HAPPY “FISH” YEAR
FROM STORMER LAKE LODGE
We have just finished our second season at Stormer Lake Lodge and it all seems like time is passing with a blink of an eye. We get so excited in the Spring for the fishing season to start and before we know it, the season is over. The good news is that there are always stories to be told, memories that have been made and friendships that are created.
We always want to start out by thanking our guests who have fished with us this past summer. We have said maybe 1000 times that a lodge is not a lodge without guests. We are very thankful to own Stormer and it is all because of our wonderful guests and friends.
When we look back on this past summer, it was very evident that our guests caught a lot of fish right from the start of the fishing season and it continued right through September. This theme of catching fish did not change throughout the summer even if the weather changed, or the Mayflies hatched, or even if you were a new angler to Stormer Lake Lodge. Mother Nature couldn’t even slow the fishing down by throwing a cold front at us. We found out how good the fishing was at Stormer two years ago, which was our first season, and it continued this past summer.
Before we get too far in to further fishing details, we wanted to let you know what is new and exciting at Stormer Lake Lodge from this past summer. We are always trying to improve the lodge so we can stay one of the premier lodges in Northwest Ontario. Even though the summer seems to fly by so quickly, we were able to get a few things done that we hope will improve the lodge. Prior to the season starting and shortly after ice-out, we installed a new water line and pump from the dock out in to the lake. This allowed us to insure quality water to the lodge and cabins. We are not sure if our guests are aware of the regulations that are required for drinking water at the lodge but the laws are very stringent as they should be. We are required to filter the water and then pass through a UV light to disinfect. At Stormer, we go one step further and slightly chlorinate the water which insures that we are up and above the industry standard. The Ministry of Ontario then requires us to test our water once per month to insure we are in compliance. In addition, the Ministry inspector then comes out to visit our lodge and inspect our water system and our entire kitchen to insure we are equipped accordingly to serve food to our guests in a safe manner. The inspector this past summer said we have one of the best setups he has seen for a fishing lodge.
Our next project was one of the larger we tackled this summer and that was to rebuild the entire log ramps at the shore lunch spot on Kirkness Lake. We cut well over 200 trees from around the area but close to the lodge and then loaded them in to boats and took them over to the shore lunch spot. We then decided to use the older existing dock for a foundation for the new logs so we installed the new ramps directly over the old ones. While it is still a direct and semi-precise process to drive the boat up on the ramps and then debark carefully, it is better than the old log ramp based on our guests comments. Kenny, Mike, Mark and I will definitely remember this project for its heavy lifting and continuous pounding of large nails. Not to mention how many times we stepped in between logs and got our boots wet. We hope we built it well enough to last until the next ownership. Lol.
The following project was to complete all of the caulking and staining of cabins and the lodge. We started this project in 2015 and it is now complete. This was a major task to complete with close to 100 gallons of bleach used to refinish the wood and then over 40 gallons of stain. We estimate that over 75 tubes of caulk were also used. Cannot thank Kenny enough for handling all of the overhead work on soffits and fascia. My torn rotator cuff shoulders appreciated it greatly.
With the season in full swing and guests catching lots of fish, it became evident quickly that we needed new picnic tables at our shore lunch spot on Kirkness Lake. It was a fun project to build two new picnic tables and then haul them over in a boat. It was fun to see the look on guests face as we passed by their fishing boats with a huge picnic table onboard. We could see them talking back and forth shaking their heads wondering if we had some sort of new fishing contraption. After about a minute or two, we could see them laughing as they became aware of what we were carrying. We think we might need one more table and will take a closer look this coming Spring.
One of the more popular comments we heard from the past two summers is that our front gate did not have a good sign stating Stormer Lake Lodge. The current sign at our driveway actually states Stormer Wilderness Camp which is the old name from the previous owners. We had a few guests drive by thinking we were another lodge. Our first order of business was to tear down the old white fence on each side of our gate and install a new white picket fence. That made or lodge driveway standout more clearly. We then designed and ordered a new metal overhead gate entrance sign that will make our entrance to the lodge one of them most unique in the area. Unfortunately, the summer ended before the fabrication shop could complete the sign. We are very excited to receive and install it this Spring as we know it will look fantastic.
As the season was starting to wind down, we had 3 projects we wanted to get done before we shut down the lodge. The first project was to install a new diesel fuel storage tank that supplied fuel to our generators. The old tank was not in compliance with the Ministry of Environment so this had to be done. This project was completed mostly by our fuel supplier technicians and our help. Overall this project went very smoothly except for the part of taking the tank off of the trailer. It was our intent to use our skid steer to lift the tank off of the trailer and transport the tank to a predetermine location. Everything was going well as we were lifting the tank off of the trailer until our chain hooks broke and dropped the tank straight down on the ground from 6 feet in the air. No one was hurt and the tank was not damaged but there was definitely a moment of silence to regroup our thoughts.
After installing the diesel fuel tank, it became evident that our backup generator was on its last legs and was leaking oil. It was 30 years old and parts were extremely hard to find in the industry. Like most families that have to deal with unexpected car or house repairs, this new generator was definitely not in the budget but we knew it had to be replaced. We were fortunate to locate not only a new generator in Kenora, ON but a semi-retired diesel technician that could help install the new generator on short notice. Taking out the old generator and installing a new one would turn out to be a large project that started about 9 in the morning and ended about 10 that night. It was a good learning process and will hopefully make our life easier going forward. I know what some of you may be thinking now that we have a new generator. Will there be more power in the camp for other things? Sorry, the lodge can only handle so much amp draw and the new generator is the same size as the old one.
Also new this summer was the addition of 3 new water heaters for cabins. We still have a couple more to install and hope to have them in place in early summer. We hope this not only allows for more hot water for longer periods of time but also we hope that hot water will reach to the cabin sooner than in the past.
Linda also wanted to mention that we were able to get a few new clothing items in to our small office/store this past summer. Our clothing distributor was slightly late shipping our order so the folks who came in the early part of the summer did not get a chance to see all of our new Stormer Lake hats, shirts and jackets. We hope you can pick up a hat or shirt and promote Stormer to your friends.
As the summer neared its end, we were finally able to finish two final projects we had on our list of things to do. The first was to replace all chimney stove piping inside the concrete flues for each cabin. Most were in fair shape but we wanted to make sure all were safe to allow fires in the upcoming Spring. The second project was to remodel the inside of our fish cleaning room. We started by completely gutting the entire room right down to the wood beam walls. We discovered that most of the outside wall beams were completely rotted on the bottom 4 to 5 courses. This forced us to replaced bottom wood beams with new beams. This turned out to be a tricky endeavor seeing as how we had to figure out how to hold up the entire wall sections while replacing the lower beams. This was a great learning process but the time spent replacing beams caused us to fall behind on finishing the remodel for the interior of the fish house. We hope to have it complete by the start of the 2017 fishing season.
Linda and the girls are always trying to improve the operation of the kitchen and to investigate new menu items for breakfast and dinner. They are also always looking for new recipes so if you have a favorite recipe that you really like, please email us and we will possibly try it this summer.
Ok, let’s get back to talking about this past summers fishing. Let us first start off by stating that anyone who is reading this newsletter that has not been to Stormer Lake Lodge might think that we are bragging or being over the top with regards to quantity of fish or size of fish caught overall. We understand this perception but until they experience the fishing at Stormer, we can understand how it looks like we are bragging. We have this same problem when we go to the sport shows and we look like we are either bragging lodge owners or just down right lying. This changes when one of our guests shows up to the booth and tells the perspective new guest the same thing. That is why we encourage our guests to come and see us in Chicago or Green Bay at the All Canada Shows.
In regards to the Walleye fishing this past summer, one can only say INCREDIBLE! We do have to admit that as lodge owners, we are very fortunate to be located on such a phenomenal body of water for Walleyes and for Pike. However, as a lifetime Walleye fanatic, we still cannot believe how many Walleyes are caught each day and how large they are on average. We usually do not like to talk numbers but it was normal for a boat to catch 100 to 200 Walleyes each day and every day. Most of these Walleyes averaged 18-25 inches in size. There were many days where guests would tell us that they had a tough time catching small enough Walleyes for shore lunch. The best part was that it did not matter what week or month you were at the lodge. We had some of our best fishing this past August and September.
The season started off warmer than usual which meant that the “tubes” located in front of the lodge did not produce the numbers of Walleyes compared to the previous year. In addition, Stormer Lake overall was also slightly lower in numbers of Walleyes compared to last year. Not that you did not catch Walleyes in Stormer, but we were spoiled last year with incredible fishing on Stormer Lake. The good news was that Kirkness Lake was phenomenal right from the start of the season and continued all summer long. (If we use the words phenomenal, incredible, unbelievable and fantastic too many times, we apologize upfront. Remember, we are bragging lodge owners).
The initial start to the season had Walleyes on shallow rock points and shallow reef structure. The typical lead head jig tipped with our frozen minnows was a killer rig. We also had guests back troll dragging a harness or also using a poor man’s bait walker. This was a small lead weight located up the line from a floating jig or just a plain hook. As the season progressed and the weeds started to grow, the Walleyes (and Pike) really kicked in full stroke. Now we started to fish not only rock points but weed/reed lines. Personally, there is nothing more fun that to cast or pitch your line in front of a weed line and yank Walleyes out one after another. Colors of jigs did not seem to matter much but we do have to admit that our custom glitter lead head jigs that our friends make for us have proven time and again to be more productive than most other colored jigs. We have converted quite a few of our guests to glitter jigs and they now are also convinced on their effectiveness.
Once the middle of the season arrived and the water temps were stable, the stand alone reef structures were productive. Once you located a reef, the Walleyes were there all day long. Most guests would get to a reef in the morning and would still be there in the afternoon unless they had to come to our shore lunch. Not a bad tradeoff. The Walleye would just bite all day long most days.
As stated earlier, August and September were very productive this past summer as the ambient temperatures were not overly hot which meant the water temps were not too much above normal. This is the time of year that until the weeds start to die, you can still catch Walleyes on reefs and weed lines. Once the weeds start to die, we now can concentrate on just reefs. The cool nights help stir the Walleyes to bite as they tend to want to start feeding up for the winter season.
Overall, Walleye fishing was incredible, phenomenal, and fantastic and did we mention unbelievable?
Pike were also extremely active throughout the summer just like Walleyes. However, Pike were very good on both Stormer and Kirkness right from the start of the season. Casting the same rock points and shore line where Walleyes were being caught was quite productive using Cleo Spoons or Johnson Silver Minnows during sunny days, or Rattle Trap or similar rattle type crank baits otherwise. Similar to Walleyes, as the weeds started to grow, Pike action would be in full force. This is a great time of year to try Fly Fishing equipment for Pike. It is definitely an increasing sport for Pike using Fly Rods and it sure looks like a lot of fun. While we would like to have kept track, there were many Pike over 40 inches caught this summer and considerable more than the previous year. It was not unusual to have a typical day of Pike fishing produce most fish averaging 30-38 inches. We had one fisherman catch 71 Pike in one day just on Stormer Lake using both Fly Rods and Spinning Rods while his buddies slept off a hangover. True Story.
We said this same sentence last year but Smallmouth Bass fishing was a pleasant surprise for a lodge located this far north. The numbers of fish caught for a particular day are not over the top but size is very good. We did have one week this past summer where two of our regular guests targeted Bass and did exceptional. They had over 30 Bass each day and size was fantastic. Many ranged in the 15-19 inch class and one was close to 22 inches. (That is a monster Smallmouth). We usually do not promote Stormer Lake Lodge as a Bass fishing destination but what a bonus to be able to catch huge Smallmouth Bass after yanking countless Walleye and Pike each day.
We are not afraid to admit that we are spoiled as lodge owners knowing we are on some of the best Walleye and Pike fishing waters in all of Northwest Ontario or maybe all of Ontario. The comment that our regular guests told us right from the start was that we are better than most fly-in fishing lodges for fishing quality but have the luxury of a drive-to lodge, with all the comforts, at a more reasonable price. We tend to think they are right and we appreciate their help and honesty.
Now that we have given you a short update on how the fishing was this past summer, we can start to talk about our exciting Bear hunting season that we had starting in mid-August. We should preface the hunting details to give you an idea of how fortunate we are in terms of Bear hunting quality and setup. Ontario designates geographical areas that can be used for bear hunting by lodge outfitters. These areas are called BMA’s or Bear Management Areas. They typically range in size starting at around 50 square KM and go larger from there. As an example, Stormer has over 350 square KM to hunt which is considered a fairly large BMA. In addition to the larger size BMA, there is one distinct advantage that Stormer has compared to other lodge outfitters. There are no other lodge outfitters that hunt anywhere close to our BMA. In other words, no other lodge owners are harvesting bear for 10’s of miles. One additional point to make is that the previous owners of Stormer did not hunt bear for a few years which means the size of bear and quantity is literally World Class.
We had 4 hunters this past year and all were successful in getting their bear. All bear were of very good size ranging from 200lbs. to a monster brute weighing in at 410 pounds. It is important to note that all kills were clean and immediate. Just to give you an idea as to how exciting a bear hunt can be, we should give you a short setup story regarding the 410 pound bear. We have webcams on all bear stands so we can determine what kind of bear is coming to our stands. We want to make sure we do not hunt a stand that has a sow and cubs coming in. In reviewing our webcam pictures we knew that two monster bears were coming to this one particular stand. And even better was the fact that one of the huge bears was a color phase bear in a beautiful brown/gold color. And even one more interesting point was that the bear stand was located directly across the bay from the lodge. Two days before we decided to put our hunter in this stand, Kenny and I went over to the stand where we drop our fish guts each day. Kenny and I were literally met face to face with the two brutes from a distance of about 15 yards. They both stood up and looked at us like “who the heck are you two dummy’s coming in on our party”. After about 5 to 7 seconds (in bear confrontational time that is 10 years. At least that is how it felt). The one black colored bear finally loped slowly in to the woods while the gold bear stood his ground walking back and forth standing up erect on his hind legs. Kenny and I stood our ground although we think we were giving off whimpering sounds which we believe gave the impression that we were harmless so he finally walked away. We knew they were both huge bear so we decided to put our hunter in that stand when the wind was just right.
About noon we boated over our hunter and told him that the two bear should come from a certain direction, and based on webcam timelines, the bear should come in around 3:30pm. At exactly 3:42 while Kenny, I and the bow hunter’s buddy were standing at the dock, we heard the bang of a gunshot. We then saw the hunter appear on the shore line to wave an orange colored vest to alert us of the success. We boated over and found the bear lying literally against the ladder of the bear stand. We asked what the heck happened and the hunter told us that the bear came around from almost behind him and he had to make a quick shot. The bear took off directly at him and the bear died hitting the ladder. It shook that ladder so much that the hunter almost fell out. We then knew we would have a fun time dragging this brute out of the woods, into a boat, and then get it out of the boat and on to shore. After about an hour’s time, we were able to get it to shore, lift it with our skid steer and get it weighed. You are probably wondering which color bear he ended up shooting? It was the black colored bear. The gold bear is still out there hanging around Stormer Lake Lodge.
Speaking of animals, we cannot write this newsletter without talking about our pet fox (plural) that visit us every day and eat right out of our hands. If you have been to Stormer in 2015, you would have met our fox friend, Stormie. She was so friendly that she would literally walk along with us from cabin to cabin or just sit or lay down next to you while you worked. She also would take food from your hand with a very gentle motion. The one thing we were all puzzled about was whether she would have pups and maybe bring them around to camp. Well, she never did have pups or at least she never brought them around but she did bring her fox buddy at the end of the 2015 season. This one was very shy and stayed on the fringes.
We were excited to get to the lodge this past Spring to see how Stormie and her buddy faired through the winter and sure enough, they both showed up when we arrived. Unfortunately, Stormie only stayed around for about a week but her buddy stayed around all summer. We then decided to call our new friend SLY. Sly was not quite as friendly as Stormie but did come in to eat out of our hands every day. Even our guests were able to feed Sly. We hope Stormie will come back some day and see us.
For everyone who was at Stormer Lake Lodge in 2016, you would have met our tremendous staff; Lorraine, Dawn & Kenny, and our professional guide Mike. Lorraine has worked at other fishing and hunting lodges in the recent past and brings such a level of experience that we are very fortunate to have her with us at Stormer. We also thought her cooking was first class and we hope you did also. Kenny & Dawn, our husband/wife team and brother of Lorraine, were absolutely invaluable to us and we were very grateful that they decided to come to Stormer Lake Lodge to work with us. We have worked with Kenny & Dawn for the past 5 years and have never met two harder working and genuine people. We are very fortunate to call them friends. We have known our fishing guide Mike, for the past 17 years and not only consider him one of our best friends but we can empathically state that he is one of the best fishermen we have ever met. Mike will teach you technique, location, structure, boat control and maybe even tell you a few local native stories. He is always down at the dock in the evenings and cannot wait to talk with guests about fishing. He will always help and we are proud to have him as our guide at Stormer. We also want to thank Mike’s dad Bill for coming out and guiding for us. We have also known Bill for 17 years now and have not known a better hearted person. Bill has been guiding for well over 50 years and still going strong. Although we have to admit that our conversations lately are starting to talk more about injuries than fish being caught. We also want to thank Stacey and his dad Rob for coming all the way from Kenora and guiding for us this past summer. Stacey and Rob both guide on Lake of the Woods so we are thankful they make the long trek to Stormer for our guests.
We hope all of our staff made our guests vacations last year more enjoyable. We are very fortunate to let everyone know that Lorraine, Dawn & Kenny, Mike, Bill, Stacey and Rob will be back with us at Stormer Lake Lodge for the 2017 season.
We hope all of you had a very Merry Christmas and are now preparing for your New Year’s party. We hope you all stay safe and healthy in the New Year. Linda and I are very busy getting our marketing materials prepared to hit the road to Sport Shows starting in mid-January. We will be at the All Canada Shows in St. Charles IL on Jan. 12-15, then to Green Bay, WI Jan. 19-22. Check out our website: www.stormerlakelodge.com for more details. If you are involved with social media, check out our Stormer Lake Lodge Facebook page or my personal FB page for David Becker. We post periodically (we know we should post more often) about Stormer Lake Lodge or about events in Ontario, Canada in general. We also encourage you to write about your vacation on our Trip Advisor page located on our website Homepage near the bottom. This helps other guests potentially book a trip to Stormer and also helps us with Google placement. This is the time of year that we will start to post on our website blog. There usually are updates coming from the Ontario Ministry that we like to pass along or will give updates on what is new with Stormer Lake Lodge. You should be able to find our blog from our website homepage.
Our reservations for the 2017 fishing season are on an all-time record pace for bookings. We are always careful not to sound like a marketing promotional machine when discussing reservations but we also know that getting the correct week and right cabins for your group are important and we want to make sure all details are perfect. If you are currently reserved and we have received your deposit, you either should have or will be receiving a confirmation email from Linda. If you have not sent in your deposit as of yet, we may be holding your cabin but our waiting list is growing considerably. A deposit guarantees your cabin. Email or call to discuss deposit amounts and where to send them. We thank everyone for what looks like to be a phenomenal upcoming season at Stormer Lake Lodge. We also would like to mention about our FALL SPECIAL in September where the first guest is regular price and the second guest is HALF PRICE. This might be a perfect chance to take that second fishing trip of the season to Stormer Lake Lodge.
We will be attending Sport shows starting in January. We hope you all can come out and hang with us at our booth and help us promote Stormer Lake Lodge. There is no doubt that a new potential guest will believe a current guest who has been to the lodge compared to a “bragging lodge owner”. Here is our schedule for Sport shows. You can also find it on our website:
January 12-15 All Canada Show – St Charles IL. Pheasant Run Complex
January 19-22 All Canada Show – Green Bay WI Radisson Convention Center (Oneida Casino)
And finally, we wanted to thank everyone for making our second season at Stormer Lake Lodge a success beyond imagine. Linda and I are very fortunate to live this life and to meet great people from all walks of life. The world seems to be in a great moment of transition but if more people fished, it would be a better place.
If you are talking to friends and family and they have not received this newsletter, then they are obviously not on our emailing list. Please have them go to our website and submit their email address on our CONTACT US link near left side of the homepage.
HAPPY NEW YEAR.
Dave & Linda Becker