Last year my brother, brother-in-law, and a gentleman we will call Colorado took a trips to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. We spent five days canoeing, fishing for lake trout and eating, and man did we eat. Almost as soon as we returned from that trip we started planning for this years trip. We knew that we wanted to try another area of the BWCA as last year we were only fishing for lake trout and this year we wanted to get into a larger variety of fish.
As we were planning we started tossing around the idea of asking a few other individuals to join us. First on that list was a guy simply known as Flip, Flip is an ex army guy and the almost brother-in-law of my Brother-in-law. We all have known Flip for a while and figured he would fit in well. My brother-in-law who we will call Murph for the rest of this story also wanted to invite his cousin, Scott Murphy, this was only a problem because we already had a Scott Murphy going with us. So we just started calling them by the states they come from, Colorado and Minnesota, Murph's cousin is from Minnesota and Colorado is an old friend of my brothers. Now that we have that straight we had six people going, but there were two others that we had been thinking about asking. Rick Edwards also known as the Frustrated Farmer and Andy Pederson. Both guys I met in the service and spent a lot of time hunting and fishing with over the past ten years.
So now we had eight guys going and we just needed to figure out the logistics of the whole thing, who was going to pair up with who how much food would we need to bring in and where were we going to go. So we picked a time and set aside the week after the fishing opener here in Minnesota to go back to the BWCA and have another adventure. Last years trip was perfect we had high temps in the 80's and blue skies and sun the whole week. We didn't figure we would be so lucky this year.
Andy had a wedding he had to attend and I had to work so we were going to be a pair and come in one day after the rest of the group. The rest of the group decided to leave Friday night drive all the way up to Ely, MN and then canoe 6 hours in on Saturday morning. I was going to get off work get some quick sleep and leave at 3am to get to Two Harbors, MN to pick up Andy by 7am and then drive over to Ely and do the same canoe trip in as the boys who left the day before. Last year we had no communication once we got inside the BWCA so this year we decided to rent a sat phone just in case. We also needed to communicate what camp site the boys were at so Andy and I could meet the rest of our group.
On Saturday night I got a call around 830pm from the group that went in that morning. They had run into some weather and the six hour trip they were planning took eight and a half hours and they had to stop before they reached their original destination. When Murph called he said they were paddling into a 30 mph headwind and the whitecaps on the lakes were coming over the boat. He sounded tired and annoyed and didn't seem to be enjoying themselves at all.
They had put me in charge of packing the food bag so I packed it full of six days worth of meals for eight guys. Apparently they were all cursing my name as they had to portage a food bag that weighed about 100 pounds. I had it all packed so that all they had to do was pull out the dutch oven and dump the vacuum packed bags of rice and beans in, add water and heat. They were to tired and angry to do any of that, the first night. So the next morning I was on my way and my trip was just beginning.
Sunday morning Andy and I got to the entry point around 1130 am, by the time we got everything unloaded and were on our way it was 1215 pm. We had a beautiful trip in it was sunny and blue skies about 60 degrees with a light northern wind. On our way in we saw all sorts of wildlife, wolves and deer and fox, the two of us stopped and fished a couple of times and had a few cocktails on the way. My very first two casts I caught two northern pike and was having a great day. We found the boys and pulled up to camp and the first thing I said was, "I don't know what you guys were bitchin about the weather is perfect". They didn't think I was funny at all. We made the same trip they did but it only took Andy and I five hours to make the same trip it took them almost nine to make.
When we arrived they had all set up camp and decided the this was where we were going to stay for the rest of the week. They had all been fishing and already had a few Northern on the stringer and were ready for some food. As a special treat I had planned of making Fettuccine Alfredo with butter poached pike for dinner. I had brought in heavy cream with me so I got to work.
The end result was a very tasty, very garlicky, very needed meal to get the boys back on track to enjoy the rest of the week. And having a beautiful day with a high around 65 didn't hurt either.
We decided that we were going to head up to Lac Lacroix lake and spend some time fishing on the border. this involved a couple of decent portages and of course the weather was beautiful, not a cloud in the sky and already warming up. Before we left I thought we should have a good breakfast so I whipped up a quick skillet of onions, breakfast sausage, eggs and cheese along with tortillas for breakfast burritos.
It was a great breakfast full of fat and carbs to power us through a long day of portages and paddling.
We stayed on Lac Lacroix all day and didn't catch a thing. We lost a lot of lures and tried to figure out why the fish weren't biting. The water temp was cold and I am sure had a lot to do with us not catching anything. But it was still a great day, we all stopped and had lunch and talked about the plan and where we were going to go to catch fish.
From left to right: Andy, Kev and Murph
On the way back we took an alternate route and Flip started catching some fish in some shallow moving water, remember that phrase I may say it a few dozen more times. When we got back to camp I got the fire started and wanted to get dinner going. I was planning on doing roasted potatoes with garlic, rosemary and thyme and new they would take time. While I was getting it ready the rest were casting lines from shore and caught a few more pike. This was great because we only had two fish and now we were going to have plenty for dinner.
One of the fish Flip caught
Dinner was good, the potatoes cooked perfectly and the pike was sweet and delicious. As we sat around smoking and drinking the night away we decided that we were all going to head over to Oyster lake the next day and try to catch some Lake trout. Oyster lake was a long portage away but seemed like a good idea at the time.
Before we departed for Oyster lake I had made up two pounds of bacon and some pancakes. I figured we would need to start each day off with a good breakfast not just to fuel us for the day but to combat the hangovers that might be had. We made the trip over to Oyster and fished all day and got nothing. Remember when I said, shallow moving water, well oyster lake was about 50 feet deep every where and 130 at its max depth. We didn't get a lot of action. when we stopped for lunch we were all sitting around a Rick was casting from shore when he had a lake trout follow his lure right up to the shore. that damned trout did that about 6 times and then Rick finally got him. We were all very excited that we had gotten a fish. It ended up being the only fish we got that day.
I had planned our menu in such a way that if fishing was pore we would still be able to eat and not go hungry. On the menu for that night was Risotto, now that were had a lake trout I had to figure out a way that we could all get some.
Rick and I talked and decided that we would roasted the fish whole and then flake it off the bone and stir it into the risotto and make a roasted lake trout risotto. Rick gutted his fish when we got back to camp and we stuffed it full of garlic, shallots, lemon, butter, bay leaf and thyme and roasted it while we were making the risotto.
I had vacuum packed all the dry ingredients and had brought in two pounds of butter and little 16 ounce cartons of chardonnay. I also brought in bouillon cubes to make the stock that I would need. The end result was a fantastic risotto dish that was enjoyed by all.
We started day 4 with the same breakfast as day two with one exception, we used a can of spam in it as well as the breakfast sausage. We also decided that today would be a good day for everyone to go do their own thing. Not everyone wanted to do long portages everyday or have to paddle for two hours just to get where they wanted to. So Andy and I headed out and fished on Lake Agnes for the day and didn't have much luck. Colorado and Rick must have been listening because they headed down to the mouth of the river on Agnes and did quite well. They brought back 2 northern, 1 walleye and 1 perch. Kev and Murph disappeared for most of the day and I still don't know what they did. Flip and Minnesota stayed right at camp casting from shore.
The bay in front of our camp
Flip and Minnesota did pretty good for themselves just staying at camp. Flip caught one very angry Northern. The damn fish kept biting everything that came near it and eventually wouldn't let go of the canoe paddle.
For lunch everyday I had told all the guys that they would need to take care of their own lunches. I was going to make breakfast and dinner and figure we could all do our own thing for lunch. I kept most of my lunches simple. Ramen noodles and fried spam, it may not sound good but it really hit the spot in the middle of the day.
That night we had an abundance of fish and we were going to eat like kings. We had enough fish that I thought it would be a good idea to teach everyone else how to fillet fish. Colorado and rick manned up and took the challenge and did a remarkable job. Flip had been in camp all day so when he said, "jame, I'm to f'ed up to fillet that beast". I let him off the hook and did his myself. That night we had Cajun fried fish with cilantro lime rice. The rice was a little toothy but other than that it was good, and we had way to much fish so we almost ate ourselves sick.
Day 5 was going to be our last full day and I hadn't caught a fish since the first two I caught on the way in. I was determined to catch something so Andy and I were off to find Shallow, moving water. Before we left I cooked up the last two pounds of bacon and some oatmeal with maple syrup and dried blueberries. It was a tasty way to start the day.
Andy and I headed for and area where the river flower into another lake thinking that would be a good area to hit. When we got there two other canoes were already fishing it and from the looks of it they were hitting them pretty good. I didn't want to crowd them so we took off around the point and fish another area for a while. Andy caught a couple of fish but they got off before we could get them in the boat. I was not having any luck at all. We worked our way back towards the mouth of the river and fished it for a while. I finally got something and as I fought it back to the canoe it spit the hook, at that point I was done. I was moody and pissy and about to have a 36 year old temper tantrum. It was time to drink. So Andy and I headed back up the portage and back towards camp. On our way we ran into Colorado and Rick, they apparently had been catching fish for hours but they were all bass. We were all under the impression that bass fishing was only open on the border waters and this wasn't a border water. Later we would find out that bass fishing was open and all the fish they caught we could have kept.
When I got back to camp I had been think of what I was going to do for dinner. All day I was thinking about these onions we had left and onion rings really sounded good, so I used up the rest of the oil and got the guys to clean the fish and we had fried fish and onion rings.
We were all a little beat so we went to bed early not looking forward to the long trip out in the morning.
We were all up early that last morning and there was just a light fog on the water. we packed up and at the mention of cold beer and red meat we all had the needed motivation to get paddling.
While we were in camp we had found all these moose and beaver bones around in the woods. Colorado made this odd looking totem and we had it in camp all week. It was a little Lord of the Flies but funny at the same time.
My Brothers, kev, me, and Murph
The trip out was significantly easier than the trip in, it took us about four and a half hours to get out. Once we were out we headed into Ely and got some beers and a Bucky burger from the Ely steakhouse.
It was a great trip and another great cooking experience for me. I was quite pleased with how everything turn out, I was hoping for some more foraging opportunities but it was still a little early up there. I am really looking forward to next year to see what I can pull off, Kev said he wanted cookies, I am not sure how I am going to bake cookies up there but I have a whole year to figure it out.