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Candle Heater

Here’s a useful and nifty idea to keep you warm in your home when it’s cold outside and the power has gone out.

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Top Lures For Early Season Pike

With spring, thoughts of hefty pike in shallow water dance through anglers’ heads. Fresh from the spawn, pike will be found in specific locations and can be caught with a variety of lures.

Welter Group

 

At that time of year, the fishing can be fast and furious, monster pike are more than willing to entertain you with a game of tug-of-war. Jump-start your fishing season by tangling with the mighty “water wolf,” and be prepared for some of the best fishing you can imagine.

piketipsWhere To Find Them
Pike spawn in shallow, weedy back bays shortly after ice-out. Bays and shorelines found on the north side of the lake will be the first to warm up, and will be the most attractive to the cruising pike. Once the spawn is complete, the majority of the fish will linger in these back bays for some time, gorging on the available baitfish and awaiting a warming trend to occur in the main lake area.

Searching the shallow bays on your favorite lake will be the key to finding post-spawn pike. Make sure the area you are concentrating on has a variety of cover — be it weeds, logs or stumps — and is between the depths of 2 feet and 6 feet. Finding an area like this has pike written all over it, although your next step will be deciding what to throw at them.

Lures To Consider
One of the most productive and easiest baits to fish for spring pike is the spinnerbait. It represents an easy meal, has a bulky profile in the water and gives off flash and vibration that rings the dinner bell loudly for these opportunistic feeders.

A personal preference early in the season is a spinnerbait sporting a large willow-leaf blade, a sturdy wire body that will stand up to the abuse a pike can dish out, and a fur or nylon skirt that undulates nicely in the water. Couple this with a needle-sharp sturdy hook and you have the perfect setup for the mighty pike.

Bright colors seem to be the best route early in the season with chartreuse, red and white getting the nod for most applications. Depending on water conditions, it is best to experiment with natural and unnatural colors until you hit a winning pattern.

Topwater
Nothing can compare to the visual thrill and heart-pounding excitement of taking a pike on a topwater plug. Post spawn fish are more than willing to grab an easy meal off the surface, and the shallow water locations make this tactic extremely productive.

topwater3There are a number of topwater baits on the market that are suited to early season pike and have worked well for me over the years. The buzzbait is a top choice due to the large silhouette it provides and the surface commotion it exhibits. Fish this bait with a steady retrieve and be prepared to hold on tight. A stinger hook may be necessary for those fish that strike short or blow up on the bait.

 

Another key lure is the Zara Spook. The lazy side-to-side motion is intoxicating to both aggressive and neutral fish, and many of the pike you encounter will hunt down this bait as if it truly is alive. Choose the larger version Spook and make sure you fish the lure with a wire leader in order to save it from the jaws of this predator.

Spoons
Spoons have become a staple among early season pike anglers and for good reason — they catch fish. A spoon exhibits the movements of a baitfish precisely, and the positive vibrations and body characteristics make it a good choice.

spoonsProven spoon picks are the Red Devle Dardevle, Five of Diamonds, Red Eye, Blue Fox, Original Doctor, Johnson Silver Minnow, and many of the Williams Wobblers’ line of baits. Experiment with different weights, and thickness of bodies, in order to establish those that have the most desirable motion and action in the water, and which ones the pike show a preference to striking.

A trick to keep in mind for fish that follow yet refuse to hit, is to suddenly stop the spoon in mid-reel and let it flutter slowly downward. This tactic will entice the majority of “hot” pike to strike, and has proven itself repeatedly.

Head to Wawang Lake this spring and have a tussle with the mighty “water wolf.” The fishing will be fast and exciting and the eagerness of the pike to strike will have you returning year after year.

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Best Fried Walleye

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This is the recipe we’ve been using for 25 years. It’s light and clean-tasting because there’s no sense in masking the naturally delicious flavor of such an awesome Canadian delicacy! No tartar sauce needed!

INGREDIENTS

4 walleye fillets

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 pinch salt (optional)

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 cups crushed saltine crackers

Vegetable oil for frying

1 lemon, cut into wedges

DIRECTIONS

Check the fillets to ensure all bones and skin have been removed. Cut the fillets into manageable pieces, if necessary.

Place the beaten eggs a bowl and set aside. Combine the flour, garlic powder, salt, and pepper in another bowl. Pour the cracker crumbs into a third bowl.

Heat the oil in a deep-fryer or large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

Dip the fillets into the flour mixture, then the eggs, and then the cracker crumbs and set fillets aside on a plate.

Test the oil: it will crackle and pop when a cracker crumb is dropped into it. Carefully lower 2 fillets into the hot oil.

Cook until browned, about 3 minutes per side, using tongs to turn the fillets.

Walleye

Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and repeat with remaining fillets. Serve with fresh lemon wedges.
PREP 30 minutes
COOK 15 minutes
READY IN 45 minutes


FOOTNOTES

To crush the saltines, place the crackers in a re-sealable gallon-size plastic freezer bag and roll with a rolling pin (or whatever you’ve got) until they are a fine “bread crumb” consistency.

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Pike – Locations & Tackle

Seasonal patterns, habitat preferences, tackle selection — understanding these basics will help you connect with more pike over the course of a season.

While pike fishing isn’t an exact science, there are some basic tactics and skills that will put more fish in your boat.

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The northern pike — or “water wolf” in some circles — is a predatory fish that holds a healthy appetite, both for chowing down and battling tough. Pike can reach formidable weights, but even those relatively small in size are capable of torrid line peels and acrobatic jumps.

Fishing for northern pike is certainly not a science, but there are some basic tactics and skills involved that will ultimately lead to more fish — both on the end of your line and in the boat. Here are some suggestions for those that want in on the action.

Equipment Considerations – THINK BIG

Wawang_Pike_RodsWhen chasing northern pike, the equipment one chooses can often be paramount to the success one achieves. Beefy tackle is definitely recommended, and bait cast combos get the nod all the way.

A standard pike rod would be a 7′ medium-heavy action stick. This should cover most of the bases, although if the baits you throw are hefty (and the fish grow big in your waters), you may want to upgrade that stick to a heavy-action model.

Try to choose a rod with a lot of backbone throughout the bottom half, but with some limberness towards the top. This will ensure better casting capabilities, but with the toughness to back up a hard-fighting fish.

Bait cast reels should be dependable and tough, with a silky-smooth drag. A gear ratio of 6.3:1 or 7.0:1 is most definitely preferred, as this will allow you to burn buck tails or spinner baits back to the boat in an effortless manner.

Line choices are simple — mono-filament or braid. If going the route of mono, choose a strength of at least twenty-pound test. For braid, the standard is a minimum of fifty-pound. Regardless of which you prefer, a leader is a must when attaching main line to lure. Wire leaders between a foot and eighteen-inches in length will cover all bases and can be purchased in either wire versions or heavy fluorocarbon styles (80lbs +). The length of your leader should be longer when trolling as opposed to casting. By religiously using a leader, the chances of teeth and gill rakers slicing through your line are dramatically reduced, leading to more fish and fewer lost lures.

Careful handling and a quick release helps ensure fish live to fight another day.

Spring Locations
Northern pike spawn during the early spring in shallow water, often when ice still coats the lake. The period directly after ice out can often be your best bet for catching large fish, as the majority of post spawners will linger in this skinny water for some time, regaining energy and replenishing lost body fat. Most shallow back bays will yield the greatest concentrations of fish, and many can be sight fished.

As fish make their way out of the shallows, they will begin to stage on the first structure point they can locate. This can take the form of emergent weed beds, points, or the first drop-off situated in the main body of water. Finding these prized gems can often be easy, as working your boat outwards from the bay will have you stumbling upon the prime real estate quite easily.

Summertime Patterns
The summer months will see a definite switch in pike locational patterns, starting with a flurry of activity in healthy weed beds and lines. Finding the green stuff near points and shoals can bring about positive results, as the “hunter-instinct” in this fish will see them patrolling the edges actively.

As the water warms and the season progresses, large fish will begin their descent to the more favorable conditions that can be found in deeper water. Many of these pike will roam in a nomadic manner, intercepting bait schools as they travel freely and unimpeded. Pike anglers may scratch their heads at this time of year, but covering a lot of water in order to connect with fish is often part and parcel of this puzzle.

Small to medium-sized northern pike will still call the weed areas home and can often be counted on for rousing games of tug-of-war when the big girls have seemingly disappeared from the radar.

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Fall Tactics
As the water cools and the leaves change color, pike will again begin to move throughout the water system. In many cases, they will return to the same weed beds they occupied initially after leaving the shallows back in the spring.

Slow tapering flats holding a mixture of vegetation will be your best bet, while the healthiest remaining weeds should get your most attention. Some fish will still roam the depths, so don’t overlook a wide variety of water when searching for the water wolf.

Selecting lures for pike fishing isn’t tough; lure choices are quite universal.

Stocking the Tackle Box
Outfitting your box for pike fishing is not a tough chore. Lure choices are quite universal, and having a small selection of baits at your disposal will not break the bank. Make your choices from the following list, and be prepared to hang on tight to that rod.

Spoons
Spoons have been a standard on the pike scene for years, and for good reason. Simply put — this bait is guaranteed to put fish in the boat. There’s something intoxicating in the wobbling and flash of a spoon that drives a northern mad, and they will often strike these pieces of metal with reckless abandon.

Choose spoons in the 4 to 5-inch size, and give the nod to white/red, silver, yellow, and gold hues. A slow, lazy retrieve will often work best, with occasional pauses and flutters to catch the curiosity of any following fish.

Nancy Shemon - Ely, MN C&R this 45" northern pike caught at Wawang Lake

Nancy Shemon – Ely, MN C&R this 45″ northern pike caught at Wawang Lake

Spinner baits and Buck tails
Over sized bass spinner baits account for a lot of pike. Their body and hook design allows for an almost weedless presentation, which can work wonders when the fish are up tight to cover and in the shallows. White and chartreuse are two colors that top the list, with orange and black also being effective. Go with willow leaf or large Colorado blades for maximum flash and vibration, in either silver or gold colors.

Four to six-inch musky buck tails can really get the attention of pike, and work equally as well for both of these predator species. Their large profile, fast speed, and flashy blades make for an easy, yet effective bait to throw. Choose contrasting body and blade variations, sticking closely with the colors suggested above. Straight retrieves work best with these lures, with high-speed cranking or bulging being two of my favorite ways to fish this bait.

Jerk Baits
Minnow-shaped crank baits represent a pike’s favorite prey and can often trigger strikes when other baits fail. A five or six-inch floating or suspending crank twitched back to the boat is all that’s needed for your retrieve. Fire tiger, silver, blue, perch and baby bass are all proven colors, and utilizing baits with rattle chambers will make them even more attractive. Experiment with diving depths, and keep in mind to always run your bait higher in the water column than the actual level of the fish.

Top Waters
In terms of excitement, nothing can compare with the surface strike of a northern pike. Over sized buzz baits, walk-the-dog style lures (think Super Spook), and large prop-baits will all bring a feeding frenzy to the top.

Predominantly thought of as a shallow water lure, tossing top waters over weed beds, off points, and along rock and weed shoals can bring about positive results. Slow and steady is often the key to action.

Slug-Gos and Senkos are two popular soft plastic sticks, and both work well when targeting northern pike. Primarily used during the spring and early summer months, the tantalizing fall and wiggle of these baits can trigger some pretty hefty strikes. Often thrown to finicky fish, or those that have been spotted lurking in the skinny water, a soft plastic stick can fool even the most wary of fish.

Six-inch baits are a good choice with white, chartreuse, and pink being optimum colors. Rig these baits wacky (through the belly) or Tex-posed (through the nose) with a 4/0 worm hook.

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DEEP WATER WALLEYE FISHING

When you catch a big Walleye, big meaning over 6-pounds, there is a 95% chance that it’s a female. The big females generally only go into the shallows in the spring where they are up along the shore, in rivers or over sandbars, which are their favorite places to spawn. The smaller males seem to stay in the 2 to 15 foot range all year. The bigger females tend to go deeper then 15 feet. When fishing deep for big mid-summer Walleye fish between 20 and 40 feet deep.

Why do the big females go deep? There are several explanations depending on the size of the lake and how far north the lake is.

1) Bigger females have a larger air bladder, which makes them hyper sensitive to changes in atmospheric pressure. Being deeper makes the adjustment a little easier when the weather changes.LOTM-rapala-ice-jig

2) Bigger females spend too much energy chasing small bait fish that are found in shallow water. The bigger bait fish that are found is shallow water like perch etc., are hard to swallow as they have defensive spins in their fins. Lake Chub, Whitefish, Lake Herring  are all found in abundance down deep AND this food source is abundant in Wawang Lake. They are easier to swallow and more rewarding when considering the amount of energy needed to catch them. These deep water bait fish, especially Whitefish, have more oil in their meat thus more calories.

3) A walleye metabolism speeds up in shallow warm water. As a result, the bigger they get, the more food they need to maintain their weight. If the food is not there, they go to deeper cold water so their metabolism slows down. The dangerous thing about this is there is a fine threshold between eating more or conserving energy. If a big Walleye gets to the point where they can not find enough food to maintain their weight, they do get smaller, then they die. As soon as a Walleye gets to the point where they are starting to weaken from lack of food energy, they do not have the energy to catch bait fish and starve to death.

4) In smaller northern lakes, there is a larger population of Pike regularly attack walleye and bigger slower moving females are an easy target. This is another reason why they go deep right after they spawn.

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Some Types of Lures to Use on the Big Lake:

When you are Walleye fishing on big water like Wawang Lake, the walleye tend to stay suspended along with the schools of bait fish. Lets say you were on a big  part of the lake, , the best thing to do is troll until you come across a deeper school of bait fish and then keep trolling over the bait school.

These schools of bait-fish can be 15 to 40 feet deep and the walleye will be there too. The most popular lures are the Rapala Husky Jerks and the Rattlin’ Fat
Raps.
–> 10 to 20 feet deep – Regular Husky Jerks
–> 20 to 40 feet deep – Down Deep Husky Jerk or Down Deep Rattlin’ Fat Rap
 

Just troll around and use your depth finder to spot schools of fish. To determine how deep you are, the Regular Husky Jerks go down about 1 foot for every 10 feet of line out. The Down Deep Rapalas go down about 3 feet for every 10 feet of line out. So using a Down Deep Rapala, getting down 30 feet deep means you need 100 feet of line out. This is just a general estimate. The speed of your troll will affect how deep the lures will go.

3-Way Swivel Rig:

 The best way to fish down deep for Walleye is with 10-pound test line and a 3-way swivel rig. This technique is also excellent for other fish that are right on bottom in the 20 to 60-feet of water.

You need 8 to 10 pound test because thicker line has too much friction with the water and it will be hard to find the bottom. You also need a 1-oz or 2-oz weight, a 3-way swivel and a lure that does not sink. Use an Original floating Rapala, Junior Thunderstick, Countdown Rapala or a worm harness with small spinner blades and a big fat worm. 

This rig is smaller than the standard type; You need a 3-foot lead line from the 3-way swivel to the sinker. Then you need a 5 or 6-foot lead line to your lure.  Get a strait slow troll going and slowly let out line until your sinker hits the bottom. Then reel up a foot and wait.. Keep those lines tight!

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How and Why Mepps Spinners Catch Fish

The Lure of Mepps Spinners Flash & Vibration

id-73-2Most fishing lures are imitators. They look like a minnow, worm, crawfish, frog or other aquatic creature. Soft plastic fishing lures and crankbaits are molded in these shapes. Spoons imitate minnows. Feeding fish are quick to grab these lures.

While the Mister Twister TwisterMite may be the best hellgrammite imitator you’ll find anywhere, it won’t do you a lot of good if the fish aren’t feeding. When the bite gets tough you have entice the fish to strike. This is the time to tie on a Mepps spinner.

Mepps spinners are very different. They are not designed to imitate anything. They entice a fish into striking by appealing to its basic survival instinct. “I don’t know what that is, but it’s invading my territory and I’m going to kill it.” Or, “Look at that. I can have some fun with that.” How does a spinner do this? It really is simple. Spinners use flash and vibration to attract fish. This flash and vibration comes from their revolving blade. No other fishing lure has this unique feature.

For this very reason, Mepps spinners will catch fish when no other lure will. Have you ever played with a cat? Feed a cat all it wants and it stops eating. It may even go to sleep. But, tie a toy to a string, drag it across the floor and the cat comes to life. It pounces on the toy. It’s not hungry, it’s been enticed it into striking. A Mepps spinner has the same effect on a fish. The fish sees the spinner and goes on the attack. The “key” word is “sees.” The fish must “see” the spinner to attack it.

“What is the best Mepps lure to use for…” To answer this, Mepps offers more than 4-thousand (that’s right 4,000) different lures in a wide variety of sizes and colors.

Lure Size
Lure size is important. The general rule of thumb is use smaller lures to catch smaller fish and larger lures to catch larger fish. But, this a rule of thumb. It is not pure science, nor is it etched in stone.

Use #2 & #3 Mepps spinners for  Walleye   150-62-walleye (1)

Mepps spinners in sizes #3 and #4 are preferred by walleye fishermen. In fact, the #3 dressed Mepps Aglia was rated the best all around lure.. Size #3 Mepps spinners are also ideal for walleye three pounds and over.

 Use #4 & #5 Mepps spinners for the following Northern Pike
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Size #4 and #5 Mepps are ideal for large rainbow trout and steelhead, as well as coho (silver) and chinook (king) salmon. Giant tackle busting northern pike will inhale a dressed #5 Mepps spinner. Or, if you are after trophy northern pike  try a Mepps Musky Killer, Magnum Musky Killer, Giant Killer, Mepps Marabou or Musky Marabou.

Water Temperature
Does water temperature influence lure selection? You bet is does. Fish are cold blooded creatures. This means their body temperature rises in warm water and falls in cold water. Fish are most active when the water they live in is cool. Think about it. Even though you are not a cold blooded creature, you are most active when the atmosphere you live in is comfortable… not too hot and not too cold. Cool is, “just right.”

When you are too hot or too cold, you alter your activities to adapt to your environment. If it’s too cold, you warp yourself in a warm blanket and hunker down with a favorite magazine or book. If you’re watching television, the remote had better be near-by because you are not getting up to change channels. If it’s sweltering, you’ll slip into a pair of comfortable shorts and stretch out in front of the air conditioner. You’re not about to get up to make yourself a sandwich, as just the thought of moving around can make you queasy.

Carol

Fish react the same way, only their reactions are stronger. They cannot warm or cool their blood as we do to control our body temperature. Instead, when the water is cold a fish will move to shallow warm water, especially if the sun is out and it is warming that water. Here it will rest until its body temperature warms up. On the other hand, when the water is warm, a fish will move into a deep pocket in a lake, or into a fast run in a stream. Here it will “rest” until its body temperature cools down.

Just like you, under these less than ideal conditions, a fish isn’t about to leave the comfort of his pocket or run. In other words, it’s not about to go chasing around after a lure. It’s also not about to eat, so it doesn’t matter if that crankbait is the perfect crawfish imitator, it will be ignored.

However, let a small Mepps spinner slowly “swim” by and that same fish will grab it, and why not? Here is a small unrecognized creature, bug or “thing” invading the sanctity of its comfort zone, its “easy chair” so to speak. BANG! After all, you might not get up to make that sandwich, but what if someone were kind enough to drop a piece of your favorite candy in your lap? BANG!

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Now let’s take a look at what you do when the temperature is ideal. You wade your favorite lake, You jog, you go biking. You play 18 holes of golf and you carry your clubs. You may even paint the house or build a deck. In other words, you exercise and, as you do, you work up an appetite. So, you stoke up the grill.

When the water temperature is cool, a fish reacts the same way. This is the time to toss spoons and other imitators. Fish them fast or slow. Vary your retrieve to see what works best. Keep in mind, however, you will only catch fish as long as they are feeding. When they stop biting its time to tie on that spinner.

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Love of Loons – Wawang Lake

by Alan Schwoegler  – Madison, WI
(friend & guest of Wawang Lake)

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People love Wawang Lake’s loons. Their calls and antics are a part of every hour at the lake. During my very first vacation there, I was overjoyed to see how many loons called Wawang their home.

I have been monitoring and learning about loons through WI Loon Watch since the early ‘80’s. Most recently, I have been closely following the latest loon research and am a Loon Watch trained educational speaker. I’d like to share some things I’ve learned.

To start, the loons we love in WI, MN, MI and Ontario are Common Loons, one of 5 species of loons. There is a large nesting population in Ontario, estimated at about 200,000. In the US lower 48 states, the Common is the only loon species nesting. WI has about 4000 loons.

Loons are the oldest, most primitive, living bird. They are from ancestors at least 20 million years old.

Loons have solid bones allowing them to sink, dive and swim like masters of the water. But, flying requires a water take-off “runway” of ¼ mile (400m) to become airborne. Their legs are far back on their torso, an awkward set-up for water-landings. Legs at the rear and need for long flight take-offs make loons helpless on land. They can’t walk on land; only push themselves along for short distances. They can’t take off from land. If forced to land on ‘land’, they will starve, stuck at the landing spot. Sometimes, during migration, loons mistake wet roads for rivers. They land, and die unless rescued by people. Landing in a ‘too small’ pond for take-offs also means doom.

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Loon Calls: 4 basic calls, hear them at: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/common_loon/sounds

·       Wail – a back and forth location calls: “Where are you?”

·       Yodel – Male only territorial call:  “This place is mine!”

·       Tremolo – Stress, alarm :  “Something’s Wrong”

  • o   Flight Tremolo: similar non stress “Flying. Anybody down there? “

·       Hoot – Soothing, quiet, close-by. “Hello friend, I like you”

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Some other facts about our loons:

  • Their average weight is about 10 lbs (4.5kg); males are usually heavier.
  • Male and female loons look identical. Male loons are often slightly larger.
  • Adult loons winter on the oceans. Juvenile loons migrate to the ocean in their first autumn and remain there for 3 full years until mature.
  • Loons have small wings compared to their body size, so they have to move their wings much faster than other waterfowl to stay airborne. 
  • They need about ¼ mile (400m) to take off; a lake at least 10 acres (4 Hectare)  They can fly at up to 70 mph (113 Km/hr), even faster with a tail wind.

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  • In one documented case, a loon flew 670 miles (1078 Km) in 1 day.  1524 m)
  • Loons fly at 3000 – 5000 ft high (914 – 1524 m) 
  • Loons use the Great Lakes extensively as staging areas for rest; migration.
  • Most Great Lakes area and W Ontario area loons migrate to 1) The Gulf of Mexico (Florida’s coast and MS, AL) 2)FL inland lakes  3)Atlantic (Florida east coast, the Carolinas, GA) 
  • For example, some loons from MN and WI were tracked migrating EAST to Lake Michigan; Then they feed, rest and slowly make their way to the south end of Lake Michigan. They may head to the Gulf or SE to the Atlantic, stopping at Lake Erie and then over the Appalachians. Amazing!!
  • Common Loons once nested as far south as Northern IL and N Iowa. (1900). Human population, hunting and loss of habitat pushed their range further north. 
  • Loons do not mate for life; they are more true to a lake and territory than to a mate. However, both male and female will strive to get to the same territory year after year. If they are both able to claim their territory and defend it from others who want it, they nest with last years’ mate, in the same lake or portion of lake.
  • Loons can live 25-30yrs. This is still being researched. Might be longer. 
  • Loons fight to claim and keep a good lake territory where they can nest. 
  • Adult loons consume about 2 lbs of fish and crustaceans per day. Mostly perch. 
  • Loons and their chicks in N WI are highly studied. A large number have been banded with colored, individualized leg bands. The bands allow researchers (and the public) to identify an individual by patiently observing them with binoculars. Adult loons who have returned and juveniles banded-as-chicks can be identified.
  • A female loon has been returning to my WI lake since she was first banded in 1995. She was estimated to be 5-8 years old then. That means she is at least 25 years old if returning in 2015. She has had at least 5 mates since then.

A color leg-banded loon:  photo by Alan Schwoegler
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A Loon’s Year

The beginning: March- April
Adult loons on the ocean molt their flight feathers in late winter Feb-March. They are unable to fly until the new feathers have all grown in. Once feathers are ready, the loons are itchin’ to head north. The male is especially loaded with hormones at this time and ready to head to the area he calls home.

They head north as far as they find ice-free water, utilizing the Great Lakes and river flowages to get north. Many males will hang out on a river or flowage and take flights over their home lake each day to see if the ice is gone. I have seen them fly over my iced-in lake, circle the area and fly back. WI DNR people have identified my lake’s male loon hanging out on the open WI River near Rhinelander as early as 2 weeks before my lake was open.

Territory: May – June
Male loons are usually the first to arrive and claim a territory. The female arrives soon after. As a pair, they may claim the total water area of a small lake or a portion of a larger lake. My WI Lake is 150 acres and oval. It supports one pair of loons who won’t allow others on their territory. This is known as a territorial pair. Irregular shaped or large lakes have multiple territories. I estimated Wawang Lake to have about 75 loon “territories” suitable for nesting. A pair of loons in a territory have to defend it against stronger, younger loons, male or female. A male loon will sometimes fight to the death trying to defend his “spot”. Females are less violent.

Loons with no territory or mate are known as floaters. Floaters stay on lakes or areas of a lake which are not good for nesting but hold fish. Floaters will continually fly into nest territories as intruders and challenge the resident(s) for their territory. Some of the large open areas of Wawang Lake are good examples of floater “hang outs”.

Nesting: June-July
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Preferred nesting areas are shallow areas with islands, points, exposed rock and bog mats. A nest is built from muck, reeds and vegetation gathered from the lake bottom by male and female together. The nest will be built high enough to be out of the water and the loons will push themselves up to sit on it. There are normally one or two eggs. The loon pair share nest duties and need about 28 days of undisturbed incubating. Weasels, otter, eagles and gulls will eat the eggs if possible. Also, if the territory is successfully taken over by an intruder (floater), the affected male or female is booted out. The remaining mate accepts the new one and the existing nest will be abandoned; the eggs left to die.  It’s a tough life. When a nest fails because of mate displacement or predation, there are sometimes enough weeks left in the summer to attempt a 2nd or 3rd nest. This can never succeed however, if a new nest is started too late. (Probably later than June 15th at Wawang.) Any loon chick hatched late has a poor chance of growing big enough to fly south before its’ home lake freezes.

Chicks: Late June – July

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Chicks will hatch a day apart if there are 2 eggs. The chicks take to the water immediately after their feathers dry away egg liquid. They are able to walk around on land or the nest at this time, if needed.

The chicks will sometimes ride on an adult back because chick feathers don’t keep them warm enough. Riding also keeps them away from predators. Muskie, large bass, northern pike, snapping turtles and eagles will snatch a young chick from the water. Male and female loon will catch perch, minnows and crustaceans to feed the chicks. Once again, loon intruders fight for the territory. More fights! If a new male can take over, the young chicks will be killed by him. If it is still early summer, the new adult pair may try to re-nest.

Chicks are helpless for 3 weeks. They are not able to feed themselves or dive to avoid boats. Boats are a lethal problem on crowded lakes. By 6 weeks chicks are more independent and will start to dive for food on their own. By 12 weeks old, the chicks are juveniles, able to feed themselves and start to fly.

Time to cut the ties: August – September
Once loon chicks are 6 weeks old, the adults begin to wander off now and then, one at a time, to socialize and feed. The time-away starts to increase and the parents may totally leave chicks alone after 12 weeks.

Then, the adults usually go to large open-lake areas and hang out with the “floaters”. The adult loons begin to lose some of the beautiful feather pattern and red-eye. They start to turn a dull grey prior to migration. The adults form rafts of anywhere from 25 to hundreds of loons. They feed heavily and prepare for migration.

The chicks, now juveniles, fly around their lakes and adjoining waters to strengthen their wings. They too feed heavily to get ready for migration.

An adult loon molts, begins migration

Migration:  Oct – Nov
By October, adults start to migrate, singly or in very loose flocks. They do not fly together and the territorial pair seen in early summer will probably disperse to different migration destinations, not to see each other again until spring. Adults leave before their offspring, leaving the juveniles to find their own way south later. This “rookie” migration sometimes causes problems for the juveniles. They wait too long, their lake begins to freeze over, and they no longer have enough open water to take off. These poor juveniles usually become eagle food as the eagles wait at the edge of open water for the young loon to exhaust itself.

Researchers have used satellites to track migrating MN WI and MI male adult loons. The tracking allows people to see exactly where the loons were. The results of several years of satellite tracking can be seen at:538985_10151485445607581_1088304094_n

http://www.umesc.usgs.gov/terrestrial/migratory_birds/loons/migrations.html

More Loon information can be found at:
http://www.learner.org/jnorth/search/Loon.html
https://www.northland.edu/sigurd-olson-environmental-institute-loon-watch-FAQs.htm
http://loonproject.org/walter-piper/ (The scientist researching in my home area)

Enjoy Wawang Lake’s numerous loons. Their calls give you a wonderful memory to take home and enjoy long after you’ve left the lake.

Thank You!.
Alan Schwoegler

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