Boundary Waters Quetico Forum :: Fishing Forum :: Lake, timing, and tackle recommendations (September)
First off I would reconsider your entry timing. The BWCA is crazy busy this year and entering late in the day could potentially be a big mistake. Even under normal circumstances entering earlier in the day is always better. With the crowds this season entering late is setting you up for potentially not finding a campsite. Even on lakes with multiple sites you could still be in trouble. Normally crowds drop off in September but its not a normal year so who knows for sure what it will be like this year.
As far as entry points it feels like you're asking for a lot. You want it to either have an outfitter right on the water you can paddle away from or have an outfitter meet you. I'm not sure if outfitters will be willing to meet you, I think they'd prefer you come to them to pick up the canoes and then you shuttle them the rest of the way or you meet them at their location and they'll shuttle you and gear for a fee.
i think you should figure out your timing and preferred logistics for getting canoes first then see what areas fit into those plans. There is a lot of good fishing all over the BWCA so thats easier to figure out.
As far as fishing goes there are countless options. Slip bobbers are always a good option, jigging with live bait or plastics is a good option, and trolling is a good option. For trolling 2 people can easily troll. When I do it I usually paddle from the stern with the rod locked between my legs ( end of the rod behind one ankle and the rod in front of the other ankle on the side of the boat I'm fishing). Then the bow paddler can just sit and hold his rod. There are tons of crankbait options that can be fishing at all kinds of depths, best to have an assortment of depth options with you. You can also use live bait rigs for trolling. I use a lot of spinner rigs and they can be trolled at a variety of depths. Depth your bait trolls at is variable and it will depend on speed, distance behind the boat, type of bait or lure, and any additional weight you add.
As for live bait leeches, minnows and crawlers all work. Leeches start getting harder to find the later in the season you go, minnows work well in the fall but are a pain to haul in.
However, that doesn't mean you can't catch fish all day long they just might be in slightly different spots or want a different presentation. In the evening the fish are generally moving shallower and toward some sort of structure looking to feed thats what makes that time the preferred window for best fishing. The fish are more predictable and they are generally looking for food. Mid day the fish will still usually be around that structure they plan to feed on but will usually be in deeper water nearby.
As the water cools down in the fall I've had more luck during then non peak hours than I do in the summer months so really any time of day can be productive. Weather can also play a big factor as can water clarity. If its overcast the fish don't seem to hold to those peak hours as firmly. Also on darker stained lakes there tends to be a better mid day bite than on crystal clear lakes.
The one things you'll notice is that I keep using general terms. This is still fishing and anything is possible. There are so many variables at play that on any given day you may find the fish behaving differently that you'd expect. I've given some generalities about time and location of the fish but you still have to go out and find them.
Someone else mentioned start shallowe and then move deeper until you find them. Then as the day progresses start moving shallower again as you get toward sun down. How deep you start will depend on the water clarity, weather conditions, and species you are targeting.
the timing in sept. for fishing can be very good or very bad , it really can be a crap shoot . i've caught lakers in early sept. and nothing in late sept.
bringing up 4 canoes can be difficult if you cant use a trailer , i would consider renting a trailer as , renting 4 canoes from an outfitter is not cheap. but if you choose to, seagull outfitters/ seagull lake maybe the ticket.
if your interested in this area feel free to email me.
From a route standpoint, Moose Lake (EP25) may be a good option to fit your needs. Super busy entrypoint, should be a little quieter at the end of Sept. You could take a tow up to birch lake and then push a few hours further than usual to get to knife lake, great fishing there and lots of species options.
Sometimes you have to hunt for the walleye and the best presentation for this is to troll. Some of the best trolling lures for the shallow waters have to be the gold colored jointed Rapala in size 9 or the gold husky jerk Rapala in size 14. My personal best walleye at 32” was caught on a gold husky jerk on Basswood Lake. Start shallow and if not productive keep working your way further out into the lake. Don’t troll too fast, go about half your normal paddling speed, around two mph. Look for shoreline drop offs, saddles between islands, mid lake humps, reefs, flats and points while determining where to troll.
Once you figure out a good pattern of where the fish can be found via trolling, then it is time to slow down and jig for them. Start with twister tail jigs in yellow, black, white or chartreuse. Use twin tail grubs in a rust or green pumpkin color when you want to imitate a crawdad. Gulp “alive” leeches are also a good alternative to the twister tail jigs and the scent can give you an advantage over those finicky eaters forcing them to hold on longer. If they are deep, switch the jig weight from 1/8 oz. to a ¼ oz. or more depending on the depth. Sometimes you might need to go as deep as 40 feet to connect with the walleyes. Try to keep the jig relatively close to the bottom at all times. Remember the clearer the lake, the deeper the fish.
The big walleyes like to move up into shoreline structure going back to their traditional spawning grounds when the water temperatures are around that magical mid 50s range. The spawning grounds will have more rocks the size of your head rather than gravel type spawning grounds used by bass. This pattern typically lasts for about a week and then they return to their deeper haunts. So, keep an eye on the water temps and if they are in the mid 50s, take a serious look at the shallow spawning grounds that week.
Cranking some Rapala Shad Raps, size 7 or 9, in the perch, crawfish, or gold colors can be an excellent presentation when working some of the shallower waters during low light or when there is a good chop on the surface of the lake.
In the last part of the season you really need to slow your presentation to a literal crawl. When water temps are cold, it is best to vertical jig over those reefs and humps with a white marabou feathered or buck-tail type jig. Use at least ¼ oz. or more to get the lure down to the fish.
I am inclined to catch and release the majority of the walleye caught in the Boundary Waters. I only keep a few each trip for a couple of shore lunches. The lunkers are always returned to breed or to allow the opportunity for someone else the catch of a lifetime. If we all use these guidelines the quality of Boundary Waters walleye fishing will remain for generations to come.
That's correct, the outfitters can tow you and your boats/gear all the way to the Birch portage (for a fee).
Obviously, I'd work to get there as early as possible just so you can have as much daylight as possible to look at your Plan A, B and C campsites. That late in the year, you'll likely have more options.
As far as fishing goes, I'm a guy who likes to be on the water as much as possible! Typically, I'll get up at dawn and fish a few hours before coming back for a later breakfast. You'll be able to catch fish all day if you adjust to the conditions and target species accordingly. I typically can find bass and pike throughout the day, relating to shorelines in the morning and weedlines during the day. I typically am more successful finding walleyes at dawn and dusk. I typically rely on my buddy for lake trout tips :)
Reach out if you have further questions. I know that area well and would be happy to discuss it. I'm in the Twin Cities if you want to mask up and meet up too.
Caught this one 9/22/19 in 60' fishing for LT. Usually caught 1 walleye a day over 21" on this trip along with our LT..
I get the benefit of trolling to find the fish so you can then just fish that spot, but if trolling is 10-20 feet, how do you know where to try the 40ft fishing? In general, I suppose we should use the lake topography map more. Any tips on not getting stuck on bottom? That seems to always happen when we try to jig or even if we're slip bobbering and we hit an unusually placed obstacle.
Any tips on types of line? Last year I tried using braid with a flurocarbon leader attached. Anything about fall that dictates line?
We took 2 new paddlers on that trip and our boat left at 6:30 or 7, whatever the first slot was, we were on Knife by late morning and after paddling another hour plus we were at our site around lunch. But that's just paddling and portaging...no fishing or sightseeing along the way really. If you don't get a ride slot reserved until say...10am and fish some along the way...you'll be on Knife well into late afternoon/early evening.
Yes you tell them ahead of time what day and what time to pick you up if you'd like a boat ride back.
This year the trip isn't as decided on yet, so I thought I'd look for some recommendations.
Timing: We're thinking of 9/17 or 9/24. Would one be better than the other for fishing? Walleye preferred, pike/bass equally second
Location: Need lake recommendations! Here are some preferences/requirements.
- Ideally we would rent from an outfitter at the lake we go in on or have them meet us nearby. We drive up from the Twin Cities leaving Thursday morning and not having to bring 4 canoes on top of two cars would be nice.
- We usually go ~3 hours in to get away from entry traffic which is probably 3-4 lakes deep.
- There are 8 of us so we probably need a camp with at least 4 tent spots. Since we usually get in later, a lake with multiple options has saved us in the past.
- Would like to only fish on the lake we're staying on, but I suppose an easy portage to another could happen.
- Fishing tips specific to the lake would be much appreciated. Also, not everyone is fishing so cool stuff to explore nearby is nice.
Fishing: Looking to round out my newbie knowledge with some tips.
- What time of day? I read afternoon into sunset/dusk works in the fall as it has warmed up. It's hard to get these other guys going in the morning so afternoon would be great.
- Haven't trolled before. Both people can fish? Just sit on your pole? I read shads work well since they stay at a nice depth. I suppose live bait would just float up to the top?
- I know the TGO method or a version of it with a slip bobber can work for walleye. That's what worked the one time for us. I read 8-12 feet deep would work in September.
- I think I've read that crawlers, leeches, or minnows can work at this time. Don't know if that's the case or if everyone just has an opinion.
- Any other September tips?
KingKapalone: "How long would you say the tow plus trip from Birch to Knife takes? We're a group of ~34 yr olds and those portages look short so no double portages needed. Do you just prearrange a pickup time for the tow back when you're leaving?
A sonar helps tremendously.
Is a tow a service that some outfitters offer? They would tow our 4 canoes up through Moose, Newfound, and Sucker and then we would paddle Birch up that border route to Knife?
Thanks for the tips so far. Going to check those lakes. Any thoughts on time of day? Having gone in the summer afternoon wasn't something we tried , but I hear it can work when it's cooler out. Should we be out there around 2-6pm?
The fishing questions look just like all the other posts. I was just hoping to match the advice to whatever lake recommendations we might get.