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Boundary Waters Quetico Forum
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      Planning first trip ever!



member (17)member
01/28/2009 10:19AM
OK, so my friend from college and I are heading to the BW at the end of July/early August this summer. He has gone once but this is a first time for me. I am stocking up on reading materials about fishing, and camping in the area but I thought I would post here to get some other opinions. Since this is my first time, what are some things I should definately be aware of while planning my trip? Like, how long in advance can I reserve a spot on a lake? What are the bugs like in early August? I have faith that you will help me plan out this amazing adventure to the fullest! Thanks
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9th Bearded Infantry
distinguished member (388)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/28/2009 10:27AM
I've been to the BW 2 times and going back for a third this summer. Didn't start getting into what a valuable resource this site is until a couple months ago. Wish I found this site before my previous trips. Utilize the search function above and you'll find more useful info than you can imagine.

Beware though, this place is addicting. I'm looking on these boards most every day now. You'll find some excellent tips on fishing, gear, how to pack, what to do, what not to do and come upon the occassional debate which I find interesting to read.

Best advice I can give is to read up as much as you can. You have plenty of time to stock up on gear and what not. Try to avoid buying everything at once. Even though it's tempting to go crazy buying stuff, pace yourself. You have time. Planning the trip and acquiring gear is all part of the fun of the trip. Makes you vested in vs a regular vacation where you just book a flight, hotel and that's it. One thing you'll hear over and over, DON'T OVERPACK! You'll be lugging everything with you so avoid unnecessary and bulky items.

Good luck and have fun planning.
01/28/2009 10:54AM
First of all you don't "reserve " a spot on a lake. You have to get a BWCA Permit for an Entry Point into the BW. You can get this thru the US Forest Service or thru an outfitter. Once you have an entry point ( and you determine this point if it is available at the time you wish to go ) you are free to go anywhere in the BW you want. Camping is only permitted at a US Forest Service site and these are marked on maps. The are not marked in the wilderness but they will have an USFS firegrate and latrine. You can stay on one site for a maximum of 14 dyas. Read up on the rules and follow them as failure to do so can result in some hefty fines. Bugs are usually OK at that time of year but be prepared for them anyway. Watch the weather and be ready for sudden changes. Do some reading and see what area interest you and then post back here. There is a lot of information available and we need to know more what interests your group ( fishing , sightseeing , etc ) so recommendations can be given. But remember you have to carry everything in and back out so pack light. Good luck in your selection. Izzy
member (17)member
01/28/2009 11:13AM
We will positively be there primarily for the fishing, walleye and pike are what we hope for. If we can do some hiking around the area that would be fun as well. Our biggest concern is that we don't want to arrive on a site that is loaded with visitors, especially family campers. We really want to rough it and ideally like to have somewhere to ourselves that includes awesome fishing. Once we get our entry point do we still have to reserve a camp site or is it kind of first come first serve? Thanks!
distinguished member(4547)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
01/28/2009 11:26AM
You don't have to worry about rubbing elbows with a large group of family campers. In fact, you can get remote enough where the rare passage of a canoe is reassuring (in case you start wondering if the rest of the rat, I mean human, race was wiped out by a virus). A young fellow like yourself (you did use the word "awesome," didn't you?) should be able to reach one of the more remote areas, if that is what you really want.

I don't think hiking from a camp site is a common option. The woods are a little on the dense side.
distinguished member(840)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/28/2009 11:49AM
Each lake in the BW is different as is some lakes may only have one camp site while others may have 30. In general most camp sites are at least 100 yards apart, not like car camping where you are 10 feet apart.
The slight drawback is sound travels far in the BW, it is common to hear conversations from across the lake. If you are looking for more privacy you will have to work a little harder for it (longer portage).

You will find great info on this web site on ways to trim your gear, clothing and fishing gear.

Enjoy your trip.

01/28/2009 02:25PM

"We will positively be there primarily for the fishing, walleye and pike."
If you are really serious about catching fish, you might consider June. It gets a little slow in the dog days of August.
01/28/2009 02:42PM
firsttime....after you get your permit, it's first come first serve at campsites. Only one group to a campsite and you must stay at a designated campsite.
distinguished member (118)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/28/2009 03:58PM
Bugs can be a concern, but if there are any, it'll probably be the unofficial Minnesota state bird (mosquitoes) and some of those annoying biting black flies. I always bring along some bug dope that has a high concentration of a chemical called DEET in it, like Muskol brand repellant. The important thing I've found is that when I spray myself with bug dope, I do it BEFORE I enter the canoe and away from all of my fishing gear. Almost nothing works better to keep fish off your line than a good healthy taste of bug dope. Repellant also does not go good with fishing line either, so I try to avoid spraying any on my hands, try putting a good dose on a bandana and then wear the bandana around your neck, or around the brim of your fishing hat. I also like to wear long sleeved nylon based shirts up north, this will also help to keep the bugs off you, as well as regular long pants.
Also, I would suggest a good pair fishing sunglasses with POLARIZED lenses. The sunglasses will help keep the sun's glare from hurting your eyes and help you to see much better thru the water- yes, you can actually see through the water on most lakes up in the BWCA. No need to get a fancy pair of $150 sunglasses, I buy the cheapy $20 fishing glasses at my local Walmart and they work fine for my trips.

Try fishing early in the morning, before 9am, and anytime after dinner, 7pm, till dark. Walleyes especially like to feed when the sun is not beating down on them. Look for structure along the shoreline, points of land sticking out into the lake, rockpiles, trees that have fallen over into the water, etc... VERY IMPORTANT- if the lake you are on has any islands, FISH AROUND THEM!!!! Islands are one of the key types of structure on any lake that has any. You can even try to land the canoe on an island and walk around the shoreline of the island fishing from land- it's fun and usually will produce some type of action.
Hope this helps and good luck with your trip, Dave
member (17)member
01/28/2009 04:25PM
Do other people feel this way about the fishing really slowing down in august? Because my friend wont be in the USA until mid July at the earliest and he is who I plan on making this trip with. Is there a noticeable difference in fish activity if we couldn't make it up there until mid July? We are both fly-fisherman as well and could use some tips for fly-fishing this area. We are only used to fly-fishing for trout in tiny streams in Iowa.
01/28/2009 05:55PM
I go exclusively in aug and Sept and the fishing can be real good especially early morning and evenings. But I've also seen it slow. Seems like when it's high pressure (sunny days) it's tougher. If it's cloudy you could be in for good fishing.

Fly fishing on the surface might be tough at that time of year. I would bring along spinning rods too. If you're not sure about lure choices start a thread in the Fishing section of this board. We love to talk about lures!

Or if you want to go with live bait exclusively you might want to talk to the resident live bait guru who is also an outfitter in Ely and can outfit your needs. His name is The Great Outdoors (on this board) or "Minnow Man" as I like to call him. :)
distinguished member(5060)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
01/28/2009 06:17PM
Get yourself a copy of "Exploring the Boundary Waters" by Daniel Pauly. It has a great introduction to the area including geology, rules, equipment lists, etc. and detailed descriptions of trips from each of the entry points in the bdub. (Sure is nice not to have to think about Gdub any longer...)
distinguished member(5060)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
01/28/2009 06:25PM
Also, get yourself a copy of a Fisher or McKenzie map that covers the entire BWCA. Not really useful for an actual trip (not enough detail for navigating) but nice for trip planning- and dreaming!
01/28/2009 06:31PM
Yeah, the big laminated overview of the Q and bdub looks nice on the wall in my spare room. Sometimes I'll pull it down and do a little dreamin'.
distinguished member(6451)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
01/28/2009 07:20PM
My son and I have taken mid-August trips the last three years and have found the fishing to be quite good. Plus the weather is nicer and the bugs are way down. But early to mid June is prime time for fishing most species.
distinguished member(2025)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/29/2009 05:33AM
Since you have plenty of time before your trip, contact the several outfitters associated with this site. They will fill your mailbox with great info and some even send complimentary maps for planning purposes. I have two maps marked with my intended route here at the office I stare at every day.

One map came from Canadian Waters and the other good planning map came from Sawbill. Thanks to both of them and the others for great stuff! I ended up with Tuscarora on Round Lake.

109 days and counting....

member (17)member
01/29/2009 07:09AM
So I understand that for two adults the entry point fees are $18 per person, totaling $36. Correct? And if so... Are there other fees that I need to cover? I am trying to figure out how much it's going to cost just to have complete access to the BW without getting in trouble by Ranger Rick! And one more thing, I need a wilderness permit to pitch a tent in the BW correct?
distinguished member(5060)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
01/29/2009 07:27AM
Your permit is all you need to go anywhere you can get to in the bdub as long as you would like to be there (with the only restriction being 14 consecutive nights at the same campsite). To reserve a permit for your particular EP/date is $12 (or was last year, anyway- haven't made one yet this year). I would highly recommend reserving a permit so you know that you will be able to get in where you want to go on the date you want. Note- a permit is only good for that date, you cannot go in earlier or later.
member (17)member
01/29/2009 07:44AM
Ok, I am starting to wrap my head around this. I still have one question about permits though. For a week long trip am I only going to need an entry permit for the day I head into the waters? Or will I need permits for each day I will be camping?
distinguished member(5060)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
01/29/2009 07:49AM
just for the day you go in
01/29/2009 07:53AM
Yeah, it's still incredibly cheap to camp in the BW. But don't forget your fishing liscense if you are out of state.
distinguished member(5060)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
01/29/2009 09:01AM
Or in state, for that matter. And you will need a trout stamp to fish on any designated trout waters- whether that's what you're fishing for or not.
distinguished member(766)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/29/2009 09:10AM
This board is great for information and to get your questions answered. If you want to read about how an entire trip goes, go to the Trip Reports section and read some of those. Also buy a copy or two of some back issues of the Boundary Waters Journal. That's got some good stuff in it also.

Will you be going through an outfitter? They are tremendous sources of information. Once you decide which general section of the BWCA you want to go to (Ely area, Gunflint area, Sawbill area, etc) use an outfitter from that specific region. They know their areas well. They can even get your permits for you.
01/29/2009 12:42PM
“try putting a good dose [DEET] on a bandana and then wear the bandana around your neck”
I don’t recommend this. I did it once and got a bad rash. It looked like I had been hanged. Besides, it is my understanding that DEET is only effective on skin.

01/29/2009 12:44PM
correct. deet is activated by skin. its ineffective when applied to clothing.
member (17)member
01/29/2009 03:10PM
Anybody know of any good books detailing the edible plants/vegetables in the BW? It would be nice not to have to carry as much and say I foraged for food too!
01/29/2009 04:12PM
"Anybody know of any good books detailing the edible plants/vegetables in the BW? It would be nice not to have to carry as much and say I foraged for food too!"

For the time of year you're going, stick with blueberries, raspberries, and fish. AND don't count on any of them to supplement your diet. Look at them as a bonus if you happen on them.
distinguished member(2025)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/29/2009 05:12PM
Re food:

Ditto per Bannock, don't plan on living off the land unless you have done it before. I don't think you'd starve, but I think it would keep you from having a more enjoyable time.

My experience (backpacking & SAR- not canoeing) is to bring at least one day's extra food depending upon the circumstances (time of year, weather, terrain, remoteness, number of people in party, etc.) for "just in case" purposes. If you can catch fish everyday and eat hardy ...great.

I always bring food back from a trip and consider it insurance.

01/29/2009 09:45PM
I always throw in a freeze dried dinner or two as food insurance. Haven't needed them the last few years so I have a stockpile for this years trip.

If you're not sure if you're packing too much you could make a list of everything you intend to bring and we can throw in our two cents about it.
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