E-mailed my nephew Brian the other day about the possibility of another Boundary Waters trip next spring. He was up for one. That was a relief. I've reached an age when most men are becoming a liability when heading into the boonies. Each year I live with the fear no one'll want to take a chance on having to drag my infirm body over a portage or two. Don't know if Brian is benevolent or just plain stupid but if he says he's going and I'm still upright come spring then I guess we're going.
The questions are, which entry point, how far in and what are the fishing chances? The Minnesota DNR posts a website that lists what their most recent nettings have produced. Nothing's foolproof as to what the expectations are but the nettings are close and have become my fishing bible. In my disillusioned middle years I believed the farther a body had to paddle and portage, the better the fishing. Not so. The truth of the matter concerning Boundary Waters lakes is simple, they're not fertile. And tend to be deep. If you want lake trout and don't want to leave the country, they're the lakes for you. Should you be in the market for several species and fair numbers of them, the choices pare down dramatically. Brian wouldn't mind a good chance at few walleyes and, like me, some hot smallmouth bass fishing. Probably wouldn't mind a large pike. That narrows it down quite a bit. Both of us prefer heading inland out of Grand Marais along the big lake, wouldn't mind a portage or two and that narrows it down even more. My latest count has it at zero. Time to compromise.
If it's walleyes there's a fine lake one portage in from East Bearskin Lake about twenty miles up the Gunflint Trail. Yup, it's got walleyes alright. And some jumbo perch. That's it. Crocodile's not big. Maybe two hundred fifty acres with four campsites. And it's not an unknown. Was even mentioned in the Star Tribune as a walleye hot spot. It's a temptation but not much of one for our single shot next year.
'Spose we could head up to the end of the Gunflint Trail and work the big waters of Lake Saganaga. It's big water but the south shore is island filled. Lots of cover should the wind come up. As for fish, it's got 'em all from lake trout to bluegills. Was it a canoe only lake I'd give Saganaga a shot but it's not. But…but it does hold the state walleye record. Something to think about and mostly ignore.
Then there's Pine Lake. Two thousand, narrow acres of sheer hell in a west wind. However it has good numbers of walleyes and smallmouth bass. Throw in a few big pike and its world famous invisible lake trout and you've got yourself good fishing water. Pine used to be pretty good for lake trout but the DNR hasn't netted one in over a decade. I figure they must still be there only you can't see or feel them. Talk about elusive.
Yeah there's a drawback, no portage. Hard to be manly when all you have to do is paddle. Might have to pray for a serious headwind and three footers to battle through, "Yarrr, she was a bear alright. Fourteen hours to move a half mile. But worth it. Caught us a stringer of amorphous lakers."
Should we feel the need to portage there's three trout lakes off the south shore. The portages aren't long but they're steep. Did two of the carries back in the '90s. One began in a swamp and then climbed a hundred foot rise. The other grew gradually steeper from the shore of Pine to the trout lake. The last few rods were like climbing a staircase. Didn't catch any trout but both days were bluebird sunny. Anyhow, that's my excuse. So, at the moment, I'm leaning toward Pine.
Between now and then there's winter. Not much to say about that. On the upside it looks like I'm heading cabinward next week with my son and one of his boys. Should the weather allow we'll do some November fishing. Never done that before. If not we'll do a couple of miles on the North Country Trail or maybe just hang around the cabin. Why not? It's a good place to be.