BWCA 28 days in the Q in 2020, a Resolution Boundary Waters Group Forum: Quetico Afficionados
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joewildlife
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12/31/2019 07:59PM   (Thread Older Than 3 Years)
I'm doing a 14 day trip in June from Prairie Portage to Minn and back, hitting Darky, Argo, Wickstead, McAree, Crooked, etc... Been doing a June trip with my daughter since 2014. We went to Woodland Caribou the last two years but are headed back to Quetico.

In the fall I'm doing the Hunter's Island loop more or less, with a paddling buddy.

7.7% of my year in the Quetico. Not enough, not enough.
Joe
 
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cburton103
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01/15/2020 10:02AM  
Out of curiosity, what are the main things about Quetico that pull you back after a couple years visiting Woodland Caribou?
 
joewildlife
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01/15/2020 10:48AM  
Woodland Caribou is a paradox of sorts. You will hear how few paddlers there are, 500-600 per year, so you tend to think the place is deserted. However, the park has a lot of outpost cabins and a lodge or two. You can be in the middle of nowhere and find an active stash of aluminum boats and motors, and you will see fishermen out on the water using them. Or you will turn a corner and there is a cabin, dock, boats, and maybe even a floatplane parked there. You see and hear floatplanes every day.

This can be mostly avoided simply by route choice...if you get out of the walleye waters, you will see nobody. This is because where there are walleye, there are cabins and motorboats. Harlan explained it to me. US fishermen want walleye. Period. So go to trout water and you see nobody. Once I left Mexican Hat (the Kawnipi walleye factory of the WCPP), the only people I saw was OldZip and his wife Carol, and that was absolutely in the middle of nowhere on trout water. A 14 day trip. Spring 2019 we took a route through the southern end of the park and it was damn near deserted. The year before we were on the Gammon and areas more central, and saw more people than you would expect for a park touting less than 600 canoeists a year. In two long trips to WCPP, we only saw 1 occupied campsite.

Personally, a trip to WCPP is a lot more expensive and requires two additional vacation days of travel. 2 nights hotel and meals in Red Lake. And we used shuttle service and that is pretty costly.

To make matters worse my contact and outfitter has been Red Lake Outfitters, which is now gone. Richard at Chukuni Outdoors may pick up some of the slack, but that is yet to be seen. I think he mainly wants to run a hunting/fishing shop. I considered Harlan a friend and will miss his enthusiasm, knowledge, and helpfulness!

Woodland Caribou is very rough and rugged country. The portages are shorter by far, but can be very rough and brushy, and/or near impossible to find and follow. Much of the park has had stand-replacement fires in the last 2 decades, and some parts have burned more than once. Campsites are a much bigger issue, because so many are now unusable because they are grown over in small jack pines or have all kinds of widow-makers standing around ready to kill you during a storm. So overall, travel can be difficult and time consuming finding and using portages and campsites. It can also be very fun and adventurous if you have the right mind set!

Ecologically, the park is jack pine and old growth black spruce. Old growth black spruce is not particularly attractive, as the amount of blowdown is significant. Jack pine is usually in thickets, being the species that colonizes after a burn. You will find very very few food pack hanging trees (I don't hang, so it doesn't matter), but you will also find most campsites are very small and have few larger trees for hammocks and such. Hell, in a lot of areas even setting up a tarp or two tents is tough.

That said, the fishing can be fantastic. Overall, my most epic and enjoyable trip ever was Spring 2019 when we did 14 days on trout water for the most part and it was excellent. Having done that, I don't know that it could be repeated elsewhere in the park. I WILL be back, but for the next couple years I will do new routes in Quetico I haven't done before, and then start exploring out of Beaverhouse since I have seen most of the southern part of the park.

Quetico is much more scenic if you like old growth cedar, red pine, and white pine, larger open beautiful campsites, more topographic relief, etc. That will be nice to get back to. And interior Quetico has some awesome fishing in and of itself.

I have tentative routes sketched out for 2 future WCPP trips across the park on the Gammon and Bloodvein systems. I know I will see motorboats and cabins...which is okay if that is expected. not okay if you want true solitude. After the memory of my spring 2019 trip fades, I will do it again.

Overall, I'd say Quetico has very few drawbacks, while WCPP can have a few, some can be avoided but some can't.

If you want to look into WCPP, check out the Red Lake Outfitters web page if it is still up. Their package trips provide good clues as to what to expect in different areas. See the Trout and Solitude package, as this was in the area I took my trip in 2019 that was trout waters and was pretty much deserted. If you are into adventure and want to see new places, at least one trip to WCPP is in order so you can experience it yourself. Not a place I would take newbies or "softer" folks.

And the wind blows at WCPP. Every. Single. Day. You gotta remember, Quetico is a lush boreal rainforest. WCPP is found on the ecological prairie/boreal transition so it is much drier and winder, and is a fire dependent community.

To answer you question, I'm going back to Quetico for the beauty, solitude, fishing, weather, old growth, nice campsites, and logistics.

Joe

 
01/17/2020 04:52PM  
Great resolution!
 
cburton103
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01/17/2020 07:59PM  
Quite a response, Joe! Thanks for the great comparison and information. I used to daydream a bit about places like WCPP and Wabakimi, but in reality I think Quetico does have a pretty fantastic balance of solitude, good scenery, good fishing, established campsites and somewhat maintained portages, etc.. Quetico May be beaten in each individual category by some other area, but taken as a whole it’s an incredible place to spend time each year. Thanks again for the thoughtful response, and enjoy your two long trips this year!
 
joewildlife
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01/17/2020 08:36PM  
My pleasure. You asked a very good question! I certainly don't regret going to WCPP at all, but it did remind me about everything Quetico has to offer! It also made me realize that I've only seen much of the southern half of Quetico and I can start exploring the north side of the park. That could take a number of trips, you know!

I've never been to Wabakimi and someday I will travel there. I was told that it shares a lot of similarities with WCPP, being a "younger" park (hasn't been a park for so long) and has cabins and boats on it as well. At least some parts. I was told that some lakes are accessible from outside the park with big, big motor boats. But Wabakimi is a mystery to me so I will hit it some day.

Don't get me wrong, WCPP is not overrun by motorized boats by any means. I think I saw about 8 of them in operation on my 2018 trip. But not a one on the Trout loop, just a couple stashes that look to be rarely used.

Here's a couple pics of WCPP campsites:







One of the biggest pike my daughter ever caught
 
joewildlife
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01/17/2020 11:03PM  
Just realized something...
WCPP has almost no smallmouth bass.
I'm a snob. but smallmouth bass do not belong in the north country.
I don't like to eat them so I'd just as well not have them there, they are a detriment to good walleye, pike, and trout fishing (and eating) as far as I'm concerned.
I'd rather catch pike trout and walleye all day long and throw 'em all back after I've kept one or two, than be in a lake where all you catch is those damn smallmouth.

Joe
 
old_salt
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01/18/2020 12:47AM  
joewildlife: "Just realized something...
WCPP has almost no smallmouth bass.
I'm a snob. but smallmouth bass do not belong in the north country.
I don't like to eat them so I'd just as well not have them there, they are a detriment to good walleye, pike, and trout fishing (and eating) as far as I'm concerned.
I'd rather catch pike trout and walleye all day long and throw 'em all back after I've kept one or two, than be in a lake where all you catch is those damn smallmouth.


Joe
"


Same song, 2nd verse. Smallies are Quetico’s carp. They don’t belong here.
 
joewildlife
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01/18/2020 09:59AM  
OldSalt, where is the "Like" button here?

I'm a fisheries biologist by education and have worked in the field before switching to the wildlife side of things. It's fun to see the reaction of the Smallmouth fanboys here in Missouri when they see Quetico pics of me or my daughter with a 3 or 4 pound smallmouth on a stringer, lol. I feel no guilt in killing them but they just don't taste as good as the other species, and have a surprisingly small amount of meat on 'em for their size. We aim to eat a fish every night and the fact that we eat smallmouth now and then is a testament as to what they do to the native fish populations in some lakes.

Joe
 
01/18/2020 10:08AM  
But smallies are so much fun to catch! Especially top water. And pound for pound besides bluegill you won't find a harder fighter. There's some big time thrills in catching a 20 incher that leaps 3 or 4 times. Just ask Stu Ostoff. :)

That said, I hope they stay out of WCCP.
 
old_salt
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01/18/2020 03:40PM  
It’s fine to catch ‘em. Just force yourself and any trip mates to eat ‘em. Stu can have his opinions. He has every right to be wrong. Minnesota used to have a law that rough fish had to be killed if caught. That would be a good law for bass. No limits.

It will never happen because of the popularity of bass fishing.
 
joewildlife
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01/18/2020 04:26PM  
And to make matters worse, Ontario has that dumb maximum size limit in the spring, to protect the spawners.

 
old_salt
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01/18/2020 08:56PM  
And for Stu, it helps to see his bias. He’s a guide and he wants his clients to catch fish. Sometimes the waldos and lakers are a tough bite. Those are the times he refocused his clients to catch Northerns and bass. I’ve never seen a day when I couldn’t get bass to bite. They’re like overgrown panfish.

Yes, they’re fun to catch.

Another angle to consider, and maybe Joe can weigh in here, is that bass are competing with the native game fish. My observations are that the waldos and lakers are not doing as well in lakes dominated by bass.
 
joewildlife
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01/19/2020 09:12AM  
It's a complex fish community when you have as many as 3 or 4 top predators. I can tell you that smallmouth are detrimental to native fish populations, just as any other introduced predatory fish is. The rainbow trout is perhaps the most widely introduced predatory fish in the US, and it is decimating brown, brookie, cutthroat, and other mountain trouts in many places. But back to smallmouth, there is no doubt is competes for food with other fish, which slows the growth of the other fish, but it also eats any small pike, trout, or walleye it encounters, so there are less of them too.

Most of the lakes are of extreme low fertility. That means it takes a lot of water just to support one top predator. There is just not ecological room for another top predator, so something has to give.

Also, in some lakes especially smaller ones, the smallmouth overpopulate and you end up with hoards of 10-11" fish. When that happens eat 'em like they were crappie.

Joe


 
PineKnot
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01/19/2020 09:44AM  
Interesting views on competition/impacts of different fish species in the same lakes/areas. I have found if quite difficult to locate scientific data that unambiguously shows that smallmouth are the sole reason for reduced walleye populations...many factors seem to be at play when walleye populations in a given lake are reduced.

Maybe I missed such data/reports. But the following article was an interesting read and some information re walleye/smallmouth impacts. One part of this article discusses the impact of warming waters leading to die-off of ciscoe, a primary food source for walleye populations. Don't mean to hijack this thread and perhaps I should move this to the fishing forum and start a real food fight.... :-)

In-Fisherman Article--Smallmouths at risk
 
01/19/2020 01:11PM  
joewildlife: "It's a complex fish community when you have as many as 3 or 4 top predators. I can tell you that smallmouth are detrimental to native fish populations, just as any other introduced predatory fish is. The rainbow trout is perhaps the most widely introduced predatory fish in the US, and it is decimating brown, brookie, cutthroat, and other mountain trouts in many places. But back to smallmouth, there is no doubt is competes for food with other fish, which slows the growth of the other fish, but it also eats any small pike, trout, or walleye it encounters, so there are less of them too.

Most of the lakes are of extreme low fertility. That means it takes a lot of water just to support one top predator. There is just not ecological room for another top predator, so something has to give.

Also, in some lakes especially smaller ones, the smallmouth overpopulate and you end up with hoards of 10-11" fish. When that happens eat 'em like they were crappie.

Joe "

I may be wrong, but isn't it technically true that walleye are not native to most of those lakes? I am fairly certain this is true in the BW. In any case, I get your point, but I do enjoy catching the smallies!
 
02/17/2020 12:53PM  
Walleyes are native to many BWCA lakes--just not the ones in the east (ie Cook County), where pike and lake trout dominated.
 
tumblehome
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02/17/2020 03:19PM  
It's interesting that Joe commented that he wanted to go back the Q for solitude, trees, and campsites.

My last farther north trip was to St. Raphael Provincial park which is more or less in between Wabakimi and WCPP. I was looking for the farthest place I could reasonably get to so I could find solitude and wilderness.

I was somewhat disappointed in my trip. After several days of paddling I ended up on a lake with a Fly-in camp. I saw float planes and motor boats on a good part of my trip. The few campsites I found had furniture, cooking utensils, garbage, and what not.

Upon my return to the US, I realized that everything I was looknig for was actually in the Q.
Bigger trees, more diverse forest, amazing lakes, solitude, campsites. There is no need for me to travel hundreds of miles further for what was staring me in the face all along.

Tom

PS. HATE HATE small mouth bass. I don't fish much but when I do I hope that I never catch one of them. I fish for food. My personal opinion that is not shared by many.
 
joewildlife
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02/17/2020 11:05PM  
My plans for 28 days in the Q have not changed, that is going to happen.

But in talking about WCPP, it has renewed my interest and I've received some pointers and done some research. I no longer want to do the Gammon and Bloodvein rivers just to say I had. Turns out there is a lot of waters smack between the two, with no lodges and probably the non-motorized solitude I'm looking for.

I didn't want to blame walleye population declines on smallmouth. Yes there are a lot of factors that might lead to declines in some areas. I bet smallmouth are tops on the list in some places, but I can't and won't say they are the sole reason!

Maybe 2021 I'll head back to WCPP. If not, it will be a trip out of Beaverhouse.

Oh, Richard at Chukuni is surely filling some of the void with Harlan's departure from the WCPP scene. I know for a fact that he is now selling the more detailed WCPP park maps that Harlan created. I look forward to giving him my business. He gave me great advice (and sold me the lures I needed) to catch a good many lake trout last time I was up there!

Joe
 
Jackfish
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02/17/2020 11:31PM  
Hey Joe... wish I had the time to match your 28 days in Q. Very envious.

Have you read the book Alone in a Canoe by Mike Kinziger? Great story about paddling extended solo trips in WCPP, Quetico, Opasquia & Wabakimi Provincial Parks. If you haven't read it, I think it would be right up your alley.
 
joewildlife
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02/17/2020 11:59PM  
Oh man, thanks Jackfish for the recommendation. I'm not an avid book reader but that one is now on my Amazon wish list! I always read when I'm in the Northwoods.

I've never done a solo trip of any duration, so really look forward to the read. I need to figure out if I'm cut out of it. It sounds like a book best enjoyed on a trip to Quetico.
Joe
 
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