BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
May 18 2021
Number of Permits per Day: 1
Elevation: 1249 feet
North Kawishiwi River - 29
The Big Insula Pike Trip - Oct 2007
September 28, 2007
Number of Days:
Once the thought of a late-season BWCA trip announced itself, we had trouble dismissing it. Within the span of a couple of weeks this trip came together.
We’d heard the horror stories of the aluminum highway flowing through Lake One, & the stories of the excellent fishing on Lake Insula. Always ones to seek out smaller lakes, less popular entry points, & low-density populations, the thought of a late season trip to this popular entry point appealed to us.
We pulled up to the entry point on a beautiful fall afternoon, putting the canoe in the water around 3PM. Our target was Lake Three, camp 1493, highly recommended by kremer08.
But first we had to dodge traffic on Lake One – holy aluminum canoes, batman! We counted nineteen canoes on Lake One. Nineteen. It was September 28th, right? We feared for the quiet of our planned trip.
Not to worry. Lake Two held only one canoe, glimpsed from afar, & we saw only one more on Lake Three. Clearly the 70 rods worth of portages between One & Two were enough to discourage the masses. It was a quiet, easy paddle & we set up camp on the beautiful, if worn, site recommended by kremer08 (thanks!).
Day two dawned gloomy & cool – no sun-dappled Saturday for us. We pushed off late, as is our habit, because we’re lazy. We paddled Lake Four & jumped the first of two quick portages into Hudson. Here a note about high water. That first 25 rod portage empties just above the head of a rapids flowing into Four, & with the fierce rains that inundated the BWCA in September 2007, the rapids were pounding hard. The launch was about three feet from the start of the riffles. We managed not to slip or drop a paddle. It was good. A thunderboomer caught us just as we unloaded for the “long” portage into Insula, so we stopped & caught a few smallies at the bottom of the rapids. It, too, was good.
Insula’s a beautiful lake, all bays & islands & big water, which we were reminded of by the stiff wind springing up in the wake of the thunderboomer. We decided on the second campsite on the south side of Insula & went wave-crashing, underestimating them as always. But we made it.
The campsite was, again, worn, but beautiful. And another goal – a real, live sand beach in the BWCA – greeted us. It was kind of surreal. We spent a little time wading & digging our toes into the sand before setting camp, making dinner, & doing just a touch of fishing. We went to sleep happy in our sandy paradise & realized we’d only seen one other canoe the entire day.
Day three: cooler still, windy, drizzly. Damp. Fishing time on big Insula.
We caught a couple of small walleyes & after a period of inactivity, switched over to pike. We caught a few snakes, a few respectable fish, & then the trip...changed.
I hooked a fish on the bottom in about 20’ of water with my Dr. Spoon & it reacted immediately like a big fish, coming along agreeably towards the boat. I dragged it for a while & saw the whale’s back come up towards the surface. It must have seen me, or the canoe, or both. It RAN.
My drag, set correctly on the smaller pike we’d been tussling with, sizzled. My rod bent. The canoe lurched forward under the propulsion of the big pike. I yelled something incomprehensible. The pike ran towards shore. I shouted at John to paddle us out from the rocks. I didn’t want to lose the beast. We fought for about five minutes until it surfaced again. Not liking the looks of us, it took off again.
We played this game a couple more times, the runs shortening, thankfully, because my wrist was starting to hurt. Now, the fun begins. I’ve landed plenty of 30” pike by hand, but this fish was in another league, so we decided to land the canoe to release it. Up it came to the rocks & took off again, & again, & again. Finally we got ahold of her. Concerned with the long fight I didn’t even take her out of the water for a photo. I knew it was the right thing to do, but...(&*^&*^ I wish I had a picture of her! We marked her length against a paddle & measured it later at 42”.
A monster. My friend John said, “Just touching that fish made my trip!” Mine, too.
The balance of the day proved anticlimactic. More drizzle, more little eyes & smaller pike, & an early, damp bedtime.
It was time to quit Insula. We’ll be back.
Retracing our steps on a warm, grey morning, we encountered our first people in two days on the portage into Hudson. Two moose hunters with a, a...moose haunch.
These guys had nads the size of bowling balls. We talked to them walking back over the portage & at the end. They had: 4 haunches, two buckets full of tenderloins & other meat, a big rack, two packs, & a heavy square-sterned aluminum canoe they carried in tandem. For those keeping score at home, that’s fourteen, 1-4, trips across this 104 rods. They estimated each haunch, lashed to a birch branch, weighed around 100 lbs. & each bucket around 60. It was about 10AM. They looked whipped. One, sitting with his head down, breathing hard, said “I know we don’t look it, but this is one of the best days of our lives.”
We spent the rest of the day on Hudson, catching a few more pike, smallies, & small eyes. We paddled the long, winding creek (the Ahmoo River?) running south of our island campsite until our progress was blocked by a flimsy beaver dam, & what we believed to be the creek from Tremolo Lake flowing in noisily from the east.
In the still of the day the clouds began to break, & the sun reappeared, temps surging into the low 60s. I took off my shirt just to be able to say I went topless in the BWCA in October. The warm sun felt magnificent.
I’m not sure of any of the other campsites on Hudson, but I’d highly recommend the island campsite. I suspect with any serious effort, one could catch fish off the sharp drop right out front, too. Reluctantly, we retired for our last night of peace in the BWCA.
Our last day of relaxing was anything but relaxing.
The day dawned calm & nice. We took off at leisurely pace on Hudson, & bounced down into Lake Four. The wind started to pick up a little, & my buddy John decided he needed to do some adjusting. We stopped behind an island on Lake Four & I took a couple of casts with the spinnerbait. The swirling wind pushed us a little, little more, until the wind caught us & started us towards shore quickly. I rifled my spinnerbait back as fast as I could, & just as it cleared the water a pike, at least ten pounds, shot out of the water within arm’s reach, missing the airborne spinner. Scared the crap out of me. Repeated casts in the area proved the pike wasn’t dumb & we moved on. I might have cursed a little.
Coming to the expanse of Lake Three, we saw only a little wave action & chose to shoot across the lake rather than cling to the shore. Mistake! The wind rose like an awakened banshee & we found ourselves in the middle of the lake with waves suddenly over the sides. We gave up & turned north, riding the wind towards shore. Ruddering slowed us to a 5MPH clip, no paddling. That was some wind!
We turned & fought across the next open stretch. Waves were smashing the shoreline rocks & sending spray six feet in the air. There was a split second, just before the opening to Lake Two, where I thought we were gonna get slapped on the rocks too. We slipped through. Waiting on the other side were a canoe & kayak, looking out at the wild lake & evidently waiting to see if we survived. The balance of the paddle was relatively tame & we pulled into the well-used landing happy to be out of the wind & headed for a clean shirt & dry feet.
The post-mortem was entirely positive. Great trip. Few people, no bugs, the biggest pike either of us had seen, & a good stretch of decent weather. We resolved as we climbed into John’s truck. Whether October of 2008 or 2009, we’ll definitely be back for another late fall trip.