BWCA Entry Point, Route, and Trip Report Blog
September 21 2021
Number of Permits per Day: 17
Elevation: 1184 feet
Saganaga Lake - 55
The Great Unknown
July 27, 2007
Saganaga Lake Only
Number of Days:
My dad and I both had high hopes heading up to the BWCA in regards to fishing. We had a general idea of the 4 common species (lake trout, walleye, northern pike, and smallmouth bass) found in the BWCA. For this trip, we brought both leeches and nightcrawlers. So we expected to do well with live bait and potentially catch walleye, pike, and smallies with crawlers or leeches. We also planned on targeting lake trout on Gijikiki (we spent our first and second nights on Gijikiki). Although we were beyond anxious to get fishing, we held off until the portage leading into Gijikiki from Ottertrack. We HAMMERED the pike and smallies with leeches near and around this portage. We were able to see several pike and smallies aggressively hit the leeches - which made the experience even more exciting. After a couple hours of non-stop action near the portage, we decided to put the poles away and tackle the portage into Gijiki. We were hoping for the island site but that site was occupied by a father-daughter duo who also happened to be out trolling for lake trout when we first got to Gijikiki. The daughter was only six years old and she was one tough cookie! We watched them each land a solid-sized laker within a matter of 20 minutes. Awesome! I remember being so inspired by those two. Anyway, we took the other site on Gijikiki (which happened to be a great site itself). My dad and I set up our tent, hung up our food, and waded out about bellybutton deep from camp. Oddly enough, we were each getting bites on crawlers pretty quick. Up until I reeled in the first fish, I was under the impression that Gijikiki held lake trout only. Turns out there are a bunch of rock bass in there as well. Maybe that's been pointed out on this forum at some point in time. So we each caught and released a half dozen plus rock bass; including a few that were pretty dang chunky and long. As dusk approached, we shelved the poles for the night and got busy around camp with a fire, juicy rare steaks, and whiskey for John (he may or may not have allowed me a half shot). What an incredible first day of fishing! Our second day happened to be very hot. We had planned on trolling early for lakers but, as a kid who just sprouted 6 inches in 12 months, I liked to sleep. This costed us as we misplayed the day and fished during the hot, sunny afternoon. I did happen to hook into a nice fish while trolling deep (maybe 50-60 feet?). I was using a big, silver shiny spoon. I fought the fish for what seemed like an eternity but the fish simply shook or spit the spoon without ever showing itself to us. It had the pole doubled over and seemed like a good one. We were both worn out and depleted after our time out in the hot sun so we headed back shortly after The Great White Buffalo got away. That night, we spent most of our energy playing cards, eating delicious snacks, and sipping instant coffee. Beyond those first two days and nights, I don't recall exactly which days we spent more time than usual fishing nor what fish we caught on which days. I do recall our best fishing site - which was located on Amoeber Lake. This site had tons of ripe blueberries, along with perfect cliffs to jump into the water. These cliffs doubled as a GREAT sight-fishing honeyhole. We were able to throw live bait out and watch the show as bass, pike, and even some walleye were landed from camp. All in all, we each caught dozens of average to plus-sized smallmouth and we each caught a dozen or so 22"+ pike throughout the week. I do recall that we went trolling with blue and orange deep diving rapalas our very last night. That night, after we each landed modest pikes, I caught back-to-back keeper walleye (that we wolfed down about an hour later). It was the perfect icing on the cake for our already-successful fishing trip. A quick bonus fishing story from this trip... We ran into a group (of 4 I believe - 2 father-son duos) on Ottertrack Lake. They happened to do really well fishing that evening and they informed us that they were planning a fish tasting session around sundown. They hosted us at our campsite and really took care of us. We tried pike, walleye, and smallmouth along with numerous mouth-watering sides. Big John even got to sample their 2 liquors. It was a real treat and, if you're out there reading this, we thank you greatly for your hospitality.
On our first day (pre-first day may be more appropriate), we saw a trio of foxes on the Gunflint Trail. We stopped for a quick picture. They were definitely curious and begging for food. We also spotted a mama moose and her calf not 10 minutes after seeing the foxes. It was a very eventful mile stretch of the Gunflint Trail because we happened to see our first ever pileated woodpecker very shortly after mama moose and her calf. Beyond the wildlife on the Gunflint Trail, we saw and heard countless loons, eagles, several owls at night (or maybe it was just one owl who enjoyed our company and followed us around lake to lake?), and we were even fortunate enough to hear a pack of wolves singing one starry night. The fishing was great but the wildlife that we saw and heard on this first trip was way beyond what I was expecting. Why did we ever have to leave?
One big mistake that we made often throughout this trip pertained to fishing at the right time. We spent too much energy fishing during the hot part of the day. That seems like common sense but we were so anxious to fish that we wet our lines whenever we had good energy - which never seemed to be at dawn or at dusk (with the exception of 1 or 2 evenings). We've definitely changed our attack over the years and have had great luck fishing early morning and around nightfall. The other big lesson we learned was to always have emergency water. We happened to get lost one afternoon trying to get from Lunar to Rivalry Lake. It was the hottest day of a very hot trip and we were on a game trail rather than the actual trail. Needless to say, we became dehydrated over the several hours that we were lost. Somehow, Big John led us to where we needed to be. Upon seeing water and being sunburnt and thirsty, I sprinted towards the shore. Strangely enough, once I got out, I realized I had dozens and dozens of baby bloodsuckers on both of my feet. My dad and I rubbed the baby leeches off. After finally finding water though, the leeches didn't put much of a damper on my mood. I was ecstatic to not be lost in the woods without water anymore. The last lesson we learned relates to the amount of gear that we need. We brought too much weight with us and our bodies were not quite ready for it. Add on the fact that we had to go through 7 lakes and 6 portages on 'Baby Leeches Day' and we were really feeling every extra pound of gear. Since that first trip, we've taken care to pack lighter and lighter every trip.