BWCA fishing trip for walleye, northern pike, lake trout and smallmouth bass


BWCA Fishing Trips

Voyageur Canoe Outfitter's direct access into the Boundary Waters provides an angler with an opportunity to catch trophy fish as well as lots of BWCA fishing action for walleye, lake trout, smallmouth bass and northern pike. The Boundary Waters has some of the best smallmouth bass fishing around. Bass provide hours of action and entertainment in both the BWCA and Quetico Park.

The Boundary Waters is just a stone's throw away from Voyageur Canoe Outfitters and where the state record walleye was caught. There's nothing like a shore lunch of fresh walleye at a campsite on Saganaga Lake or on an island in the BWCA.

Both lake trout and northern pike are plentiful in these pristine wilderness waters around the Gunflint Trail. Fish from a canoe or use a boat and motor on Saganaga Lake where you'll find the waters teeming with tasty Walleye, Feisty Smallmouth, nasty tempered Northern pike and the elusive Lake Trout. 
Boundary Waters Smallmouth Bass

General Fishing Tips
Fishing from a canoe in the Boundary Waters or Quetico Park is different than fishing from the comfort of a boat. When you portage into the canoe country you will not want to carry every lure, sinker or spoon you have.  What you decide to bring should depend upon the species you plan to fish for so you do not have unnecessary tackle to haul around. 

Fishing is best done once you have established your campsite unless you are only doing minimal portages. While it is tempting to fish while you are traveling between campsites experience has taught me people aren’t interested in back tracking to retrieve a lure snagged on a log a half of a mile behind the canoe when they have a destination in mind.  I have also learned walking amongst trees on a portage with a rod and reel can sometimes result in broken rods or fishing line strung out the entire length of the portage. To make transporting your rod and reel across a portage easier remove the reel and pack it into one of your bags. Your fishing rods can be safely portaged inside of the canoe by using Velcro straps.  Just take one strip of Velcro for the tip of the rod and one for the butt end of the rod and secure it to the inside of the canoe.

When you’re heading into the BWCA or Quetico Park it isn’t feasible to bring multiple rods per person. One rod per person should be enough for a canoe country fishing trip. A 5 ½ to 6-foot medium action rod is a good choice. You can bring two reels along with heavier line on one and lighter line on the other. 

Since you are a long distance from the nearest hospital you should be extra careful when fishing in the Boundary Waters or Quetico Park. We’ve had guests paddle back with a lure in their hand because a northern pike shook while they were trying to remove the hook and we’ve even seen a hook stuck in a person’s eye due to a fishing partner’s careless casting.  Unattended lures can be just as dangerous as casted lures so always remove lures from the line when you are finished fishing.  To prevent injury from an unattended lure we have a rule around our place and when we are out on trips. If anyone finds an unattended rod with a lure on it then the lure becomes his or hers.

We have put together some information for your BWCA or Quetico Park fishing trip to help you catch fish.  Below you will find our suggestions of what specific tackle you should use for each of the four main species in our area. Find our suggested Tackle Box Checklist for a suggested tackle box packing list and learn about catch and release fishing and fish cleaning techniques here.

walleye fishing in the BWCA

Length: 12 to 29 inches.
Weight: 10 oz. to over 20 pounds. Back is greenish-yellow with a brassy hue. Sides brassy-yellow with dark mottling. Stomach is white. Dark spot at rear of spiny dorsal fin. Anal fin and lower lobe of tail fin are white. Eyes are opaque-silver in color. Moderate canine-like teeth.
Table Quality: Because of savory flesh it is considered one of the finest tasting fish available. The meat is white, flaky and has a very mild flavor.
Habitat: Bottom oriented fish, due to their sensitivity to light, preferring to stay in deep water during the day, moving to shallow waters during the night.  Spawn in spring, in relatively shallow water, over clean gravel or rocky bottoms.
Food: Walleye prefer fish but will eat crayfish and worms.
Angling: Because of light-sensitive eyes, walleyes feed more actively early in the morning, late in the evening, or at night. Effective lures and baits include, minnows, leeches nightcrawlers, jigs, spinners and minnow imitating plugs.
Quetico Park fishing trips

How to catch a walleye-Rapalas, Smithwick rattling Rogues, slip bobbers, plain hooks, Lindy rigs, jigs, Swedish Pimple, Leeches, leech locker, 6-pound test. A Walleye dinner is what many canoe country guests seek while camping.  Walleye are the most elusive species found in the Boundary Waters and Quetico Park. Since they are a somewhat finicky species it isn't wise to use bulky items such as leaders and big hooks when fishing for them.  Walleye are nocturnal and do much of their feeding in the evenings and early mornings so this is when you can experience some outstanding action.  Using slip bobbers with leeches is probably the best method for catching walleye but probably not the most exciting. Jigging with a leech is a little bit more fun and can also be productive.  In May and June walleyes are usually in 10-15 feet of water where water enters the lake or along shores and points. In the evenings walleye tend to go a little shallower even into depths of just 5 feet of water, this is when you can use your Smithwick's or floating Rapalas. In July, August and September walleyes move into deeper water usually down to 30 feet of depth. Casting deep diving rapalas in the evening over reefs in about 10 feet of water will produce good results in these months.

Smallmouth Bass

smallmouth bass fishing in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Length: 12 to 22 inches.
Weight: 8 ounces to 7 pounds. Smallmouth often are bronze to brownish green in color, with dark vertical bars on sides. In contrast to the Largemouth bass, the upper jaw does not extend beyond rear margin of eye. Eye reddish in color. Shallow notch in dorsal fin. Soft dorsal fin has 13 to 15 rays.
Table Quality: The meat is mild tasting, white, flaky and low in oil content.
Habitat: Found in North America, they prefer rocky habitats in streams and lakes with clear waters.   
Food: Shad and crayfish are consumed in lakes; and crayfish and minnows in streams. In streams, Smallmouth can be very aggressive when insects are available.
Angling: Effective lures for Smallmouth, are those that resemble minnows, jigs, plastic worms and streamer flies. Live baits include minnows, insects and crayfish.
Smallmouth Bass fishing in the Boundary Waters Saganaga is a great lake
How to catch Smallmouth- Mepps spinners, worm baits, jigs, and Lazy Ikes, 6-18lb. test. Smallmouth are abundant in the canoe country and can be found the majority of the summer along the shoreline, around reefs and at the beginning and end of moving water. Underwater rocks and logs provide great cover for bass so they like to hang out there. They also like weeds but will prefer trocks and if both rocks and weeds are found together then prepare for some hot action. Smallmouth Bass are excellent eating and great fighters so you will enjoy catching them.

Northern Pike

Fishing for Northern Pike in the BWCA

Length: 12 to 47 inches.
Weight: 8 ounces to 24 pounds. The northern pike is a very elongated, somewhat laterally compressed fish. Back and sides, dusky olive-green with rows of light oval spots. Dorsal, anal and tail fin have round to oblong darkened spots. Dorsal fin located far back on an elongated body. Large canine-like teeth. Cheeks completely scaled, only upper half of the gill cover is scaled.
Table Quality: The meat is white, firm, flaky and has good flavor, but each fillet has a row of Y-bones. By cutting around the bones they can be removed.
Habitat: Prefer shallow water and areas congested with aquatic weeds. Spawn just after ice thaws; Adhesive eggs simply scattered over the bottom or onto vegetation.
Food: Fish make up the bulk of their diet but they will also take frogs, crayfish, waterdogs, ducks, birds, and mice.
Angling: Effective lures and bait for pike are "LARGE" spoons, spinners, plugs. Northern pike have sharp teeth, so many anglers use a wire leader to prevent the line from being cut.
BWCA fishing trip northern pike
How to catch northern pike- Spoons, Rattle Traps, leaders, Rapalas, and Lazy Ikes, 6-10 lb test. Northern pike are plentiful and people fishing for other species will usually catch a northern along with their other fish.  In May and early June northern can be caught near running water.  In mid-June when weed beds begin to form they provide great habitat for northern pike.  Fishing these weed beds, points or around islands in the summer and fall can be especially productive. Northerns can be caught on many lures used to catch other species, but if you are pursuing the northern exclusively, then try using a steel leader and spoon. They are a territorial species and will hit anything in their area. Since the water in our area remains cool throughout the summer, Northern are great eating especially when you remove the Y bone.  Find out how to do so here. Link to y bone removal process.

Lake Trout

BWCA fishing trips for lake trout

Length: Large fish - 3 to 100 pounds. Lake Trout have a raised tooth crest on the head of the vomer. The tail is forked. Body is generally blue-gray or bronze-green with pale spots on the sides and back.
Table Quality: An excellent table fish.
Habitat: Lake trout require cold, clear, well oxygenated water. In summer they often move to depths of 50 to 100 feet, but in spring and fall you can find them at depths of 20 feet or less. They prefer water from 40 to 52 degree F.
Food: In most waters, lake trout rely heavily on small fish.
Angling: Most are taken by trolling with spoons or minnow-like plugs attached to wire-line rigs or downriggers. They can also be taken by bottom-fishing with whole or cut fish.
Boundary Waters Fishing Trips

How to catch lake trout-Sutton spoons, Swedish Pimples, and other spoons, 12 lb. test and up. Lake trout love water temperatures of around 44 degrees.  In the spring you can fish in quite shallow water for them and as the summer goes on you will need to fish deeper. Trolling a Sutton spoon is an effective way to catch Lake Trout throughout the season.  Make sure to bring enough weights along so you can get your spoon down to the bottom of the lake, up to 2 oz.  When Trout are deep you will need to troll very slowly with lots of line out to get it down to the 30-50 feet range and deeper. Troll just fast enough to feel the lure turning over.  Lake trout are delicious to eat but do not provide a lot of action.

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