Big group again this year – 13 men. Mark Wanous, Denny Kramer, John Burkhartzmeyer, Jerome Spindler, and 7 Cunningham men; John, Jim and Zack from Iowa, Mark and his brother Ron with his two sons Peter and Johnny and their buddy Charlie Skinner, joined me for another great trip. Great to have the Iowa guys backs after the infamous trip in August 2015 – our last trip to the old camp. Long time regulars, Fred Bouwman and Kendall Strawmatt were not able to join this year. No rookies this year, everyone pitched in to make for a well run camp – Great group!
On the road at 8:30 on May 23, I was driving alone from Wisconsin, met the guys in Two Harbors. Peter jumped into my truck for the rest of the trip, great conversation! Lunch in Grand Marais, gas at Ryden’s, across the border without incident. A stop at the beer store before checking into the Valhalla Hotel in Thunder Bay. Mark, Ron and John covered their trucks with plastic wrap to protect from scratches – it worked well. Dinner and drinks before going to bed to prepare for our journey in the morning.
Breakfast at the hotel and on the road at 9:00 on Friday May 24. Stopped at the Silver Minnow Bait Store for leeches. Hwy 527 was quiet, even with a little construction. Peter saw a small bear cross Hwy 811. Dropped off a gift for Paul the Trapper who helped us out last September. Peter spotted a Moose antler shed on the side of the road. Some other fisherman had cleared the brush from the road and the washouts were stable even with the high water. We made great time! Everyone pitched in to make camp, pulled the boats to the landing before enjoying a tremendous steak dinner (Thanks Denny!). Peter and Charlie cut down some standing dead trees for the campfire. Fortunate to be setup before the rain started.
We woke up to the sound of light rain on our tents on Saturday May 25. The skies cleared briefly for breakfast of biscuits and gravy. We finished loading the boats. Saw and heard a couple grouse and saw several snowshoe hares with bright white legs.
One of the old Evinrude motors would not keep running, so Peter used my old Mercury as our 6 boat fleet hit the water.
Zack captured a great panoramic view of the landing at the river.
Incredible fishing! Denny caught the largest fish of the day with a 43″ Northern. Zack caught a 37″. Ron got a 34″ and Mark W. landed a 30″ on the Clear Jack Lake.
Ron landed a nice 34″ Northern.
Jim caught the biggest Walleye of the day with a 21″ and I landed a 19″. Mark C. caught 20″, 20″ and 19″ Walleyes in less than 5 minutes! Lots of Walleyes were caught on this day.
A sample of the number of Walleyes caught were on display with several nice stringers like these from John Burkhartzmeyer and John Cunningham.
Two boats noticed unusual musical sounds of the wind blowing through the trees. It sounded like the music heard by Sigurd Olson in the classic book The Singing Wilderness The skies cleared towards evening, which was a welcome sight as we made our way back to camp after an excellent day on the water. A fish fry, with French fries and onion rings was followed by a nice campfire.
On Sunday, May 26, Jim, John, Ron and I prepared an excellent breakfast of pancakes, bacon and eggs. I fished with Charlie on his 24th birthday – what a fine young man! With the high water and late spring, the weeds in the river did not reach our props. Several of us decided to meander up the river to the Far Back Jack lakes for the first time in 5 years. We trolled for Northerns, Charlie caught one on his huge soft bait, while I caught a nice Walleye on a Big Doctor Spoon.
We noticed a boat on the shoreline, so we checked it out. After a short walk from the lake, we found the remains of an old moose camp.
Fishing action was hotter on the main lake! Mark Cunningham caught the biggest fish of the trip with a 43.5″ Northern. Mark also caught 35″, 33.5 and 30″ Northerns – Wow!
John Burkhartzmeyer got a 40.5″, while John Cunningham got a nice 40″ Northern.
The brothers Peter (42″) and Johnny (fat 34″) landed big Northerns, Johnny also caught another 34″ and a 32″. Dad Ron caught a nice Northern as well.
Zack caught a 36″ and his uncle Jim landed this 35″.
Four Northerns over 40″ and 12 over 30″ – Wow – What a day! The day ended with a pink sky over the camp. Blackened Walleye Tacos were a big hit!
Memorial Day! Denny played patriotic music to honor those who served our country. Nice weather – perfect for the young guys, Zack, Peter, Charlie and Johnny to hike back to Lost Lake. They found the canoes quickly and enjoyed paddling around the lake. They found a boat on shore, with a 15 hp motor and a bin containing life jackets and seat cushions. Must be a remote lake for a fly-in outfitter.
Northern fishing stayed hot! Denny caught a nice 42″ and a 30″.
Steve caught a 39″ and a 32″
Zack caught 36″ and 35″ Northerns, Mark Wanous landed a nice 36″
Johnny caught 36″ and 32.5″ Northerns.
Another great day of catching big fish! A 42″, a 39″ and 9 over 30″! With the clear blue skies and a setting sun, the boat ride back to camp through the channel was beautiful!
Denny and Mark returned to camp early to get the fire going. Ron held court around the campfire. The Cajun fish boil was tasty, 13 guys ate 52 Walleye filets, 8 lbs of potatoes and a couple big onions.
Tuesday May 28 was our last day fishing. Jim and Ron cooked up a great breakfast of pancakes, eggs, bacon and little smokies. Some guys used the extra tortilla shells to make breakfast burritos with the sour cream and sriracha sauce mix from the fish tacos – very tasty. Jim stayed back in camp to trim trees, clean up, read and relax.
Denny & I led Ron & Peter and Charlie & Johnny to the far north end of the lake. We saw Boy Scout Island, the site of an old trappers cabin & garden, the High Bank, the river flowing out of the lake to the north. Our final destination was to fish Walleyes on Mule Lake, which has produced some great fishing over the years. Getting over the beaver dam was the first challenge, but Ron and Peter helped push our boat over. Navigating the twists and turns up the fast moving stream was tricky, but we reached our destination.
Ron caught a couple of keeper Walleyes, but overall, fishing on Mule Lake was disappointing. Denny and I caught more rocks than Walleyes on this shallow, rocky lake. We returned to the main lake and headed south to find the best Walleye fishing of the week. John and Zack Cunningham caught over 50 Walleyes between 15-17″ – their hands were raw after handling so many fish. Mark C. fishing with John B. as well as Mark W. fishing with Spinny, had similar success catching Walleyes on this sunny, but breezy day. As a bonus, Johnny caught one more big 35″ Northern.
Mark Wanous’s motor froze up, so John and Zack towed them back to camp early. They had the two motors off and one boat on the trailer quickly. Brought up my boat and the rest of the motors before the black flies swarmed us at the landing. Dinner featured bratwursts and french fries. We reflected on the record number of big Northerns caught and released, 6 over 40″ and 25 over 30″ – Wow! Burning the old cooking oil, always puts on a show!
Wednesday morning was a beautiful morning to pack up. With the head start on Tuesday night and with an experienced crew, the trucks were loaded in record time. The washouts looked imposing, but the ground was solid under the water. A flat tire on my truck less than a mile from the tar road Hwy 527 slowed us down a bit.
A fitting way to end this great trip was with seeing a young bull moose on the side of the highway. Very cool!