National Fishing and Boating Week in the Boundary Waters

Celebrate National Fishing and Boating Week in the Boundary Waters this year! It began this year on June 4th and extends through next weekend.  It was created as a national holiday by George W. Bush in 2002 to encourage anglers to share their knowledge and passion of fishing with younger potential anglers to increase participation in fishing and boating. It’s also a conservation effort because money used from the purchase of fishing licenses is used for preservation, education and restoration of waterways. Boundary Waters fishing

It coincides with the Minnesota DNR’s Take a Kid Fishing Weekend which happens June 11th- June 13th. Minnesota youth age 15 and under never need a license to fish and during this special weekend adults who fish with these kids can fish without a license as well.

This website is full of information about fishing and the Minnesota DNR has resources on their website  to help adults who want to participate in the event including a webinar at noon on Wednesday, June 9th.

Fishing is a great way to spend time in the outdoors and a wonderful hobby to pass on to the youth of today. Take a kid fishing in the Boundary Waters or anywhere this weekend.

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Boundary Waters campfires

We’ve received some rain over the past few days but there’s still high fire danger in most of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. We are super lucky to live in an area where we can have campfires almost all of the time. With the privilege comes the responsibility of making sure the campfire is contained and inside the fire grate of a designated campsite in the BWCA.

When it’s dry in the Boundary Waters campers should exercise greater caution with their campfires.

  • If it’s really windy, don’t start a campfire.
  • Only make small campfires.
  • Never leave a campfire unattended.
  • Clear away dry leaves and sticks, overhanging low branches and shrubs.
  • Stack extra wood upwind and away from fire.
  • After lighting, throw the match into the fire.
  • Keep a bucket of water and shovel nearby.
  • Never put anything but wood into the fire.
  • When it’s time to put the fire out, dump lots of water on it, stir it with a shovel, then dump more water on it. Make sure it is COLD before leaving the campsite. If it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave!

Smokey Bear - Wikipedia




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Boundary Waters Drowning

BWCAWAfter all of the excitement and anticipation of a Boundary Waters Canoe camping trip no one expects their trip to end in a tragedy but it happens. People drown because they don’t wear a life vest. It’s a headline that would never be printed if people wore life vests while on the water. They don’t work if you don’t wear it.

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A 51-year-old man drowned Monday in a northern Minnesota lake, marking the third water-related death over the long Memorial Day weekend.

The St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office says the man, of rural Morrison County, drowned Monday afternoon in Trout Lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

According to investigators, the man fell overboard while with friends on a boat. While his friends were able to pull him out of the water and attempt CPR, the man was pronounced dead by paramedics.

The man’s name has yet to be released.

Two other men drowned in Minnesota over the holiday weekend. One died after struggling in a pond in Loring Park and the other died in a Burnsville lake while trying to help his girlfriend.

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Fishing for Northern Pike in the Boundary Waters

fishing for Northern Pike in the Boundary WatersI love to paddle around the perimeter of small lakes both inside and outside of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. While there are some people who will do this willingly my son usually wouldn’t do it with me unless we were trolling a line behind us. It isn’t the fastest way to tour the shoreline since you inevitably get snagged on logs, rocks and weeds but it is pretty fun.

How do you fish for Northern Pike? It’s a funny question since I don’t normally go out fishing just for Northern Pike but we usually end up catching one or two in the process. If you’re looking for an excuse to troll around a lake or want to catch a Northern Pike then the shoreline is usually a good place to start. They love weed beds, logs in the water, rocky points and any other type of structure in two to fifteen or so feet of water.  They hang out waiting for other small fish and then attack seemingly out of nowhere.

We primarily troll with flashy spoons or other lures shaped and painted to look like prey.  Sometimes we cast into the weed beds or onto points and then it’s nice to have a heavier lure on. You can reel and troll pretty fast as Northerns are quite speedy. You always want to have a steel leader tied to your lure or the pike will bite through the line. You can use a heavier than 8 pound test line if you know you are fishing primarily for northern pike and it’s a good idea to have a net along in case you catch one you want to keep. If I don’t want to keep the Northern I usually just reel it beside the canoe and use my needle nose to remove the hooks while the fish is still in the water. I’m not a particular fan of fish slime or cutting my hands on gills or teeth so if I do bring a Northern into the canoe I usually wear those fish gloves or use a clamper. Be sure to wet your hands prior to touching the fish if you are releasing it as Northern Pike have a protective slime coating.  fishing for northern pike in the BWCA

With Northern Pike generally the bigger the lure the bigger the fish you will catch. That is something I just haven’t gotten used to. If I spend $15-$30 on a lure the last thing I want to do is leave it on a log beneath the water’s surface. I stick to my inexpensive spoons knowing I will most likely lose one or three along the way.

We love to eat Northern Pike as long as whoever cleans the fish knows how to remove the Y Bone.

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Communication at the end of the Gunflint Trail

There was a time when I was alive…  We only had to dial the last four digits of a person’s phone number if they lived on the Gunflint Trail.  The only communication we had with most neighbors was done via CB Radio.  There was no cell service on the Gunflint Trail.

The last one makes me cringe because like it or not we’re going to have cell service on the Gunflint Trail. Coming this summer a tower will be built next to Gunflint Lake near where there is  an existing tower. It will “tower” above the current tower and will be seen from parts of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The Cook County Commissioners voted to approve a tower to improve communications for emergency responders. Long story short everyone will be able to use their cell phones on the Gunflint Trail and in the Eastern side of the BWCAW.

The real point of this blog is to talk about CB Radios. For a long time these were the only method of communication with neighbors surrounding Voyageur Canoe Outfitters. Folks with cabins on Gull Lake and on the other side of the Seagull River didn’t have telephones and neither did our neighbors on the Canadian side of Saganaga Lake. When a person had something “important” to say to someone it often meant waiting until the morning greetings were over. It was kind of like the night time scene from the Waltons television show, people had to check-in with each other upon rising for the day.

For the privacy of particular people I won’t use real CB handles here, even though many of the folks on the CB list shared below are no longer living. This isn’t meant to insult or offend anyone either, it’s just how we talk up on Sag.

“White snake to Bon Jovi  you on da air?”

“Go ahead White Snake.”

“We got ourselves a beautiful mornin out der dontchaknow, over.”

“We sure do, over.”

“Whatch you got going on for de day, over?”

“Well, I’m sitting on da porch, listening to da loons, enjoying my cup of coffee right now. I might go see if I can catch dinner a little later, over.”

“Oh, that sounds wonderful. Isn’t it sumpthin that sun sparkling on da water dis mornin, over?”

“You betcha it is. It reminds me of a time…”

As soon as White Snake and Bon Jovi were finished conversing Madonna and Cyndi Lauper would go through pretty much the same dialogue. Next Def Leppard would call AC/DC and so on and so forth throughout the morning. There would be an afternoon lull when folks were outside fishing or doing “what not” and then the evening greetings would commence.

“Kiss to the Stones, you got your ears on?”

“Sure do Kiss, howyadoin, over?”

“Wasn’t it a beautiful day out dere, over?”

“Yeah, shure was, over.”

“I was gonna get me some wood chopped up but dat humidity darn near killed me so I decided to cool of in da boat, over.”

“Oh, yeah, dat humidity was sumping else wasn’t it? Didya catch any fish out dere?”

“Nah, I saw Def Leppard out dere and he had a boat load a eyes but he wouldn’t tell me nuthing bout where he got em, over”

“Yeah, he sure don’t like to share his spots wit nobody, over.”

“Gonna be a nice sunset tonight, eh?”

“Sure is, whatchyou and de wife doing dis evening, over?”

“Just sitting on da deck enjoying us a couple cocktails before suppa and da bugs carry us away, over.”

“Oh yea, just got me one poured and gonna do da same now, over.”

“Well, you have yourself a good night now, over.”

“You betcha, you too, over and out.”

Oh how I miss the days of listening to those folks talk. It was pretty much the same thing every day but the familiarity of their voices and their appreciation for the simple things in life had a soothing effect on the soul. It kept everyone in the community knitted together. Did we all need to know what White Snake had for breakfast? Of course not, but knowing it created a sense of intimacy with that person whether or not you were the one talking on the other end. Our lives were all intertwined and so much richer for it. Some people still use the CB to communicate on Saganaga but it sure isn’t as many as before and with a cell phone tower coming I wonder if it will cease altogether?

I think about Covid and isolation and wonder about communication. What if we had CB communication with everyone in our neighborhoods? What if you heard your neighbor’s voice every day or knew what they had for breakast? Would we have felt as isolated during Covid? Would it make a difference how you treat your neighbors? I don’t know, just a thought.  Wood Duck clear and 10/10.

Gunflint Trail Communications

CB List from Ken Berzinski


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Birth on the Gunflint Trail

I wonder if that headline got you? No new human babies at Voyageur Canoe Outfitters or anywhere else on the Gunflint Trail that I know of. There is however other births or rebirths happening on the trail and in the surrounding Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

It’s amazing what a little rain does to the trees. It makes them green up substantially almost overnight. On the forest floor plants are emerging like fiddle head ferns and marsh marigolds while on rocky outcrops I’ve spotted what I call pink corydalis, Corydalis sempervirens, or Rock Harlequin I guess it’s called.

Stolen from web

Baby animals are also appearing. It’s this time of the year we see new bear cubs, fox kits and moose calves. If you’re on the Gunflint Trail keep your eyes on the ditches for bears as they like to eat the newly sprouting grass this time of year. Also be on the lookout for fox as they sometimes have their young in the culverts beneath the roadway.  And if you want to see moose calves then look for a momma moose and the calf won’t be far behind.

It’s a great time to be on the Gunflint Trail or in the Boundary Waters. Book your trip today with Voyageur Canoe Outfitters!

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Boundary Waters Fire

Fire in the Boundary WatersIt’s in the news so I thought I should at least mention it in my blog. There’s a small fire burning on the other side of the Boundary Waters that started on May 17th from a lightning strike. It is northwest of Bezhik(Beigeik) Lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness on the LaCroix Ranger District of the Superior National Forest. According to MNICS status update today, “The fire area received ½ of an inch to ¾ of an inch of rain. Minimal growth was recorded along the fire perimeter. On site assessments confirmed that 4 structures on private property were destroyed by the fire on May 18 when it exited the Wilderness near the Moose Loop Road. One cabin and three outbuildings were lost…  A Forest Closure Order is in place for Forest Road 464 (Moose Loop), Forest Road 465, BWCAW Entry Point #8 Moose River South, BWCAW Entry Point #76 Big Moose Trail.”

In other news… We received some rain on the Gunflint Trail the last few days and we needed it. Things were getting dry and I feared for the crispy blueberry plants. We’ll have to see what the heat earlier in the week did to the crop and if the rain we received will revive them, my fingers are crossed as last year was not a good blueberry year.


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Busy in the Boundary Waters

When you see a headline that says, “A Busy Year Ahead in the Boundary Waters,” what does that mean to you? Does it conjure up images of people filled streets during the great get together of the Minnesota State Fair? Does it look like a recreational lake near the Twin Cities where jet skis cross the wakes of speed boats pulling water skiers behind? Is it beaches with people packed side by side like sardines during a pre-covid spring break? To say the Boundary Waters is going to be busy this summer is a bit confusing to me and if it perplexes me then what does it do to people who have never visited the BWCA?

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is a wilderness area that restricts the number of visitors allowed to enter at each  entry point every day. Historically popular entry points are entry points that are directly on a wilderness lake that don’t require a portage to reach the actual entry point. Brule Lake is one of these BWCA entry point lakes people love because you can pull into the landing parking lot, unload your canoe and gear, get onto the water and directly paddle to a wilderness campsite.  There are so many campsites to choose from without ever having to portage except when there isn’t.

How can there not be an open campsite on Brule Lake when there are way more campsites than the 7 entry point permits allowed on any given day? It’s because people are no longer using these lakes as an entry point into the BWCA, they are using them as their Boundary Waters destination lake. In the past people entered these lakes, paddled through them and portaged to another lake. The next day they would pull up stakes, paddle, portage and move on to another BWCA lake and so on and so forth.

Here’s what happened to me one time when I set out to use Brule Lake as a Boundary Waters base camp destination. It was in the fall on a late Friday afternoon by the time a teacher friend of mine and another companion paddled away from the landing at Brule Lake. In our canoe we had packs, a cooler packed with fresh meat for meals, camp chairs, a blow up air mattress, fishing rods, tackle boxes and much more.  We paddled the shoreline and passed campsites occupied with other people, we could see campfire smoke rising from campsites in distant bays and folks fishing from rocky points at other campsites.  The sun sets early in the fall and as dusk quickly descended upon us we found ourselves standing at a portage into Vernon Lake. It’s a relatively short portage, just 49 rods, but it’s steep and rocky and looking at all of the gear in the canoe we knew we were not packed to successfully portage into another lake under a dark sky. Back in the canoe, exhausted from paddling the length of the lake on both the south and north shoreline, maybe 16 miles or more, we found a lonely campsite straight out from the landing and beached the canoe.

Exhausted, they set up their tent, I hung my hammock and we breathed a collective sigh of relief. We weren’t the first folks to experience this and we certainly weren’t the last. On any given day people are rushing to get to their Boundary Waters entry point and make the most of their precious time off. Most people don’t get on the water at first sunlight and spend their first day traveling to interior lakes of the BWCAW because they don’t have enough time off and want to get on the water as soon as they can. No one plans to not find a campsite but during a “busier” BWCA season we might need to adjust the way we think and pack accordingly.

As a Boundary Waters canoe trip outfitter who has outfitted folks into the wilderness since 1993 I’ve seen the ebb and flow of visitors and am aware of travel patterns. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the trends of how people are camping in the BWCAW.  Take a look around a campsite or peek inside of a latrine and you’ll quickly be able to deduce more people are staying on entry point lakes.

What do these “busy” lakes look like to a person who has never been to the Boundary Waters? On the south west side of Brule Lake there is an almost three mile stretch of shoreline without one campsite on it and on the northwest side another almost two mile stretch of shoreline without a campsite.  Brule Lake has an area of 4272 acres, measures eight miles from east to west, one mile from north to south, is 78 feet deep in places yet only has about 30 campsites on it.  It’s 1000 acres bigger than Lake Waconia in Minneapolis and four times the size of the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes, Lake Harriet, Lake Calhoun, Lake of the Isles, Cedar Lake and Brownie Lake. 

BWCA canoe camping

Boundary Waters Canoe Trip

I hope you have a better picture in your mind of what a busy Boundary Waters looks like because in reality, it isn’t busy at all. Yes, the campsites at entry point lakes might all be occupied but even if there were 2 times the number of campsites on Brule Lake it still wouldn’t be called “busy” by most people.  Would some locals think Brule was busier than it has been in the past 20 years? Probably. But it certainly isn’t busier than it was during the 20 years before that when there were resorts on the lake, cabins dotting the shoreline, float planes landing and motor boats zooming around. It isn’t busy at all compared to most lakes elsewhere in the world.

Busy is in the eye of the beholder I guess. All I know is if you want solitude in the BWCA it most times doesn’t even take a portage to find it. It’s there on the entry point lakes and it’s on the interior lakes where you will find fewer people. Will all permits on every day of the summer be booked in advance this summer? Will entry point lakes continue to have fewer campsites available? Probably, but that’s an issue only the USFS can remedy by adding more campsites to wilderness lakes. Many of the lakes that are easy to get to can accommodate way more people. The USFS can use the data they collect every year, add and adjust the number of campsites on these lakes and the Boundary Waters still wouldn’t be busy.

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Boundary Waters Fishing Opener

Boundary Waters fishingIt’s difficult to believe this weekend is the Minnesota Fishing Opener but here it is. The excitement is in the air as folks make last minute preparations for the big day.  Boats on trailers, tackle boxes organized and bait in buckets all ready for the fishing opener. It’s also a popular weekend for folks to head north to open up their cabins after having been away all winter long.

Over the years we’ve owned and operated Voyageur Canoe Outfitters we’ve lost a few of those people and miss their smiling faces. I miss talking to them as they purchased their fishing license or topped off their gas tank prior to heading out on the lake. One fellow I especially miss is Grandpa Bay. He had a trailer in the little bay of the Seagull River and he used to drive tow boat for us on Saganaga Lake. He always had his fishing buddy Pug along and a story to tell.  When he was going fishing he would never just say he was going fishing, he liked to say he was going to irritate some trout or drown some worms.

No doubt there are Boundary Waters campers set up in their favorite wilderness lakes ready to do the same tomorrow. Amazingly it looks like it’s going to be a great weekend weather wise with no snow in the forecast and temperatures in the 60’s and 70’s all week long. Don’t let the air temperature fool you, the water temperature is freezing so wear your life vest and be safe! Here’s hoping you irritate those trout into attacking your lure and your drowned worms look like a tasty treat to a northern pike.


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Mother’s Day and More on the Gunflint Trail

Here’s hoping your Mother’s Day is a special day. Take a Mom fishing for free is happening this weekend in Minnesota so hopefully some of you took advantage of the opportunity and spent some time on a lake.  The spring peepers are peeping, the grouse are drumming and moose calves are out and about. With the ice off of the Boundary Waters lakes people are even camping and paddling in the BWCA already. If you’re planning to visit the Boundary Waters then be sure to contact us so we can reserve your entry point permit for your trip. Don’t wait too long as there are some dates where just a few entry point permits are available. We’d love to see you at Voyageur this summer!

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Posted in BWCA, Gunflint Trail

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