Fishing is always good, every once in a while so is the catching (So Says Alvin)
Our first day trip from camp. Windy, rainy and cold on a fair-sized lake. We caught occasional Pike and a couple of small-mouth bass as we made our way around the lake. Each bay, point and any odd structure received a couple of casts. Spinners, jigs, spoons, and minnow lures all seemed to catch fish. We were looking for a good underwater shelf in 5-15 feet of water near deep water for a bigger school of fish to feed. North east wind not so good but fishing from a canoe in a remote wilderness setting. Great!
After 61 trips to the BWCAW I can say this is a common scenario. Below are some of my personal tips on wilderness canoe fishing.
Find the fish
Drifting down the shoreline towards a bay Alvin found a nice Pike as well as a flat where the fish could be. A few casts later and we began to pick up walleye. ranging from 16″-24″ walleye we proceeded to pick up a couple of meals worth for our group of nine. It’s best to keep fish that when filleted they will fit in the pan. I was reminded that with the invention of the knife any fish fillet will fit in the pan!
We caught enough fish on this trip to supply a Friday night all you can eat VFW fish fry in a small town. Plenty of walleye and Northern Pike with a smattering of Blue Gill, yellow Perch,Small-mouth and Large-mouth bass. Some hooked outside the mouth which usually means they were too ambitious for their own good. By law they must be released and we are happy to oblige.
Catch the fish
We have some favorite lures for BWCA fishing from a canoe in different situations. 1) Flutter spoons. I assemble my own and buy in bulk. I cannot say enough about a 4″lightweight narrow spoon that flutters all over the place on the slow sink. We catch every species on this hook, especially on shore lines and over weed beds where fish need some time to dart out and take it before it hits the weeds. A small jig of the rod and the spoon rises quickly to flutter slowly down again. deadly. We often put a big single hook on it for ease of releasing fish. A mouth spreader and long nose pliers help save fish who swallow this lure before hook set, especially the large fish to release. To date the largest lake trout in our party was caught on a flutter spoon 36 1/2″ that’s a 20 lb fish released with no camera handy. Care to go 15 portages to catch another one like it? they are available fellow wilderness canoe anglers.
2) Jigs, I use these a lot. Bring bare jig heads of various sizes and colors and start trying tail combinations. In the BWCA bring some white Gulp twister tails and in this case some large Chartreuse double tails on a quarter oz jig head rigged with a spinner…who would have thought. If you want to lug leaches and minnows into the wilderness, go for it. I have brought in some tiny hooks and caught large Shiner minnows from the lake.
3) Minnow lures. Deadly in throwing behind a slow paddled canoe or casting the shore line or weed beds. Floating, sinking, suspended, deep runners, 2″-5″ lures. I bring in four of these type lures and hope I do not lose them. Expensive.
4) Spinners. For shallow rivers, shallow rocky areas, and near the reeds I use these lures mostly for Bass and Walleye. Pike love to swallow them and even the large bluegill will have a whack at them. This last trip I caught 4 species of fish on one spinner…Oh what fun it is! I also saved some large pike with my jaw spreader and long nose pliers as they literally tried to swallow this hook.
5) Top water plugs. When the water is perfectly calm, I use this lure quite successfully. Monster Small-mouth bass seem to come from the other side of the lake to munch on a large Zara Spook. A great camp site lure for sure. If you really want a laugh put it over some Northern Pike. These fish are extremely over-zealous bad shots when it comes to top-water lures. they swirl and miss, explode three feet out of the water and jump over it, skid across the water towards the lure from four feet away. They are not graceful when they miss. Sometimes I can hear their thoughts “Uh-Oh I’m out of the water, what do I do?” then they stiffen up like a rubber fish and belly flop, only to try it again. One five pounder finally connected the 10th time. By the way, take your time. cast, sit, small twitch, sit, twitch, twitch back and forth a little (called walking the dog), sit, twitch…you got it. let it go under a split second before crossing his eyes or it’s a miss.
6) Slip Bobber. I hear they work well. I am not a bobber fisherman. I bring one in my pack and have never used it, yet.
7) Lake Trout lures. Heavy Spoons, vertical jigging and casting lures like a pencil jig are pike, walleye and Lake trout getters in deeper and or crystal clear water. Try bringing a Blue Fox Pixie Spoon for lake trout because they work. When you paddle across a lake trout lake, throw out a large Fire Tiger Rapala behind the canoe. I have caught up to six lake trout going across one lake with this lure and caught several trout this way on several lakes.
Finally, eat the fish
1) Fillet the fish boneless including taking the Y bones out of northern pike. Bring some fish mix, season it the way you want it, and fry in a pool of cooking oil. make the oil hot enough to spatter in the oil or you end up with everything mushy and oil-soaked fish batter. Do not get too hot or it makes the oil turn rather unhealthy (actually somewhat poisonous).
2) Boil Boneless fillets in salt water (stay with me here) Bass is the best this way. After boiling for roughly 5-7 minutes (medium fillets) you can either add the meat to a good beans and rice dish or put it on the plate drained and hot. have some melted butter with garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Ideally use the Miners mix XXX-Garlic as it has everything in it.
3) bacon Wrap your fillets, put them in tin foil with some other seasonings and put in the fire or on top of the grate to turn now and then till done. Shoo away the bear or eat fast as they can smell this five miles away.
4) Put fish fillets in a basket and roast over the fire. A nice olive oil and a bunch of seasoning will make a tasty meal.
5) Just throw the fish back. If not… Poke the whole fish with a stick, knock off the skin and scales and eat fish as it gets done in layers…It’s nasty but I say this for my friends who forgot all the necessary fixings and had to resort to a last-ditch effort of eating before throwing all the fish back.
Good fishing, Thank the Good Lord for your catch, I hope this was a helpful Blog…I would love your comments as well. …Gary