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Wood Lake is a BWCA lake which means no motors, cans, bottles, and you have to fill out a day-use permit at the head of the portage. The portage is moderately rugged and 210 rods long. A rod is 16.5 feet according to the King’s measuring system of a zillion years ago. Translation: The Wood Lake Portage is about .58 miles long one way. It’s all downhill going in and all
downhill uphill coming back. There are rocks and mud and logs and on occasion, bug who help you walk. Once you are on the lake and in a Northwind Lodge rowboat. everything levels out plus the bugs usually stay on shore at the portage namely – to help you get back out. If that sounds horrible, it’s really not. Take your time. Wear some bug dope but don’t slather it on automatically like so many people do. Have it handy and if you need it, apply it while on the portage.
Once on Wood, you will need to follow a river with no current for about 3/4 of a mile to get to the actual lake to fish. Wood can have some rather spectacular fishing. On the lake itself, you will see no man made structures of any kind. We’ve actually had a few people literally freak-out by this, but that is the actual beauty of the lake. And for those Boundary Waters zealots who thank the government for the lack of man-made structure – Wood Lake has NEVER had a permanent, man-made structure on it. We used to be able to use little motors on it but they took that away in 1978 under RARE II, (a last-minute rider to the Boundary Waters law PL 95-495) which was signed by Carter and designed to take Northwind Lodge & Deer Trail Lodge out completely -I am now convinced. Well, guess what? We’re still here….but I digress…
Fishing from a row-boat actually ended up with us traveling much farther into Wood Lake which is 453 acres in size, with no fear and a little bit of planning. Back when we had motors, we used to have to watch our available gasoline and our range ended up being limited. The thought at the time was that if we ran out of gas, we would have to do the “impossible” and row all the way back to the portage. (Impossible and a super-human feat, we thought!) In 1978, we discovered that we could actually row much farther in a day than the motor would take us plus instead of cranking up and moving to the other side of the lake when biting was slow, we worked our current spots harder and branched out from there. By changing our technique, we actually ended up catching more fish with less weight and extra concerns even when it was really rough. We also learned a heck of a lot about boat handling in wind. People who only use motors really don’t know a heck of a lot – no offense – in controlling a boat when the motor conks out. (They are so screwed while bobbing helplessly in the whitecaps!) Relying on that motor all the time, especially in a wilderness situation, can be a false sense of security. Don’t misunderstand me, however. I find nothing wrong with a motor on the back of a boat, but there is a heck of a lot to be said about having your oars and knowing your abilities. With that in mind, go to Wood Lake and plan on spending the day, taking your time and fishing all along the way. Do not plan on “fishing here” and then decide to crank up and go to the other side of the lake to try it there. Because you are rowing and moving slowly but steadily, you fish while you move and you never know what you may discover or catch along the way. Without all the running around people do with outboards, you actually spend more time with your lines in the water which ultimately improves your catch.
So, consider taking a trip into the designated wilderness for a day when staying at Northwind Lodge. It will be a memorable experience and sometimes cold and wet – but your won’t forget it. NOTE: Wood Lake rental boats are only available for registered guests of Northwind Lodge.
Thanks to Rob and Jake Croushore for the great pics of their recent trip to Wood!