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“The only thing more satisfying than catching big fish is seeing the absolute joy of my clients catching that whopper of a lifetime.”
If fishing is what you’re after, then give me a call. I pay attention to the weather details and fish patterns, and know which lakes are producing so that you can concentrate on fishing. Specializing in wilderness trips to remote lakes and rivers, you will be treated to some of the best fishing in North America. Pricing varies depending on what you are looking for and how many people are in your party. All trips include at least one meal, per day. Call or email me to figure out the details.
While you do not need a guide to fish or explore this big and beautiful wilderness, you are assured of catching more and bigger fish and having a more relaxing and rewarding North Woods vacation using Bushey Guide Service.
Fishing Tips for BWCA and Quetico waters. The BWCA and Quetico Park is home to some of the best fishing waters in North America with a wide variety of fish species. But the most popular species are the Walleye, Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass, Northern Pike, and Lake Trout. Following are some detailed BWCA and Quetico Park fishing tips to ponder to help make your fishing trip with Bushey Guide Service a successful one.
“I strongly advocate catch and release fishing, especially the larger fish. But I also advocate keeping just a few for mouth watering shorelunches. These fish come from deep and clear, clean lakes and the flavor is remarkable in fish fries, baked over coals and delicious fish chowder.” Dean Bushey
*About the Fish
Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass: Smallmouth (AKA “Bonzeback” or “Smallie”), the Smallmouth is one of the strongest fish for its weight. Many anglers who hook a 2-pounder will swear it’s twice that big until the fish is in the net. The BWCA has become famous for the incredible “smallie” fishing. Smallmouth bass look similar to their close cousin, the largemouth. Often they are found in the same waters. To tell the two apart, look at the closed mouth. If it extends only to the middle of the eye, it’s a Smallmouth. If it goes way beyond the back of the eye, the fish is a Largemouth.
Smallmouth bass generally spawn late May to mid-June depending on water temperature. Pre-spawn Smallmouth will usually locate in mid depth (6-12 feet) and gradually move in shallow closer to spawning. Commonly, Smallmouth bass will hang around soft, dark bottom areas more typical of Largemouth bass (during pre-spawn) only for food and warm water. Small, slow moving baits all work well. This pattern is short-lived, however, as the water temperatures begin to rise. Fishing during the spawn, fish can be quite aggressive. I recommend release of any spawning or pre-spawn female bass. Immediately after the spawn, the females usually go into deeper water to recuperate. The smaller males guard the nests and are quite susceptible to hitting lures (sometimes repeatably) while protecting the eggs.
About 5 to 10 days after the spawn the bigger females become active again hitting surface lures, crank baits, spinners, jigs and live bait. By mid summer look for shallow rock piles, points, reefs, shorelines with big rocks or boulders, and even some weeds. Smallie fishing on windswept points or reefs mid day can be incredible. Top-water tends to be more productive early and later in the day, while jigs and diving crank baits are best during mid day hours.
The best Smallmouth fishing time is in late May through late June or early July (although they can be caught by fly rod throughout the summer). When fly fishing use 7-8 wt or floating 8-9 wt, with a 6 to 10 pound tippet. Hair bugs and poppers are best, but don’t overlook a sink tip and small streamers or a lead eye leech. Late summer and early fall deeper fishing tactics work best.
Walleye: The walleye is the most sought-after fish by far in Minnesota and Bushey Guide Service is known for wilderness walleye fishing. The walleye’s thick, white fillets, coloring, and challenging nature make it a prize among anglers. The average walleye caught and kept for shorelunch is 14-18 inches long. I strongly advise releasing walleye greater than 20 inches as these are usually the “Spawners”. The walleye is named for its pearlescent eye, which is caused by a reflective layer of pigment, called the Tapetum Lucidum, that helps it see and feed at night or in murky water.
Walleyes spawn around mid-May depending on when the ice leaves the lakes. They usually spawn in moving water (rapids or below falls) on mixed sand or gravel bottoms, often at night when water temperatures reach 42 degrees. In the BWCA it is not very common for the spawn to occur after the fishing season is opened, but occasionally it happens. If so, pre-spawn walleyes can be caught in about 6 to 15 feet below spawning areas. Slow moving jigs with live bait work best, but a slow crank bait will catch a walleye or two also. During their actual spawn, fishing can be difficult. I will monitor this process and use alternate lakes that might be earlier or later in the spawning process.
After the spawn, generally the smaller males recover first. Focus on rocky, gravel shorelines and shallow points first, then deeper points and main lake reefs as the summer progresses. Jigs, live bait, and diving crank baits are productive now.
Deep weeds for summer walleyes can be dynamite, as they provide the shade and cooler temperatures they like. Low light times and windswept mid day areas are usually best for summer walleyes.
As summer rolls into fall, the walleyes will concentrate on deep points and areas related to current (not necessarily rapids), such as narrows between lakes and midlake reefs surrounded by deep water. This time period is highlighted by warm water and days but cooling and shortening evenings. Bigger minnow type crank baits and trolling these areas will catch some of the biggest fish of the year. Later into fall, walleyes can scatter a bit and be there one day and gone the next. A more mobile approach can be effective and again I will monitor what these fish are doing as the seasons progress.
This voracious predator can be one of the easiest fish to catch because it so willingly bites lures or bait. What’s more, Northerns produce chunky white fillets that taste as good as walleyes. Knowing how to properly fillet the northern is the key to avoiding the bones they are known for. Most Northerns caught by fishing run 2 to 3 pounds, though trophies over 20 pounds are caught each year. A big pike is a real challenge to catch from a canoe and I recommend beaching the fish rather than dealing with a large thrashing fish inside of a canoe in deep water. Potential for disaster if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Northern pike spawn as the ice leaves the lake or immediately afterwards. This usually occurs at the end of April or early May. Spawning occurs in shallow, soft-bottom bays, sometimes associated with an incoming stream or creek, with water sometimes barely deep enough to cover the pike’s back. Light weight spoons, buzz and spinner baits, and floating plugs work well. This is the time to try pike on a fly-rod!
As the temperatures rise, pike, though still shallow, start moving towards deeper water. By late May and into June, concentrate on areas like the entrance of shallow bays close to the deeper water – especially associated to points. Gradually increase the size of baits and lures used, as the summer progresses. Bigger Mepps spinners, spoons, rapalas, etc., also produce well.
By mid summer, when water temperatures are the warmest, try bigger deep diving crank baits by deep weed edges. Usually smaller pike can still be caught in shallow weeds throughout the summer, but big pike like cooler water and the biggest fish can often be found on and just off of the mid-lake reefs adjacent to the deepest part of the lake. Big pike often hover and suspend in very deep water at this time.
With the cooling water temperatures of fall, the bigger pike begin to move shallower again. This time they are looking to fill-up for the late fall and winter months. Start using big baits (big spoons, buck tails, crank baits, jerk baits, etc.) and as weeds start to die off, concentrate on green weeds that produce oxygen for the pike (dying weed beds use up oxygen). Some of the biggest pike are caught in the late summer and fall.
If you want to try fly fishing for pike, consider 8-9 wt floating line with a 20-40 test leader with a special wire tippet. Big hair divers (mega divers) or large streamers work well.
Lake Trout: Lake trout are from the char family and spawn in the fall usually around mid October, after our legal fishing season closes (September 30). Being a cold water species, they are easiest to catch in early spring (May to early June) and fall (September). Paddle trolling through a lake with a flashy spoon or diving crank bait is an effective way of locating fish. Generally, natural colors (white, black or silver) are good, but bright colors (chartreuse, fluorescent red or fluorescent yellow) are very good on dark overcast days. Unlike other species, some of the best lake trout fishing can be after a cold front has passed.
As water temperatures increase into the summer… down go the lake trout to depths of 40, 50, 60 feet or deeper to the colder, seeking oxygenated water to accommodate their physical needs. Finding fish at 50 ft seems to be the magic number. Even though they are in deep water, they are not impossible to locate. Baits such as lead jigging spoons, blade baits, and heavy jigs fished vertically are an effective way to catch trout. In years that are not extremely warm, deep fishing tactics are not always necessary. Often just a “magnum style” deep running lure and long line can find trout.
*Fishing Tackle Recommendations
Basic and simplistic as possible is the first rule of thumb. Fishing gear on a canoe trip is often subjected to a fair amount of abuse on portages and around camp. It is not unusual to break rods and reels or even to lose them overboard during a careless moment of inattentiveness. The rods and reels I use cost about $70-$80 each. Two 6 and 1/2 ft. medium to heavy action breakdown rods are sufficient. One spooled with 6-8 pound high quality mono-filament and the other with 10-15 pound co-polymer, flurocarbon or braided line for trolling and pike fishing.
Tackle boxes should be flat and no bigger in width and length than a sheet of notebook paper, easily fitting in a canoe pack. Flyfishing, especially for Smallmouth bass is unbelievable up here. Give me a call to discuss tackle details! (http://bwca.cc/activities/fishing/flyfishing.htm) Live Bait is always the preferred choice and available for all BWCA trips. Live bait is not allowed in Quetico.
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