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The Boundary Waters Journal Blog

News and Stories from the Boundary Waters Journal

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April 20, 2016

Spring has arrived in the Ely area! Blueberry Lake near our place saw the ice go out on April 17, exactly the historical average. It's been mild lately so even the bigger lakes should go ice-free within the week.

 I will be exhibiting/speaking at the Midwest Mountaineering Expo in Minneapolis on April 22, 23 and 24. My talk on Canoe Country fishing will be sometime around noon on Saturday.  After this show,  I'm heading to northwest Nebraska to turkey hunt.  Will truck camp and hunt public ground in what is called the Pine Hills region.  Another new adventure that I'm looking forward to.

May 21 I start guiding five consecutive 8-day Quetico fishing trips, all made up of 5 clients. I'm looking forward to some great trophy action with great people—some familiar, some new.

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May 14, 2015 BWJ Blog Entry

May 14, 2015

The beaver pond below our house saw the ice melt off on April 11.  Overnight, the mallards and robins appear and the sounds of spring are in the air.  On nearby Blueberry Lake, the ice went out on April 13, about one week earlier than the historical average.  Most of the larger Ely area lakes were open a week later, so all in all, we have had a nice, early spring. 

It has been great to run the dog through the woods before green up and the bugs take over.  We are getting one or two grouse points an outing so hopefully, they will have a good nesting season and there will be some birds to hunt come October.  I have had time to brush some trails and work on laying in another winter’s wood supply. 

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JANUARY 8, 2015

JANUARY 8, 2015--  Happy 2015 all you loyal BWJ readers out there.  Sorry about the long, unplanned hiatus from these blog entries.   What can I say other than I prefer to spend every spare minute in the woods every fall than at the computer.   I can only vow to do better now that winter has settled in and I am back at my desk full time.    Michele and I spent the recent holiday period between Christmas and New Year’s out in South Dakota for our annual pheasant hunt.  Despite spending over 150 days a year guiding wilderness canoeing/fishing /hunting trips, this South Dakota trip with Michele and our English Pointer , Custer, may very well be the most fun I have all year.  The trip is always very cold with super-challenging, wild-flushing birds but I will never be able to get enough of that rush of adrenaline as another beautiful rooster bursts from the cattails and tests your composure and shooting skills.  We filled our possession limit of 30 roosters for the 5-day hunt but the highlight was the outstanding dog work of Custer.  Custer really came on as a grouse dog this fall so I was hopeful he would be able to carry that over to these super-wary SD pheasants.  Over half the birds we shot were over locked-down solid points where we had to boot the bird into the air.  Anyone who has hunted late season pheasants in South Dakota will tell you it takes a hell of a dog to point and hold these birds.  I am so proud of Custer and really excited for the next grouse/pheasant season.  The hundreds of walks we have taken on our back 40 the past four years have really paid off. 

We finally got some decent snow cover in Ely- about 6 inches of powder on the ground right now.  December was warm and snowless- great for the area deer herd that desperately needs a mild winter, but not so good for daughter Taryn and the Ely high school cross country ski team.  It has turned cold the last few days but mid-January is typically our coldest stretch around here. 

I have been busy writing/editing articles for future issues of BWJ and can only tell you that we have some our best ever stories in the works in our 28 years of publishing- so stay tuned.  I am also busy setting up all my Grand Slam Guide Service trips for 2015.   All of my June trips are full but I still have openings for July Quetico trips, 1 last opening for the August Sutton River brook trout trip and a couple open spots for Colorado elk archery and my BWCAW Fall Color Trip.  Give me a call at 218-365-5168 if interested in joining me in 2015. 

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July 16


July 16, 2014  Just back from my Ely to Beaverhouse trip.  It is no easy matter to guide/lead 3 senior citizens 100+ miles across Quetico in 8 days.  You have to keep up a steady pace and it hurts to pass on through primo fishing water without time to do it justice.  All you can do is hope you make it into camp several nights with enough time and energy to get after the fish a little bit.  Despite rain every day except one, we had good bass fishing on Lost Bay of Basswood, Camel, Sturgeon and Quetico Lake.  We even got a few trophy walleyes on Conmee the one night we were there and caught our one walleye feast in just a half-hour of angling on Sturgeon.  We caught a few trout our last night on Quetico Lake to capture the Grand Slam. 

Those portages from Isabella to Sarah were brutal-  it was pouring rain so hard that day the slopes of those trails were 3-4 inches deep of running water.  It got so dark in the woods during afternoon thunderstorms I was wishing I had my headlight on for some of the portaging.  A couple days later we triple- portaged the Death March Portage route into Delahey Lake- this was a picnic compared to the hilly, rocky, wet, treacherous footing into Sarah.  I am not in any hurry to portage from Isabella to Sarah again. 

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JULY 1, 2014

July 1, 2014

Just back from my fourth Grand Slam Guide Service trip.  Took 3 guys into Conmee area for the walleyes.  They were above average paddlers and portagers so we moved along at a good clip.  They had never fished topwater smallmouth but they were quick learners to my favorite style of canoe country fishing and we caught over 350 smallies on Crooked, William, Suzannette and Wicksteed.  Lots of 18 and 19 inch fish with 10 trophies going over 20 inches.  The smallmouth are still catchable on the shoreline cover but during the mid-day it is mostly smaller fish.  Be sure to fish 6:30 to 9:30 p.m each evening for those bigger bass moving in onto the rocky structure to feed.  We all picked up a couple trout trolling Dr. Spoons on Suzanette with the largest going 26 inches.  We decided to camp for 4 nights on Suzanette which meant going over to Conmee for the evening walleye bite and portaging back in the dark.  This actually worked out pretty well and is a strategy I will use again.  I would love to get into Suzanette earlier next year and hit the peak of the bass spawn period.  The habitat looks great in there.  The problem is the bass fishing is great all over the place in early June.  Wish I could be about ten places at once that week.  We ended up netting 9 trophy walleyes on Conmee and 1 on Suzanette.  These 27-28 ½ inch heavy, golden beauties have exceptional power and completely put to rest the reputation of walleyes can’t/don’t fight very hard.  So we all were able to get the Canoe Country Grand Slam with some trophy bass and walleye included in that. 

The weather continues to be very unsettled with lots of low pressure, cold fronts, east/south winds and rain.  As most anglers know, high pressure and west wind is best for fishing.  Still, when the wind has settled down, the fishing has been very good. 

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JUNE 21, 2014

June 21, 2014

I have just finished my third consecutive 8-day Grand Slam Guide Service trip to Quetico and head into Conmee for the big walleyes tomorrow.  These first three trips have all produced outstanding smallmouth and lake trout fishing. We have averaged about 350 smallmouth per trip with lots of 18-19 inch fish.  About half have been on topwater plugs like the Excaliber Z pop and the Rapala X-Rap Pop with many others on soft plastics.  We have netted over 30 smallies that have topped the 20 inch trophy mark.  On the latest trip, into Pooh Bah Lake, we also spent a couple days on Wink Lake where we really got into the big bass on topwater one night.  Both of the last two trips we have completely lost 2-3 days of fishing to bad rain and wind but the action has been good whenever the weather settles down.  My clients have produced the makings of one big walleye fry each trip but I have not caught a walleye since my first trip—and that is fine with me- I’ll take those explosive topwater bass strikes everytime.  I do enjoy targeting those 28-30 inch trophy walleyes in Brent and Conmee so hopefully I will get my annual walleye fix this next trip.

As many may know that follow the news, we have received a lot of rain in June which combined with all the snow melt has led to very high/record high water levels.  I can’t stress enough how important it is to approach ALL areas of current with extreme caution.  Consider using any portage trail extensions or lining your canoe along shore through current to the normal portage landings.  Don’t assume things are “normal” on any of the border/collector lakes like Knife, Basswood, Crooked and La Croix.  The water is up into the brush and will be for some time as recent heavy rains continue to flood these areas.  All the water means a bumper crop of bugs- so plan accordingly.  I keep my headnet in the pocket of my lifejacket where I put in on/off 25 times a day.  This limits how much DEET I have to use.  The good news is that we are primed for a phenomenal crop of blueberries so watch for that in mid-July. 

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BWJ Blog - May 29, 2014

BWJ Blog – May 29, 2014

My goal is to post to this blog during each of my 2/3 day breaks between my 7 Grand Slam Guide Service canoe trips this season. This particular between-trip break is especially busy as we are now completing the Summer Issue.

On May 20-27 three of us went in through Lac La Croix. We went straight from winter to summer as the high temps soared into the 80s. Crooked, Iron, McAree and Lac La Croix are al flooded up into the woods—4+ feet high. We had great walleye fishing on McAree and lots of nice lake trout on Argo and Elk. The smaller inland lakes were significantly warmer than the flooded border lakes (which drain large areas). Pulling, Siobahn River, Josey and Elk gave up 162 pre-spawn smallmouth, with 9 over 20", 3 over 21" and one 22 1/2" monster. All-in-all it was a solid trout/bass combo trip.

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April 17, 2014

April 17, 2014

I wanted to check in with you all as it has been about two weeks since my very first ever BWJ Blog posting.  The good news since then is we had a run of 50 degree weather April 8-11.  The snow actually melted down to the grass in the sunniest spots, giving at least a glimmer of hope for everyone that is anxious for spring.  The first blackbird arrived at our beaver pond below the house on April 10.  The next day, the first robin appeared in the yard.  A few geese have honked over, looking for a patch of open water to settle on.  Only the creeks with moving water are actually open so far.  The morning of April 15, we dropped back down to a low of 8 degrees which crusted up the snow hard enough for my bird dog, Custer, and I, to take a swing through the woods.  He put up two grouse and I saw 6 deer all out feeding in small, melted off patches.  They looked to be in pretty fair condition considering the severe winter they have just been through. 

The bad news is that our high temps have not reached freezing the last couple days and central Minnesota just got blasted with another heavy spring snowstorm.  Duluth got eight inches but here in Ely we only got an inch.  The forecast is for back in the 50’s for the weekend.  Given that the historical average ice-out for Blueberry Lake near our place is tomorrow, April 18, you can safely assume that the lakes will not be opening up until later that normal.  Let’s just hope it is not as late as last year- May 15 for lakes like Vermilion, Burntside, Basswood and Lac La Croix. 

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