Canoe Trip Report

BWCA Alpine Lake Base Camp

Entry Date: June 9, 2010
Trip Length: 7 Days
Permit Required: Seagull Lake(#54) – BWCA
Group Size: 3
Submitted by: Cork

photogalleryThe Boundary Waters – Three Men and a Canoe

Monday, June 7, 2010

Travel day with Jerry picking David and me up at 156 Tsisdu at 6:20 AM.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Travel day from DeForest, WI Comfort Inn to Seagull Outfitters. Arrival there around 4 PM. A rainy day.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

7 AM. Seagull Outfitters met us on their launching dock to pack our gear. They got out a bigger, Seneca, Kevlar, 19 ½ foot ,Weh-No-Nah, canoe in order to fit our packs, gear and us into the canoe. It was a blustery day and rain looked imminent and as a result Deb and Dave exhorted us to find a camp on Seagull and not to try and portage on to “Ogish”, as planned. They advised us to get on our rain suits and to set up a camp at our earliest opportunity. With that we loaded the motor boat that would take us to the entry to “The Boundary Waters”.

bwca_trip_beginsEthan, a young college student was our pilot for the approximate 40 minute ride. We arrived at a rocky outcropping on a smaller island and quickly unloaded the motor boat and reloaded our canoe and set out for a camp. The wind was really blowing and this made progress and steering rather difficult as this Kevlar canoe rode high, was extremely light, and the wind made steering a real challenge. We paddled for perhaps an hour and a half but the first five campsites we found were already occupied. We decided that we had to make the long, 105 rod portage to Alpine Lake. This was a challenge. Dave carried the canoe. Jer and I each a pack. We made multiple trips, got reloaded and underway on Alpine. Again, the camps we found were already taken.

We found an open camp but we decided to gamble on a better site and pressed on back out into the fierce wind. The next two camps were taken so we doubled back, hoping the only open spot would still be available to us. Happily it was. We quickly unloaded and began setting up the tent in case of rain. Dave was experienced in the tent erection and we got it done fairly quickly and got the air mattresses and sleeping bags set up. We covered our packs with a tarp and had a quick lunch. Keeping our gear covered and finding what we had became a real juggling act with the wind and threat of rain.

Dave got our first fish from our camp, a real nice smallmouth, bronze back in the 3 plus pound range. We felt it was a good omen. He got it after it had chased a Tiny Torpedo but wouldn’t take it and he switched to a shaky head. Dave got another smallmouth in the one pound range near the canoe tie up tree. We continued to establish camp, studied the maps and looked at the area. After supper Dave and Jerry took the canoe out in our small cove and caught some fish. Jer got two Northerns, one that broke off was estimated to be 3 plus pounds. Dave got another bigger smallmouth in the 3 plus pound size.

Jerry lamented that he did not pack the vodka for this trip as he was hankering for a shot of vodka. Our guide Dave surprised Jerry as he pulled out his 32 oz. canteen which was filled with Absolute vodka. We each had a dram which became part of our evening ritual before dinner. We hit the rack about 9 PM not only to get out of the incessant wind but we were all pretty beat from the paddling, portage, wind and excitement. Woke up to a moose bugling. We all slept until 7 AM.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Woke at 7 AM, rested but a little “stoved up” from the exertion and sleeping on the ground. Dave was already busy working the camp stove, a propane powered Coleman with two burners. He was busy managing the water, pans and stove, particularly with limited utensils and having everything sitting on the ground or a charred log which served as a table top. We had hot coffee from the percolator, eggs ( reconstituted ) and hash browns. Breakfast was excellent and just what we needed to get re-fortified for a hard day of fishing.


Beautiful Boundary Waters stringer of Smallmouth Bass caught on Alpine Lake

The weather looked much better early but clouds began rolling in and we headed out fairly early. We didn’t have to go far and we were catching fish. We had a very productive morning and stayed pretty close to home. We caught 8 Northern in the 20-26 inch size. We got 10 nice smallmouth bass, keeping six of them for lunch. Dave pan fried them to perfection and we feasted on fish as fresh as it is possible to eat. We all enjoyed this late lunch and rested awhile and tended to camp chores, finding and cutting wood, etc., before heading back out on the water at around 5 PM for a couple more hours of fishing. We got 2 Northerns, and more smallmouth bass.

By this time Dave had “earned” the designation of chef and he prepared beef stroganoff and green beans almandine. It was very tasty and we had apple spice for dessert. Jerry kept the fire stoked so we could enjoy the warmth of the fire and the sound of the crackling and the glow of the embers as we listened to the night sounds. These included lots of Loon calling music. We also heard Moose bugling quite frequently. We had a Bald Eagle perch nearby on a tree and watch us in the earlier part of the day. We felt we had had a really good day of fishing and felt much better about our campsite.

Friday, June 11, 2010

We had rain during the night. I woke up thinking I heard a bear in the camp. I opened the tent zipper and shined my headlight out but got no visual on any critters roaming about the camp. Later David discovered Moose tracks in our camp and they appeared very fresh. I think a Moose is preferred to a bear UNLESS it should happen to crash into the tent. We awoke to a blustery day with the wind blowing smartly from the ENE. Dave had to adjust our dining fly he had just erected the previous evening as it was in danger of being ripped down. It is amazing how something so seemingly mundane as a tarp erected above our packs and near our fireplace added so much of a feeling of coziness to our somewhat austere surroundings and campsite. It was not only utilitarian but also psychologically beneficial to the campsite experience. It got whipped severely by the wind but did survive the peak gusts.


Shore fishing for Smallmouth Bass in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Dave surveyed the large rock outcropping on the east side of our camp. He climbed the face and had a great vantage point to reconnoiter the area. He spied a calm area of the lake to the west where we decided to paddle to and try to fish out of the wind. Omelets were on the breakfast menu today and we wolfed them down with strong coffee. WE left to fish at 8:30 AM and it turned windy on that part of the lake as well, followed with rain and even stronger winds. We beached the canoe back at camp around noon and scrambled to get into the only really dry place we had–the tent. We fixed salami and cheese sandwiches for lunch with cookies for dessert. The weather looked to continue to be BAD.

We decided to just hunker down for the duration and to pray for better conditions. We had taken 10 smallmouth bass with the biggest to be over 4 pounds. We took one Northern. Jer had good luck with live bait, leeches and night crawlers. I had luck with an orange and gold floating jointed Rapala. Dave did well with a shaky head and black worm. Later back in camp Dave hiked over the big rock behind camp to the quiet side of the lake. He caught 5 smallmouth bass. Then we hiked back with him at 9 PM and he got two more smallmouth bass. The total catch today was: 17 smallmouth bass, and 1 Northern.

The wind finally quieted down around 9:30 PM. It stays light until past 10 PM in this latitude. We finally got a good fire going after much work finding and drying suitable wood. We just had an extended search for TP. Logistics management is greatly compounded by tarps, bugs, multiple packs, containers, plastic bags and moving things around. The turkey tetrazenni, mixed spicy veggies and banana cream pudding were all very good and hit the spot for the hungry and tired fishing party. We kept our stringer of live bass in the lake for lunch the following day as the weather was too bad for cleaning and frying them tonight. We turned in tired and hoped for better weather on Saturday.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

We awoke to gray skies but warmer temperatures and just a light breeze. Much better weather!

Dave cooked the pancakes, bacon and made the syrup to perfection. Excellent start to the day plus lots of coffee. We were on the water by 8:30 AM and had not gone far until we were all catching smallies, bang, bang, bang. This steady action continued pretty much throughout the morning. We were all catching fish but Jerry had the hottest action with a Shad Rap. He even scored a triple: a Walleye, a Northern and Smallmouth. The Walleye, our first, was in the 4 plus pound category and the Northern may very well have been near 10 pounds–very nice one. Shaky heads seemed to be doing the trick for smallmouth. I had decent luck with my orange, floating Rapala. I let it sit and twitched it once.

The Mayflies were hatching and this may have been why they liked a surface lure presentation? I think we caught as many as 20 smallmouth bass and again, Jer had a hot hand. Dave was as busy as a one legged man in an ass kicking contest keeping the canoe out of danger, retrieving snagged lures, and providing many other valuable guide services from the back of the canoe. We returned to our camp for lunch.


Alpine Lake fishing – Walleye dinner in the BWCA

Dave saw a small window of opportunity just before lunch and judiciously took advantage of it to bathe in the lake. It is always a cold experience but having just a little sunlight makes it almost tolerable. We appreciated having a clean chef before lunch. Jerry was busy cleaning the fish for lunch. The shore lunch was indescribably delicious. Dave cooked an onion and fried the Walleye and Smallmouth fillets to perfection. We had all we could eat and more. The flavor, texture, freshness and crispiness- cooked to a golden brown, made them a superb lunch. We finished at 2 PM and the weather has already started cooling down.

We were back out fishing from around 2:30 until 5:45 PM. We had misty and changeable weather. The fishing was slow at first but picked up. We got 9 more smallmouth and one Northern Pike boated. Jer had a good one on we estimated to be 5 pounds or more but he broke the line and took the shaky head with him. We took a break and then back out from 7 until 8:30 PM but forgot our life vests and rain suits. A light rain fell for awhile. Jer got another nice Walleye and we picked up 5 more smallmouth bass. WE kept the walleye for our late supper. Jer filleted him and Dave cooked the fillets to a golden, crispy brown and we had the best imaginable fillet o fish sandwiches accompanied by blanched and sautéed baby carrots.

There was some mounting evidence of bugs as the wind died down. A decent fire helped keep them at bay and we were in the sack by 10:30 PM.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

We awoke to a brisk wind, light rain and overcast conditions. JM Quote of the Day,

“ We can either let the weather whip us and stay here or go fish”. I opined from the tent, “ now we have no choice and we‘re not getting any younger, either!”

We have thrown down the gauntlet. A rather gloomy day and this weather is getting old. The last weather report we saw had this as the best day weather wise. The Northerns seem to prefer brighter sunshine conditions. We do too! A special Columbia coffee brew and bagels on today’s breakfast menu. Dave plinked around the camp shore but no takers. We changed line on Dave’s and my reel as both got pretty twisted from lures used yesterday.

Word of the WEEK: OGISH!


Canoe country shore lunch in the Boundary Waters on Alpine Lake off the Gunflint Trail in Minnesota.

Jerry vows he will strike this word from his vocabulary and quit dreaming of what might have been had weather conditions been better. We went out from 10:15 AM until 2:15 PM. We discovered an outstanding campsite on Alpine to the right of our portage point and lamented on not having found it upon arrival. But the fishing that direction was not real good. Our trip overall yielded 13 smallmouth and 2 Northerns. Dave got a nice Northern in the 4 ½ to 5 pound category. We had Cup A Soup and salami sandwiches as we returned to camp at 3 PM. Cookies for dessert. Quite good for three hungry fishermen.

Dave notes that his clothes which are still hanging on the line from day one are still not dry. Thus is the weather we have experienced. We headed out at 4:15 pm and fished until 7 PM. We got 15 smallmouth, 2 Northerns and 1 small Walleye. We are keeping the Walleye, the Northern and several Smallmouth for supper tonight. They will be accompanied with Louisiana red beans and rice and peas and carrots. Chef Dave got all done simultaneously, again, under very trying circumstances with the limited resources and countertop space in the “kitchen”. We appreciated his culinary skills and juggling acts and enjoyed a sumptuous repast. Impressive.

We toasted tonight with our last “dram” of spirits and savored every drop as we nursed our cups of Absolute. Jer traded for the extra ½ oz. he perceived that I had been issued. After admiring the beauty of the skies, the cloud formations and the sunset, it commenced to rain as we finished our gourmet dinner. We watched what we thought might be an airplane, a star or a satellite. Turned out the be the latter as it disappeared once the sun quit illuminating same.

alpine_lake_portage_trailMonday, June 14, 2010

We awoke to a severely blowing and very cool wind. Some damage to our dining canopy as the support limb had torn a hole where it was pushing the canopy up. After coffee and a bagel we studied the map and decided to move to Rog Lake to head toward our pickup on Seagull, complete a shorter portage and hoped it would be more protected from the wind. The one gamble was that it had only one campsite and we hoped it was not already occupied. Rog is a 65 rod portage.

We partially packed the canoe and proceeded to the portage point. We carried one load over and felt quite sure the campsite was not occupied. Eureka! Jerry stayed with the gear and to ward off any would be interlopers who might try to preempt our campsite claim while Dave and I canoed back to strike camp, pack up and return with all our gear. It took us about 1 ½ hours to get back with all our gear. Jer had caught 4 smallmouth from the shore while waiting for us–a good sign! Rog Lake appeared calm and sheltered.

Dave caught smallmouth #100 at the portage and #101 at Camp Rog on the second cast with a Shad Rap–a good sign. We had a Camp Rog shore lunch of Denver omelet, bacon and toast at 2 PM after establishing our new camp. Unfortunately the wind shifted but it still wasn’t nearly as bad as we were growing accustomed to experiencing. The scenic view and setting were well worth the move and left us with a much shorter ( 20 rod ) portage for Tuesday to Seagull Lake for pickup.

We went back out after lunch, by now around 4 PM and fished until 8:30 PM. We returned to camp very briefly at around 5 PM to stretch and to fashion an anchor out of a rock to keep us from being blown downwind so fast. Dave had on one big fish which we figured to be a Northern Broke him off on a downed tree and didn’t waste time doing so. We had sporadic Smallmouth fishing taking a total of 20 on Rog Lake. Jer had a Brook Trout on a Mepps spinner on our first pass down the lake. We saw him jump once and he was gone. It was the only chance we had for a Brookie. It would have gone onto the menu had it been landed.


Beautiful BWCA Smallmouth Bass caught from shore on Alpine Lake.

Rog Lake is a very pretty setting and we are enjoying new and improved surroundings even though the fishing may not be as good as Alpine Lake was for us. Dave is busy fixing sun dried tomato pasta for dinner, with fried potatoes and dark chocolate cheesecake. The potatoes were sliced like chips and fried–very good. Dave is busy at the stove again. We should slumber soundly tonight after the portage effort. The weather has again been greatly varied going from very windy and chilly to bright and sunny and relatively warm.

The weather here truly does change dramatically in very short order. THIS IS THE NORTH! A pair of Loons flew over us today and landed on Rog. Now they are really singing their song–very plaintiff music to our ears. Just like the movie, “On Golden Pond”. It is rare to see them in flight. It is 9:20 PM and still plenty of light here in the north country. The Moose calls were very pronounced last night. One time I thought “he” was getting mighty close. And David found droppings in our camp but not fresh. It seems like I heard the Loons singing a number of times during the night.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

We awoke to what sounded like gale force wind and large rain drops pelting the tent side. Jerry got up at 5:15 AM while Dave and I wisely elected to stay in the sack a little longer. I heard Jerry fire up the camp stove. It was hissing at full blast as he tried to get enough heat under the coffee pot to perk the coffee. After a couple pots of coffee we decided to break camp, pack it up and head toward Seagull and the 3 PM scheduled pick up point.

The weather continued to be very marginal but the rain stopped and we were faced with a very brisk wind and we would be paddling right directly into the teeth of it, which may actually be a good thing. We got it packed and loaded and were under way by 11 AM headed toward our 20 rod portage from Rog to Seagull Lakes. We got the portage done and rested a bit and studied the map on Seagull. Met a couple of guys heading into The Boundary Waters and traveling much lighter than we were.

Dave caught a Smallmouth on Seagull so we now had caught fish in three lakes and three, almost four species if you counted the Brookie in Rog. We got under way and paddled very briskly for about one and half hours across Seagull to the pick up point. It was not entirely obvious where this small an unmarked rendezvous point was and we were scanning the shorelines very carefully as we did not want to miss it or overrun the designated point. Jer spied a moose on the shore of one island and then we saw she had a calf. It was quite a sight and we headed closer for a better look and photo. We got to within 75 yards before she headed out with her calf–close enough.


Post-trip photo at Seagull Outfitters following a successful Boundary Waters canoe fishing trip.

We got to the pickup point around 1 PM and had a long wait. We had planned to stow our gear and fish the area but it was simply too windy to fish. Both Dave and Jerry did cast from the shore but no action and the wind was blowing in so casting was difficult. We were happy to see Ethan from Seagull Outfitters headed our way just before 3 PM. We got to their place at 3:35 PM, checked in and headed for hot showers and the bunk house. Then to the Red Paddle at the Gunflint Inn for dinner and libations.

We were ready to hit the road on Wednesday, June 16 for the trip back to points south.

We had a good time, shared lots of laughs, caught some nice fish, braved the elements, enjoyed some very good meals, camaraderie, navigated some stormy waters, bucked the wind and rain and kept it very positive. We cooperated, communicated and collaborated. It was fun and an experience for the memory books.

We kept a record of fish caught:

Smallmouth Bass

Northern Pike


Brook Trout

Weds, June 9



Thurs, June 10



Fri, June 11



Sat, June 12




Sun, June 13




Mon, June 14



Tues, June 15







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