Merry Christmas &
Happy New Year from
Perrault Lake Camp!
Well, it finally happened folks! The border finally re-opened!
After a year and a half of wondering, waiting and worrying we were finally able to welcome our American friends back to Perrault Lake Camp!!!
On Aug. 9th at 6 am, all eyes in our household flew open with the unfamiliar yet unmistakable sound of a vehicle rolling down the driveway. The first group to cross the finish line was Jerry, Rosanne, Jack and John. All the way from the great state of Iowa! I hurried to the living room window to see it for myself. Sure enough, parked in front of the family’s usual cabin 2 was Jerry’s red Ford with 20’ black Lund in tow. The moment was so surreal. I just stood there starring out the window letting their presence sink in. The proof was right in front of me and I almost couldn’t believe it. I suppose it was one of those too good to be true kind of times. A powerful mix of gratitude, relief and appreciation welled up inside. Thank you!!! Our first guests from the lower 48 had really, truly, actually arrived! They are really here! Happy day! After a year and a half, the Canada/US border is open. We can get back to doing what we love and loving what we do! Our friends, our family, our guests’ can finally resume their annual Canadian wilderness adventures! We can’t wait to see you all again!
The return of our American friends has been a breath of much needed fresh air. Our most heartfelt thanks goes out to everyone who made the trip up to Canada this year. Mark, the kids and I can’t thank you all enough for your support. We know it was a journey. We hope that your stay was worth the long drive and a few added hurdles over the fence. It’s true what they say, ‘you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.’ In 43 years at PLC, 3 generations of our family have come to know some of the greatest people there are. We’ve missed you guys! Aug. 9th 2021 brought many treasures: Familiar faces, friendly greetings and warm welcomes. Long overdue in-person conversations on the big front steps. The lively sounds of boats zipping in and out of the bay, pots rattling in the cabins and laughter throughout the grounds. Once again, the delightful smell of bacon was in the morning air followed by delicious fresh fish frying in the afternoon. We gladly returned the exuberant waves of fellow fishermen as they motored by towards their favourite fishing spots. We enjoyed pumping rainwater from the boats at sunrise, filling gas tanks and talking about fishing with the early risers. This short but sweet 8-week season was just like old times! It was just what everyone needed. Many of our guests have yet to make the trip North. When you do, we can’t wait to have you back! We are very much looking forward to 2022. Looking forward to more of the good old times. How sweet it will be to welcome everyone back to Canada and back to Perrault Lake Camp!
Now, down to business… How was the fishing? After a year and a half of complete repose Perrault Lake offered an exciting welcome of its own. Guests enjoyed some remarkable fall fishing! What a delight it was to see The Leader Board come to life! Each entry is an exciting memory of premiere Canadian catch and release fishing! We are thrilled to once again share the top of the board with you:
• Biggest Walleye- Cody Maeder of WI caught and released a beauty 30” walleye Sept. 9th. This guy didn’t skip a beat!
• Biggest Northern Pike- John Riley of MN and Barry Waters of WI tied for this honorable mention, each boating a 42” brute Sept 16th and Sept. 27th respectively.
• Biggest Smallmouth Bass- Amelia Paetznick of MN shares the record with Barry Waters of WI. Each catching a 19” smally, Aug. 20th and Oct. 1st respectively. Barry sure did make the most of his week with 2 Leader Board bests!
• Biggest Musky- Tom Dougherty of WI summed up his 60th trip to Canada with a tremendous 50.5” Musky on Sept. 13th.
Congratulations to The Leader Board leaders and well done to all our anglers! Check out the complete Leader Board on our website: www.perraultlakecamp.com. And be sure to visit our Facebook page to see all the great photos from 2021!
How long has it been since you were last on Perrault Lake? Leisurely gliding across the sparkling water in the hot summer sunshine. Or you know, sometimes it’s a bit rough and you find yourself battling the wind and waves. Getting bounced around soaked to your core as the whitecaps blast over the bow. Either way, fun times! Are your initials still carved into the bench at your usual shore lunch spot? Has the scenery of your favorite fishing spots changed? Did the roots of that teetering old tree along the shoreline finally let go of the lakeside boulder they clung too? You’ll find good bass fishing under those shoreline deadfalls! The good news is, it’s all still here and most likely just as you remember it, if not better!
Many guests noticed and commented on the abundance and aggressive presence of the healthy northern pike population. They were relentless! Unavoidable! Haywire little hammer handles cruised the weed beds in reach of perch and bait fish. Those ambitious little snakes would hit anything and everything that flashed in front of them. Some folks were even annoyed with continually releasing these pint sized bait gobblers. Jumping up a class, if you like to keep a few pike to eat, the fishing was fantastic! Perrault Lake was teaming with bountiful fit northern pike eager to feed and up for a vigorous adventure each time you set the hook. The coloring of these fish was extraordinary. Dark brown down the dorsal side, lightening in a golden ombre fade to their soft white belly. Each one dotted from teeth to tail with the vibrant pattern of a pike’s signature spots, armed with smooth scales and a thick shiny coat of northern slim. Vitality is something to behold! And then there are the big ones, the catch of a lifetime. The northern pike that our friends from the south travel all this way for. They too were out in full force.
A number 5 mepps spinner! Gold or silver blade with red and black tuff disguising the treble hook; don’t come all this way without it! It didn’t matter if the skies were high, bright blue filled with golden sunshine, or if an overcast grey scale shaded the day. Towards the end of August and all through September the northern pike instinctively fed in anticipation of the coming cold. The arrival of our American friends was perfect timing to capitalize on an exciting bite! We recommend fishing the drop offs and structure adjacent to deep water. Those trusty spinners would barely hit the surface and BAM! The line yanked tight and an instinct of its own kicked in; white knuckles on the rod and a hard yank back to set the hook. Fishing is so fun! Listening to our guests recount their tug-a-war of the day was equally as exciting. What an exhilarating feeling to reel in a fish at the top of its class. Letting it run, reeling in the slack, tip up, wishing and hoping that the line doesn’t break. When you finally get that beauty close to the boat you better hold on tight. You can’t blame the fish as they thrash in protest brandishing a wide mouth full of deadly sharp teeth. Finally, if you’re lucky enough to land this stunning creature, be very careful. Don’t let your guard down while you snap that quick pic. One swift whip of its powerful tail and off she goes. Treasure the adventure and be gentle with these elders. The fish of a lifetime has likely lived a lifetime of its own. Release this natural wonder quickly and safely. Enjoy the good times and great memories. That is what it’s all about!
The summers of 2020 and 2021 were hot and sunny nearly everyday. It was very dry and we’ll talk about that shortly but as far as tourism destinations go, you couldn’t ask for more enjoyable conditions. Ironically, the first week of this year’s abbreviated season greeted tourists with an abnormal stretch of less than favorable weather. Yes, old Murphy’s Law will get you every time! Jerry, Rosanne and the gang were in sweatshirts and rain gear on the daily. You brought the rain and for that we are grateful! We were in desperate need of moisture and reprieve from the heat. Upon arrival, water levels throughout NW Ontario were among the first topics of conversation. Perrault and surrounding lake levels are the lowest Mark has ever seen in his lifetime. (That will be 40 years in May 2022!) The shorelines are long. The creeks are muddy. Getting into Spadina and Lost Lake were a challenge for those eager to revisit them. Through June and July the kids were tasked with a new daily chore, water the lawn. We set up the 4hp Honda water pump in its summer home on the dock and connected a network of fire hoses, perforated lines and sprinklers that snaked throughout the yard. Everyday Jack and Carmen would start the pump, sending precious H20 to the crispy brown straw. Bonus, the kids were also well watered, running through the sprinklers to their heart’s content! They didn’t always love the job but soon realized how valuable their efforts were when the brown bristly grass began to soften and green again. “The grass doesn’t hurt my feet anymore when I walk on it.”
Backing up a bit, towards the end of July the arid conditions gave us a scare. One plain old super hot sunny day some of the Perrault Falls locals noticed a plume of smoke on neighboring Wabauskang Lake. Driving past The Whiskey Jack Restaurant you could see a thick grey cloud billowing into the sky. A neighbor took a boat ride toward the West side of Wabauskang and followed up with alarming photos of a fire way too close to home. The days were really hot, and the forests were dry as a bone. The leaves on the trees were browning, limp and curled. The usually spongy grey/green lichen lining the forest floor turned to dust in your hand. There were no blueberries to speak of this past summer. Any small patch we found had been thoroughly devoured by very hungry bears.
I’m going to take a detour towards bears for a moment here… While chatting with a guest about blueberries and wildlife, they asked how one would know that a bear was eating the berries. Animals are so interesting. They leave clues everywhere! There are a few tell tale signs: A bear will consume the branches and leaves of the blueberry bush along with the berries. When the bear has moved on you’ll find bare, broken bushes and very sparse remains of any berries at all. Where as when people or birds have previously picked the patch over the limbs of the bush would remain intact and the unripe, small berries would likely be left behind. Second, a bear will forge for every bit of sustenance it can find. Fallen trees are common in blueberry patches; they are home to insect colonies. You can easily spot where bears have effortlessly ripped large chunks of wood right off the trunk of a tree to access the valuable nutrition crawling inside. Third, and most obvious, they poop! As we loop back on topic, the moral of the story is that it is important to know your surroundings. Especially when conditions are extreme. Black bears are rarely aggressive with humans; however, in 2020 a black bear did indeed maul and kill a berry picker near Red Lake. So, the next time you go berry picking in the woods remember this; wear running shoes, bring an extra sandwich and don’t worry folks, you’re still safer in the blueberry patch any day of the year than you are in the city!
Back to the fire, the news of it spread like a wildfire of its own. Text tones were chiming like a Christmas bell choir. Our nerves were frazzled already. Red Lake had recently been put on evacuation notice for a number of fires burning dangerously close to the community; the feds had just recently announced the border reopening and now this! Too many major uncontrollables! We jumped in the truck to see it for ourselves. We drove a mile South to high ground and turned onto Jim & Julie’s Road. About 100 feet off the pavement we came to a stop. There on the not so distant horizon was the fire. A thick column of grey smoke poured up into the sky. We sat there silently processing the scene. Mark and I exchanged troubled glances. We were worried. As the crow flies the fire was about 4 miles from home base. The kids received a lesson in emergency preparedness that day. It scared them but, life lesson: it is always better to be prepared. They did well. We packed go bags, food, some survival supplies and a couple boxes of very important things. That day I truly empathized with our neighbors in Red Lake. They had been evacuated for 10 days in August 2020 and were once again on evacuation notice in July 2021. For a while their fate was literally up to which way the wind blew. Could you imagine preparing to evacuate your home and community not knowing if it will be there when you return? Leaving behind all the things you’ve built and worked for. I looked around our home… Where do you start? What is most important? There aren’t enough boxes. It was heartbreaking. That first night was tense. Conditions were ideal for an out of control blaze but thank god and all our lucky stars that did not happen.
The fire was caused by a lightning strike. Before things really got out of hand it was reported. Locals said a water bomber was quickly on scene dumping countless rounds of water that first afternoon. Which accounts for the whitish grey smoke that we saw and not the typical thick black chimney of a raging forest fire. The next morning locals reported hearing ground crews on site managing the scene. We drove up each morning to have a look. The Perrault Falls bell choir was ringing all day everyday with updates. Each day the signs of fire dwindled along with neighborhood tensions until a week later when the fire and our fears were officially extinguished. In a perfect world the warm sun would shine all day and cool gentle rain would fall through the night. I’ll hope and pray for that scenario first but at this point we’ll take any and all the rain we can get. We need it! I hate to say it folks but I hope it snows all winter and rains all summer. In that case, there will be plenty of time for dockside morning chats. With any luck we’ll be bailing the boats for hours!
We cannot forget about everyone’s friend, Lucy! Our snuggly little black lab retrieve with a mystery mix of pit bull or boxer, we don’t know. Her breed is also a fun conversation with guests and fellow dog lovers. Whatever the combination, Lucy is still the cuddly, playful buddy that everyone hopes for in man’s best friend. She was over the moon, happy as a clam, thrilled to see everyone again! Every morning she bounded cabin-to-cabin as if we hadn’t fed her since your last visit. Scavenger! I know, who could resist? She’s just such a sweetheart. My biggest concern is that the vet shames us when she arrives at her annual check up 5lbs overweight. Unfortunately, her cutesy face doesn’t have the same affect there. Nevertheless, every job has its perks and the life of a camp dog is a winning lotto ticket! However, there are a few life lessons hanging around at the canine level too. Lucy learned a memorable one towards the end of August.
It was early evening on a Friday. Guests were relaxingly checking out after a great week. We were expecting one last couple, Bill and Debbie, to come up for a quick visit before they headed back home to IL early the following morning. Perfect! As forecasted, it started to rain. Also, perfect! I opened the back door to let Lucy in. With a yelp she came barreling toward the door and B-lined right past me inside. All I saw was a black face covered in white quills. She had met a porcupine! She ran straight to her bed franticly pawing at the painful attack on her senses. Lucy was wild with panic, scrambling and shuffling around the office, desperately swiping at her face. Mark and the kids came quickly with all the commotion. We tried to stop her from making it worse while evaluating the severity of the situation. There were dozens of quills lining her snout and jaw. It looked like a beard of toothpicks burying into her nose, chin, lips, muzzle and cheeks. Inside her mouth quills protruded from the roof. One spike pinned the edge of her tongue to her gums. The kids were terrified. Tears of great concern welled up in their eyes. The good news was that Lucy did not have any quills near her eyes or deep in her mouth or throat. We were able to briefly calm her and focus the kids. We sent them for supplies and prepared to help our pup. The office floor became an O.R. Mark and I took turns holding her, comforting her and slowly but surely removing the quills from Lucy’s face. One by one we methodically pulled those razor sharp, heavily barbed spikes. I’ll tell you what; if jigs had barbs like a porcupine quill does NO ONE would EVER miss a bite! Quite the grip on those babies! The first few quills were difficult for all of us but she quickly realized improvement. She relaxed a little. We carefully removed all the quills from inside her mouth alleviating considerable pain and discomfort. Then with equal consideration we kept a steady pace as we moved out to her flew (lips), up to her nose, throughout her muzzle to the cheeks and so on. We worked on her all evening. It was physically exhausting and emotionally draining for the three of us. Gosh that little dog is tough! Midway through the procedure Bill and Debbie came up to the office. They found Mark and I looking stressed, kneeling on the floor next to a pile of extracted quills and poor Lucy’s pincushion face. “Oh! Umm, you’re busy. We’ll come back later.” Bless their hearts. It must have smelled like a barn in there. Humid, hot air from the rain blended with blood, sweat and tears.
Nature’s design of the porcupine’s defense mechanism is impressive. While it is a myth that they shoot quills at predators, the slightest pressure will detach the quill from the porcupine’s body. The point is scalpel sharp and barbed from the tip down the shaft. We had to be mindful of each one as it was removed, you sure do not want to step on a stray! Most concerning and interesting, once a quill has pierced the skin the slightest movement sends it travelling deeper into the body. Lucy’s swiping and pawing had broken the shaft of several quills imbedded on the outside of her flew. When we had finally removed all the quills from pinhead we thoroughly checked her over. Upon turning out her upper lip we were amazed to find a dozen quarter inch black tips poking out from the soft pink flesh. They had travelled right through to the other side! She was tender and sore. Not her usual affectionate self with the new groups coming in the following day. But by Sunday morning she was feeling much better. We are happy to report that Lucy is just fine!
You may wonder why we didn’t take her to the vet? In the hour and 15 minutes that it takes to get there we were able to safely eliminate a substantial amount of pain and suffering. Lucy is not aggressive. Never once was there a fear of being bitten. There was no risk to her eyesight. The quills were accessible. And finally, our poor girl would have torn up her face, deeply imbedded the quills and likely ripped the dickens out of the back seat of our truck. Are you familiar with the song ‘A Country Boy Can Survive’ by Hank Williams Jr.? Rural living has its ways. We did consult the vet and Lucy went in for her annual checkup shortly after. She passed! Moreover, since the season had only just begun a couple of weeks earlier, we passed too. This year’s appointment did not include a dog weight owner shaming!
There were certainly some memorable moments in 2021. The notes that I make throughout the year reminded me of Bernie’s Mittens way back in January. Social media does turn out a comedic gem now and again doesn’t it? 2021 also yielded The Suez Canal fiasco. Which reminded Mark and I of and an incident at The Falls in 2013. Two long time guests and great guys, Ron & Ken from MN got a bit too close while casting away one gorgeous spring evening. The water was much higher and the current significantly stronger. They quickly found themselves sideways, wedged inside one of the cement canals under the Perrault Falls Bridge. As always, Mark to the rescue! I realize this comparison was the equivalent of measuring a mountain to a grain of sand. But to this country girl, someone got stuck!
The best parts of the year, when the notes started to accumulate, all began on August 9th. The Canada/US border opened to American travellers and we were finally able to welcome people back to PLC! Your return was an absolutely breath of fresh air in a weak body, an end to our figurative and literal drought. The first few days were strange. There were people around again. At times we weren’t sure if we should shake hands, hug or fist pump but it all sorted out smoothly. Years of habit die-hard and we fell back into the swing of things pretty quick. The motions are deeply ingrained in Mark and I, and the kids too! They were equally motivated by your arrival! Up early, greeting guests, helping with bags and tackle boxes, delivering ice, filling bait buckets and jumping off the dock with old friends. We all snapped back to life! Thank you once again to everyone who was able to make the trip to Perrault Lake Camp this season. It meant the world to us.
Over the past two years it has never been more apparent how delicate life is and how precious the ones we care about truly are. People are what make this place fun, exciting and special. We are fortunate to live this life in the woods and we appreciate the opportunity to share it with you. To our annual guests of many years, those who visit every other year and those who are new to PLC, we thank you. The 2022 season is half a year away. We look forward to greeting you on the big front steps! I’m humbly asking Santa for the smooth return of all our guests from May to October! Carmen recently lost both of her baby front teeth, so we are of course teasing her with the song, “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth…” Well, let’s all get excited about the coming season and sing through the holidays, “All I want for Christmas is P. L. C!” I hope we’re all on the nice list!
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, joyous holiday season and a Happy Healthy New Year!
Your friends in the North,
Mark, Amy, Jackson, Carmen and Lucy!
Don’t forget to check out all the wonderful photos of fishing and fun in our 2021 Christmas Letter Photo Album on our Facebook page!