Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Early Ice out 2012
by hobbydog

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 04/04/2012
Entry & Exit Point: North Fowl Lake (EP 70)
Number of Days: 4
Group Size: 1
Trip Introduction:
I was looking through pictures while waiting for this long hard water season to end. I never did a trip report for this trip so thought I would share this story. To this date it was the best 4 day trip I have ever taken. The walleye season did not end until April 15 on the border lakes so I was watching the Modis satellite images and listening to ice out reports looking for the opportunity. I had everything ready to go on a minutes notice if everything lined up correctly. On April 3 I heard most lakes were open and the 5 day forecast looked excellent. Me and my fishing buddy Koop left early on the morning of April 4.
Day 1

We made it to Little John EP and were on our way by 2 PM. The weather was perfect and no other cars in the parking lot. Koop was just as excited to get going as I was after the winter months. The opportunity to paddle this early in the season was a real treat. There was still a few remnants of ice on John Lake. The portage into the Royal River was in good shape. Paddling the Royal is always a treat but on this spring day, the sights, smells and sounds were a real delight. My 16’ alumacraft was the canoe of choice, affectionately referred to as the floating turd. A bit heavy to portage but a very stable solo fishing platform, especially with my partner up front. With no wind we made good time. The portage into North Fowl was a bit wet but otherwise in good shape. Water levels were quite low for this time of year, more like mid-June levels. Once on North Fowl we made our way to the campsite on the point between North and South Fowl Lake. This is a really nice site that has lots of history. I assume it was a stopping place along the voyager route. We get camp set up quickly as we want to see if the pre spawn walleyes are active before the day was over.

It did not take long to hook the first walleye. I tried both rapalas and jigs with twister tails. Both seemed to work with a real slow retrieve. We did not fish too long as I wanted to get some wood put up and hit the sack early. It had been a long day and it was going to be a cold night. Kota also wanted to stretch the legs a bit. Wood was plentiful and we soon had a nice fire going. There was a not quite full moon to accompany us for the night. Life is good.

Day 2

A chilliy night. My Nalgene in the tent and water filter are froze solid. But the sun is rising and to is a gorgeous morning. The forecast is for 50 degrees with a light breeze. Some hot oatmeal for breakfast and we are soon out to find some walleyes. We decided to start on North Fowl, troll until we find a fish. It did not take long. The slight breeze was light and variable so we just let it take us where it wanted to. It took a while to catch some smaller eaters, most were in the 19” to 21” range. The plan was for a big shore lunch, put up some more wood and then fish and repeat. Koop even got into the act. He wanted his own shore lunch.

After good fish fry we tried the South Lake with the same success. We did not have to go more than a couple hundred yards from camp. It was another perfect evening. The not quite full moon was rising. The temps were dropping, hot tea and warm fire felt really good. It was at this point I thought to myself, this is going to be one of those unforgettable trips.

Day 3

It was even colder this morning, even the sun was cold…probably in the upper teens. But the forecast was for a quick warmup. We were a little slower to get going today. The plan was to head over to Moose and see if the ice was out. If so we were going to do some paddling on Moose if the winds stayed calm. North fowl has cabins on both sides of the lake but all were empty. I had the lake to myself. I enjoyed the paddle down the lake, stopping to take a few casts along the way. Stretching our legs on the portage felt good. Unfortunately, Moose was still iced in. We spent some time exploring before heading back.

Once back at the site, we had another fish fry and then went out to fish. By late afternoon the bite was really on. Some nice sized ones, again, hard to find some smaller keepers. The temps made it into the low 50s and it was another perfect day in paradise. The moon was a full super moon and the rise over the lake was spectacular. Sitting out on the point we watched the moon rise and the sun set. The last night in paradise. A night to remember.

Day 4

Time to pack up and go today. It is another glorious morning. How many times will you get four perfect days the first week of April in the BWCA. Light winds, no clouds, cold nights, warm afternoons with a full moon? As I made breakfast that morning Koop sat and watched the sunrise. He seemed to be mesmerized by it. I did not know at the time but this would be his last sunrise in the BWCA. He died suddenly later that year at 6 years of age. It makes this trip even more memorable.

We were in no big hurry to get going. Oatmeal and hot tea and a warm fire. Today looked like another perfect day. As we paddled out I couldn’t resist the temptation for a few more casts. A few more fish, just one more cast…. I think you know that story. It is not every trip you find such cooperative fish. On the drive home I reflected on the trip. I had taken lots of pictures and hoped they were able to capture the trip and the memories. Six years later they still bring me back to those four days in April that are etched in my memory.

One last fish.....ok, just one more.