Friday, September 28, 2018

2018 Wilderness Report #14

A foggy Central Lake morning
 The 2018 has wrapped up at Big Hook Wilderness Camps.  A chilly, rainy, and even snowy September proved to be a challenge for an efficient close up this fall.  Autumn was premature this year, as the temperatures in September  plummeted instantly around Labor Day.  As you can see in the pictures to the right, the cool weather induced a prompt change in the foliage. Just about all of the birch trees donned a vivid yellow and many were shedding their leaves as we shut down camp.

The colors popped in early September
We closed the doors on the 2018 Big Hook season on September 19th.  However, two days prior to shutting down we endured a wicked ice/snow storm that blanketed the Opasquia Provincial  Park.  Snow, coupled with 40 mph winds battered us and a thick coat of ice adhered to the buildings and the boreal forest. Our water lines were completely frozen solid and the airplane resembled an ice cube.  It took over a day to defrost from that storm. 

During the storm, Ryan and I had a black bear visit us at Central.  We typically feed the grey jays (whiskey jacks) the left over crackers accumulated from the season, helps them fatten up for the winter.  I sprinkle a couple at a time on the picnic table adjacent to main cabin at Central. Well, Mr Bear thought he could help himself to a couple and quickly wore out his welcome.  A quick shot in the rear end with a pellet gun deterred his feast and he high tailed it back into the woods.  I incurred another interesting wildlife encounter the very next morning.  I overheard a pack of wolves yipping just north of my cabin at Central Lake. They were quite vocal for an extended period of time.  It was pretty hair raising and I told myself "wolves don't show up for the crackers." The geese were also active and heading south in massive flocks; that's really when you know winter isn't far behind. 

Catching some late season walleye at SW Lake
We managed to complete a couple of projects this September before the rough weather settled in.  West Lake received some TLC with a new laminate counter top installed.  We also completed the kitchen at West with new tongue and groove pine paneling and updated the shelves. At Central Lake, Cabin #1 had four new vinyl windows installed with new trim.  All the cabins at Big Hook had the floors painted with a fresh coat of gray paint.  Other than that, the weather pushed us pretty hard to get everything winterized.  42 motors had to be fogged and maintenance checklists completed.  Boats were inspected for leaks and rivets were pounded or replaced if water was found.  Numerous other tasks had to also be finished before we headed south for the winter.

Ed Jones, a dedicated fisherman
and friend 
Big Hook had several fishing parties in the second week of September to close out the year.  The walleye behavior was typical for fall.  Most fish were harbored down in deep 20+' of water.  Vertical jigging on deep reefs and steep drops yielded the best bites.  Numerous northern pike were still hanging in the weed beds however many were found suspended and caught while trolling crank baits.

Ed Jones, a long time guest and friend of Big Hook Camps lost his legs, half a hand, and almost his life last year.  Needless to say, he was unable to make the journey north in 2017.  However according to Ed, the dream of fishing at Big Hook again helped him through his difficult times.  And in August of 2018, with the assistance of his friends, family and sheer determination, Ed once again fished the waters of Central Lake.  His beaming smile and positive attitude infected everyone at camp that week.  Thank you Ed for being a passionate fisherman and a true friend to all of us at Big Hook Camps.

Finally, thanks to everyone for a great 2018 season.  We could not do it without all of you.  I read a great quote today, "Fishing knows no borders and never discriminates.  Its can be visited and revisited many times with losing its charm...but sharing it with others, is the best part of all."

Good luck on the water for the remainder of 2018.


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.