afternoon. We tried hard on Central for daytime production but the big girls remained dormant in the morning hours.  Topwater (top raiders, whopper ploppers, zara spooks) and blade baits (mepps musky killers, essox assault duel blades) remain the go-to lures.  Silver minnows tipped with a twister tail are great for finding fish located in heavy foliage.  We have had really good luck trolling deep diving crank baits along shorelines for big pike as of late.  Trolling has been outproducing casting truth be told. 

Lots of people have been asking me to post Mom's famous jalapeno corn recipe, so here it is.
Super easy to make and it is for a serving size of 6. 
Ryan and Gunner out for a paddle on the new
paddle board at Central. 

Jalapeno Corn

3 cans kernel corn (drained)
1- 8 oz tub of soft Herb and Garlic cream cheese
1 chopped fresh jalapeno (seeds removed) or bottled jalapeno to taste
Sprinkle with fresh chives and parsley
Mix well and bake at 350 degrees for 30 min in an oven safe dish.

Enjoy, it's a favorite among our customers. 

Good luck on the water everyone!

Friday, August 3, 2018

2018 Wilderness Report #9

The odd weather continues for us here in the Opasquia Provincial Park.  August began the month with...frost.  Well not quite, but almost. The morning of August 1st our temperature gauge was indicating 1 degree Celsius or a chilly 34 degrees Fahrenheit.  Since then, the temperatures have skyrocketed back into the mid 80's with some more warm weather in next weeks forecast.  Fortunately, some rain tagged along with the cold last week Tuesday.  We will take every drop of rain given, as this will go down as one of our drier summers on record.
A foggy Central Lake morning

Thankfully, there has been enough rain to keep the forest fires in check.  As a side note, please be mindful when having shore lunch and extinguish your fire completely. As stated earlier, conditions remain dry and water levels are still 12-24 inches lower than normal, depending on which body of water you are on.  Watch out for rocks with the low water! The safe passage waterways change with the low water. 

The hot and cold weather has had an effect on the fish. Unstable weather usually leads to unstable fishing.  According to multiple guests, one day of fishing will be hot and the next the fish are suspended and dormant.  Water temperatures began the week around 70 degrees only to fall to 64 several days later.  The rollercoaster water temperatures have been pushing fish all throughout the water column. The majority of walleye have been holding anywhere from 10-25' of water on windblown reefs and rocky points.  Slowly backtrolling and jigging is still the preferred technique for locating and boating walleye. The bigger fish seem to be holding further down the water column between 20-25'.  I was able to chat with several guests at the outposts the past couple days. West Lake has boated numerous walleye
 between the 22-26" on deeper reefs while vertical jigging 1/4 oz jigs with 3" ripple shad tails.  SW Lake has been boating large numbers of walleye along weed beds and rocky shorelines as shallow as 8 ft.  South Lake has found many fish between 18-23" at depths ranging from 15-18 ft.
Warming up the plane during sunrise. 

Pike are holding in their typical summer pattern locations: in deeper weed beds and along windblown points.  Shiny spoons and bucktails work best on sunny days.  The topwater bite is getting more consistent on overcast days or evenings.  Several guests have reported northern latching onto walleye while walleye fishing. Central Lake has boated several northern between 35-39".  Burnt Lake reported a 42" pike, caught "right in the mouth" according to the guests. Translation "the secret spot will remain a secret".
SW Lake was having fun fishing pike with a fly rod in the evenings. Unfortunately, I haven't spoken with Cocos or West Lake about the pike fishing.

The days are getting shorter, we are losing approximately 4 mins of daylight each day here in the north country.  In just a couple week signs of fall will begin sprouting.  The first notable signs are the birch tree leaves and the whiskey jacks (grey jays) coming to camp for food.  It is amazing how fast the seasons progress here.  Well, except for winter, that seems to last forever.

Good luck on the water everyone.