Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Angler hooks walleye, the fish returns the favor
by joe47

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 06/22/2012
Entry & Exit Point: Moose/Portage River (north) (EP 16)
Number of Days: 8
Group Size: 1
Trip Introduction:
This was only my second trip to the BWCA, and the first in 5 years. My job with the Government made summer vacation time difficult. I fixed that problem by retiring last September at 63. EP 16 is not normally considered a "hard trip". The headline hints at what made it so.
Preamble: It is a long drive from New Hampshire, so I combined it with a visit to my son and 2 grandsons in Oklahoma first. I did some hiking in the Wichita Mountains NWR, a very cool place, btw. Elk, Bison and Longhorns roam wild, along with deer, turkey and other critters. It's a trip to bust thru some scrub on a bushwhack hike and come face-to-face with a big bull buffalo at 10 paces. He posed for a photo. An easy 2-day drive brought me to Ely. I had allowed a full day to pick up my permit and have a look around. I finished the day with a huge steak at the Ely Steak House and went to bed early.

Day 1, June 22nd This will be the maiden voyage of Joe's new Prism. I arrived at EP16 at 0645, Double-portaged 160 rods in about 35 minutes, and was on my way. No one was at the entry point when I got there, the same cars were there the night before, so I decided I was the first in. I made Nina Moose at 0905, where in short order I met 4 parties coming out. I continued to pass people paddling out, making it to Agnes at 1130, where two young men came up behind me. We had an unofficial friendly race for a while, then I came to my senses. I exited Agnes at 1245, and decided to paddle the Boulder River rather than take the 65 rod portage to Boulder Bay. This was a small mistake, as I wasted time looking for campsites and landmarks that I had not reached yet. It is a longer paddle than it looks on the map. I finally reached campsite 1820 at 1445. It was a nice site, with lots of room for tents, not that I needed lots of room. Someone had built a "picnic table" with benches out of logs. I set up camp slowly, did a little fishing, and made my first walleye dinner. Sunset was at 9, greeted with Southern Comfort, and off to bed.

Day 2 I awoke at 0415 with diarrhea. In my haste to dress and exit the tent, I got leg cramps. Try rushing to the "throne" with leg cramps. I had oatmeal and coffee, and paddled to Tiger Bay to fish and have a look. My take for the morning were 2 small pike, 3 bass (2 nice ones), and 3 walleye. One walleye was kept for lunch. A nap followed, then a paddle back to the mouth of the Boulder River to fish. Dinner was soup and bannock, followed by a drink. The sunset was spectacular, so I took pictures

Sorry about this photo, it posted here after I figured out that I could indeed post photos. My first trip report, this is obviously the buffalo mentioned in the preamble, cant figure out how to move it.

Day 3 Day 3 was much like day 2, fishing, relaxing, eating walleye, etc. This base camping thing is becoming bland, I will move tomorrow.

Day 4 I decide to move to the area around Pocket Creek, with day trips into that area. I pack up camp, paddle up to Warrior Hill and the pictographs, then thru Fishstake Narrows. I check out the campsites near the mouth of Pocket Creek. They are poor, so I decide to move up to the top of LLC, enroute to Tacukmich Lake. I took campsite 140. I is poor, small tent pad and no shade, but I figure it will do for the night. I set up camp, relax in what shade I can find, and decide to catch dinner. After a couple of small pike, I catch a dinner walleye. I land him and proceed to unhook him. In the process, he flip-flops just right and buries the treble of a #11 original Rapala in the tip of my left ring finger, down to the shaft. I have caught a lot of fish in my lifetime, this is the first that has gotten me. The shaft of the hook is lying against my finger, the hook could not be in any deeper. I determine that this will require a visit to the emergency room in Ely. I lack pliers to cut off the exposed trebles, so I apply neosporin, then tape the hook shank down, cover the exposed trebles with more tape, and paddle back to camp. It is now after 5 PM, but I decide to break camp and get some paddling in before dark. It is a long way to Ely. I am grateful that I can grip the kayak paddle. I set up a hasty camp somewhere north of Neverfail Bay, and get some sleep.

Day 5 I wake up, have oatmeal and coffee, then begin what is a very tough day. I paddle and portage to Agnes, where I discover that the wind is blowing vigorously in my face. I cross Agnes, up the river, cross Nina Moose, up the river, do the 160 rods to the parking lot, load the gear, and reach Ely at 6 PM. I stop for a motel room (priorities, gotta sleep), then drive to the ER. The first person to see me is a paramedic, a very professional man who rides in to the wilderness in Forest Service planes and does back country rescues. I ask if the doctor is going to slice the hook out. He says heck no, he's going to yank it out. In comes the doctor, who has done a lot of these "surgeries". He gives me a shot of pain killer, waits about 60 seconds, then takes an ordinary pair of needle nose pliers, such as one could buy at Ace Hardware, and deftly but vigorously yanks the hook out. He applies Neosporin and a large band-aid! Since the hook has been in there for over 24 hours, they give me antibiotic pills, and I'm done. It occurs to me now that if I had brought my Leatherman, and had known what to do, I could have done this in the bush. By the way, the method of pushing the barb thru, cutting it off, then pulling the hook out is 20-year old bad medicine, according to my expert, who has done a lot of these "surgeries".

Day 6 thru 9 I pick up an entry for S. Kawishiwi R. the next morning, hang out in Ely for the day, and go in on day 7. The river is about 2 feet (my estimate) to 4 feet (a local) above normal. I would like to reach Gabbro, but an exiting camper tells me it is full, someone took his site as he left, so I camp on the river. The fish are not biting, try as I might. I paddle up to the Little Gabbro portage, thru a rapids that did not have a portage, but were the conditions normal, would have needed one. Sideways was a real possibly, and that would likely have dumped me. I day tripped into Clear Lake. It is beautiful, but all 5 campsites are taken and no one is leaving. In the end, I departed on day 9, satisfied, all in all, with my trip.   Even "walleye hooks angler" is by now a pleasant memory. I estimate my trip to the ER as at least 20 miles of paddle and portage. My time in the gym last winter and hikes in the Wichitas paid off. Next year I figure no more than 2 days at any campsite. I will paddle in, take the first campsite on any destination lake, and move 2-3 hours worth of paddling, perhaps daily. The intent will still be fishing and camping, not loop tripping, pushing hard each day like some of the ardent paddlers on this site. I assure you one thing, next year I will bring the Leatherman!