EP 16 -- Agnes Lake
The group of six heads to Ely, MN. Our group of six includes my Uncle and Cousin that are coming from Glenwood, IA. They made part of the drive on Saturday and stayed at my place in Altoona, WI. We leave my place around 7 am on Sunday and head to Hayward, WI to pick up our 4th, my brother. The other two will meet us in Ely and are from Albert Lea and Anoka, MN. The guy from Albert Lea is going to swing through Anoka and pick up the other guy. The first of us arrives in Ely to Jordan’s Canoe Outfitters at about 3:30 pm. Mark quickly sets us up with a bunkhouse for the night and we start to bring in our gear. The other group of 2 arrives at about 4:30. As a group we sort through the community gear and distribute it amongst us. After everyone is packed up we head to downtown Ely for a bite to eat. We decide on the Boathouse. Later that evening we return to put the final touches on our gear and talk a little more about the trip. We discuss which campsites we would like to get and out contingencies if those sites are full.
Monday June 10th
Reveille is sounded at about 5:30 am. We load up the van with all of our gear and head over to Mark’s office. We are treated to pancakes, sausage, coffee, and OJ as a send off breakfast. After breakfast we had to the bait shop to pick up our leeches and crawlers. Now we are off to our entry point, EP – 16 Moose River North. We arrive a little after 7 and start with the half mile portage. The parking lot is pretty busy with two other large groups heading in at the same time we are. Our plan is to get to Boulder Bay by early afternoon and set up base camp. We make quick work of the first portage and our heading down the river. The river is pretty busy with groups both entering and leaving. It’s not long and we are at the first of our portages. Our group of 6 includes four guys that are new to the BWCA and portaging in general. We are a little slower than I thought we would be. But none the less everyone’s spirits are high. The day is overcast and there seems like a threat of rain at any minute. There are small showers throughout the day with the longest lasting about a minute. As we continue down the river into Nina Moose Lake we are continuously running into groups on their way out. The fishing reports we are getting in passing make everyone excited as it sounds like the bite has been hot. Our group is not traveling as fast as we thought we would and some of the portages are taking their toll. We have a quick group meeting and decide that we will find a site on Agnes and make our base camp there. The sites on Agnes are pretty full and we finally discover site 1805 on the eastern shore. The landings at the camp are a little less than desirable but once we get up to the site we decide it will work great as home for the next 4 four days. We spend the next couple hours setting up camp and doing the normal camp chores of making water and collecting firewood. After chores are done four of the guys go out for a quick fishing trip before dinner. They are rewarded with a nice 25” pike to go with dinner. We sit down to dinner around six. The menu includes NY Strip steaks and fried fish with a side of hash browns (what I like to the BWCA surf and turf). After dishes are done and camp is clean we sit around the fire and talk about the day’s journeys and plans for Tuesday. We head to bed around 11 pm and shortly after the skies open up with steady rain for the next few hours. The rain quits before we get up Tuesday morning and it will be the last rain we see for the rest of the week.
Tuesday June 11th
Tuesday morning rolls around and the group has instant oatmeal, nutrigrain bars, and coffee for breakfast. We are really not in any big hurry to get the day going. We pack up the canoes for a day of fishing and set off around 9 am. Each of the groups heads to a slightly different area of the lake. My brother and I head into a little bay that has plenty of weeds in it looking for some pan fish or small mouths that may be in the shallows ready to spawn. After a few casts we have a nice pike that has followed the crank bait right up to the boat only to splash and swim away. A few more casts and my brother’s moss boss is quickly snipped from his line. A few casts later and I have said pike hooked up on my crank bait. A short fight later and our first fish is in the boat. A nice 25”-26” pike. We then move to an out crop of rocks in the northern part of the bay. I am quickly reward with nice 18”-19” small mouth which is followed by a nice 12”-13” crappie. Shortly after that my brother lands his first BWCA walleye. A perfect eater in the 15”-16” range. We caught those 3 fish within about the first 30 minutes of being in the area. The bite cools and we are forced to move to another area. Meanwhile my uncle has landed a nice small mouth in the 19”-20” range. The other canoe, Brian and Aaron, have managed two nice walleye in the 15”-16” range. All in all the bite wasn’t super hot but we have managed to catch dinner for that night. We meet at an empty site for lunch (hard salami sandwiches with gorp and a granola bar). After lunch we head back out in search of more fish. He bite has definitely stopped and the group heads back to camp. We do a few more camp chores and start to get ready for dinner. The fish are cleaned and ready to be cooked. Dinner tonight will be fresh shore lunch with a side of hash browns. We sneak out for some evening fishing and my uncle and cousin are rewarded with two eater size walleye. Once back to camp we risk putting the walleye in the water for the night and save them until Wednesday. Another night spent around the fire laughing, joking, and educating the 16 year old about the ways of the world…..and bubble gum.
Wednesday June 12th
Oatmeal, cereal bars, and coffee again for breakfast again. The group breaks up for a day of fishing again. Each canoe heading to a different part of the lake to see what they can find. My brother and I head to the rock outcrop we found the day before and come up empty, we fish a few other spots before calling out on the radio to see if anyone else has had luck. It turns out both of the other boats have had some luck on the other side of the lake. We quickly decide to paddle over and join in on the fun. We arrive and quickly get to work landing a walleye and a rock bass. While taking the walleye off the line I set my pole across my lap left my leech in the water. I was passing the net with the fish in it to my brother when I picked up my pole and to my surprise there was a really nice small mouth already on it. Unable to get a proper hook set the fish was able to get off the line with relative ease. While fishing in this bay my cousin Baker caught his first walleye ever, and he didn’t stop at just one. By the time we headed in for lunch he had five in the boat. Aaron also decided he had enough of not catching fish and landed a walleye or two for good measure as well. With enough fish for dinner we head back to the site for lunch and some much needed showers. Lunch was Mountain House spaghetti and meat sauce with garlic bread. After lunch we headed into the woods one at a time for a quick shower from the solar showers we have been warming up. After everyone had cleaned up we all agreed that it would be nice to hang out and not have to get back into the canoes for the afternoon. We spend a lazy afternoon at camp sitting around the fire and shooting the breeze. Once again dinner was fresh fish and hash browns. And it was great! Nine out of the twelve fish we ate that night were walleye.
Thursday June 13th
Thursday starts early as we have decided that today we will head to Nina Moose Lake for the night before paddling out Friday morning. After the tents are broke down and most everything is ready to go we start breakfast. This morning we are going all out with eggs, hash browns, and bacon. This breakfast is dynamite and everyone gobbles it down. After breakfast we finish packing and head back to Nina Moose Lake. The trip to Nina Moose is uneventful and everything goes well. We pass a couple groups heading in a couple heading to Lac La Croix and another large group heading over to Oyster Lake. We get to Nina Moose and quickly discover that it is pretty full. We pass someone doing a solo trip and he points in the direction of the site he just left. The site is beautiful with a couple nice landing spots and a nice grassy point perfect for napping. We quickly set up a make shift camp and get some lines in the water. Lunch again is a salami sandwich and some small snacks. After lunch I retire to the napping spot. The other guys are catching some small perch and a few decent ones too from shore of the campsite. Soon we have a visitor at camp; a rather large (16”-18” diameter) snapping turtle. First he tries to take off with our fish basket. We defend our catch, but he is relentless. Eventually we give in and let him have a prize. Dinner tonight is country gravy with chicken over mashed potatoes. Once dinner is over four of the guys head out in canoes to try their luck and see what they can produce. They happen upon a feeding frenzy not too far from camp. The pike have a bunch of bait fish rounded up in the shallows by some weeds and are feeding on them like crazy. The four of them are able to land about 30 pike in 30 minutes or so; all ranging from 20”-25”. The youngest of the group has also caught his first pike ever on this trip. After the frenzy slows down they head back to shore and we settle in for the night. Three of the guys decide to forgo tents tonight and sleep out under the stars.
Friday June 14th
We awake and have oatmeal and coffee this morning. We quickly pack up camp and start our voyage back to the entry point. Everything goes extremely well and after a couple of hours we are to the last portage out. We double portage it and get to the parking lot with all of our gear. Once again the parking lot is a busy place with lots of traffic leaving and putting in. We wait for about 10 minutes and our ride arrives. We pack up the gear and canoes and pile into the van. Mark has brought us some cold sodas which we all gulp down quickly. We get back to Jordan’s Outfitters and breakdown our gear. We all head to the shower house for what is sure to feel like one of the best showers we have ever had. Then head to Dairy Queen for a quick lunch before leaving town.
All in all it was a fantastic trip and I feel great about getting to introduce four newcomers to the BWCA. Their spirits were high and all had a great time. The youngest of the group, my 16 year old cousin, is trying to plan a return this year with some friends. My uncle is trying to convince the rest of his family that they should go to the BWCA on family vacation. All have said they will return at some point.