Northern Exposure on Mink Island
A chilly dawn broke on my favorite island in Bayley Bay of Lake Basswood, Quetico. Frost covered my latrine log. I shivered, t.p. and plastic trowel in hand. Suddenly a dark furry little head popped up from behind a rock six feet away, black beady eyes fixed on me. You know, at times I just hate being watched. It was a mink with ambitious ideas, sizing up my thigh as a potential drumstick, his cute little quarter inch fang gleaming white in the dawn. The situationwas funny to me. "Little buddy, don't you try it," I spoke to the mink. Shortly he agreed and scooted off.
I encounted the same mink on the same island my next trip a year later. My partner Al and I had caught two nice smallmouths for supper, and tied the the stringer to a tree by the shores edge. Al wandered near the shore and suddenly yelled, "You little blankety-blank!" Intrigued, I came to check the scene. The mink had the fish gutted and eaten the entrails, and was trying to pull away the fish tied to the stringer. I re-claimed the fish and started to fillet them, but the mink got upset and began hissing and threatening me from three feet away. I yelled for help. Al poked his rod tipped with a Rapala into the critter's face. The Rapala impressed the mink, who ran off. I filleted the smallmouth. After supper when we next returned to shoreline, the mink had reclaimed and carried off what was left of the carcasses. Between fisherman and mink, none of the fish was wasted.
Fishing the shallow weedy bay in front of the island, one year I caught a thirty-six inch northern pike on my 6 wt. fly rod. He actually towed the canoe around the bay. This last trip, Al and I had caught some large yellow perch, tied them to the canoe seat Al was sitting on, as we drifted across the bay. Suddenly the water exploded beside Al as a lrage green toothy head grabbed the perch. "M-M-Muskie!" stammered Al. (Actually it was a pike.) "Get the fish, Al!" The pike had frayed the stringer almost in two. Al almost pulled the northern into the canoe with the yellow perch, but he slipped off. We ate perch fillets for supper.
Two June trips different years, the same pair of loons nested on a smaller adjacent island off my favorite island in "Pike Bay". I discovered their hidden nest in the reeds or the rocky island, safe from both the mink and the otters frequenting Pike Bay. The loon pair swam directly under my canoe and created a racket, to distract me away from the vicinity of their nest. I left quickly, as much commotion around the nest may cause the parent loons to abandon the nest, and I wished their success in nesting.
Bill Hoot - A Texan who loves Quetico