analyzer: "Not counting Memorial weekend, if you go in may and the first week of June, many kids aren't out of school yet, nor are their teachers, so there's a bit less traffic.
That's about as good a wrap up as it gets. Regarding minnows, I highly recommend salted shiners. Easier to pack, generally cool enough that they don't get gross, and they did better than leeches last year for jigging walleyes. Downside is they aren't much under a bobber rod lol.
It is a beautiful time of year:
More frog sounds at night.
The grouse will be thumping.
More flowers. If you are lucky the wild rhododendrons will be blooming. Or a lady slipper or 2.
The green will change before your eyes.
Long days and long sunsets/sunrises.
Bring a tarp to watch the rain from under.
Bring a book (or 2) for reading in camp if you can’t get out.
Not counting Memorial weekend, if you go in may and the first week of June, many kids aren't out of school yet, nor are their teachers, so there's a bit less traffic.
One thing I didn't see mentioned, is it's a lot less likely to have a fire ban. As you get into mid July, thru August, sometimes even earlier, it's far more likely they enforce a fire ban, or worse yet, they cancel/restrict certain areas because of fires.
Fishing changes throughout the season. There is less weed growth yet, so if you're used to fishing certain weedbeds on certain lakes, you may not find them on those same lakes, in May.
If you're traveling where there are streams and rivers, May is likely to have more water, than you might see in August. So you're alot less likely to have to walk or line your canoes, or wade through muck. But then, if you go in Early May, you may have to break ice some mornings. We've had a couple years, where there was still ice on some lakes for the fishing opener.
I think something should be mentioned about safety. IF you capsize in the middle of summer, the water temps are generally warm enough, that while you risk drowning (wear your PFD), you probably aren't at risk of hypothermia. The same generally can't be said for May. I think you have to at least be cognizant of the risk, and respect the conditions. Stay closer to shore in windy conditions, so that you at least have a chance if you flip. If you capsize in the middle of a big lake, in May, you may not make it to shore before hypothermia sets in. We've seen that recently. I think if you're questioning whether it's too windy to cross, you should error on the side of being safe, and stay on shore. That's probably true anytime, but more so in May.
I think there's a greater need for good raingear. When it rains in July, it's often a warm rain. But when it rains in May, it's often a cold rain, and you can be downright miserable if you don't have proper raingear. I think the same can be said for having a good tent that doesn't leak.
Cotton clothes don't dry well, and it's even worse, when temps are low. In late Oct, I will often wash my hunting clothes in scent free wash, and then hang dry. I can tell you they don't dry well when it's in the 30's and 40's. I would make sure you're wearing polyester, nylon, and wool, and leave the cotton home. Once you get those jeans wet, they're unlikely to dry any time soon when it's cold out.
No matter what the forecast, bring warm clothes. It's no fun when you go up there, and forget to bring enough layers, and the temp drops. As you've read on here, in the same trip people have experienced 40's and 80's. I went Memorial weekend last year. The first couple weeks from the fishing opener, they had 70's and 80's. I think the Wed and Thursday before Memorial weekend, the lows were about 27. When we went in on Saturday, the campers coming out, were telling us their water bottles were frozen in the morning when they got up. We had a nice Saturday, but Sunday didn't top 50. With the warm temps, the fishing had just started to heat up, a few days before we got there, but with the cold snap it shut it off. It shut off the bugs too though, so that was nice.
I would bring a winter hat. You lose alot of heat through your head. When you go to bed and it's 35 degrees, having a winter cap to pull over your head, helps you retain heat, and is a nice little treat.
Definitely bring a pair of camp shoes. If you get your portage shoes wet, it's a really nice treat (if not necessity) to have a 2nd pair that you can put on warm dry socks, and dry shoes in camp. I know it sucks to put the wet ones back on for your next moving day, but keep your dry camp ones dry. I wear wet shoes, that drain nice, for portaging, with wool socks. I set both out to dry when we get to camp, and they're usually dry by the next day. I can tell you when we went Memorial weekend last year, and it was coming off a couple 27 degree nights, the water was borderline too cold to be comfortable wet-footing. I definitely wished I had some sort of knee high muck boot. My feet were too cold, getting in and out of the water.
When people fish opener, they often bring minnows. If the water is real cold, leeches will ball up, and not swim nice. Mid June on, you should be ok with leeches, but early, if you're fishing live bait, I'd either bring minnows, or crawlers, and forgo the leeches. I love leeches, but not when the water is real cold. In early spring, If the water is real cold, and you're having trouble finding fish, look for current (walleyes), or find shallow sunny bays, (bass and pike). You may also consider going real small, and see if you can find the crappies. Although, having said that, crappies like to spawn when the water temps hit 60.
One thing about May, there are shorter days. I think October might be worse. The longest days are around the summer solstice (June 21st). You'll have less daylight in May, so plan accordingly.
Blatz: "Black Flies can be torturous "
Lots of good perspectives have been shared. I prefer to trip before Memorial Day and after Labor Day for many of the same reasons already mentioned.
I also really like tripping in May because of the wildlife. The baby animals are emerging and are always enjoyable to observe. Birds feeding baby birds who are never full, small beavers trying to keep up, otter families playing in the water or on the shores, baby turtles the size of quarters crawling out of camp, spotted fawns who don't move a muscle, etc. Last year we watched two baby squirrels trying to figure out the climbing thing!
It's also fair to say I like to see the smallies on their beds...chasing my lures!
89 days until my first trip this spring!!!
I've been up there at that time the last three years.
The most challenging thing is being prepared for the wide range of weather possibilities. For me, this leads to packing a little more clothing than I normally would.
My favorite thing about that time is the lower amount of bugs and people.
Dipping in the water that time of year is a pleasant shock when done intentionally; it can be deadly if done accidentally.
Great information here, thanks! I've never gone this early, but have a pre-Memorial Day trip scheduled this year. Very much looking forward to it.
I go memorial weekend every year. I did a 2nd trip last year over July 4th and I'm not sure I'll do that again!! Much, much prefer late may/early june over mid-summer. Fishing is great and I get to avoid the intense heat and bugs for the most part. Last year, the first few nights dipped below freezing and my bucket of minnows was frozen solid. Woke up a chilled a few times but the rest of the week was fine. Mid-day usually well into the 60s, looking back at photos I'm dressed anywhere from a cut off shirt to a sweatshirt and another light jacket on top of that. The skeeters made their sudden arrival on the last evening of my trip, which was June 2nd I believe. Not having an enclosed tent really bit me (literally and figuratively) in the rear.
I've gotten lucky with weather for the most part. I expect 20 mph winds and rain every day but have only gotten that once or twice in the last few years. We're lucky with the fairly accurate weather forecasts these days. You have a pretty good idea what kind of week you'll have, weather-wise, before you get there. Just have to be a little more prepared! Well, well worth it!
We go every year the 2nd or 3rd week of May. We go later in the year as well, but I find the Spring trips are the best.
Pros: excellent fishing, especially for Lake Trout; minimal to no bugs, usually; easy to find fallen wood for fires; not as crowded relative to summer months except for maybe the last two years (covid)
Cons: not many but can be cold (air temp) and ground is always cold, so good to have an insulated pad; if water is too cold bass are not yet up on the beds; sometimes walleye can be harder to find
I’ve been a few times over the years in the last two weeks of May and first week of June. it can vary dramatically. Last year the week before memorial day was downright cold for the last 3 days. Overnight lows in the upper 20s and ice on our tents in the morning. Other times it’s been 70+ and great. It really depends on the spring and how everything warms up.
I can confirm the water is still very cold and swimming can be done but it’s not pleasant.
Bugs will also vary depending on the spring warmup but usually the flies hatch in early June so prepare for those as best you can. Permethrin has really helped me as the bugs love me.
Fishing is usually good if you know what you’re doing ??
We exited Memorial day weekend a couple years ago. (Campsites all taken within a half+ day's paddle of the EP...so factor that aspect in.)
Decent fishing; it was downright hot for much of our trip. Some bugs, but headnets dealt with that easily.
Planning on that same timeframe this year too.
Always do our first trip of the year the week before Memorial Day. Weather is unpredictable. Have had 85 degrees and snowfall on the same trip. Bugs are near zilch. It is usally a bit windier than in the summer months (my opinion). But the fishing is great, easy winter wood for fire, and most of the numbskulls who come to party aren't out that time of the year. (Much to cold to get lit up and skinny dip at that time of the year :) )
We went up to EP47 The third week of of May last year.
It was cold the first 2 nights, ok the last 3. The most notable thing...I wetfoot it always... Is how the water temperature changed.
The first day at poplar, the water was so cold it hurt to stand in it. By mid-trip, the water was fine. I think that the lakes turned over while we were there. That made fishing tough the first few days.
It wasn't until the Birch trees leaved out that we found the walleyes. Maybe that was a coincident but I notice markers like that.
Thank you all for your valuable and instructive input! I appreciate it.
We usually go the week before Memorial Day Weekend. The biggest issue is probably the cold water, can't be taking that lightly. Can get a little chilly at night but much better than hot, humid and buggy. Ticks were pretty bad last spring but minimal bugs.
This is the timeframe I always do for my spring trips, mostly for better fishing and ideally a decent balance between cool and warm weather. Last year, the day we entered was a new record high for Ely, something around 90-93F. It didn't cool down for a week. This warm weather caused the mosquitoes to be worse than usual, and the black flies were around longer than expected, though the mosquitoes far outweighed the black flies where we were (Crooked).
You're gonna get cold nights (even close to freezing), wind, and rain at least one day of a week long trip, along with being right on the edge of peak bugs. But, you also get cooler water for drinking and shallow fishing, and less people for sure. By the second or third week of June I think the traffic picks up considerably, but the ~2 week window _after_ Memorial Day has seemed pretty light, in my experience. I went on a trip to Malberg over the Memorial Day weekend last year and vowed never to do that again (unbelievably crowded on the Thursday before the holiday).
Despite bugs and the potentially fussy weather, it's my favorite time of year to go.
Several years ago we spent a week up there during that time of year. We had three days of rain and 40 degrees followed by 3 days of sun and 80 degree temps… and I would do it all over again.
Black Flies can be torturous
We have been putting in at the start of the week before Memorial weekend for several years and find it a great time to go. The weather has been mostly pretty decent but by that I mean highs in the upper 50s to mid 60s but it can get cool at night - we have had a few nights of mid to upper twenties so be prepared for that.
Some years we have had virtually no bugs, in the worst year they were a minor thing and way better than what you would experience over the next 2 months up there.
Fishing has been okay although we don't focus on it too much. Water is cold, repeat cold, but we still mostly wet foot. But then our entry days are usually pretty short. I have dunked myself in the lake that time of year after a few warmer days made it necessary but believe me it is a quick in and out:)
Any rivers/falls will usually be flowing very well that time of year which is a plus for both travel and scenery.
We have also found it to be less busy than summer months in general but there are some other folks up there.
If late May bleeds over into a early June start, the bugs will likely be more prevalent - we seem to often hit it shortly before the onslaught. It's a good time to go.
Cold water makes wet footing harder; I use neoprene sox with liner sox and BW designated hiking boots. You should have a sleep system that can be adapted to cold temps. I use a 20 degree down bag, pillow and ridge rest over size mat and a 3/4 size mat . FYI the 3/4 mat is for extra padding for hips and shoulders. Head net as the black flies hatch about that time and good rain gear for rain/snow and as a cold weather shell. Weather can swing wildly in May.
I've gone up around fishing opener for the last several years. The weather really can vary. One year it was cold, windy and drizzling most of the week, and the next year it was sunny and warm enough to paddle in wearing a t-shirt. Bugs usually start to pick up during these trips starting with the black flies that just swarm you (but don't bite). They are no where near as bad as middle of June. Fishing is usually pretty good. I like finding lakers in shallower water like TB says.
Typically it's a little cooler and bugs are not as prevalent. Need to be prepared for cold - which means some extra layers (i.e. extra pack weight).
As a general rule, fish (specifically trout) are usually shallower - easier to find. Less people, competition for sites, crowding on portages, first pickings on newly fallen (from winter) branches & trees in and near camp for firewood. Frozen food etc. lasts longer, as do the daylight hours.
How many of you trip in the BW at the end of May or beginning of June? I have not yet gone that early. What is most challenging for you then? Cold? Rain? Insects? Other? What do you like about being out this time of year? Thank you!