Merry Christmas & Happy New Year from Perrault Lake Camp!
This year’s letter begins in mid November. Earlier than usual, I eagerly began typing away! Excited to welcome the Christmas season and maybe even find myself ahead of schedule on my Christmas prep! The trees are bare and dull in Perrault Falls, Ontario Canada. They rattle and snap in the chilly wind. No snow and ice yet but the gloomy grey sky is a constant reminder of the cold months that are sure to come. People wise, they all went the way of the leaves. Not much to speak of in November. It’s pretty quiet up here but unlike the last few years the stillness that comes with fall feels good again. It feels normal, a comforting return to a familiar pattern. Not to mention a complete 180 from just a few months ago. WE HAD A FULL SEASON FOLKS!!!! May – October we were open! What a return to “normal” it was! We welcomed so many wonderful people back to Canada and back to Perrault Lake Camp. Most importantly, you came to fish and Perrault Lake did not disappoint!
Let’s go back to summer. Back to T-shirt, ball cap and shades kind of weather. It goes by too fast doesn’t it! Thick leafy green trees, hot sunshine, a few clouds scattered over a bright blue sky. Warm south winds that keep you cool as they carve a light chop on the lake. Perrault sparkles like diamonds on days like that! Summer walleye fishing offers so many options; some like to work the shorelines or weed beds while others prefer the lake structure. They all hold fish. On perfect days like this, fishing is as good as it gets.
The morning bite was relentless. As the sun peaked up over the eastern horizon a few nibbles triggered a couple quick hook sets and VOILA! Dinner in the live well! No pressure now. Just jigging the afternoon away. Soaking up the sun, laughing with friends and breathing in fresh lake air. Working the bait back to the boat there’s a bite! A twitch at the tip of your fishing pole. Easy now, feed it some line, be sure that it takes the bait. Patience. Wait for it. A couple more twitches and BAM! Quick as lightning, one swift tug to set the hook! Got it! Fish on!
Fantastic! A healthy resistance on your light action rod feels like another nice eater sized walleye. Perrault’s water is very clear. It’s easy to see that beauty keeper walleye coming towards the boat –energetic, plump and right around 17 inches long. Just as your grabbing the net to scoop this little gem up something catches your eye. Several feet behind the walleye, out of the deep swims a thick, dark figure outfitted with a mouth full of razor sharp teeth. Coming in hot! It’s all happening so fast and you have a front row seat. There is no time to react. The predator barrels toward its prey. There’s a flash of spotted flank, a red fin, the aggressive curve of a northern pike’s broad spine as it opens its ferocious mouth. With deadly precision, right before your eyes, the great beast devours your pretty little walleye whole. Gone! Did that really just happen? Stunned disbelief is abruptly interrupted when the drag comes to life screaming as the line zings off the reel. FISH! ON!
Am I just telling stories? No, absolutely not. Perrault Lake and its premiere inhabitants put on a show for many anglers this season. We heard this same series of events at least half a dozen times. “I was reeling in a nice fish and a big one swam right out of nowhere and grabbed it!” Pretty exciting stuff! Testaments to the wonder and vitality of the untamed wilderness of Northern Ontario!
Which brings us to the Leaderboard! This particular story is a true recount of how Caleb Malyon of MN hooked into the biggest northern of the season, an impressive 43” pike (+1 17” walleye). Congratulations Caleb! What a thrilling way to top the board and remember your catch of a lifetime!
The northern pike’s slivery cousins rang in the 2022 musky season in a big way. They were all over the lake stalking baits, exploding on top water, thieving a few walleyes of their own. Perrault Lake’s musky population proved to be bigger, stronger and more abundant than ever before. The biggest of which out of PLC was a 51” beauty caught and released by Nick Zwolinski of IL. Well done Nick! If only that one had shown up on tournament day!
This year’s best smallmouth bass was once again caught and released by Bart Williams of KY. A remarkable 21.5” fish! Congratulations Bart! 40 years of fishing Perrault Lake in early June sure pays off doesn’t it!
Rounding out the 2022 Leaderboard’s finest and saving the best for last… The largest walleye caught and released is extraordinary. This year’s title belongs to Julie Erickson of MN. The stars aligned for greatness on the last day of July. It was a calm, warm, sunset filled evening, peaceful and spectacular in everyway. Julie hooked into an incredible 33” walleye. One of Perrault Lake’s all time biggest! Way to go lady! Even more amazingly, Julie caught a second walleye over 30” and was gracious enough to let her husband Dave boat a 30” walleye of his own that evening too. A world-class walleye hat trick for team Erickson and a night on Perrault Lake they will likely never forget! Congratulations again Julie! Not just one but 2 fish of a lifetime in one night! What an achievement!
The Leaderboard is a list of all the anglers at Perrault Lake Camp who have caught released a trophy fish throughout the season. You can find it on our website as well as outside the office for everyone to admire and aspire to. Without a doubt, fishing was outstanding this year. Perrault Lake hosted the most active patterns and exciting angling we have ever seen. We had to buy 2 more white boards to accommodate the list! Fishing was everything we all hoped it would be after a 2-year shutdown. Thank goodness for that! Good fishing was about the only variable we felt we could count on as we prepared for the 2022 season.
Did you know that Mark and I share a combined 60 years of life at Perrault Lake Camp. Geez, that’s a lot isn’t it! Time flys… In all those years of experience, the spring of 2022 was by far the most challenging. Maybe we were rusty, out of practice, a bit more on edge coming off the Covid years? Right from the start, our fortitude as outfitters and small business owners, our physical endurance, as well as our ‘Jack of All Trades’ problem solving skills were put to the test. Mark and I both went to college on athletic scholarships. (That’s where we met.) The weeks leading up to the opener felt like one big gut check drill. One of those training sessions designed to stress your composure and confront your will to succeed by exposing a player to intense physically exhausting and mentally demanding challenges. Basically, it’s a question answered by actions: Do you have the guts to push yourself harder than ever before? Greatness begins with commitment, determination and perseverance.
Our guests were finally coming back as planned and on schedule for opening day, the 3rd Saturday in May. Many of which had waited years for their fishing trip to finally materialize. Well wouldn’t you know spring was late this year? We were ready to flip the calendar to May and it looked like March outside. Two feet of snow sat contently on the ground. The lake was a solid sheet of ice. Worst of all, the forecast was not conducive to a thaw. We were cleaning cabins staring out the windows at winter. All I could think was –Melt! After years of interruption our guests are finally coming back and the lake won’t thaw?! NO!
They say be careful what you wish for. May arrived and the forecast improved. Everything started to melt all at once. Central Canada was finally feeling the warmth of spring. The snow began to liquefy and run to the lakes and streams. The lake ice finally separated from the rocky shorelines. Water levels were on the rise. We went from extreme lows in the fall of 2021 to record highs. The old timers at the coffee shop said it would take years to recover from the drought conditions. As the deep snow in the backcountry melted away the water level just kept rising. They said more than an inch a day! The sheet of ice still had a tight grip on the ends of our docks. One windy afternoon was no match for our manmade wooden structures. Slowly, steadily and without mercy west winds applied brutal pressure until it snapped the 2x10s right in half and ripped the hinges connecting the sections right off. The last 16’ of our piers began to float away with the giant slab of hard water. And the water kept creeping up the shoreline.
Day by day, inch-by-inch the lake rose. May 10th, and every day after was a new record high lake level. Our watershed came up 3 feet this spring! Perrault claimed up to 15’ of our frontage, land that had never held water before. At first it was exciting to see the lake replenish itself. Excitement quickly became anxiety. We were now flooding. The water surrounded the dock cribbing, the platforms which anchor the floating/boat parking pieces of dock to shore. Gravity took a backseat to buoyancy and the cribs floated right off their foundations. Just a week before opening day our piers were now floating freely, scattered along the saturated shoreline like a toppled Jenga tower. Our waterfront was a mess! Our docks were 100% unusable. The beach was completely gone. The beautiful cedar swing that Mark built last year was literally IN THE LAKE! By the way, we were scheduled to host a full camp for opening week. Where in the world are we going to safely park all those boats? Compounding our worries, should an East wind begin to blow it would no doubt push all the ice in the bay back on us and pulverize everything along the lakefront. Many lodges and lakefront property owners in NW Ontario did experience the full force of the ice and flood water. We saw devastating footage of lakeside buildings being bulldozed by powerful sheets of thick ice, crushing and caving in walls, completely destroying any structure in its way. And shocking photos of cabins, outbuildings and homes once lakeside now consumed by dirty, icy waters, littered with debris and belongings.
Did I mention that we were cut off from surrounding communities? The waterways throughout NW Ontario were inundated with melt water wreaking havoc on the roads. Sections of highway were completely submerged, bridges collapsed and the rushing currents carried culverts along with the roads they supported far away down stream. Crews were scrambling, it seemed like with each repair 2 new washouts would occur. There aren’t too many alternate routes in these parts. Saturated gravel road detours were quickly destroyed by the significant volume of traffic travelling in and out of the area. For a couple weeks in May we couldn’t go anywhere. Highway 105 was washed out in multiple locations to the north and south. We needed supplies and groceries. We were counting on electricians from Red Lake to connect a cabin to the power grid. We had 5 dump truck loads of gravel on order to firm up our mushy waterlogged driveway and yard. Weight restrictions due to compromised road conditions paused those repair efforts. You couldn’t buy material to save your life, let alone your lodge. Furthermore, the elephant in the room: Will there even be a road available for our guests to safely drive to camp? The stress was heavy. The workload was substantial and mounting. Time was running out. The border was finally open again and this is the spring that the lake doesn’t thaw in time which doesn’t really matter anyway because the roads are all washed out! Are you kidding me right now!!!!!
Gut check time. We worked hard, we worked together and we worked with what we had. We launched a boat and chipped the end sections of our docks out of the ice before they were carried off down the falls to god only knows where. While I finished up in the cabins Mark worked painstakingly with his hands in an ice-cold lake repairing the inoperative dock sections. We shoveled truckload after truckload of material for the yard. We recovered and repositioned our cribbing for all 4 docks, chained and secured them to the new shoreline and weighed each platform down with 50 gallon drums full of what else, water! We built ramps and walkways to bridge flooded high traffic areas. We roped off sections of the lawn that were too sloppy and saturated to tread on. All of this in record time I might add! The pace was arduous. At some point I realized that we are looking at the whole opening camp for the season routine the wrong way. We should be running a Spring Outfitter Beach Body Boot Camp! The slogan –Work your butt off!”
We are one heck of team folks! Call is faith, will power, commitment, stubbornness, ignorance, I don’t know. We persevered despite the daunting list of uncontrollables. We just could not accept another canceled plan. By the skin of our teeth we were as ready as we could be. We were also counting our lucky starts when we caught a couple breaks. The ice went out May 16th. Although this year it didn’t all melt. By some stroke of good fortune strong west winds took most of the hard water in the bay and smashed it on the opposing shoreline. We could see the wall of white piled up 6 feet high. We’ve eaten our share of spring ice over the years. Thankfully, it wasn’t our turn. We were able to make a supply run to Dryden and the washouts between Perrault Falls and Red Lake were repaired enough that the electricians finally arrived to work their magic just days before our guests were set to arrive. Did you know that parts of the 105, Red Lake Road, were under 4 feet of water! Buller Creek just north of Vermilion Bay swallowed the highway causing it to remain closed for 6 weeks! Miraculously, those muddy traffic jammed detours remained open. On Saturday May 21st we welcomed our guests back to camp on time and as planned. After two years of ghost town opening days and rolling reservations we were back in business!
Water really is an unstoppable force. The current running through Perrault Lake was considerably stronger than usual. We would sit on Cabin 2’s deck overlooking the bay and watch the driftwood parade. An endless line of full size trees, branches, stumps and sticks flowing along the watershed to the falls. Have you ever been to the falls? It is a gorgeous area to take in. Framed by mature cedar trees, the Perrault Falls are a river of mild rapids about 100’ wide, 300’ long carrying the flow into neighboring Wabauskang Lake. You can explore the waterway on a trail that runs along the edge from top to bottom. When the water is low you can wade in to enjoy the cool clear river running over the rocks. Really low water will reveal concaved rocks shaped like seats, worn smooth from erosion. A long time ago low water, a hot summer day and getting caught up on your chores meant that the afternoon could be enjoyed in the falls. Soaking up the sun in a cool relaxing rock recliner with a couple cold ones!
The current surged violently this spring. The roar of rushing water was louder than ever. From home across the bay, the decibel level was noticeably higher. Locals were posting photos and videos, in awe of the falls’ intensity. We took the kids over one evening to check it out. There was one rule: Stay on the high ground. DO NOT get close to the water. The kids are usually quick to the rivers edge. They sprint through the trees channeling their inner forest animal. They love to run the path, jump the deadfalls, climb trees, find an interesting stick, kick their shoes off, test the water, slip on the algae covered stones and scour the river bed for creatures and treasures. Busy little squirrels. Not this time. Walking through the cedars, the sound was deafening. Like white noise on full volume in a cinema sound check. Yelling was the only verbal communication option. No need, the kids stayed close. They moved with the surefootedness of a caution cat wanting no part of anything wet. Their trail along the edge was devoured by torrents of heavy whitewater. Waves smashed and thrashed brutally along the embankments grabbing for any and every piece of loose material. The air was thick with mist and loaded with energy. You could feel the molecules around you vibrating and alive with overwhelming chaos. It was sort of emotional. Every second, thousands of gallons rushed by churning, swirling, and frothing, splashing vicious white water well above normal levels. The forces of nature on display were magnificent and terribly intimidating. We’ve never seen these waters so swollen and tempestuously powerful. I don’t care to see it that way again.
To our guests in the spring who navigated detours, muddy rural roads, and the worries and frustrations of cross border travel, well done! You made it back and we were ready for you! It was our greatest pleasure to welcome you all back to Perrault Lake Camp. Our first guest of the season arrived to enjoy his 63rd year on Perrault Lake! When we asked Tom Dougherty of WI how the detour was (knowing the conditions must have been awful) his eyes lit up and his face beamed with exhilaration. “It was so exciting!” He described it as if he was shooting a commercial featuring his Durango. Muddy, messy, bumpy, up hill, hard on the gas pedal, pulling a boat behind him. Tom’s positive response was so uplifting! We needed that. I’m happy to say that from that point on things slowly started to sort themselves out.
Our most heartfelt thanks go out to all our guests this season. Thank you for coming back to Canada and back to PLC. It was such a treat to finally meet our new guests and to once again see the friendly familiar faces of our many return guests. It had been too long! For some much had changed over the past few years and for others much was the same. We learned of weddings, graduations, new little ones, new jobs, college plans, athletic championships and travels. We also learned of struggles and loss. Sadly, a few very special people left us for a better place. They are fondly remembered and greatly missed. A few others have reached an age and stage that change the game. For the first time in 40 years opening week did not begin with Tom Kalscheur of WI honking his horn down the driveway to announce his arrival and signal the official start of a new season. The Kalscheurs are great friends of the Tycholis family. Tom and Mark’s dad Joe spent years adventuring to small lakes, gathering with their families and so on. We treasure those memories and the many stories. This spring, in Tom’s honor, we told his jokes. The same old jokes we’ve heard for decades. The kind of silly jokes you smirk and roll your eyes at but deep down you love to hear! We sure missed you Tom!
Another special mention goes out to a good family friend, Dave Niehaus of IA. 2020 was to be a celebration of his last trip to PLC summing up nearly 40 years of fishing with friends and family on Perrault Lake. Two years later, Dave was thankfully able to make the trip up with his boys. They braved the spring hurdles to relive a lifetime of good times and priceless memories. It was so good to see you on our side of the fence one last time. We wish you fantastic fishing with good company a little closer to home! They say all good things come to an end. Life lesson: Make the most of the time between the beginning and the end. End is a sad word.
Memories and experiences are treasures beyond measure. Perrault Lake Camp has been home to Mark’s family for 45 years. In that time our home has been the background for generations of adventure, fun and excitement. We found our stride in the week to week routine and were thoroughly delighted to once again share in many wonderful memories! I can’t tell you how reassuring it was to hear about your daily catches and add name after name to the leader board. Like Elise Riley of MN and her 27” walleye. At 14 years old and years of angling PL she officially made the leaderboard. Life goals, way to go girl! We were happy to see Jon Petersen of IA again, “You wouldn’t happen to have a diving mask would you?” Although he came up empty handed looking for his fishing pole, Jon’s buddies said that his efforts were thoroughly entertaining. The Finstads of WI were in the right place at the right time to snag the net they thought was lost to the deep. Good snag guys! They also happened to be fishing next to an artist staying in the area. Unbeknownst to them, she sketched and painted the family. Later that week she dropped off a stunning work of art. What a keepsake! Cody and Beth Maeder of WI also received a fine-looking custom painting. I wonder if it was commissioned the same day that Cody failed as a net man, knocking Beth’s monster walleye off the hook only to go on and catch a 31” walleye of his own. The piece would be titled, ‘Divorce on the Ord.’
It is an honor and a privilege to be the destination of choice for so many great people! We truly appreciate you all so much. Thank you for your kindnesses, your love of nature and the outdoors and thank you for thinking of us. The kids were especially thrilled to get back to a normal summer. Back to treats, goodies, gifts, games and great times! These kids are living the life of Riley! Thank you for your gracious, thoughtful and generous gifts. We are all so very fortunate. The greatest people stay at PLC!
Speaking of the kids, Jack has the musky bug. Over the past couple years he has dreamed of boating a musky. Not a starter fish about 30ish inches long, crisp silver coloring, easy to hold in a photo. Any musky hunter knows what I’m talking about, when you hook into a fish like that the weight on the line quickly gives away the fish’s immaturity. No. That won’t do. Jack’s literature of choice these days is Musky Hunter. He wants to be on the Leader Board alongside the best anglers at PLC. He wants to hook into a fresh water shark, reel it in himself, hold a beast as big as he is and release it back into the wild.
If you get the chance to chat with Jack while he’s hanging around the docks he loves to talk fishing. Don’t ask him where his best spots are. “They’re in the lake,” is all you’ll get. He does however enjoy sharing stories, talking about best catches, lures, tackle, baits, boats and all of that stuff. One evening early in August he and Carmen were jumping off the dock when a boat approached. A nice couple from Wisconsin, Bruce and Kristy, were calling it a day. The kids caught the boat and the boys started talking muskies. Jack told them that he was after a monster. Bruce said, “I’ve got a secret weapon. When I get home I’ll send you the best lure there is.” Fast-forward to a few weeks later, a package arrived in the mail. In it was a beautiful afghan, a bracelet making kit and the secret weapon… A brand new Buchertail! Jack studied the single silver blade with a black tuff of fur disguising a razor sharp treble hook. Classic musky bait. He was pumped! He had barely swallowed his last bite of supper that night when he asked, “Can we go fishing?” Absolutely! Mark and Jack bee lined to the boat and off they went musky chucking. An hour later they sent a text… Jack was indeed holding a beauty of a musky almost as big as he is!
Neither Mark nor Jack saw it follow. It came from under the boat, crushed the Buchertail on a figure 8 and shook the dickens out of Jack as he held on for dear life! He did everything right. Jack had the end of his rod buried in his armpit in an attempt to leverage the weight and keep his tip up. When the fish ran the line out diving for deep water he let it. The moment he felt slack he reeled in. With great coaching from the bow and a focused determination Jack successfully landed his new personal best. A musky that Joe Bucher himself would be proud of. Jack caught and released a 46 ¼” musky. Thank you Bruce and Kristy!
Carmen on the other hand is an entrepreneur. Her goal this season was to open a lemonade stand. So she did! She created a sign, googled a recipe, made a grocery list and asked for help with advertising. One hot sunny day in July we posted on social media and Carmen’s Homemade Lemonade Stand came to life. She made a large party pitcher of fresh lemonade; “with real lemons” she would add! With her stand set up near the beach and her product chilling on ice she sat and waited. At first, the turn out was slim. I sat with her. Keeping up moral and secretly praying that a few people might stop by. Remember, the best people stay at Perrault Lake Camp! The kids in camp came first, thoroughly enjoying the novelty of a pop up drink stand. Then a few anglers made a special trip in off the lake to beat the heat with a cold glass of refreshing juice. Some kind gentlemen and lovely ladies also came down from their cabins to the shoreline to quench their thirst. We even had a handful of neighbors stop in. Carmen welcomed her patrons, filled cups and counted change with superb customer service skills. We were really impressed and so proud of her! She sold out in 45 minutes and still had a crowd to serve. “Mum can we make some other kind of juice really quickly? I still have customers!” We hustled up to the house, made a pitcher of peach juice and returned to end Carmen’s inaugural Lemonade Stand with tremendous success! She was thrilled! She earned a few bucks and at 7 years old she put some valuable life skills to good use. We want to send a special thank you to everyone who supported her endeavor. We kept the sign. You haven’t seen the last of Carmen’s Homemade Lemonade Stand!
It is pure happiness to watch your children achieve their goals. I hope these two never lose their drive and persevere in search of greatness! Life lesson for Mark and I, teach them and let them do it on their own. A tough one for two hands-on, get it done kind of people. Thinking back to the challenges of the spring, I was on the phone with my dad describing the scene and what seemed like the Everest of hurdles in front of us. He listened and then said, “Amy, I truly believe that my kids will survive in this world. You’ve got everything it takes. Do your best.” Thanks dad. Thanks for everything.
So, here we are just a few days before Christmas. Perrault Falls is a beautiful winter wonderland. Fluffy white snow blankets the ground and delightfully dots the spruce boughs. The lake is once again frozen solid. Did I master my holiday to-do list ahead of schedule? Nope! Does anyone? If you do, you’re my hero! Most importantly, we are healthy and well up here in the north. Looking forward to Christmas and to the New Year. In anticipation of the 2023 season we have projects on the go and a world of praying to do for a gradual transition from winter to spring well in advance of opening day! Stay tuned folks, and hope for the best! We can’t wait to kick off our 45th year of family business!
With our warmest wishes and kindest regards, may your holiday season be filled with joy and peace as you gather with the ones you love. Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!
Mark, Amy, Jack, Carmen & Lucy!
P.S. No stories about Lucy this year, we barely saw her. She spent the whole summer snuggling and scavenging at the cabins! Busy girl would not sit for our photo either. She misses you all!
Don’t forget to check out all the wonderful photos of fishing and fun in our 2022 Christmas Letter Photo Album on our Facebook page!