Many agree that Superior National Forest, home to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, is Minnesota's most famous outdoor destination. Wilderness lakes, endless stands of pine and aspen, along with moose, deer and other wildlife make this an exceptional place to visit. Yet fishing may be the single biggest draw to this destination.
Earlier this spring, we ventured into the interior of the SNF to catch some walleye. Lakes and campsites in the SNF that are not in the BWCA do not have as stringent regulations, and we were able to drive right to the shore of the lake and set up camp.
The walleyes that were supposed to be so prevalent in this lake were not as easy to find as one would think. This lake did not have a classic spawning river coming in where wilderness walleye often congregate this time of year. We fished most of the day before finding walleyes scattered in some newly emerging cabbage weeds in about ten feet of water. Still, in the clear water the walleyes would only venture shallow in the evenings and mornings. By drifting and casting jigs, we were caught enough to feed ourselves and take a few home to eat later.
Many of the lakes in the SNF have good numbers of walleye, pike, and smallmouth bass. Some have lake trout or stocked stream trout such as rainbows, brook trout, and splake, which are a cross between a brook trout and laker.
In this isolated land, one might think that the hundreds of lakes could offer near-virgin fishing. That is not the case. In fact, fishing in the SNF can be as frustrating as catching fish in a popular Twin Cities lake surrounded by homes.
One must realize that the same rocky shorelines and crystal clear water that make these wilderness lakes so appealing, also make these lakes relatively sterile and lifeless. Many lakes just can't support large populations of fish. That's not to mean you can't experience exceptional fishing in the SNF, for you can. In fact, in the right situations the fishing can be downright incredible. But it isn't something you will experience on every lake all the time.
Still, the tranquility and gorgeous settings found in this region make it worth it. Catching even a few fish from a quiet canoe is immensely more rewarding than catching fish from a motorboat on a crowded lake.
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