BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
December 10 2023
Number of Permits per Day: 1
Elevation: 1650 feet
Bower Trout lake - 43
Ram Lake - May 2015
May 21, 2015
Number of Days:
This trip I was joined by my 3 buddies: George, Wog, and Mike. George, Mike, and I took off from Melrose around 1:00pm. The plan was to meet up with Wog in Duluth at my brother's house. We would then go grab our permit at the Duluth Pack store and head up to Grand Marais for the night. On our way to Duluth Thursday afternoon, we ran into a few small hiccups... The first was in Milaca when we got rear-ended! Getting rear-ended is unfortunate enough, until you remember you are pulling canoes on a trailer BEHIND you. As I hit the brakes hard and looked up in the rear view mirror, I knew the van following way too close behind us was going to hit us. He did hit us with a loud thud. Visions of the trip being over before it started flashed through my head! Now, the van was an older style one with a flat front and a very short hood. We pulled off to the side of the road to assess the damage. The canoes had shifted a little on the trailer. We were hauling the aluminum one on the bottom and my newly purchased kevlar one on top. After seeing the van, it was clear to see the aluminum canoe went right through the grill of the van. The kevlar canoe went right through the hood (which thankfully was fiberglass). Did I mention yet that I had just bought the kevlar canoe this winter and it was taking its first BWCA trip with me? My buddies had been joking with me all winter that they wanted to shoot my canoe because it was kevlar and they thought it would be bullet- proof (joking of course...). After we re-strapped everything and found nothing to be seriously wrong, I commented to the guys, "My canoe may not be bullet-proof, but it is van-proof!" As we neared Duluth, I called Wog, who was running late; stuck in traffic just outside the Cities. We told him we would go kill some time down in Duluth, grab the permits, and meet him at my brother's a little later than normally planned. We got our permits and checked out a few other shops and headed to my brother's place. We had just enough time to squeeze in a small whiffle ball game in before Wog arrived. We threw his gear in and headed up the shore. We decided to stop at Betty's Pies for dinner. Wog and I had eaten at Betty's on our way out from our trip to Pine last October. Wog and I got mocked as we both ordered the fish and chips. (I think the other guys were questioning our confidence in catching fish, since most of our meals were going to be centered around fish this trip...) We got up to Grand Marais and checked into the Aspen Lodge. They had a nice parking lot for trailers and it seemed this night there were just a few other fisherman staying there. We hit the hay early, knowing we would be rising early the next morning.
We awoke at 5:00am, showered, and headed out for an early breakfast at South of the Border Cafe. The place was filled with guys heading on fishing trips to Canada. We all had way too much to eat and then headed up the Gunflint Trail. On the way to Ram, we were very surprised to see how hard it had froze the night before. There was frost on everything. Only one vehicle at the parking lot, so we pulled to the other side of the lot and starting unloading. Shortly into the portage I was reminded about what I had heard of this one. It was a gradual uphill climb almost the entire way. For how cool it was this morning, it didn't take long for me to feel a little overdressed! I worked up quite a sweat with my backpack and canoe up this climb. I finally approached the end and saw the lake. What a relief! I made my way down that tricky end to the lake and snapped a few pictures. My first take on the lake, was that it was a nice, small lake that appeared to be a nice spot for our home the next couple of days. [paragraph break] We got the rest of the gear down to the lake, packed up the canoes and headed out! We checked out the site near the portage, just in case someone was at the other one. Not a bad site, just way off the water. Saw canoe landings in both directions down the shoreline a fair bit from camp. We changed course and headed down the lake to the western site. It was open! This was the one we were hoping for. We pulled up the canoes and unpacked our gear. As we spied the two small tent pads and started getting the tents set up, I had to see what time it was... It was 7:40am!!! We were out fishing by 8:30am. On a short four day trip, we were pretty much getting a bonus day of fishing. This was really going to help make this trip seem longer than the 4 days. We were all super excited to be lake trout fishing! I, personally, had read every article possible on fishing lake trout in canoe country (plus read every thread on this website twice...). Soon frustration set in, as we were getting tons of follows, but no strikes. I switched over to a jighead and twister tail and on my first cast, BANG! I hooked up. I insist to use ridiculously light line up in the BWCA, so he gave my ultralight and 2 pound test quite a battle. Wog had a small trout net that we used in vain, trying to at least get the head of the fish in the net. But, we did finally land it. I had caught my first ever lake trout! [paragraph break] Hunger led us back to camp for some lunch. We cooked some brats over a small fire and had some chips to go with it. We were still amped up about having that first laker on the stringer and the other guys wanted to get their own soon! After lunch, we hit the lake again and it didn't take long for Wog to have a nice hookup, also on a jig and twister tail. This fish fought and fought and when we finally got it boatside, we were floored to see a huge rainbow trout. It was such a beautiful fish! We wrestled it in and got a few pictures. [paragraph break] Soon after that, Wog got another strike and subsequently landed his first ever laker! The other guys continued to have follows, but just couldn't get one to latch on. We fished hard that first day and the wind became a little more problematic as the day went on. I was surprised to see how much a good wind could affect almost all of Ram Lake. During the afternoon we saw our first canoe of the trip: a solo paddler heading out today. We headed back to camp for one of our most anticipated meals, steaks over the fire! When we got to camp we also took a picture of our nice little stringer we had collected: [paragraph break] We collected a bunch of dead cedar and started a great fire for the steaks. Man, that was a pile of beef! I have everyone bring their own steak, so the sizes and varieties we get every year is quite funny. Especially when we learned Mike's pack had 2 huge ribeyes in it. Miraculously, all of the steak and instant potatoes were eaten! [paragraph break] We went out fishing until dark and Wog added another lake trout to his day. We caught some fish today, but George and Mike were yet to get on the board. We enjoyed a fairly short campfire, as everyone was pretty tired.
I am usually the first one up, but surprisingly this morning I awoke to the sound of Wog exiting the tent. It was already 7:30am! During breakfast preparations I kept thinking to myself, "we were fishing by this time yesterday!" We all needed the rest though, so it was welcome. We had sausage and blueberry pancakes for breakfast. [paragraph break] After dishes we hit the water for some more fishing. Our bites were so far and few between yesterday that we really didn't dial the trout in on depth/presentation, etc. It ended up being a very tough day on the water. The wind blew hard all day long! The only wind protected spot on the lake was the shallow bay near the portage on the north end of the lake. We fished for a few hours with no luck before lunch. We decided a meal of lake trout might change our luck! We made poor man's lobster for lunch with some instant noodles. We steaked the trout and threw them in our pot of bay leaves, peppercorns, salt, and what not. [paragraph break] Lunch was ok. Nobody was a huge fan of the trout that way. We ate them with some melted butter and lemon juice. Trout are definitely more oily and fatty than anything else I had ever eaten. We went back out and got battered by the wind some more. We saw our second canoe today: two guys heading onward from Ram. George had lake trout hooked on 2 different occasions. Both times the trout won! Reports of the second one was that it was somewhere near 30 inches, which would have been the largest fish of the trip. Both of them both just shook off... We tried a little bit of everything, but nothing was working. These lake trout were proving to be worthy foes! We returned to camp without a fish yet on the day. Dinner was tinfoil wrapped lake trout and rainbow trout. We had just gutted and headed them, stuffed the inside with seasonings and butter. We ate the fish with some instant rice. They again were decent, but not my favorite fish. The rainbow for it's size tasted very much like salmon. We did up the dishes and hit the water again, still hoping to catch that first fish of the day. The wind was finally dying down. About an hour before dark I heard some crashing in the woods, and I told the guys that it could be a moose heading our way. About a half hour later Wog and I were fishing away, banging around making noise, when I looked over seeing George and Mike doing all kinds of silent gestures. The were shushing us and giving us the "moose antlers" hand signs. Right before the creature hit the tree line it let out 2 huge snorts. We figured we were going to see a bull moose appear. BUT, seconds later a moose head popped out of the trees and looked at us on the lake. Right after that 2 little heads popped out underneath her. A mama moose with 2 little ones was only 20 yards from us! We were silently sitting right in the middle of the bay. No one moved for the longest time as they made their way down the shoreline, sticking very close to the edge of the woods. After they left, I told the guys that even though we had not caught a fish all day, Mother Nature tipped her cap to us, by giving us a truly amazing experience! [paragraph break] We returned to camp, bummed we hadn't caught a fish, but amazed at the size of that moose. This was only the second moose I had ever seen in the BWCA, the first was a bull on the Dahlgren River 2 and a half years earlier. We had some hot chocolate around the fire and game planned for the next day. We were hoping the weather would cooperate so we could day trip over to Little Trout Lake.
Wog and I both got up pretty early. We were both anxious to fish some new water today. We got coffee and breakfast started. From the way the morning looked, it was going to be a gorgeous day! [paragraph break] We made frypan bread and heated up some pre-cooked bacon. As breakfast was finished cooking, I couldn't help but notice two sets of snoring coming from the other tent. I went up and yelled "You have 5 minutes before Wog and I eat your share of breakfast!" We were joined rather quickly for breakfast. We laid out the day and decided we should make tracks and get going to Little Trout Lake. We packed up our lunch, gear, and whatnots and headed for the portage to Kroft Lake. The first 2 portages weren't too bad. They were just warm ups for the portage from Rum to Little Trout. The other guys named it "Death Mountain". It was pretty steep, up and down, but at least it wasn't too long. [paragraph break] We hit the water and started casting! Wog and I checked out the campsite right in front of the portage. It didn't seem that great for an island site. There just wasn't much view of the water. Shortly thereafter, we ran into a couple who was heading out today. They had camped on Little Trout for a couple of days. He asked how the fishing was and I told him we caught a few the first day, but got shut out the second day. He proceeded to tell us, they had been just slaying the lakers. His advice was to troll "Yozuri Pin Minnows" in blue. We thanked them for the info and they went on their way. We immediately went to our tackle boxes to see what we had that was comparable. I tied on a jointed husky jerk and Wog tied on a Shadow Rap. We paddled over to the other guys and shared our intel. Well, wouldn't you know it, within a half hour, Wog and I had both boated a laker! We made our way around the lake and caught up with George and Mike near campsite by the Misquah portage. As we chatted, George told us he had FINALLY caught his first laker. Then, he hooked into another right in front of us! He boated his second fish of the day. [paragraph break] We took a break at that campsite to eat our lunch of jerky and granola bars. We were all rooting for Mike at this point. He was the only one who hadn't caught a fish yet this trip. We headed back out, as the temps actually got hot out. I caught my second trout of the day north of the island. We were catching our trout in around 27 feet of water. I was a little surprised how deep they were. Then, Wog caught his second fish of the day, a real beauty! It was a very dark fish. I loved the coloration of that fish. [paragraph break] We had gotten separated from Mike and George again. But shortly after Wog had released that gorgeous dark trout, they came around the point, hooting and hollering. Mike had finally caught a trout! We decided it was time to clean fish and start making our way back. I took the opportunity to snap a picture of Mike's fish: [paragraph break] We headed to shore to clean some fish. In our hurried exit from camp this morning, we realized just George had packed a filet knife. Oh well! We took turns and filleted a few out that we were going to pan fry tonight. Then, we loaded up and headed back to camp. I would have loved to stay and keep fishing, but the guys were all content with the fish we had caught and the wind had started picking up a little bit. We got back to camp and although it was early we were all starving. We had worked up quite the appetite and burned through the calories from that little lunch. We decided to eat early and be out on the water at sunset of our last night. Tonight we were having pan-fried trout and hash browns. [paragraph break] Dinner was awesome! The lakers fried up very well! We had breaded them in Andy's Red fish coating. We fried them crispy and with our crispy hashbrowns, they made quite a meal! We had fried up three trout, which after we had chunked it up, ended up being a lot of fish! By the end of dinner it was gone! We did dishes and hit the water. This was my last chance to catch a rainbow! We fished and fished. Right before dark the fish were hitting mayflies all over the surface. I decided to run a small spinner right under the surface. I cast and retrieved that thing for at least a half an hour. Next thing I know, Wog tied on a little rooster tail and was cruising it under the surface. Bam! We catches his second rainbow of the trip! Then, bam!, he hooks into another rainbow. This is another bruiser, and after quite a battle it did shake free. That was our last action of the night. I congratulated Wog on his awesome trip. In 8 months he had caught a brook trout, lake trout, and rainbow trout in the BWCA. I fell short on the rainbow... We went back to camp and I snapped a picture of the guys (Wog with his trout): [paragraph break] We stayed up for quite a while around the fire. Reality was starting to set in, we were headed home in the morning. It was a truly magical day and everyone went to bed happy.
Rain on the tent first woke me about 3:30am. It was really the first significant rain we had during the trip. It continued all morning. When we finally got up, we made a quick breakfast on the propane stove: coffee and some hot water for instant oatmeal. We gobbled up breakfast and began packing up camp. We soon headed across Ram Lake to the entry point. That first little jog up the hill was quite fun with it being very wet. We took everything up at first hill by team lifting before we loaded up and headed for the vehicle. The portage is fairly enjoyable on the way out! Downhill all the way to the vehicle. Mike and I dropped our first loads and headed back. We met George and Wog, who had just left a couple packs back at the lake. By the time Mike and I made our way out with the second load, the canoes were strapped to the trailer and the packs were already in the vehicle! Most of us changed into drier clothes and then we headed back to Grand Marais. Once we got back into civilization, I called my wife to tell her I had survived another trip. We grabbed a snack and headed south. Recently I have always had to get a big chocolate milk for my first drink when we get out. Traffic was pretty heavy all the way down the shore. Apparently we weren't the only ones up the shore this weekend! We stopped at Culvers in Two Harbors and all ate gigantic burgers. We parted ways with Wog in Duluth and ended up home by 5:30pm. Everyone unpacked and headed home. When I heard what the weather had been like back home, I realized how awesome of a weekend we got! The wind was a little bothersome, but to have such nice, warm days was really nice. I am glad to have finally caught my first lake trout and I am glad everyone in our group caught one. The fishing wasn't fast and furious, but it was another excellent time with a great bunch of guys. I can't wait until I can return in September! Thanks for reading!