With Kendall Strawmatt bringing his two sons Cade (15) and Carter (14) on their first trip to Canada. Mark Cunningham continued his 40+ year family tradition by bring his son-in-law Ben Flemke and grandson Max (11) to Canada for the first time. Mark had brought his Dad (Marv) to this lake in the late 1970’s. Four generations of Cunningham men have now fished this special lake. This was a milestone trip!
The rest of the crew was comprised of experienced fishermen: Jeff Westra, Fred Bouwman, Mark Wanous, John Burkhartzmeyer and Warren Suchanek (making his first visit in 13 years!)
Friday August 23, 2019
Fred and Jeff drove to our house the night before to finish packing. We are on the road at 8:00am. Fred rode along with Jeff. The drive up was uneventful, except a big rock from a gravel truck cracked my windshield 😦
Met the Owatonna guys in Two Harbors. Ben jumped in with me, Max rode with Grandpa. Lunch at the Hungry Hippie Tacos in Grand Marais MN. Gassed up at Ryden’s and prepared to cross the border, when we learned that Max did not have his new passport. He had his birth certificate and the letter from his Mom & Dad allowing him to enter Canada. It has been our experience that people crossing into Canada for the first time are often pulled over, but no problem crossing with the three kids this time.
A quick stop at the Beer Store in Thunder Bay before checking at the Valhalla Inn. Nice dinner and a few beers before bedtime.
Saturday, August 24, 2019
Woke up to a thick fog in Thunder Bay, but the skies cleared as we headed North. A quick stop for 3 lbs of leaches at the Silver Minnow and we were off. Quite a bit of bridge construction on Hwy 527, but traffic was light. We pulled off onto Hwy 811 to check our load.
The first 50 miles on the old logging roads where not too bad. Water was low and the washouts were dry. Jeff nearly lost the trailer when the hitch pin pulled out in the brush and the hitch slid out of the receiver. Fortunately the chains held and it was only a minor delay.
The last 6 miles after the Italian Camp were overgrown and thick with brush. Ben jumped out to trim or push back several trees. It was clear that no trucks had passed through these roads since we left in May.
We setup camp quickly and got the boats ready. Kendall made a new outhouse from a plastic drum, which was installed in the sand near camp.
The camp was assembled in the traditional spots.
Three Grouse greeted me as I brought the first boat down to the landing with the 6-Wheeler. With the camp organized so quickly – Ken took his boys, joined by Jeff & John out to fish for an hour or so before dinner.
Dinner was some nice big Windsor pork chops with corn on the cob. A great first meal!
Sunday August 25, 2019
Kendall baked biscuits in the Dutch oven for a great breakfast of biscuits and gravy.
Water level was down at least 18″ or more. Normally, you can’t see the bottom row of timbers at the old bridge landing.
The combination of low water and thick weeds in the river, required Mark to be nimble to cut out the weeds from the prop.
With clear blue skies, Kendall and the boys were off to explore Clear Jack Lake with Mark Wanous and Warren. Cade and Carter jumped into the water to pull the two boats across the beaver dam.
With a steady breeze out of the South, Fred and I had great fishing! Our first fish was a double of 17″ Walleyes! Filled our limit within an hour. Fred’s biggest was 19.5″, Steve’s was 18.5″.
Nice to get out of the boat at the end of a good day of fishing to clean fish on the island with Jeff and John.
Everyone had good fishing! Mark, Max and Ben had a triple of 18″ Walleyes! Mark caught a 19.5″ Walleye. Cade landed a 32.5″ Northern after the line was caught in the motor! Warren caught two 20″ Walleyes and a 31″ Northern. Wanous landed a 26″ Northern and several 19-20″ Walleyes. Jeff & John caught 22 Walleyes and 10 Northerns.
John and Jeff watched an Eagle grab a Northern out of the water – cool! Mark prepared a traditional fish fry and we enjoyed a campfire on a crisp, clear night.
Monday August 26, 2019
Light rain overnight. Woke up to a loon flying over the tents calling to his partner on the lake. Pancakes and bacon with Jeff”s maple syrup was very tasty!
John and I tried fishing a number of different spots, often picking up one or two fish. We did not find the hot spot until later in the day.
Mark Wanous had good fishing with Fred. They also saw 4 Otters!
We continued to give Mark grief about bringing Busch Light to Canada – Jeez.
Ken, Cade & Carter had great fishing, Cade landed a 33″ Northerns and a 19″ Walleye. They also saw Wolf tracks in the sand near the trappers cabin.
Mark, Max and Ben heard a moose in the woods and had another triple of big Walleyes! Max was an excited young man!
Jeff & Warren saw two Beaver, Loons and Ruffed Grouse as well as catching 5 Perch.
The steady rain changed our plans for dinner, we decided to grill bratwursts and huddle under the canopy instead of around the fire.
August 27, 2019
Rained on and off all night. Breakfast of French Toast and Sausage, enjoyed under the canopy while we waited the rain to pass.
We ran out of Jeff’s Maple Syrup, so we had to try something else.
The boys passed the time playing cards and betting peanuts while under the canopy.
Cade landed the biggest fish of the trip – a monster Northern – 42″ – Wow! Great to see his big smile!
The Strawmatt family had a nice stringer of fish at the end of the day at the old trappers cabin.
Max and Grandpa Mark had great fishing in the rain. Another happy young man.
Warren and Steve had good fishing.
We explored the Italian Camp – shallow water landing, a bog to walk to a turn around spot for a truck and a big open area where the Italians have their camp.
We picked up a few Walleyes trolling and saw a beaver around Fire Island.
Jeff & Fred saw a Loon with chicks on her back. Jeff had good luck with his magic Hot ‘N Tot fishing lure. Nice 17.5″ Walleye.
Mark and Max each landed 18″ Walleyes. Mark & John caught a lot of nice 17-18″ Walleyes. Carter finished the trip with a 17 & 18″ Walleyes!
Storms rolled through all day, but the worst of it missed us to the South. It was nice to see the sun peak out at the end of the day.
Nice to see a rainbow over the river at the end of the trip.
Max found his swimming googles to keep the smoke out of his eyes. Carter wished he had some.
After another fine fish fry dinner, the old oil made the campfire visible from space!
Wednesday August 28, 2019
We packed up camp and were ready to hit the road, but Jeff had a low tire and then the trailer bunk folded over, which required some field repairs with a birch log strapped to the trailer to keep the boat from bumping the fender.
It was a dream come true to take Max, Cade and Carter on their first trip to Canada. The tradition continues! Cade and Carter wanted to thank al the guys for a great trip!