Bobbi wins walleye derby
IOWA CONNECTIONS WALLEYE FISHING DERBY put another chapter in the book. This book is getting large because of more than three decades of entries by Iowans who take the time to make the journey into northwestern Ontario, Canada to enjoy good company, great food, great facilities and excellent walleye fishing in the large lake complex of the English River. The lodge is named Kettle Falls and is located north of Minaki, Ontario with access only by float equipped aircraft. It took 20 minutes on a north-northeast heading after lift off from Minaki until a gentle set down was made on the water near the lodge called Halley’s Camps.
Halley’s Camps have three camps; namely One Man Lake, Caribou Falls and Kettle Falls. The Halley family dedication to this ultimate of fishing experiences began in 1946 with modest guest cabins. Over the decades since then, facility improvements have been on-going with lots of building activities and improvements made during winter time. Winter allows for ice roads to be plowed so trucks could drive to each campsite. Once the ice goes out, usually sometime in May, the only way in or out is via a float equipped aircraft. Kettle Falls camp features a main lodge that is huge with a big kitchen, dining area, game room, Wi-Fi and gift shop. Eight cabin complexes surround the lodge. Each cabin have separate sleeping areas, individual flush toilet bathrooms with hot water showers and a common living room area. These are very nice accommodations.
The English River has a dam near Caribou Falls. When completed decades ago, the dam raised the level of water by more than 40 feet. This in turn created a 35-mile long lake complex with many islands, thousands of miles of shoreline and great habitat for some of the best fishing in Ontario. Three tributaries to the lake system are the Werner, Winding and Sturgeon Rivers. Walleye, northern and small mouth bass dominate fishing activities. The entire area is part of a large “trophy area” where all the fish are released back to the water. What is allowed are smaller walleye of about 16 inches who have the nickname “lunchers.” It is these fish that the guides expertly fillet and cook at remote shore lunch sites. Along with potatoes and baked beans, these fresh walleye meals are delicious. No one went away hungry.
Denny Baker arranges the derby each year using family favorite package deal. This package includes transportation to and from the lodge, sleeping cabin, boat and fuel and guide for every four guests, dining at the lodge with all home-cooked meals and shore lunches. All the guests have to do is drive to Minaki. For the case of Bobbi and myself, the road trip from Albion through Minnesota to International Falls was the first 520 miles. After an overnight stay, we drove into Canada for another 170 miles to arrive at Minaki and the float plane base departure point.
The DERBY is a fun contest within the group, split into team one and two, who have a friendly competition for largest and smallest walleyes. It is only the 20-inch or larger walleye that qualify for the derby. Each 20-inch or longer walleye is recorded when caught, photos made and then release of the fish back to the lake. The goal is to catch at least five 20-inchers each day for two days. Total inches of fish caught is then tallied to see who was the most adept at setting the hook on big fish. It turns out that Bobbi Brandenburg, a first-time fisher lady, boated the longest and most walleyes. Her total of the best 10 walleyes was 222 inches for an average of 22.2 inches per fish. Her reward was new spinning rod, a spinning reel, a certificate recognizing her accomplishment, a small cash prize and accolades from all 21 people for a job well done. The motto she proved correct was never bet against a lady, who also happened to be a first-time fishing participant or you will lose the bet.
The 2019 Iowa Connections Derby had 21 people, eight of whom were first-time participants. They ranged in age from 11 to 77 year young. They came from Iowa, Michigan, Florida, Missouri and Kansas. An old saying notes that God does count days you go fishing against your lifespan. So to live longer, go fishing often.
STATE FAIR TIME is happening right now. As a summertime activity, either as a participant with a show entry or just a place to go this summer, Iowa’s State Fair offers a little of everything for everyone. Fairs began as a primary way to showcase agricultural livestock. People came from all corners of Iowa to tell their story of dairy, beef, swine, horses, sheep, rabbits and poultry. Garden vegetables and crop samples also were graded for quality and uniqueness. Baked goods were also on the line for taste bud judges who had the enviable task of eating their way toward awarding blue ribbons. That and more make up the entire state fair experience.
And of course the Iowa DNR building and its mini park offer natural resource displays of all kinds. The large aquarium with native fishes is a big draw for people of all ages. Another display this year will be Iowa’s TIP trailer. TIP, Inc. is the acronym for Turn In Poachers. This exhibit on wheels features work by conservation officers, and the public who assist with informational calls, to showcase wildlife investigations into illegal activities. The “tip” that lead game wardens to successfully conclude an investigation, issue citations and obtain a conviction in court are on display. Several large white-tailed deer poaching cases are shown inside the trailer. TIP of Iowa is an independent organization that can award money to confidential informants as a way to assist in reducing violations of fish and game laws. See it all at the Iowa State Fair.
AUGUST WEATHER is usually hot or at least quite warm. It has been termed the “dog days” of summer. But why use this term at all? Well, it comes from ages past when ancient Romans believed that the Sun and the star called Sirius, both visible in the same region of the sky, specifically within the constellation Canis Major, were thought to add additional warmth to late summer. This time frame from July 3 to Aug. 11 is the 20 days before and the 20 days after the alignment of the Sun and the star Sirius…and became known as the dog days of summer. Another name for Sirius is Dog Star. Now you know.
RAIN IN AUGUST history recordings tell us that for this portion of Central Iowa, we can expect 4.85 inches of rain. The lowest recent rain year was 2013 with just 0.2 inches. The most August rain was in 1993 with 12.0 inches (and flooding events). Let us hope for average in 2019.
PHEASANT ROADSIDE COUNTS are underway now. Locally, game warden Tyson Brown has completed his routes. While statewide data will be published on Sept. 10, Brown’s routes indicated more pheasants than last year. Gray partridge numbers were down a bit. Rabbit count was also down. However, Brown’s tally is only a very small portion of regional and statewide data bases. The long term trend lines of biological data sets is what counts. Stay tuned for more facts on this matter in future editions of this column.
Garry Brandenburg is a graduate of Iowa State University with BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology. He is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. Contact him at PO Box 96, Albion, IA 50005.