Northern Minnesota Lake Trout
— by Michael Lindquist [ contact the author ]
On the last weekend of March, most of the state of Minnesota is in transition from winter to spring...not the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Here, winter is still in full force.
With the dogs harnessed with sleds full of gear in tow, we trekked our way across several lakes, over miles of rough beaver dams, and through five or six portages to our destination. After a sixteen-mile cross-country ski, amidst waves of heavy snowfall and chilling winds, we made it to our spot, deep in the wilderness of the Minnesota north country.
Upon arrival, we peeled off our ski clothes, changed into our arctic winter fishing gear, and set up our shelter. We had an excellent den consisting of a huge rock overhang that tucked around, creating a natural windbreak. We enjoyed a wide variety of northern climates: periods of white squalls followed by moments of bright, hot sun (a typical buffet of Boundary Waters weather). On the nights the mercury dipped into the single digits, our dogs would huddle up next to us in compact little "husky balls",
like a Danish pastry, keeping us warm.
Our mission was simple: lake trout. It was the final weekend of the season and we had hopes of landing some beauties. In the past, the group had pulled in some 20+ pound lakers. Although the inclement low pressure systems made the fishing difficult, we were able to enjoy fresh lake trout for dinner around the campfire each evening. Among the bounty were several nice eating-sized 3 to 4 pound trout, and one bigger 8 pounder.
It's quite a thrill to pull up a big, wide fish through such a small hole in the ice! Each time, the peanut gallery of bald eagles nesting in the white pines on the shore, would squawk and cackle, hoping to be a left a prize on the ice. A number of times, these large birds would swoop around our holes after we'd pull in our lines, in search of a stray cisco (frozen smelt-sized bait) with hopes of an afternoon snack.
One early morning, we saw the shadows of several timber wolves on the ice under moonlight. They greeted us with an eerie cacophony of howls from across the lake. What a beautiful sound!
Not like any other fishing trip I've been on, I'm already looking forward to next year's adventure. Only 11 months to go!