Have you ever wondered what kind of work goes into running a fishing lodge? How about four? Jack and Lorraine Cooper share details of lodge life on the Minipi watershed, one of Canada’s premiere spots for brook trout fishing.
When do you plan to go in and check out Anne Marie Lodge and begin preparations?
Usually we are ice free here in Goose Bay by late May, so as soon as the ice is out of Terrington Basin and we are able to put out the plane, we will go in to make our first assessment of damage from the winter. Some years are worse than others for ice and frost damage, and some years we even have damage from animals to deal with. It’s a real help to be able to get in sometime late May, that does not always happen however. The window from ice-out to start up can sometimes be very short, and always so many things to be done.
It’s the end of May and you’re ready to begin, what’s your first step?
Usually Robin and Raymond and I will fly in to all locations, Little Minipi, Minipi, Anne Marie and Minonipi and have a look over at everything, making notes and making a rough estimate of what time we need to get things repaired and what type of workers we need to bring in to do the repairs. We take pictures of everything and then head back to Goose to make our plan of action.
Anne Marie is a pretty big lodge, where do you start?
First item when we hit the ground is to get the generator up and running and this we do on our first pass into the lodges. We check the batteries, determine if all is running properly, and if not, what kind of tradesman do we need to bring in on the next trip to remedy any situation. When the power is sorted, we start on the plumbing, and no matter how well the system is drained in the fall, there is normally at least one small leak to find and sort out.
With the water going, the cleaning crew get started on the buildings, and another crew will start putting the docks in the water, get the boat ramps set up and make any repairs that the ice and snow will have caused over the winter.
As soon as the lodge is operational, we will start checking on the remote locations and boats and motors. Bears or other animals will often chew the handles on gas tanks, or damage boat ramps, so all locations and equipment need to be checked. We have to check the engines and props to make sure everything is working properly.
Next we do general outdoor maintenance like clearing the deadfall on the trails from the winter. After all of that is done we start the projects we have earmarked for any given year. The earlier we can get in the better this goes, if we have a late spring, it can be quite stressful trying to get everything in order in such a short a period of time.
Who is involved in getting the lodges ready for guests?
On the first pass, no more than three-to-five people to open. One cook and a couple of crews depending on the amount of damage over the winter. We will take in additional trades people and/or crews depending on the projects underway and what we need to get accomplished. In Goose Bay there is also a lot of preparation underway that supports the operation, like the organization of the food service. A lot of our inventory comes in from major suppliers so it needs to be organized and the first bulk order of basics prepared for flying in. Fuel has to be arranged for generators, boats and aircraft. Maintenance issues at the lodges require someone on the ground in Goose Bay sourcing parts and materials and making sure things move into the lodge in a timely manner. We have only a short window to get things up and running. Firewood is also another item. While we don’t have a heavy requirement in June and July, we do need to maintain our stockpile for the colder nights in August and September, so we will do several major days of hauling and stacking wood. I will usually stay in at the lodge for the first weeks of start up to get all of these things going.
What type of planning takes place in Goose Bay before guests begin to arrive?
This is a detailed operation and everything has to be entered into a master plan, times people are arriving, do they need a hotel room? There’s a schedule for everything, for picking folks up on the flight to ground transfers, flight scheduling into the lodge, making sure supplies and fuel are there in advance. We also cater to guests specific diet requirements, so there’s that planning as well. We check and recheck to make sure we have all the details down. As you can appreciate living this far north, sometimes it is not easy to access some items that people in larger locations would take for granted. For this reason we will also schedule two to three trips to Quebec City and Montreal for supplies and gear. All of this comes into Goose Bay and has to be sorted and organized, ideally it would be great to just send everything in, but flights have to be effectively maximized, the amount of room at the lodge for fridge and freezer space has to be taken into consideration. Organization of the staff is also a major job, some years we will have up to 50 people working in the company and that in itself requires a lot of administrative work.
What improvements or changes are planned for the 2014 season?
This season we are continuing our fly out program that went so well last summer, we will do a fly out once during the week to either Little Minipi or Minipi, depending on how much time the spring break up gives us determines the time frame on projects underway, like lunch spots and new trails. In reality, being in the outfitting business is not just a three month job. We work all year round to make the operation successful, always thinking of better ways to do things, always searching for ways to make the experience better for our anglers. Definitely not a boring way of life!