BWCA Finding the fish on Brent / Conmee Boundary Waters Quetico Forum
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SummerSkin
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03/13/2019 11:30AM  
May 24, we're taking a tow to Brewer Rapids. Our plan is to paddle to the Goat portage, into Wicksteed / Darky / Brent. I was wondering if anyone could shed any insight on a couple of questions:

1) Do you think it's doable to make it into Brent on day 1 via this route? We go super lightweight and plan to single portage.

2) For those who have been in that area, how do you locate the fish on Brent / Conmee? I am not necessarily looking for specific spots -- not trying to get out of doing the work myself -- but we're not taking depth finders, and those are big lakes. I've found some good intel on those lakes in some older posts on this forum. Just wondering if anyone else might have any further insight they could share.

Thank you in advance -- this forum has been invaluable in planning our trips in the past!
 
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elpirkl
member (12)member
 
03/13/2019 12:52PM  
Did Darky to a campsite right on Brewer rapids. That was a tough haul (double portaging though) and we paddled into a squall on McAree. Brewer to Brent seems like a lot to bite off, don't think I would try it. That Goat Portage takes it out of you and there is still a ways to go after that.
jphares44
senior member (51)senior membersenior member
 
03/15/2019 08:31AM  
In my opinion, making to Brent in one day, though it might be doable, would be pretty tough. I agree with elpirkl that the goat hill will really take it out of you. I think you might find you'll be pretty darn tired by the time you get to Darky. And the portage from Darky into Brent is no chip shot, either. We tend to double-portage so that's been our experience, anyway.

I've only fished the western part of Brent, but I know as you get into Brent from the portage, that large open-water basin is very deep and holds lakers. We had really good SMB fishing in the two bays to the north of that spot that form somewhat of a horseshoe.

Unfortunately, that's about all of Brent that we've hit. Two years ago our outfitter marked up the William/Brent/Conmee area on a Fisher map, and I'd be happy to email you a .jpg file I have of that if you're interested.
SummerSkin
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03/15/2019 09:14AM  
I'd gladly take you up on your offer for the marked-up map, jp. Thank you!
jphares44
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03/15/2019 09:24AM  
Sure, anytime! Should arrive in your inbox shortly.
old_salt
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03/15/2019 07:42PM  
At that time of year, fishing will be scattered. Cast any structure and shorelines you can find. I would take fish finders.
03/16/2019 09:35AM  
Stu did a pretty good writeup in his BWJ Grand Slam series on walleyes for those lakes. Go online and just buy his walleye article. It's a quick way to get some great intel. OS's advice stands as well -- look for water inlets and places that stir up current for early/late fishing times. Fishing shallows will help at that time of year, water temperatures depending.
Hillbilly
senior member (68)senior membersenior member
 
03/18/2019 07:15PM  
We did this trip and got to Brent in one day but everyone hated it. We were not single portaging though so that made it worse and had a few newbies on the trip. If you are single portaging and experienced I think its fine... the other issue is getting a camp once you get to Brent if you get unlucky and the 1st couple are taken you could still be paddling up the lake for a while. But I like this idea to get away from the crowds Darky has always had too many people in it for me...
jphares44
senior member (51)senior membersenior member
 
03/19/2019 09:23AM  
Hillbilly: "We did this trip and got to Brent in one day but everyone hated it. We were not single portaging though so that made it worse and had a few newbies on the trip. If you are single portaging and experienced I think its fine... the other issue is getting a camp once you get to Brent if you get unlucky and the 1st couple are taken you could still be paddling up the lake for a while. But I like this idea to get away from the crowds Darky has always had too many people in it for me...
"


Yeah, I agree. Darky is kind of a "hub" of sorts. We always just paddle through it. Beautiful lake and the pictos draw a lot of people, but we push on through...or stay on Wicksteed the first night. We've made it to William in one day, took about 8.5 hours. I just think the Darky to Brent portage, after doing the Goat Hill, would be pretty tough. Doable, but tough. You'll be tired, you'll be sore, but you'll be on Brent!
cburton103
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03/19/2019 04:20PM  
We got the tow to Brewer and paddled all the way to the western bay of Brent in the middle of June last year. We were the last of I think 3 groups in our tow and the Canadian Customs agent gave one guy in one of the other groups in our tow a hard time about something for a bit, so we didn't get dropped off at Brewer until probably close to 10 am despite it being a 7 am tow. We fished each of the two falls in that area unsuccessfully and trolled a bit through McAfee a bit for lakers with no luck. We caught probably 10-20 largemouth around a pound or just under in Little Gratton/James and had lunch there on the island campsite. Then we paddled and fished through the islands on Wicksteed. Keep an eye on your compass or GPS on Wicksteed to keep a good bearing with all the islands. We just paddled straight through Darky since we were getting pretty tired and were ready to be on Brent already. I don't recall what time we got there, but we had enough time to set up camp and eat dinner before it got dark. I do remember being pretty dang tired by the time we got on Darky, and theres still a good bit of both paddling and portaging left to do.

Working hard the first day afforded us a layover day on Brent to fish, so we thought it was worth it. We're two experienced, fairly fit 30 year olds who pack reasonably light (except fishing gear) and single portage. Sounds like that may fit you guys as well. I would probably rather stay on Wicksteed than Darky though. Really pretty lake, way less people on it when we paddled through. Very clear water if memory serves me correctly, and lots of islands. If you're already pretty spent on Wicksteed, set up camp there and enjoy your first day. Otherwise, push on to Brent.

As far as fishing goes, I've been on Brent twice, each time for two nights. The first time was June 2015 just east of the long east/west portion in the middle of the lake, and the second time was June 2018 in the western portion. We didn't just slay the fish either time, but managed to catch a nice variety each time. We did best for Walleye around points and in the narrows area in the center of Brent. Smallies and pike casting towards shorelines like normal. Lakers in several of the big, open basins, and also around the really popular island campsite to the southwest of the narrows.

Let me know if you have any questions! Really nice area, especially the western end of Brent. Tons of water to fish. We like fishing for Lakers in Cone as well, just south of the west end of Brent. My best walleye to date at 28" came out of Conmee trolling a blue shad rap in the middle of the day around some points and islands.
SummerSkin
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03/21/2019 09:08AM  
Thank you, everyone who has responded. This is exactly the kind of information I was looking for.

We are all 30-somethings, in decent shape, and we have this weird thing where we like to make the first day of the trip as physically challenging and exhausting as possible. It just feels so good to set up camp that first night knowing you totally pushed (and drained) yourself to get to where you are. (Helps in the sleep department as well.) So heading for Brent on day 1 sounds like it'll give us just the challenge we're looking for. We do pack light -- maybe 30 - 35 lbs per person -- and our aim is always to single portage.

@cburton, appreciate you letting me know to watch the compass while on Wicksteed. I'll certainly make a note of that.
Stumpy
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03/22/2019 04:28PM  
If you're one tripping the portages, it should be a piece of cake.
Good chance of having wind at back too, as you're heading East.

We went through Brent and camped on Suzanette once, on our first day, starting from Prairie Portage. Had plenty of time to fish that first evening too.
PineKnot
distinguished member(2006)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
03/22/2019 10:37PM  
Did that route you suggest at the beginning of our trip last summer....what are your route plans after Brent and your trip length?
SummerSkin
distinguished member (154)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
03/23/2019 09:21AM  
PineKnot: "Did that route you suggest at the beginning of our trip last summer....what are your route plans after Brent and your trip length?"

We’ll be in the park 8 nights.

We plan to at least go on up to Conmee. We don’t have a specific schedule we’re keeping. We’re not base camping the whole time, but if the fishing is good in one area, we might stay there a couple of days.

A couple of the guys want to go on to Delahey / Veron so they can say they did the Death March. I personally have no interest or pride in doing that, so we’ll see.

Beyond that, we’ve talked about going into Suzanette and perhaps back down to Crooked / Iron, but I’m not sure we’re going to want to do all that traveling.

Would love to hear your thoughts on the area and distance we’re traveling.
jspies
 
05/04/2019 08:31PM  
Mt son and I are heading into Brent for the first time in June. If you are willing to share your outfitter marked up map with be it would be great appreciated
SummerSkin
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06/13/2019 10:39AM  
Hey everyone, just wanted to circle back to this report on our trip, especially that first day. Hopefully this will help any future paddlers looking for info on this route / area.

We drove through the night from Cincinnati and arrived at Anderson's around 6 a.m. They towed us out at 7 a.m., and we were on the water around 9 a.m. It was cold (50ish), overcast, and the wind was blowing west AGAINST us the entire day's trip.

We did single portage that day. We crushed Goat. It was challenging, but it was a blast. And then we got to the unnamed lake and realized one of our 4 guys had left his fishing rods at the entrance to Goat. So he got to do Goat twice in one day. :-)

By the time we made it to Wicksteed, it had started to rain. By the time we made it to Darky, the wind had picked up even more. We were cold but not quite miserable thanks to good rain gear. We kept paddling. I remember at one point, between a couple of islands on Darky, looking at the island shore to my right and thinking, "Huh. We're not moving." The two islands had created a channel of sorts that the water was rushing through, and with the wind against us, we were nearly stationary.

Towards the end of Darky, I almost started falling asleep while paddling. Of course, we hadn't really slept in about 36 hours at that point.

THEN we encountered the portage from Darky to Brent...that almost broke us. We were so exhausted, and that portage threw a bit of everything at us. Elevation change, rocks, ankle-sucking mud, a quick hop back in the canoes and then back out for more portaging...and to top it off the rain had picked up in intensity and had become absolutely bone-chilling. Whoever said the Darky portage was worse than the Goat was spot on. I think it has more to do with expectations than anything. It just sucked.

We set off on Brent in the late afternoon. The rain tapered off, and an eery white mist encompassed the lake as far as the eye could see. We paddled through the more open western section of the lake and around into the channel, heading northeast. We took the 5-star island campsite in the eastern channel and basecamped there a few days. We didn't see another single soul while we were there. Even though the weather continued to be less than ideal, Brent is hands-down my favorite lake in the Q now. It has everything -- solitude, scenery, good fishing, plenty of areas for exploration and day tripping, and not too much big water to contend with.

So to answer my original question, getting from Brewer to Brent in a day is easily doable if you're single portaging and the weather is good. More difficult if the weather is bad, but still doable if you're in decent shape. And maybe close to impossible if you're double-portaging.

Everyone we mentioned our route to said, "Oh, the fish are bigger on Brent." And they were right. Everything we caught was consistently 15 - 20% bigger than what we typically catch in the Q. The smallmouth were HUGE. I hooked into a nice size laker that spazzed out when I almost had her landed and snipped my line. I hit the grand slam on Brent, plus one species (sauger). I'm thankful for the one walleye I hooked, because the walleye were nowhere to be found elsewhere the entire time we were in the park. Others reported the same thing.

We wound up not going up to Conmee because the first day's trip wrung us out pretty well, plus Brent gave us everything we wanted. On our way back out, went through William and the Darkwater river so as to avoid that nasty Darky portage.

We spent a couple of days on Darky. Almost every campsite was occupied. I've never seen a lake in the Quetico so crowded ("crowded" being a relative term here).

Thanks to everyone who provided info and marked up maps for this trip. You all really helped. And thanks to Anderson's Canoe Outfitters...they always treat us right and do a great job.
06/16/2019 09:47PM  
Good trip report, thanks! Any pics?
SummerSkin
distinguished member (154)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
06/17/2019 08:44AM  
Yes. The photos are on a GoPro at the bottom of Minn Lake.

If you recover it, I’ll let you keep the GoPro.

I did get a few photos on an older backup camera and will post those when I find a card reader for it.
BassmasterP
senior member (99)senior membersenior member
 
07/02/2019 05:45PM  
LMFAO!

We did Brewer to Wicksteed in late August of 2017. We hung at Wicksteed a day - amazing pike fishing - and then on to Brent on day 3 and and Ted on day 4.

We departed Anderson's in a light rain and got poured on from the time they dropped us off at Brewer until we made it to James Lake via the Goat. Adrenaline does wonders because we, too, crushed the Devil's Portage and felt pretty amazing when the sun broke through just in time for piping hot cappuccino on one of the James Lake islands. I laugh because I have footage (reddyss.com/Q) of myself turning to the camera and saying, "THAT, on day 3, was way harder than the Goat Portage on day one!" in reference to the Little Darky to Brent trail. To do both Gaot and that one in a single day would be brutal. A fun challenge, but brutal.

So glad you posted a recap. We are headed back the 1st week of September for another 10 day. Without naming all the lakes, we go... Brewer, Wicksteed, Brent, Earl, Ted, Hurn, Elk, Cone, Argo, Crooked, Iron. There are 3 of us and we all sleep in hammocks so we camp in unusual places - like on the Darky River and several no-name lakes between Brent and Earl. Amazing night fishing for GIANT SM and Pike on one of those no name lakes!

PMR Our 2017 Quetico Movie
SummerSkin
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07/08/2019 08:26PM  
That's awesome! Please check back in here after your trip and let me know how it went.

We are all 4 hammock campers as well, but we never had a notion to camp anywhere other than an established campsite. It seems like most shore is so overgrown and thick that it wouldn't be an enjoyable experience camping there. I'm remembering the shore along the Darky River and it seems like it was pretty thick. According to our map there was a campsite at the river's big bend, but we didn't see any signs of one. I suppose if you're experienced you know what to look for. We didn't have much luck fishing in the Darky River either, other than smallmouth at the bottom of the rapids.
BassmasterP
senior member (99)senior membersenior member
 
07/09/2019 07:47AM  
This year we intend to make camp at the very end of the long portage from Darkwater to Brent. When we were there last we got in our canoes at the end of the portage and paddled around the corner and then had to get back out and carry our canoes the last 50 yards or so, if I remember. That pool that we paddled across head good current coming into it from the Brent lakeside and was packed with huge smallmouth. We caught about four of them. We are going to set up camp there, if the weather is nice, as it makes for a great swimming and fishing hole.

When we camp off the beaten path we usually look for big glades or sheets of bedrock up in the woods. we found a few last time we were there as we were paddling out in the morning. Took pictures and mark them on the GPS so that we could consider camping there this time around. There were several on Brent, Argo, Earl, and a few unnamed lakes that we really look forward to fishing!

I'm dictating this on my phone so it's cumbersome to look back at older posts. Perhaps you can remind me... what stretch of the darky River did you float? We intend 2 camp our first night on wicksteed and then leave our camp and do a day trip South into Darky then back North up the Darky River and then either portage back to wicksteed (there seems to be one portage that comes into the Northeast side of wicksteed) or go further up the darky River and then take the small Creek that leads back to the north side wicksteed. my suspicion is that that Creek holds very little water and will probably have us doing more hiking than paddling. If you spent any time on that stretch of the river I would love to hear what it is like. Shallow? Deep? Rocky? Sandy? Just curious.

I will post here when we get back and also put a link to our video which will probably take another year to create!

Pat
SummerSkin
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07/09/2019 08:27AM  
We floated the entire river from Darkwater Lake into Minn Lake. It was a fun and scenic paddle with a few small areas of rapids, some of which made us thankful we weren't traveling in the other direction against the current. I loved floating that river and would totally do it again. I bet it'd be fun during a hot summer day when you could get out and swim / float alongside the canoe.

Regarding the creek from the Darkwater River to Wicksteed, I think your suspicion is correct. We paddled up into the mouth of the creek where there was a small waterfall and took a few photos / video. But from what I remember, it would be a real chore getting a canoe up above the waterfall, and I don't recall it being large enough to sustain a canoe (otherwise we probably would have tried, haha). And keep in mind, water levels were pretty high when we went.

Further north on the river, we did try to paddle up Andrews Creek into Andrews Lake (up towards Eat-em-up Portage), but we turned around once we encountered the first beaver dam. If we had the energy we probably would've pushed through, but we were just tired and it was hot that day. I think that would make for a pretty fun adventure if one has time for it.

You probably already know about this but if you're going to day trip into Darkwater, it might be worth checking out Ballard which is a short, easy portage. Even if you don't want to go up into the lake, you could at least explore the waterfall from Ballard into Darkwater. That waterfall was gorgeous. We hung out there for a while taking photos (which sadly are now at the bottom of Minn).

Sounds like your group is kind of like ours -- agile and adventurous. Lots of good adventures to be had up in that area.
BassmasterP
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07/09/2019 09:13AM  
I am doing another trip next year with a group of 18 to 25 year olds and we plan to Basecamp on Wicksteed and day trip up the river one day and visit Ballard on another. I had no idea there was a waterfall there, we will definitely have to check that out.

P
 
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