Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Basecamping on Other Man Lake in Quetico
by immgr

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 08/17/2012
Entry & Exit Point: Quetico
Number of Days: 6
Group Size: 2
Trip Introduction:
My son and I took our fifth annual trip to Quetico from August 16-22, 2012. Trip reports from the previous four Quetico trips are contained at these trip report links:

2008 –

2009 –

2010 –

2011 -

As before, thanks to all of you on the BCWA discussion board for your help and advice. This was the first trip that we took late in the summer in August – our previous trips were mid-June to early July.

This trip was a repeat attempt at our relatively unsuccessful first trip to Quetico in 2008 on the Man Chain. On that trip, described in the link above, a torrential hail, thunder, and wind storm created a number of problems for us, including a terrible bog portage, a capsized canoe (plus 2 near capsizes), a sleepness night on Other Man worrying about tent liftoff in 40 mph winds, and eventually a retreat back from Other Man. After having a number of subsequent Quetico trips under our belt, we were determined to retrace our steps to Other Man and conquer our demons from the past. Our route is attached.

Our trip up from Houston went well. We picked up a sat phone from Radio Shack in Grand Marais (which worked well the entire trip) and arrived at Seagull Outfitters at about 5:30 p.m. for our pre-trip briefing. Again, Deb and her crew did an excellent job and I highly recommend using Seagull if your departure point is near the end of the Gunflint Trail. After the briefing, we had another excellent walleye dinner at the Red Paddle Bistro in the Gunflint Lodge on the shore of Gunflint Lake. The food and views were great – however, the weather was awful. Winds at 30 mph, cold temperatures and rain resulted in a grim, grey scene with white caps and crashing waves on the shore. With the forecast of record low temperatures for the following morning, I couldn’t help but worry about a repeat of our failed 2008 experience.

Fortunately, although the next morning was cold, it was also clear and sunny. We have learned that you never know what you will get in Quetico until the morning of the trip. We had the first 7 a.m. tow out to Hook Island. Everything went smoothly and we loaded our canoe and took off on our journey, looking forward to the 9 portage challenge to Other Man. We reached Janice at the Border Customs Station at about 8:15 a.m. We brought a chocolate candy bar for her this year as a small token of our appreciation for her words of advice and wisdom over the years.

Crossing Cache Bay was an adventure as usual, despite the relatively calm look of the attached picture. The bow of the canoe submerged under several wave crests but we were able to kept the overall canoe water intake to a minimum.

The Silver Falls portage was beautiful as usual and seemed like less of a challenge than in years past.

Unlike 2008, the weather was beautiful throughout the first day. In fact, it would remain unbelievably fantastic the entire trip. Each of the 6 days was sunny with light winds and high temperatures in the 70s, except for a very hot last day with highs in the 80s. All of our long underwear and fleece clothing went unused after the morning of the first day. Our previous trips to Quetico experienced cold and rain virtually every day, so we very much appreciated having excellent sunny weather this trip.

The bog portage into Other Man was flooded and virtually impassible on our 2008 trip. This trip, however, the nice weather reduced it to a minor muddy inconvenience. At least this year we could see the logs that we needed to balance on, unlike before when they were under water.

We arrived at Other Man to find the 5 star campsite open. This is a well known, fantastic site with excellent views, few bugs, and good fishing close by. We liked it so much, and the weather and fishing was so good, that we stayed on Other Man and basecamped there for 4 nights.

This camp site was a great spot to launch fishing expeditions in any direction. We also had a bald eagle nearby who kept a close watch on us and enjoyed our fish scraps.

The fishing was excellent – we fished about 12 hours per day and caught about 100 fish each day. Most of our fish were smallmouth bass, with many northern taken as well as the occasional walleye. The smallmouth were caught primarily along shorelines and shallow reefs, in 4-12 ft of water. Whereas in the past June trips we had the most luck with shallow lures, this time we had the most success with deep diving rapalas (tail dancers and DT lures). Overall we caught a larger number of “smaller” fish than in the past, but we still caught enough of the bigger ones. A full ten times we had two fish on at the same time.

We had success in most parts of Other Man which had rocky shorelines that sloped gradually into the water. In particular, we caught a lot of fish in the mid-western and mid-eastern portions of the lake. Much to our surprise, we also had excellent luck in the portion of Other Man which extends to the far southwest. This portion is basically a separate lake 5 ft deep in its entirety with few seafloor features, yet it held a large number of large smallmouth and northerns. For some reason, green/gold spoons worked really well in this portion of the lake.

We had one large hooked northern jump into the canoe, which created some excitement. The northerns were also caught on rapalas (without leaders) and surprisingly we only lost one lure to a northern the entire trip. We did troll occasionally and caught several walleye, but the tremendous bass/northern fishing resulted in less trolling for walleyes than normal. We didn’t have much success jigging for walleyes either.

We again tried for a trout this year, based on the latest advice from the BWCA site (trolling and jigging), but again came up empty. That would be our lone (minor) disappointment of the trip. We tried in the 75-100 ft deepest holes of the lake, fishing at all depths, but I don’t think we gave it enough time to be successful. It is hard to spend time chasing trout in summer when the bass and northern fishing is so good.

We made several successful trips to other lakes which were close by to Other Man but difficult to access. We enjoy exploring, and even though bush-whacking is a lot of work, the rewards of great fishing can be an added bonus.

We met one other party during our week on Other Man. The weather was fantastic - we never thought that we would experience a stretch of weather like this in Quetico.

Once the sun set each day, the wind died to nothing and the wildlife became silent. We had never experienced absolute quiet like that. The only sound you could hear was the very low level sound which occurs naturally inside of your head/ears.

We enjoyed the moonless nights and stayed up late to see stars which we normally cannot see. We even saw a glimpse of the northern lights one evening.

The last night of our trip we stayed at a good 4 star campsite in northwestern Saganagons. For some reason, we had more bugs here than on our Other Man campsite. However, the fishing was superb, some of the best of the trip. We fished mainly for bass and northerns in the outflow area from the creek which flows out of Blackstone lake.

On the final day, near the Silver Falls portage landing, my son caught a nice northern to put the perfect capper on the trip. We struggled to land him in the fully packed canoe and needed to paddle to shore to bring him in.

Reflecting on the trip, a few thoughts: • Unless you are an avid walleye fisherman, August seems like the best time to be in Quetico – fewer bugs, less steady rain, better temperatures, and excellent bass and northern fishing.

• We had excellent luck catching northern without using leaders, although we did use leaders when fishing with spoons.

• This was the first year we hauled in full size pillows. Even though we felt like weenies doing it, they made a big difference when trying to get good nights sleep.

• With each trip, the depth finder becomes more and more indispensible.

• The BodyGlove H2 trail/water shoes worked great. Dried out quickly and had excellent traction on the portages.

• We had one reel and one rod each break – but since we brought in 3 rods and 4 reels, all was good. Redundancy is a good thing.

• After 5 years, we finally are able to not overestimate our food requirements.

• Great weather makes everything else better.

The fifth time to Quetico was the charm. I feel that nature won the first 4 outings, but now we finally have one in the win column. The bottom line is that Quetico is a good place anytime, but it is a magical place when the weather is perfect, the fishing is great, and the bugs are non-existent. Especially when you can experience it with your son.