Great Lake Trout Lure for Boundary Waters Fishing

Great Lake Trout Lure for Boundary Waters Fishing

Man, somebody hand me a paper towel.  I started thinking about catching spring (May, June) lakers in the Boundary Waters and started drooling at the thought of fresh, fried laker fillets on an open fire.  You fillet out a 5 pound laker.  Then, take those delectable thick fillets and chunk them up in to 1.5 inch cubes.  Then, shake them in the breading of your choice and  put them in a hot fry pan with preferably corn oil, but any oil will do except sunflower oil (starts to smoke too soon).  Flip the chunks on all 8 sides until the laker cubes are done – probably 2 minutes on the top bottom and less on each side.  You are doing a bunch of them in the pan, so you prop them up against each other so they can brown.  When they are golden brown, remove from the pan and set on paper towels on an aluminum or other (non-plastic) plate.  You can eat these with your fingers like fish cakes.   My keyboard is getting blurry at the thought of one of my favorite northwoods delicacies.

In reality, before you can begin drooling over a plate of fresh fried lake trout on Kekekabic lake or on a point in Thomas, you gotta catch one or more.  In the spring time when the water is cold, they are cruising at shallower depths making the act of catching them an easier event.   Follow the shoreline with one of these Red Rock Spinner/Spoons.  Lakers love a good flash and they will come smokin’ in to investigate and attack.  That is what you want.  You want to rile them up and  make them try to devour whatever you are pulling behind the canoe.

Red Rock Spinner Spoon

Red Rock Spinner/Spoons

Our Spinner/Spoon was originally a lure designed for bass fishing in weeds – I don’t know when exactly, but you see that same style spoon (sans spinner and metal beads) in every grandfather’s tackle box in the attic or on some shelf in the garage.  We added the metal beads and hi-flash colorado-style spinner  to this old-fashioned spoon and now you have a Spinner/Spoon.  How’s that for a literal name for lack of a better one?  Who cares – it the end result that counts.

To effectively use these weedless spoons, you make sure you have a decent snap swivel tied to your line, attach the Spinner/Spoon.    Start paddling the canoe on your course along the shoreline – not too close to shore on a lake trout lake (Kek, Crane, Thomas, Ima, Knife, and many more).   Toss it out behind the canoe and let out about 100 to 150 feet to troll shallow behind you.  Secure your rod either with a rod holder or jamming it into the gunwale held down by your foot – whatever works.  You don’t want your rod popping out of the canoe on a strike.   Then, continue paddling forward.  If you are in a Souris River Canoe, you can do this all without losing your forward glide.  If you’re in  Wenonah, you are now dead in the water and need to begin paddling and developing new momentum while your lure is sinking and sinking.  Wenonahs won’t turn when you need them to turn and they crap out in about 20 feet after you stop paddling.  I don’t make this stuff up – no need – everybody who know canoes knows about the “crap out” of Wenonahs when you stop paddling.

You may want your reel’s drag to be set a tad lighter while trolling so it’s easier for your line to play out on a strike and harder to pull your rod over the side of the canoe.  You can always tighten it up when your are fighting the fish.

On a darker/cloudy/partially cloud day – use the gold color.  On a bright day with blue sky, use the silver.  This rule applies most of the time, but sometimes the fish change it up so don’t adhere to it super tightly.

Be aware that this lure will also attract killer northern pike.  Northerns like laker tackle just like lakers.  The cool thing about Spinner/Spoons is that you can use them for casting in the weeds with the weed guard.  Now, with the spinner flashing, they won’t be as completely weedless as they are without the spinner-bead part.  This makes a good reason for fishing  it along side of weed beds, especially cabbage weeds if you can find them.  Northerns like weeds but big northerns also hang out in the same places as lakers which is open deep water.  Northerns from the Boundary Waters are also delicious so don’t be bummed if you catch one.  Be bummed if you catch a 20 pounder.  That’s too big and too much for even a small army to eat.  Let him go and eat the smaller ones.   Find out about filleting northern pike and eating them here

So, this is an effective, easy to use lure for laker fishing in the pristine waters of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.  We sell them in two packs – one gold and one silver.  It will become your go-to lure for action and eating fish.  Make sure you put a couple in your box before you go!  You can only get these from Red Rock.

Order Red Rock Spinner/Spoons from Red Rock Here

Save the Boundary Waters – By Using It!

Save the Boundary Waters – By Using It!

It’s no secret that in just the last two years,  BWCA canoe trips and use are in rapid decline.  I could see it in the parking lots of the entry points.  Twenty-five  cars average in a lot designed to hold 150 for pretty much the entire summer except for a few busier times, is a pretty good indicator that things are amiss.  It also helps to talk to Forest Service field personnel who report that there are hardly any people out there anymore along with MN DNR fisheries guys noting that but for Boy Scout base paddlers, there are hardly any canoes on the Moose Lake Chain.  Add to that my own observations at the Moose Laek Canoe landing that at 8 AM on any given morning there are no boats heading up the chain.  I used to stand at that landing about 4 times a week, hauling canoes down for my rental customers and there were always 5-8 motor boats heading up to Prairie Portage to go day-fishing in Basswood.  Now, seeing a boat go by is a rarity.  Seeing a canoe paddling by is also up-to-chance with long odds.  One of our store customers came back from spending two weeks in Quetico Park on lakes Sarah and Darky and Conmee of the Canadian side.  He admitted that none of those lakes are “un-popular” lakes as they offer excellent fishing and are spectacular waters on which to paddle.  He was there in the middle of July and went 7 full days without seeing another canoe or human – and these lakes aren’t even hard to access.  Having traveled there for many years, he said it was “really weird” and while he “like it but, it indicates bad things for wilderness in general”.  Our canoe rental customers coming back from Insula or Thomas on the US side, reported the same.  There is nobody out there.  And, we STILL are unable to acquire permits.  Why is that?  The government seems unable to tell us why with nobody there and declining usage, permits remain unavailable.

In Canada, Quetico Park, use is down 35% from the travelers on the US side. With all the restrictions to enter Canada with a canoe, not to mention the restrictions on fishing, and their virtually no-maintenance policy along with expensive fees to sleep on a rock , I would venture to say that the Canadians in charge as are completely clueless as are our members of the US Forest Service regarding attracting visitors.  In 2013, supposedly 114,000 visitors went to the BWCA.  In 2013 it plummeted to 97,000.  That’s the total usage for a year for the entire Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.   Those may sound like big numbers, but compared to other pristine parks that one can drive a car through while surrounded by herds of animals and visual wonders and it still remains pristine (Yellowstone-take a look at these stats), you wonder just what kind of fools are in charge of promoting the most beautiful canoe area in the world?

I read that in order to entice todays’s school children – who are only interested in gadgets and blinky BS – the US Forest Service is sending minions in uniform to teach the children about “Leave No Trace” and “Wilderness Ethics”.  These are kids, you government buffoons!

Can you imagine sitting through an hour of watching different ways to pick up twist ties, bottle caps while working on ways to improve one’s “stewardship of the land”?  They could call it “A Private Journey” and make a nauseating movie about a do-gooder kid who saved a frog in the Boundary Waters only to grow as a human being even more.  Yeah – that would be great. Maybe have Sean Penn in it.

As a 6th grader, (which is WAY TOO LATE to introduce kids to wilderness ) can you imagine yourself learning about the real bird & bees outside and how much fun it is (again, outside – get your mind out of the gutter) to experience fishing and camping and padding and waterfalls and rugged terrain and challenges (that you CAN do) instead of learning about the government fines you’ll face if you don’t keep “towing the environmentalist-religious-experience, line?

  • As a kid, can you imagine catching a fish so big that not only did it pull your canoe around the bay, it almost pulled you in as well?   Or would you rather learn about being some “steward”?
  • How about sitting by the campfire in the dark listening to crackling embers, choking on smoke, making fun on those who choke on smoke, roasting marshmallows and laughing and wondering what that noise was behind you!?  Or would you rather hear about the fine for having too many canoes in your group?
  • How about smelling bacon frying on a cool crisp morning as you silently paddle canoe down the lake along the shoreline?  And then, there’s the fried fish on the campfire for lunch that you just caught.  Or would you rather listen to a 15 minute speech about  “actively seeking twist ties to bring home with you and dispose of properly”?
  • What about feeling so hot in that Minnesota sun on the water and paddling back to camp to float in the lake with your life jacket on (or your thermarest pad), only to warm up and dry off in the sun again?  Or, would you rather hear how illegal fires kill the soil and leave a blight upon our Mother Earth and how you should only use a campstove in the BWCA?
  • Can you imaging laying in your tent in the dark of night with a thunderstorm overhead and lightning that illuminates your tent so bright that you can see the terror in the whites of your buddy’s eyes?  Or would you rather hear about wearing moccasins or other soft-soled footwear around camp to be gentle on the Earth?
  • What about feeling so ALIVE in the bright, warm, morning sun after that storm passed and sitting on a rock looking out over that lake while while smelling that lightning-cleansed, fresh air punctuated by whiffs of wood smoke and breakfast?  Or would you rather hear from a “green suit” that if you accidentally bring an illegal can or bottle to the Church of the Boundary Waters that you’ll be fined and shunned for all eternity EVEN if you had every intention of bring it back out?

In Canada, when you go to pick up your permit, they now request that you take your used toilet paper and burn it instead of burying it properly.  I can think of nothing more enjoyable to talk about than burning a pile of TP.  “Can you remember that morning we had that big toilet paper bonfire in the Quetico Park.  Highlight of my trip!”

If you believe that “Saving the BWCA” is more important than “Using the BWCA”,  you have become a de facto member of the Church of the Boundary Waters.  You are also highly misguided.  If we, as a country miss one generation of kids who visits the Boundary Waters wilderness by canoe at a young age to imprint the fabulousness of self-sufficiency and a true appreciation for the great outdoors, then we will lose the BWCA all together and completely.  The 65 year-old hippies & fools are presently focused on “saving” that which is now experiencing a rapid decline in use – AKA the Boundary Waters.  They vehemently do this while they themselves are showing the signs of age, are heading to the nursing homes, or choosing easier road trips through Yellowstone.  This is clearly evidenced by the the 3.5 MILLION Yellowstone visitors last season and Yellowstone STILL remains relatively pristine.   How is THAT possible, I ask?  Supposedly, the 97,000 and less visitors of 1,000,000 acres of undeveloped land & water of the Boundary Waters are destroying it, according to aging, declining hippies.   Meanwhile, the true defenders of the Boundary Waters fade into oblivion within the halls of Congress by attrition.  The new kids coming up in Washington DC only understand government programs, free hand-outs, and smartphone silliness.   Nonetheless, these are the legislators – the ones who will shape and change the laws of the future.  None of them knows what canoe-camping even is, let alone where it is done.   Thirty  years from now and when the old hippies of the “Save the BW” crowd and the rest of us are either dead or on the way out, because we missed an entire generation of canoe campers in Congress, the freshwater of the BWCA will be removed for California’s wasting-at-will and the minerals of the hallowed Boundary Waters will be mined by and for the artificial intelligence robots for whom wilderness will provide no meaning.  Think that’s crazy talk?  Did you ever think you’d have a computer in your pocket upon which you can watch videos about the Boundary Waters in 2015?  Case in point.

Don’t view this post as a downer.  You can save the Boundary Waters by taking a kid paddling into the Boundary Waters and showing said kid a pleasant time.  Don’t kill him out there and you have to start young.  Once they hit 12, that’s all she wrote.   Also, start calling your legislator to make Boundary Waters use and travel more accessible to people who want to go by motor and canoe – Public Law 95-495.   If we lose public interest by conservationists, not environmental zealots, it’s going to go for good, and it’s never coming back.  Don’t send money to a some wackadoo cause and then forget about it because you’d “done” something.   Make a phone call or send and email to your legislator and save your money.  It’ll have more effect and the enviro-executive director won’t get as fat a paycheck after whipping up some stupid, unwarranted, panic in the completely wrong direction.

And screw Canada – they’ll never get it because they have eco-religious zealots like we do in the U.S. sitting on their boards.

When you see “SAVE the Boundary Waters” consider it to be insanity.   There are few people going.  How does less use and less interest wear something out?  It’ll allow them to forget about it and then, that will be the end of it.  That’s the real threat!

Wilderness Ethics for the Boundary Waters.

  1. Get a BWCA permit. 
  2. Know the rules.
  3. Follow the rules.
  4. Set up camp early in the day.
  5. Don’t be a pig – in camp – in water – in canoe- at car parking lot.
  6. If you feel compelled to clean up some idiot’s mess – fine, do so.
  7. Don’t be obnoxious or a yahoo.
  8. Keep your gear together and off the portage so others can get by with no difficulty caused by you.
  9. Don’t eat your lunch on the portage – ever!
  10. It’s simple – Pack it in, pack it out.
  11. Don’t peel the birch trees.
  12. Don’t pretend you are Jeremiah Johnson trying to build a log cabin in the wild.
  13. Unless you are an actual expert, leave your ax at home.  It’s nothing but trouble.
  14. Look both directions before cutting a wiener stick. (guilty law-breaking pleasure).

That about sums up the “training” for wilderness ethics.  All the rest is baloney.

Don’t forget – We’ll rent you a canoe for your next BWCA trip, too!  Call us to reserve your Quetico 17 or 18.5 today!

 

 

Canoe Paddle Length – How Critical is it?

Measuring a Canoe Paddle

Measuring a Canoe Paddle

A lot of time is expended on sizing a canoe paddle properly.  Some paddlers get all excited if they don’t feel they have a precise paddle fit – on land.   Well, here’s a paddling perspective you may want to consider when picking the correct paddle size for you.

  Click Here for the blog post at Souris River Dealer

Canoe Rod for Wilderness Traveling

Canoe Rod for Wilderness Traveling

One of the biggest hurdles in taking a canoe trip in the Boundary Water or anywhere for that matter  is bringing along a rod and reel.  Conventional open water rod/reel combos are long, get caught in the brush,  and challenging to transport without snapping the tip off turning a medium light 6 foot rod into a medium 5’6″ rod.  I’ve successfully carried a lot of rods through the brush on portages for a lifetime without ever having one break.  I didn’t say that I never came close to wiping my rod out on a branch but I’ve never broken one personally. That being said, I’ve had other people break my rods because they were clueless.  It’s no surprise that I only let my dad carry my rod on a portage or I carry it myself.  Those are the only two people allowed to handle my fishing rod when out in the brush.

Based on the fishing rod sales at Red Rock, a lot of people snap their rods off while carrying them in the woods around here.  They do a whole bunch of other dumb stuff, but two ways to handle fishing rods will keep your rods going for a long time if you like remote places:

  1. More rod tips die unnecessarily by not understanding that “one ALWAYS carries a fishing rod on any trail in the brush, ‘rod-butt-first'”. I would venture that 95% of  fisher-kind gets this ass-backwards every, single time.  Carrying your rod tip forward in brush can, at times, end poorly.
  2. When passing through a screen door, DO NOT walk out “rod butt first”.  If I had a nickle for every customer who walks out through the screen door at Red Rock with a BRAND, SPANKIN’-NEW, ROD, and pokes the rod butt to the outside world completely forgetting about the remaining 5 feet of rod behind them.  Guess what?  The screen door gets it every time.  WHAP!  SNAP!  For this reason specifically, I built the screen door at Red Rock with no spring on it.  A magnet holds it shut.  You have to physically shut it.  If you physically shut it on your brand new rod, there’s no hope for you.

Sure, you can tie your rod into your canoe, but depending on a number of variables, this is sometimes a time-eater and causer of neck pain.  It is also no guarantee that the rod will survive your Labrador or your 13 year old, and you still have to wander around in the brush.  You’re in the woods for Pete’s sake.

Introducing the Red Rock Brush Rod

Order this GREAT Spinning Combo Here!

At least, that’s what I’m calling it.  I was at a buying show wondering why, in a sea of ice fishing rods, would Daiwa have this neat little ice fishing rod and not be teaming it up with a reel for a cool winter combo.  I asked the snot-nosed sales rep that and the young lad looked at me like my “completely unheard of, totally unique, idea” for an “ice rod combo” was going down as a great revelation in fishing history.  Never mind that when I arrived at the Daiwa space, he and the other children (first time at the show), were throwing casting weights to irritate the women across the aisle and cranking them back in with their Daiwa reels, ironically while looking at competitor booths selling every conceivable ice rod combo all around Daiwa.

Young lad aside, he couldn’t answer questions about this little rod other than it was a “dock rod” .  Turns out, this is a pretty cool little rod for fishing out of a canoe as well.  They say it can cast up to 20 yards which is 60 feet.  For sneaking around with a canoe or even a boat, that is WAY enough for darn near any kind of Boundary Waters fishing.  You can plug the shore for bass, drop over the side and jig for walleyes and lake trout, and throw some fairly heavy tackle for big northern pike.

I’ve often wondered why my ice fishing stuff which is comprised of everything being tiny (compared to my summer stuff) can work absolutely great in the middle of winter dragging a fish up through 2 foot deep hole in the ice.  Why is that?  My tiny little 27″ medium rod can pull 1 ounce airplane plugs 55 feet down and then pull up a 7 lb laker with a reel smaller than I would ever think to use in the summer.  Ice fishing is THE most brutal use of fishing gear.  If it’s not frozen, it’s freezing.  Everything is colder.  Water lands everywhere and freezes instantly.  And, then after all those knots of ice get cranked up through the eyelet of that tiny rod and into that tiny reel,  they all stick together and you are there trying to crack it off to unstick it just so you can do it again.  Everything is more brittle and it gets used pretty hard whether you are catching fish or not.  My ice gear gets used every bit as hard as my summer gear and maybe even moreso.

So, if we have a short rod, reel combo for summer fishing to do exactly the same thing as ice, who is to declare us wrong?

Tri Force Shorty

Tri Force Shorty

Ponder This

  • Just think how easy it would be to tie a 36 inch fishing rod into a canoe under the seat with a couple of  lighter weight bungees?
  • How much easier would it be to walk on a portage with a 3 foot rod?
  • Just think of how easy it would be to land your own fish with a landing net using a 36″ long rod instead of a 72″ rod.
  • What do you think the odds are that your partner in the front of the canoe is going to knock your hat off with a sloppy back-flip of a rod while winding up for a cast with a 3 foot rod?
  • What would it be like to jig heavy trout lures  over the side when jigging in Kekekabic Lake for lakers in May/June?

The Daiwa Triforce Shorty is available in both spinning and casting versions.  For those unfamiliar, casting versions have a “trigger” on the handle and would be the style you’d use for a baitcaster reel.  You could also rig it up with a a spincast reel like a Daiwa Silver Cast or Gold Cast.

We’ve teamed it up with the Quantum Triax TRX10 Reel for great balance.  This reel would take 100 yards of 6 lb. mono and probably 80 yards of 8 lb. mono.  You could cheat and go to 15 lb. test braid which would fit 125 yards on this reel as it is 4 lb. test diameter.  The Quantum Triax  reel very nicely matches the Daiwa Triforce Shorty and comes with 7 ball bearings and anti reverse. It’s bail closes with just the right amount of force.  I like an easy-closing, but not too easy, bail.  The reel weigh in at 5.8 ounces.

Quantum Triax TRX10F

Quantum Triax TRX10F

Order this GREAT Spinning Combo Here!

We’ll be offer the Triforce/Triax Brush combo at redrockstore.com once we get a bunch of parts and pieces in our website put together.  

canoe fishing rod combo, brush fishing combo

Perfect rod for canoe camping or crossing through rugged territory

FREE Canoe Delivery Offer

FREE Canoe Delivery Offer 

Don’t delay.  This offer ends on April 15!

from SOTB Outfitters/ aka Red Rock

For a limited time, reserve a canoe rental for your next BWCA trip in the Ely area, and we’ll deliver it for FREE to a bunch of popular sites and at a reduced rate to a bunch of other popular entry points!  See the list below.

FREE Delivery/pickup  to:

  • Lake One (30)
  • Snowbank (27)
  • Moose Lake (25)
  • Wood Lake (26)
  • Ojibway Lake (29)
  • Fall Lake (24)

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Half Price Canoe Delivery/pickup to for all the others that we offer:

See list here:

REGULAR RENTAL CANOE DELIVERY RATES

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For those not familiar with our delivery method –

Red Rock loads up your rental canoes and we all head down to the entry point on the morning of your trip – together.  Earliest departure is 7 AM.  (I know “everybody” is always prepared the “night before” to leave “at first light” and if I had a dime for every outfitting party that didn’t make even the 7 AM departure time despite their best assurances.  7 AM is the earliest time.)   If you are coming out at the same entry point, you simply leave the canoe to the side of the landing, flip it over and stop back in at Red Rock whereupon we run down and pick it up.  It’s easy as pie and you aren’t sitting there waiting in the rain should you decide to come out early.  We’ve now been doing it like this for decades with no problems whatsoever.

Now, we can also, drop you and your gear off at Lake One and have one of your people drive the car to the Snowbank or Moose Lake landing (or vice versa) and then re-deliver the person who drove the car to the destination entry point so after your trip from Lake One to Moose your car is right there waiting for you after your canoe trip.   In that case, you again, would leave the canoe to the side flipped over, stop in at Red Rock to report that you are back, and we would go pick them up.

We make it easy because schedules are always tight.

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Call to reserve your canoes  1-800-280-1078

Canoe Rental Rates HERE

Kevlar Canoe Rentals

ouris river canoe with pack

Souris River Canoe Quetico 17

Kevlar  – yes kevlar canoes are what you want for your next BWCA wilderness canoe trip.   They are lighter on portages.  But remember that nobody ever drowns on a portage.  So don’t assume that all kevlar rental canoes in the BWCA  are created equal.   A lot of people are reticent to rent kevlar canoes for a whole host of reasons.  Here are a list of the top concerns that I’ve heard over the last 25 years of renting kevlar canoe for rugged boundary waters canoe trips:

  1. kevlar is too fragile and will puncture easily
  2. kevlar canoes are tippy
  3. they are fast but won’t turn in a wind
  4. don’t have much freeboard when loaded
  5. you have to “wet foot” canoe all the time.

Here is a list that corresponds with the above list to address each point:

  1. Not if it is made by Souris River.  Yes, Wenonah, Bell, and all other canoes are fairly fragile.
  2. Not if it is a Souris River Quetico 17 or 18.5.  Yes, Wenonah’s and Bell’s are tippier with the exception of Wenonah’s Boundary Waters which is stable but an odd canoe on the water.  Bell’s are always a little on the jittery side.
  3. Souris River’s are fast with a load and without a load plus their stability doesn’t change even when their load does.  They are properly designed to turn in the wind.  Wenonah’s (MNII) is a retired racing canoe with no rocker.  Wenonah, with their racing roots, doesn’t know how to make a canoe not go straight.  That’s great until you get caught in a crosswind with their associated low-freeboard.  Bells are much better handling than Wenonahs, but they feel jittery when empty and stabilize when loaded.  A truly great canoe never changes handling/performance characteristics.  – that’s the SR Quetico 17.
  4. Wenonah builds a bunch of different canoe models which tend to be somewhat obscure on the Boundary Waters front.  I don’t see those models and aren’t familiar with them by name, either.   But, they do build some high bow, low side and low stern design in the main of the models used by outfitters to the boundary waters.   The high bow is sharp and slices the waves.  It also maintains the straightest course from point A to point B which makes it fast, right?  Well, it also does the “A & B” thing in the “up and down”  line.  In rough water, it becomes a submairne because it’s skinny hull refuses to rise up and go over the top of the wave.  So, do the math:  You are  in a skinny canoe with a 20″ bow charging into a 24″ wave.  What’s going to happen?  You’re gonna get 4″ of water in your lap for every wave you dive into with your Wenonah.  Now add in the fact that your rental Wenonah has 7 days of gear in it and you at 200 lbs. are all wedged in the front of that canoe.  How high do the oncoming waves need to be to end up in you lap, now?   The answer is less than 24″ .   After loading up your loaded canoe with water that you really didn’t want, what happens when you get stuck in a crosswind with a canoe that fights you in turning in 24″ waves?  What happens when water comes over the side?  Does the canoe sit even lower at that point?   When do you begin bailing?   None of this is a problem with a sensible canoe like Souris River’s Quetico 17 or 18.5 three-man.  They rise up and over the waves due to their non-racing hull design.  High and dry is always better than fast and underwater.
  5. Souris Rivers are significantly tougher than Wenonahs and Bells.  Those two canoes are downright fragile in rugged country and the rule of thumb is that Souris Rivers rent four times more than Brand X kevlar canoes and Brand X requires 4 times more repairs after every trip out.  Now, we never want to see you ram shore with ANY canoe, but if you bump something with a Souris River kevlar,  oh, well.  Continue paddling, no need to dig out the duct tape.

If you think I’m making this up about Souris River Canoe, as an outfitter, what do I care if the canoe handles well in 3.5 foot whitecaps or treats my customers well?  I could VERY easily open up any other line of kevlar canoes for rentals and they would cost me less and get the job done well enough with less effort on my part.  Every year, I get the price sheets for Brand X kevlar canoes sent to me.   From a business standpoint, I would be best served to get the job of renting kevlar canoes done as cheaply as possible.  Souris Rivers cost me significantly more per canoe than any Brand X models and are a pain for me to get down from Canada.  Souris Rivers don’t have the marketing in the US that Brand X kevlars have.  In fact, because of brand recognition, it is easier to connect with a customer over Brand X kevlar canoes than it is with Souris River Canoes.  Sounds like a better business decision would be to switch brands of kevlar canoes.

And, yet…we stick with them exclusively.  Go figure, eh?

See our BWCA Canoe Rental Prices Here

Take Time for BWCA Camping – don’t just talk about wilderness

The “familied ” world targets the last week in July and first week in August every single year for last minute trips up north, particularly in Minnesota.   It appears that many metro-families have kids who belong to every activity under the sun, be it soccer, underwater basket weaving for 8th graders,  dog psychology for kids, and a whole slew of other activities.  I refer to these activities as distractions for kids and “fill-ins” for keeping the kids otherwise occupied and theoretically out harm’s way while both parents work.   At least that is what said activities used to be for some.  For others, joining every activity under the sun for summer is simply what they do.  These people are highly organized and live life to the schedule and the schedule is tight.  They squeeze in a major-carbon-footprint Disney trips, Euro-adventures or head off to the islands somewhere for a brief bit of running around.   When not scheduling around activities while attending group activities, they run around town like trained seals picking up a fish reward along the way.  They leave no time to do anything else but follow that intense schedule.  To me, it sounds exhausting.  In  conversations with schedulers , some seem to wear it like a badge of honor.  “We’re SO busy…”  Errr….OK….I guess if that is what you like to do….

Finally, when all the programmed kid activities come to an end, they suddenly realize they have only one week left before School Shopping Season and need to go north to the Boundary Waters.  I’ve actually heard metro-dwellers refer to it as the “obligatory trip north”.    Now, for many, it seems that the term “going to the Boundary Waters” no longer means taking an actual canoe trip anymore.  It means going to Ely for a week during the Blueberry Arts Festival to eat something fried on a stick.  There, they wander around and marvel at how busy it now is  (for about 10 days) in Ely and go home in time for two full weeks of “school shopping season”.   How that activity could possibly take two weeks  (instead of a day or two at the most) is beyond me, but school shopping season is now an event akin to Black Friday and it goes on for two whole weeks!   Usually before the second week in August the city folk have completed their summer bucket list with “make it to the Boundary Waters”.    I hope it was all very satisfying.

In what are becoming rarer occurrences, some of these people actually DO make it to the Boundary Waters for a real canoe trip during the BB fest time and it is normally busy then.  However, as of the last three years, we’ve noted a major falling-off in Boundary Waters reservations and canoe trips in general.  Until three years ago, there were people all over the streets of Ely, all summer long for my whole life.  You had to look both ways before crossing the street during non-Blueberry Arts Festival time.  Every other passing car had a canoe rack on it with a canoe tied on for as far as the eye could see and the grocery store parking lots were full of canoes on cars.  You couldn’t be driving on any road for 10 minutes and not have an upside down canoe go past.   It was not unusual for our 6 spaces in front of Red Rock to have 6 cars with canoes on top, almost every day all summer long.

Now, we barely see a canoe a car particularly when away from the roughly 10 days time period surrounding the Blueberry Festival.

If you take a drive to any of the major landings such as Lake One,  Moose Lake,  and Snowbank you should now notice a complete selection of prime places to park.  That never was the case before.   Now, a 150 car lot at Moose Lake has 25 cars in it and two of them are US Forest Service.  You stand at the Moose lake beach off the portage from the parking lot at 8 AM and where there used to be 6 boats heading up the Moose Lake Chain to go fishing for the day, there is silence.  Nothing going by.  And, while you are standing on that beach, there is no one coming down the portage from the parking lot with a canoe on their shoulders.  It used to be that you had to pass three for four canoes heading to or from the water.  Now, many times, you can close your eyes and run with a canoe on your shoulders fearing to hit no one.  There are no kids running back & forth all excited, no middle-aged paddlers huffing and puffing under a pack with way-too-much-junk.  Nobody.  No outfitter trucks lining up to pick up stacked canoes.  Except for the big boy scout base and their participants on the water, the Moose Chain is pretty quiet.

“Quiet” always sounds great I suppose, especially in regards to wilderness, but anybody in business on the edge of said wilderness knows that “quiet” means a slow, dwindling, struggling death.  It becomes very difficult to pay the rising taxes and massive operating costs while enjoying the “quiet”.    From a consumer’s perspective, “quiet” means “businesses of value”, are going away and the wilderness experience becomes a little more wild.  Sounds great until someone needs something and can’t find it anywhere.   Perhaps if we could bathe the wilderness in free WIFI then business would improve.

If you drive through town at anytime not during the Blueberry Arts Festival, the “bar graphs” of the current state of business in Ely are the outfitter canoe racks.  You can do a quick count while driving by.  30 canoes on the racks with 4 open spaces.  That means they’ve rented 4 canoes at a time that they usually rent 30.  Ely’s newest outfitter sat all summer long with one or two canoes off of his racks.   I’m  guessing  he’s a trust-fund baby so perhaps it doesn’t really matter if he rents canoes or not.   Maybe he needs the write off.   For Summer 2014, he succeeded in a big write-off.  You can’t pay the light bill with no canoe rentals except for during the Blueberry Arts Festival  – that is how I conclude he is a trust-fund baby.   Three years of full rental canoe racks does not a sound business make without some alternate money stream coming in.  And he does all this with no discernible, other job.    How do I get some of that, eh?   But, my speculation could be wrong, too.

This all briefly changes during the Blueberry Festival at the end of July.   But that’s it.  The car lots at the canoe landing will be 75% full then.  It used to be that they’d have to stack the Subarus and Priuses on top of larger vehicles just to fit in the lot.   Even during the Festival, there are now ample places to park at the busiest canoe entry points.  And this is not only true for Ely as the same holds true for the Gunflint trail.  I don’t get my information from visitors to the area because, they see their week in time and extrapolate the entire summer’s business activity from that.  I get my data from US Forest Service field personnel, MN conservation officers, DNR Fisheries workers, the county deputy sheriffs,  highway workers, and my own physical observations.  In relative terms, there is nobody here anymore.

Standing at the Lake One landing on a Monday morning is like standing in a Steven King novel.   No vans arriving, no logos going by, and in downtown Ely, no canoe outfitting customers schlepping packs & canoes back and forth to vehicles on the sidewalks.  Heck, there are hardly any cars in the middle of July.   We also no longer see small teams of Boyscouts in uniform walking up and down the streets of Ely and you can pretty much park your car anywhere.  Ely used to have a parking problem.   We bonafide locals notice things like this, visitors and newbies do not.  It may look busy to visitors going to Disappointment Lake for their 7 day “wilderness” base camp next to the parking lot at Snowbank, but if they took two portages in, they’d see no one for days.  It is also the same way in the Quetico Provincial Park of Canada across the border.  The Canadians are alarmed by the 35% reduction in visitors.  On the US side, it appears to me that our federal government in charge doesn’t even care.  A sign of ample tax dollars and printed money, perhaps?  They have an inordinate number of new white vehicles, it seems, with only one person driving each one.  Car-pooling and all that carbon-footprint silliness doesn’t seem to apply in the federal US Forest Service.

Early Season

So, when is a good time to take a Boundary Waters canoe trip these days?  Well, if you want to see absolutely nobody, the last week in May and the first two week of June are great times if you like to fish. Kids are still in school.   Historically, there is nobody here during those times, and depending on the water levels, the bugs may not be bad at all.   The thought of bugs scares so many people these days it is absolutely ridiculous.  Years ago, bugs never stopped anybody.  They were in God’s Country and a few bugs wasn’t going to detract from that.  In observing shoppers and the quantities of bug dope that they now buy for a few days, I wonder if they are planning on adding it to their mixed drinks?  And that’s in July when blackflies are completely gone and mosquitoes are on their way out.

Black flies can be out in pockets and areas in June which is unpredictable, but we usually don’t see them until the third week (if at all, some summers), right when the big bass are spawning.  They come and go.  They also don’t bite inside of rooms, cars, or tents.  When they discover that they can’t get out, they head to the window screens and beg for their lives.  (A fitting end, I say, hopefully with a slow death.)   Plus, blackflies generally don’t follow you out on the water and we have some great bug dope just for them.  But that’s the third week.  Come before that for nice days, cool nights and the smell of a wood fire crackling in the evenings next to a wilderness lake with the loons singing across the bay.   Will you hit 7 days of rain?   You could.  It sucks but that is why you also pack an 8 x 10 tarp and several packets of hot chocolate.  That is also why you go get a lot of wood after setting up camp and BEFORE everybody goes fishing.

Upon reading this, instead of reminiscing, call us up and reserve your canoes, today.  1-800-280-1078  If that doesn’t do it for you anymore, come stay at our resort, Northwind Lodge where we now have free WIFI in the cabins (you’ll probably need that to lure them out of the house before you can tie them to the car seats and head to Northwind).    Take day canoe trips and come back to the cabin to sleep in a bed.  Baby steps –  Get those kids out of team activities and drag them kicking and screaming if you must.   Let them learn the introspection that balances one’s sanity later as an adult by going in the real woods – and not some a state campground with drunks and fruitcakes running amok.   People need to know that it’s OK to feel all alone and what it’s like to be really close to the water, ground and sky.  It’s OK to be away from the digital master who now controls those kids and most of today’s adults.  It’s OK to be cold and wet and then feel that fire and smell that smoke.   You can’t learn this by attending a summer camp with 50 other kids.  You also can’t learn this on Youtube.  You can watch a bunch of narcissists filming their BWCA trip, but it isn’t remotely the same as doing it yourself.  Be your own narcissist.  Make your own videos with selfies of your actually being there.

Going to the Boundary Waters means via canoe, not just the Blueberry Arts Festival where you buy something fried on a stick.  You can buy that crap anywhere.  There is only one real Boundary Waters  and only one place that you can visit it as far as I’m concerned.   Get your vacation life in order and give us a call.  You’ve been missing out on a lot!