BWCA Mudro to Crooked tips in late May Boundary Waters Trip Planning Forum
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newy21
member (9)member
 
01/05/2021 12:38PM  
With Canada not being on the table this year (at least not enough time to find out if we can go to plan it), my 5-7 college buddies and I are looking to take a BWCA trip to get away from our new 9-5 work lives...The plan is Crooked Lake through Mudro on May the 22nd to the 30th and do 5-6 nights and hit the walleye hard. Some of us have been to BWCA 5 times and maybe 2 are newcomers, the ones that have been we have made great time on trips even while double portaging. All looking to catch fish mainly and basecamp on crooked.

1st night stay in the bunkhouse, then the plan is to go from Mudro to Crooked in a day through the horse river route and make basecamp just past Wednesday bay. Seemed nice and scenic, not a ton of portages, and water could be high in the river at the time. I saw a lot of people on here recommending the loop and come back through Friday Bay and hit that nasty 1-mile portage. Is there actually some strategy for doing this other than a change of scenery on way back? I mapped both online and the route through Friday bay takes almost an hour and a half more time (I know they are estimates). Just want to know if there is a reason to do this because none of us have done a mile portage yet, maybe we will break our exit journey home into two days or something (usually what we do). Not looking to pay for a tow so please don't suggest...haha.

The next tips I need help with are fishing. My main draw to this lake is the walleye fishing which is our number 1 target. We have had good luck with Alice and Thomas in the past, but heard Crooked is amazing in May. I know it really depends on when the walleye spawn/weather, but is this a good time to get some good action (May 22nd-30th)? We were also planning maybe to go after memorial day the following weekend (4th-12th) but not sure. Is earlier better on this lake from your guys' experience?

The final thing, are crowds going to be a huge issue at this time? I know this is a popular route, but even in late May? Would this make the week after memorial day weekend better? Just not sure on that end.

Thanks for the help guys and go pack go!!! (yes Vikings fans I need your help too)
 
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01/05/2021 01:02PM  
I would think the eastern portion with the more current would be better for walleye the earlier you go.
seekadventure
member (12)member
 
01/05/2021 01:13PM  
We did that exact route last summer. There was 6 of us and we double portaged everything. If you plan on double portaging i think it would be too tall of a task to get all the way to other side of Wednesday bay. On day one we ended up camping on site 1546 where the horse river spills in to the basswood river. We were there in mid June and the river (and surrounding lakes) were down a good two feet. This resulted in an additional ~10 pullovers on the horse river. I think the rumor going around (at the time) was a new beaver damn choked off the inlet of the mudro chain (i could be wrong). Maybe get an update on water levels right before you go and plan accordingly, we definitely were shocked. I would suggest to have a backup plan or a sight picked out near basswood falls for day 1, it will give you more time to appreciate them. From just north of wednesday bay, it would absolutely be a two day trip back through the fourtown loop route. The mile portage is actually quite easy, outside of the length. its pretty flat and well worn, almost like a maintained hiking trail.

As far as fishing, we didnt fish the east side so i cant help you there, and i primarily was after smallmouth. Fishing was really slow the week we went (low 90's all week, in june?!). However, I had good success near the island campsite on the north end of friday bay (site 1871, also where we basecamped) drifting through the narrows and the point on the island across from the site. Walleye's for dinner every night. beware of the monster of the deep that lurks over there
01/05/2021 02:35PM  
Fun trip.

Even for strong young bodies, that's a long day one. Possible, but seekadventure's comments on those pullovers are a bit concerning. You would gain considerable time if you can pull off 1.5 portaging.

I would expect good crowds either timeframe.
newy21
member (9)member
 
01/05/2021 08:37PM  
That was quick-thank you guys for the tips. I heard about the river and that would be terrible if we ended up in that situation too. I will make sure to check with the outfitter to make the best decision. We will probably be closer to 1.5 portaging since one canoe will have 3 people thus meaning if we can carry canoes with our packs on (which we did last year), only 1 or 2 people of the six of us will have to go back a 2nd time. I was told before that we couldn't make snowbank to Alice in a day but made really good time there, also had wonderful weather. I guess we will take this trip in stride then and see what happens, that is the fun of it.
newy21
member (9)member
 
01/05/2021 08:45PM  
seekadventure: "We did that exact route last summer. There was 6 of us and we double portaged everything. If you plan on double portaging i think it would be too tall of a task to get all the way to other side of Wednesday bay. On day one we ended up camping on site 1546 where the horse river spills in to the basswood river. We were there in mid June and the river (and surrounding lakes) were down a good two feet. This resulted in an additional ~10 pullovers on the horse river. I think the rumor going around (at the time) was a new beaver damn choked off the inlet of the mudro chain (i could be wrong). Maybe get an update on water levels right before you go and plan accordingly, we definitely were shocked. I would suggest to have a backup plan or a sight picked out near basswood falls for day 1, it will give you more time to appreciate them. From just north of wednesday bay, it would absolutely be a two day trip back through the fourtown loop route. The mile portage is actually quite easy, outside of the length. its pretty flat and well worn, almost like a maintained hiking trail.


As far as fishing, we didnt fish the east side so i cant help you there, and i primarily was after smallmouth. Fishing was really slow the week we went (low 90's all week, in june?!). However, I had good success near the island campsite on the north end of friday bay (site 1871, also where we basecamped) drifting through the narrows and the point on the island across from the site. Walleye's for dinner every night. beware of the monster of the deep that lurks over there"


That is crazy with those temps! We will try to hit multiple bays the week we are there then make our way to our 2 day trip down through Friday. Maybe take a campsite near friday.
cyclones30
distinguished member(3904)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/05/2021 09:57PM  
I like your plan. I'd just say be flexible. I don't know if this far out the date differences will really matter. I'd see how the Horse is on your way in and if it was easy and you want easy on the way out go back that way. If it wasn't much fun or you want different scenery or something take your other route. I actually prefer the loop version. And you don't necessarily need to get to the big parts of Crooked on day 1. The sites below lower Basswood falls are nice and have great fishing too. You could spend a day or two there and catch a bunch and then move to Crooked proper. Like I said...be flexible. Once you're along the border you're good. Just don't fish across the mid line of the river or land over there for fun (portaging is ok)
tbro16
member (26)member
 
01/06/2021 02:58AM  
I went the same time period on my first solo trip in 2019. Absolutely loved it. Had I not had a goal to catch my first laker last summer I would have returned. I went in pretty blind, never really having much luck in the BWCA for walleyes prior to this trip. Crooked changed my outlook on the BWCA in general, honestly. Great fishing! That time of the year I would highly recommend to stick in the current. I spent the first night below Basswood falls and did decent there. Didn't light it on fire but certainly caught fish. My best fishing for the week came between Wednesday and Thursday bay. For two days I tried to venture out into the expansive bays but I didnt do nearly as well as when I stayed in the upper portion of the lake where I could fish the river current/channels. I didnt make it west of Friday at all so I cannot comment on how the fishing is out that way. Fish were still spawning when I was there. Think that's what kept the fish in or near the current. I caught almost all my fish on a jig and a leech, but if/when I return this May I think I'm going to portage in a load of minnows assuming I have at least two more hands to help me out. If I go solo again I'll likely go with leeches even though its probably a little early for them.
I double portaged in on the horse and made it to Basswood falls in 10 or so hours. Again, solo, so you guys should make better time. On the way back I took the other route through gun and boot. Had a REAL stiff wind in my face the whole trip, made it an absolute miserable day of paddling. Took about 14 hrs and I was as exhausted as I had ever been.
SurlyDude
senior member (62)senior membersenior member
 
01/06/2021 09:57AM  
I did this trip with a group of 5 last year the exact same timing (left 5/23 Saturday before Memorial Day). We single portaged and made it up to Wednesday Bay in about 6 hours. The water level on the Horse River was fine and there weren't any additional portages or stepovers on the way to Crooked (there was 1 or 2 when we looped back the other way out Friday Bay.) Walleye fishing was incredible - brought minnows and leeches both were very effective with maybe a slight edge to minnows. Plastics worked as well but were pretty clearly less effective.

One big thing to keep in mind is how quickly those permits go, if you aren't flexible on entry day take no chances and be in there first thing to book.
SurlyDude
senior member (62)senior membersenior member
 
01/06/2021 10:09AM  
Forgot to mention the crowds... not sure last year is a good indicator because when we went they didn't open the overnight camping until like a week before. It was actually really quiet, we did not see many groups on Weds or Thurs bays. Again it may have been impacted by the timing of the park re-opening though.
01/06/2021 05:06PM  
Done a few times in second half of May, it’s a leisurely 5-6 day loop....about 40 miles. We are typically a group of four and most of us are in our late 40s-early 50s.

Walleye below Lower Basswood Falls and where you find flowing current as you head north to Crooked.

Minimal people once on Horse River although the campsites below Basswood Falls tend to fill up early and people will spend a few days there fishing. After that you won’t see many people until you get to Boot or Fourtown as you head south out of Friday Bay.

Day trip to Curtain Falls and fish below them for Walleye.

Two years ago (May 2019) we were on a portage between Friday Bay and Gun heading south and two young guys and dog passed us moving swiftly. They had a day pack....and nothing more gear wise. They said they started at EP23 early that morning and were planning on getting back there and exiting that evening.
01/07/2021 05:20PM  
Some pics of my marked up maps of the area
01/07/2021 05:49PM  
Did the loop 3 times. The 1 mile portage is not nasty at all. Flat and dry. The last 3 back to back portages from Fourtown to Mudro kind of suck. Get an early start if yo want to get to Crooked on day 1. Check out Table Rock. Campsite there is kind of ugly. Lower Basswood Falls is very cool. You'll be on the Canadian side there, but that's cool with them
Jeffrey Bushman
Guest Paddler
 
01/08/2021 12:16PM  
I've done that route twice now except last year we took the portage from Sandpit over to Basswood and then made our way down the Basswood river.

There is great walleye fishing below Lower basswood falls. If you can make that your first night stop you'll get good afternoon and evening fishing and you won't be as tired trying to make it up to Wednesday or Thursday bay.
The second day you could head right up in between Thursday and Friday Bay.

The biggest factor will be wind as you can get blown off those big bays rather quickly.

Crooked lake is way too cool to just blow through it in my opinion.

As far as the coming out of Friday Bay on the return Loop that portage isn't hard. It has one uphill section but it's not really steep. The little lakes after that aren't much to see and we just blow right thru those. Gun lake is nice but also clear so the fishing can be tougher but it's a nice lake. We camped there last year for 2 days.

Fourtown has good fishing but can get crowded.
ericinely
distinguished member (283)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/10/2021 04:56PM  
Here's my write up for that same exact trip in May 2020. We crushed the walleyes for 4 days in late May (especially on Wednesday Bay). We wanted to spend as much time fishing Friday Bay and didn't want to paddle back against the current on both the Horse river and Crooked, so we took the route with the mile portage. Wednesday Bay upstream likely wouldn't have been too terrible, but with the super low water levels the Horse River upstream would have been really tough/frustrating. Don't fear long portages, they always bring you to areas where there are fewer people. Be a little smarter packing, and on the way out it shouldn't be too difficult to single-portage.

Fishing Report Crooked Lake BWCA May 2020
newy21
member (9)member
 
01/10/2021 05:07PM  
plander: "Some pics of my marked up maps of the area "

Wow-thanks for sending this over! We will use it as a guide
newy21
member (9)member
 
01/10/2021 05:10PM  
ericinely: "Here's my write up for that same exact trip in May 2020. We crushed the walleyes for 4 days in late May (especially on Wednesday Bay). We wanted to spend as much time fishing Friday Bay and didn't want to paddle back against the current on both the Horse river and Crooked, so we took the route with the mile portage. Wednesday Bay upstream likely wouldn't have been too terrible, but with the super low water levels the Horse River upstream would have been really tough/frustrating. Don't fear long portages, they always bring you to areas where there are fewer people. Be a little smarter packing, and on the way out it shouldn't be too difficult to single-portage.


Fishing Report Crooked Lake BWCA May 2020 "


Thanks for the advice-I actually already came across your report online and I think that sealed the deal for me in which route to go haha. Glad to hear that portage isn't that bad, it will be better now that we have grown into smarter campers of course. Hope the water levels aren't too bad.
ericinely
distinguished member (283)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/11/2021 09:56AM  
I work at an outfitter in Ely and it sounds like 2020 was an abnormal year for water levels in late May. Generally, the Horse River isn't a problem that early in the season. I know someone commented on here about a new beaver dam affecting the flow, which is certainly possible, but I had not heard that from anyone else.
01/12/2021 03:50AM  
We took that loop in 2005. I really enjoyed it. I would say going to wednesday in one day is a long way to go. I think there were 9 or 10 portages just to get to lower basswood falls.

I agree, the mile portage was really one of the easier ones. It's very flat, and darn near a bike path.

I liked the peninsula fire pit on the campsite at the north end of gun, although that site may not be big enough for 6 people.

We liked the campsite by lower basswood falls too. Caught a nice pike right from Camp.

I'm not sure you understood what SNS meant by 1.5 portaging.

1. A,B,C grab a bag and gear each, and go all the way across.

2. DEF grab a bag and gear and carry half way across the portage, and return to beginning to grab canoes.

3. ABC return 1/2 way, and grab the bags/gear that DEF left at the half way point, and carry it the rest of the way across the 2nd half of the portage.

4. DEF walk the full portage with the canoes.

So any given portage, each person walks 1.5x the portage under load, and only half a portage without load.



bombinbrian
distinguished member (333)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/17/2021 05:29PM  
I think getting all the way to Crooked is a tall task. We went down the Horse last year with the low water levels, it sucked. I thinks going to LBWF and fishing there an evening and heading up the next day is a better option.

I have come back both ways. Coming back up to LBWF you are against a current and if you have a south wind it sucks. The wind funnels through there and will wear you out. If water levels are still low, going up the Horse River will also really suck.

Going South out of Crooked is ok, except for that portage to Gun. While most say its not bad, what everyone fails to mention is its uphill for at least half, if not 2/3-3/4 of the way. I'd still go this way versus back up the rivers.
Bushman
distinguished member (281)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/18/2021 11:12AM  
I forgot to add that we went from site 1859 all the way across Crooked, south into Friday Bay and proceeded thru to Gun Lake where we cut across to Bullet and into Moosecamp Lake. We took the Moosecamp River route and at the end of a very long day we found ourselves back at entry point #23. It was a long and grueling trip with temps in the mid to upper 80's.
I would never attempt that again.
The reason? Campsite availability.
razinCO
 
06/05/2021 07:02AM  
How did your trip go? We are putting in at the end of the month at #23
TuscaroraBorealis
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06/05/2021 02:27PM  
pastorjsackett
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06/07/2021 07:52AM  
Just did this trip. Ditto to everything here. 6.5 hours to top of Wed Bay.

Big/Little Current produce fish. Lower Basswood kicked out some, but not what we expected. We stayed at Wednesday, then on our last night in we dropped down to the falls and found a great campsite. It cut a significant amount off our last day paddle which was good because it was straight down rain the whole way.

I'm hooked on Crooked now.
newy21
member (9)member
 
06/07/2021 09:14AM  
It went great! We made it from mudro to right between Wednesday on Thursday bay on the island campsite in a single day. It was a long day of paddling but worth it, double portage with aluminum canoe and left at 8:45 am from mudro. A lot of people in the thread and on our portages said its tough or nearly impossible to get that far in a day. Just know if youre determined you can get as far as you want, even double portaging. Down with falls portage by 4:15. Got to island campsite at 6:30 that day (late but we were set on base camping and confident there were enough sites on a sunday) and we passed up some other sites closer to Wednesday bay. Caught consistent walleye, not amazing but they were there. Ton of northern and had a lot of fun with the bass on top water. My friend caught a 21 inch largemouth! I'm glad we were there for a week because it's such a big lake to explore. Big rapids was ok I don't think it was worth it didn't try little. Also the mile long portage out of friday Bay wouldn't necessarily call it easy, there's a couple uphill and downhill parts each way. Horse river was kinda low, but powered through it. Definitely want to come back and do some more fishing!
Noslen
senior member (75)senior membersenior member
 
06/07/2021 03:59PM  
Went Mudro to Crooked via Horse and out Friday bay last week of Sep 2020 with my daughter. Extremely low water, to LBF in <7 hours (single portage) with multiple additional portages and pull-overs due to low water. Late in the year, but maybe some comparisons. For your consideration, easy to make Crooked in initial day. We had great walleye fishing across Friday Bay with tail dancers--the water was so low little current was impassible, big current didn't look promising. I like the return through Friday--good diversity for travel and from Friday closer than Horse river. We fished leeches sunrise, and trolled the lake with Rapalas to good results, just need to find the right depth.
mmrocker13
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06/11/2021 01:47PM  
We've done that route often (Crooked is basically our second home by now :D We've spent many weeks up in the Wed-Th bay areas.).

Out of the three ways we've gone in and out (fall/basswood/crooked); horse up thru LBF; or thru gun toward Friday... I hated the Friday trip. Personally think it's the worst (we are single portagers, and quick movers. NOt novices at all, either). We went out that way once, and I prob wouldn't do it again.

My preference is a loop in thru Fall with a tow, then out thru horse and pop out the river (or slog out it, like last year :D) and have our car moved to the Mudro EP lot, but in and out of mudro is almost the exact same, time-wise, for us. A horse apiece (heh heh), except with the tow you do have that mile long portage with gear. It's an easy walk, but long (says the moron who slipped, turtled herself with a 90lb pack, and tore her ACL/MCL :D on that same portage :p But it really IS easy.)

We can do either and be at our site by early afternoon if we get on the water around 8ish. It does take longer if the river is low, though. Last year coming out was a bit of a slog (we had also planned on staying on horse, but it was full, so patience was a bit thin :D)

Fish-wise (we are usually up later in the season--late summer early fall)... we've never found LBF to be super awesome (although the two sites right there are great), but if you get up to the pictos and bounce that stretch of tall cliffs, it's always been productive for us on that end. Up W-Th way, we like Jane current (watch out for the field of rock bass), and Big/Little Current (plentiful walleye, but have always been smaller 12-16 range, typically). There are a couple of flats near the island site in thursday that are productive, as well as the northern border straight out from the site.

For walleyes, we've never found a better spot than crooked...which is why we go there all the time :D good volume and good size. BUT i will say... we also discovered that the crappie fishing is excellent, and I know this may be heresy...we prefer eating crappie to walleye. So...if you get bored with the willies, a few fat crappies is a nice changeup.

 
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