Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

May 29-June 4th Nina Moose to Lacroix with plenty of wind
by johnnydoc17

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 05/29/2022
Entry & Exit Point: Moose/Portage River (north) (EP 16)
Number of Days: 6
Group Size: 4
Trip Introduction:
Alas, the day had arrived. After some early travel from southern Minnesota, our group arrived in Ely, picked up our permit and arrived at EP 16. Scattered thunderstorms, we hoped, would be out of the way for our mid-afternoon start towards lake Agnes. While the conditions didn't go exactly as envisioned, our group had a great time and enjoyed good company, good fishing and plenty of challenges.
Sunday, May 29th- Those scattered pm thunderstorms observed on the way to the entry point, hopefully gone by the time we started paddling, persisted on the paddle up the beautiful Nina moose river. Threatening skies meant grabbing the second open camp site on Nina Moose rather than pushing up to Agnes as initially planned. As luck would have it, as we set up the camp and bug tent, we were greeted with clearing skies, sun and calm waters. We capitalized with a great evening of top-water fishing on Nina Moose with lots of fish caught and released. Not long after settling into our tents for the night the winds howled and the rain came. We stayed dry and slept well after a long day on the road and the excitement of launching into the canoe country.    Monday, May 30th The rain persisted into the morning with strong winds arising around 8:00 AM. We drank coffee and told stories, our backs supporting the bug tent strained by the 20 mph winds (a theme for the week), until around 10:00 am when the weather cleared and the winds died down. We packed up camp and moved north. Some great fishing was found below one of the portage trails on Nina Moose. We uneventfully moved into Lake Agnes and enjoyed a rare tail wind which helped power us across the northern half of the beautiful lake. The boulder river paddle was largely uneventful with the single portage in good shape. Soon after the portage, the sun came out and temperatures soared into the 80s. The sunblock was getting used, our wet clothes quickly dried as we dreamt of clear skies, calm water and eager fish on Lac La Croix. Once arriving on the big water, that was initially exactly what we found. But as we made our way to our preferred northern camp site, the skies again darkened and the wind freshened. We quickly set up camp on a beautiful northern island site as lightning started to flash at a constant pace. After a quick dinner, we crawled into our tents avoiding the pouring rain. The winds kicked up and lightning flashed. Over 2 inches of rain were in our canoes the next morning.     

Tuesday, May 31st. Wind, Wind, Wind. That was the theme for the next few days. While the rain cleared and we saw intermittent spots of sun, the wind remained a challenge, particularly after 10:00 a.m. We paddled to Tiger Bay, seeking warmer water, but found the fish to be uncooperative. A trip over to the Bottle River resulted in some high waves and an eventful crossing back to the campsite, something we distinctly planned on avoiding for the remainder of the trip. We satisfied ourselves hanging around camp, crafting birch bark armor and bows and arrows and trying to call in our resident grouse. An occasional pike or walleye from camp satisfied the craving for fresh fish. We planned to leave early the next morning before the winds might make passage back to the smaller, warmer lakes unwise. Wednesday, June 1st. True to our word, we arose early, broke camp and headed across to Boulder bay before the wind would make that passage more interesting than any of us would have liked. We leasurely paddled up the Boulder River, fishing sporadically, before snagging a nice campsite we had eyed on Agnes 2 days prior. After setting up camp, getting a nap, and finding some fishing areas reasonably protected from the wind, the fish fry we had been planning since December came to fruition. Trolling and jigging Walleye and pike in 10-15 feet of water and in shallow, weedy bays respectively proved to be the ticket. The big meal, one of the true joys of any canoe trip, left all of us in a state of satiated bliss.


Thursday, June 2nd- Wind, again. Our group ventured off to the portage for the oyster river and oyster lake, hoping for a reprieve from the wind and a chance at a lake trout. The disappointment, after the 190 rod portage and upriver paddle, only to find white caps and unsafe boating on Oyster, was palpable. Gladly, this was quickly relieved by a hike around that beautiful lake, and taking a couple of top tier small-mouth bass from the large boulders off the north shore of the lake. The return trip down the oyster river, still windy, was beautiful.  After some hard paddling across a windy Lake Agnes, the group settled in for an evening around the campsite of relaxation and designing shoulder harnesses to aid in the next days portaging.   

Friday, June 3rd. Again, the plan to break camp early and avoid the wind swells and waves servedus well. A group that was behind us by 30 minutes mentioned some hairy paddling crossing Lake Agnes. The early start afforded the opportunity to again enjoy some great fishing moving up the Nina Moose River with many pike, walleye and even a large sucker coming to hand. This also allowed our second shore lunch of the trip, enjoyed by all. As we settled into camp on a calming Nina Moose, we again enjoyed some great evening fishing before preparing gear for the short paddle and portage out the next morning.   Saturday, June 4th.  We kept with the theme of breaking camp early, this time to get home to southern MN at a reasonable hour. Of course, as we launched the boat towards the entry point, we were greeted with clear skies, sun and NO WIND. Alas, such is a trek to the canoe country. By being adaptable, using careful timing and selective locations for fishing, and by not taking on too much we all had a wonderful and safe time in canoe country and hope to be back again next year, hopefully with less wind.