BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
July 02 2022
Number of Permits per Day: 27
Elevation: 1356 feet
Moose Lake - 25
Ensign to Disappointment - 2021
June 12, 2021
Number of Days:
We woke up early and headed back to town to meet the rest of the group for breakfast. After the normal oversize helpings at Brittons Cafe we stopped at Spirit of the Wilderness to pick up leeches for the week. They were excited to see me as I had called the week before to reserve 6 pounds of leeches. I'm sure they were wanting to see what type of crazy man would need that much bait. Everyone came out to meet us since they hadn't sold that much bait to anyone in a long time. But hey, 8 guys go thru a lot of bait.
After we were done in town we headed back up to Williams & Hall to get checked in and get our fishing licenses. We packed all of our gear into their boats for the tow up to the Newfound/Splash portage. It was the first time we had ever taken the tow and it was definitely worth it. A quick paddle across Splash then the quick hop over the next short portage and we were on Ensign.
We paddled to the west end and picked Site #1222. It sits up high on a hill overlooking the lake. It is a bit of a hike from the landing but overall it was a decent site. There was enough room for us to make 4 tents work. After getting set up in camp we all headed out on the lake for some fishing. There was a slight breeze blowing, not terrible, just a decent chop. We headed to the island at the east end where the lake turns back to the north west. We picked up a few walleyes on slip bobbers before heading back to camp for a nice dinner of venison steaks and garlic mashed potatoes. After dinner we spent another hour fishing before heading back for bed. Not a bad first day. Easy traveling and our trip was just beginning.
I woke up early and fished from camp while waiting for my son to wake up. I caught a decent pike (about 30") right from camp. When he was up and around we headed out to find the walleyes. It took us a little bit but we picked them off a few out at a time. The rest of the group managed a few also so it looked like we were going to be having fish for dinner.
We got back to camp and cleaned fish right before a light rain blew thru the area for about an hour. Once it passed we were treated to a nice double rainbow.
After dinner it was back out on the lake for some more fishing. We were starting to put a pattern together and the walleye fishing was getting easier. Dark muddy bays seemed to be the ticket.
We woke up early again and were out on the lake ready to fish. We hit the bays where we had been catching fish and this morning the walleyes were active. We quickly limited out and release plenty more the rest of the morning. On our way back to camp we were treated to a nice suprise seeing a lone black wolf sunning himself on the rocks next to the lake. We got quite a few photos of him and it turned out to be the highlight of the trip and the start of an exciting day. As we were heading back to camp we met one of our group paddling away from the site. They were a little fired up as a bear had entered camp while they were preparing breakfast. I had heard quite a bit about bears being a problem on Ensign. We keep a pretty clean camp and have never had issues before but apparently our luck had run out today. We always hang our pack but in the excitement of the moment they left camp without taking care of the food packs. When we got back the bear had returned and made a mess of one of the packs. I think we scared him off as we approached before he could do to much damage to our food supply.
Once everyone was back to camp we made the decision that it would probably be in our best interest if we moved on. We were planning on actually having a nice relaxing trip basecamping on Ensign all week long but no one wanted the headache and stress of potentially more bear issues. It was decided we would move on to Disappointment as it is one of our favorite lakes. I quickly cleaned fish while everyone else packed up camp.
We left late morning for the long trip to Disappointment. We made good time and only stopped for a few minutes to enjoy Cattyman Falls. We made Disappointment late in the day and were worried we might not get one of our favorite sites. Every site was full except for #1385 so we grabbed it up. We would spend the rest of the week here.
After the long day we just enjoyed a nice fish dinner before lounging around camp. We all love to fish but were plenty tired after the long day of travel so we retired to our tents early.
Tuesday morning came and we woke up to a heavy fog. Once it burned off we were out on the lake. I've made a few trips to Disappointment so we started off searching for smallmouth bass and pike. We didn't smoke them but we found plenty of fish eager to bite. We caught quite a few smallmouth during the day fishing Quetico Mike's Zulu Rig. The walleyes managed to elude us the first day despite us visiting most of the spots that we had caught plenty of fish from in the past. Looks like we were going to have to spend some time searching around if were going to find them the next few days.
On Wednesday my son, and the rest of the camp, except for one other trip member decided to sleep in. While they slept we headed out to see if we could put a walleye pattern together. We picked up a few but nothing like the success we had experienced in the past.
One spot we visited had provided the single best day of fishing in the BWCA I have ever experienced. That day we bumped into a giant school of fish. We easily caught over 50 walleye that day in about 4 hours and returned the following day with nearly the same success. In fact, that day I caught a 27" walleye, a 41" pike , and a 20" smallmouth all within one hour. However, today was nowhere near that. All the areas we had been targeting were about 8-10 feet of water.
When we got back to camp we noticed the group camped across the lake had been more out in the middle of the lake and were catching a few fish. After lunch they packed up and headed out. That evening we moved out a little deeper and found a spot between an island and a point sticking out into the lake. WIth the wind direction from the SW it created some current/moving water thru the channel. We picked a few off including some decent size fish. Between 3 boats we probably caught about 30 fish. Looks like we had a good gameplan for the last day.
That night we had MRE's for dinner. I love to eat good food and MRE's just don't cut it for me but I choked it down. I was getting ready for "town food" and would definitely be ready on Friday to spend the day in Ely.
Our last full day on DIsappointment and the walleyes were going to be in trouble. It was a nice calm day and after some good fishing for most of the day targeting pike and smallmouth again we were back in the spot from the night before. The walleyes were eager to hit our leeches and jigs this evening and it was easily the best night of fishing for the trip. We caught several and were rewarded with a great fish dinner the last night of the trip. Along with a great sunset and loons being active it was the perfect bookend for another exciting BWCA week.
We woke up early and packed camp up to get to the Snowbank Lake portage early. We had checked the weather the night before and they were calling for wind so we wanted to hit the big lake early to beat it if we could.
NO LUCK! Despite being off the portage by 7:30am the wind was already kicking up. If anyone has ever been on that lake and had to deal with the winds and waves they can appreciate what we dealt with that morning. We soldiered thru tho and made the landing where we waited for Blaine from Williams & Hall to come pick us up. He wasn't surprised about our bear problem on Ensign and referred to the local population there as "circus bears".
It was great getting back to Moose Lake to take a quick shower and have a few complimentary beers from the outfitter. After that we headed into Town to do some shopping before finishing the day at the Ely Steakhouse for dinner.
One more night at Moose Lake and then the next morning we woke early to start the long drive back to Michigan. It was a great trip and my son is excited to get back for another visit.
My key takeaway from the trip was it is a good reminder that the fishing patterns can be completely different despite lakes being in the same area. On Ensign the fish were still shallow, less than 8 feet, and schooled up in shallow dark bottom bays. On Disappointment they were in 14 to 18 foot of water hugging the bottom. Fishing was good on both lakes but based on our experience with both lakes if you want quantity and numbers I would pick Ensign. If a little bit bigger walleyes are your thing then Disappointment would get the nod.
In fact, as I put the finishing touches on this trip report we are leaving tomorrow for Ely and plan on seeing new waters. We are entering at EP23, Mudro, and plan on spending the week on Crooked Lake. I'll try and put a report together before next year!!!