BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
December 09 2023
Number of Permits per Day: 1
Elevation: 1249 feet
North Kawishiwi River - 29
Kicking Back on the Kawishiwi II (2013)
May 21, 2013
Lake One (30)
Number of Days:
We left Rochester in the early afternoon and made it to Ely in just over five hours. Stopped at Spirit of the Wilderness to pick up our permit, one canoe and some other miscellaneous gear. It turns out that one of the group members went to high school in Rochester with Steven Nelson (owner of Spirit) back in the late 60's, though they didn't know one another then. Eventually we made it to Sir G's for dinner where we met a friend of mine from Ely who had just gotten out from a four or five day trip and he gave us a report of the weather and fishing. They apparently never took their rain gear off the whole time they were in and started growing gills. I was hoping the five day forecast that didn't include any rain would hold true. We then headed out to Timber Trail Lodge's bunkhouse for the night. It's a VERY nice facility.
We awoke at 4:30 and were to Britton's by 5:15. Ate a hardy breakfast as always, and then stopped at The Great Outdoors to pick up our minnows. Always good to chat with Jim and get the latest fishing updates. We then headed to our entry point, and arrived just before 8:00 a.m. The weather was cool, but dry and for the first time I think we had both the current and wind working in our favor for the trip in.
The trip was going very smoothly until after our last portage before the split in the Kawishiwi. As we paddled past a past a rocky point at the end of the rapids had just portaged around we saw an empty canoe floating in the middle of a small bay. We didn't know if someone had a medical emergency and fell out of the canoe or if it had drifted from a campsite up the river, though that seemed unlikely given the current and wind. We rounded up the canoe (note the BWCA.com sticker on the bow) and one member started blowing an emergency whistle to try to get the individual's attention, assuming nothing had happened to him/her. After a few minutes a solo tripper came around the point and expressed his appreciation for corralling his loose canoe. He had stopped to take some pictures of the rapids and it had blown off the shore. Because I didn't get his permission, I won't share his screen name, but after I got home I looked him on the site to find out he lives just west of Rochester. Small world.
We made it to our camp site on the north branch of the river just past the split by 10:00 or so, got camp set up and then went out fishing. My canoe partner for this trip, Brett, and I started fishing at the base of the first set of rapids on the south branch of the Kawishiwi, and on my first cast with a light action rod, 6 lb test and a 1/8 oz jighead I managed to land a 35" northern. A great start to the trip. Brett managed to catch a few northern from camp on a slip bobber and cisco and Gary hauled in a 20.5" small mouth. While the fisher weren't jumping into the canoes, this seemed like a very good start.
Unfortunately, the fishing started out very, very slow. Brett did manage to find two walleye in the channel between the split in the river and our campsite, but otherwise none of us had anything to show for our efforts. Thankfully things changed in the evening after dinner. Our depth finder had been marking fish right at the split in the river so we paddled to that spot and in the course of two hours or so I limited out on walleye and Brett managed to catch a walleye, a small mouth and a 13" crappie, a perfect trifecta!
My biggest concern when we got back to camp that evening was the forecast. Gary had brought a weather radio and the temp was to drop to 25 degrees. My new 15 degree bag and Exped SynMat 7 were going to get a real test. Thankfully I stayed quite comfortable, but it was cold.
Although it was cold, thankfully the sun was out and we could warm up with the fire and a hearty breakfast. We eventually made it out fishing by 9:30 or so and by then it had warmed up into the low 40's. Brett managed to snag two walleyes and I found three in the mouth of the North Kawishiwi. Nathan, one of the 14 year old boys on the trip successfully landed a 37" northern at camp on a slip bobber and cisco, and this was the largest fish of the trip. He also produced two very nice walleye later that morning. And Gary continued to pound the smallmouth, landing two fish in the 4-5 lbs range.
Saturday morning wasn't as cool as Friday, but there was still a chill in the air. The morning fishing was SLOW, and Brett and I paddled up to the 210 rod portage just past Conchu only to catch nothing. We didn't bother doing the portage, but it was a beautiful area of the river. If we weren't catching fish, at least we had a nice sightseeing trip.
As had been the pattern, however, the bite picked up after dinner. Brett and I returned to the rapids and found the walleye once again. While the bite wasn't aggressive, it was consistent and we found some really nice fish. About 9:15 or so I snapped my line on a snag and because neither of us had brought headlamps with us, I couldn't see to tie on a new jig so we figured we needed to call it quits. While we both really wanted to limit out, four walleye each wasn't a bad night.
I overslept on Sunday so we got a later start than I had wanted, but we managed to breakdown camp and get the fish cleaned and out of camp by 9:30. I figured even though we were paddling upstream, we could still make it to the entry point before noon. Things were going as planned until the next to the last portage. Brett and I got our canoe loaded and started to paddle away from shore when I made one very critical mistake: I started paddling on the wrong side of the canoe and got the bow of the canoe out into the current and the next thing I knew the current turned us 180 degrees and we were headed straight down the rapids we had just portaged around. This is when I was suddenly thankful for the four days of rain just before we entered because the rocks that are normally above the surface were at least a foot below the surface of the water. Even so, the entire time we're running the rapids I was thinking to myself, "I'm going to be buying a canoe, and my wife is going to kill me. I'm going to be buying a canoe, and my wife is going to kill me." Thanks to some nifty navigating on Brett's part we successfully made it through the rapids with the canoe intact, though we nearly swamped it trying to turn around in the current to get back to the portage. It was the wildest 20 second ride I've ever had in a canoe. Needless to say, the second time around I was very conscious of paddling to keep us out of the current.
Overall, a very good and relaxing trip, though it was much busier this time around. In years past we go in the Wednesday after opener, but going in over the Memorial Day weekend all but guaranteed we'd see more people. Glad we got the site when we did because we saw at least five or six groups scouting for a site on Friday and Saturday. But if you're looking for a place with decent fishing that's fairly accessible, this is a great destination.