Fishing’s Fine at Northwind Lodge!

Boy, we’ve been having a GREAT summer this 2017!  Big fish, little fish, middle fish – everybody’s livin’ the dream!  We’ve been having all this fun despite the weather not really cooperating with us.  Lots of rain, but the fish remain undeterred as well as our great guests!    These are just June 2017 photo’s by our guests at Northwind Lodge!

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The Wood Lake Experience at Northwind Lodge

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.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people sitting, beard, sunglasses, sky, outdoor, water and nature

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Thanks to Rob and Jake Croushore for the great pics of their recent trip to Wood!

A Landing Net’s Life

My dad turned 83 years old yesterday and just to make the younger world feel diminished, I dragged him all the way down the Wood Lake portage and forced him to catch fish on Wood Lake for the day.  The portage is 210 rods long or .58 miles long and it was muddy and rugged after yesterday’s heavy rains which is par for the course on portages.  For an old guy with a fake knee and a double bypass some 15 years ago, he does pretty well.

Of course, I brought along my sidekick Delilah.   Once we hit the trail, she began her Wood Lake portage routine of blasting ahead at full speed,  turning off the trail into the woods and running parallel back along the trail only to come out behind me.  From that point, she snorts past me again, tongue flopping and nothing but a blurry streak of fur to do it repeatedly for the entire trail. I figure that she runs about three times the length of the trail every time we walk it.   In the back of my mind, I’m waiting for the moment she drives out a momma bear and cubs to meet me, but that hasn’t occured….yet.

As I walked the trail carrying my oars, our rods and my pack, I noted the fresh tracks in the mud – two people ahead of me.    As a boy, I was trained to not leave tracks – not in the figurative sense connected to symbolically saving the BWCA,  but instead, for real.   Hunting and trapping as a kid, we never wanted to be followed and the best way to avoid followers is to never leave tracks as best we could and we still do this to this day.  As a result, I observe this telltale “flaw” in others all the time and today’s tracks in front of me were no different.  I could tell both were men, in their late 30’s to early 40’s, weighing about 185 lbs. each.    They wore big floppy hats, mosquito head nets, blue, white and black, paddling gloves, and brand new long sleeve, nylon button-down shirts with brand new nylon, zip off pants.

As Delilah blasted silently down the portage, about 150 feet in front of me, up a hill and around a curve, I heard her let loose with the most ferocious, attack-dog bark her nine pound body could muster!  First I thought ” bear”  but that was immediately corrected.  There was a scream and panic as a voice-in-terror yelled, “Gggaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!  GET OUTTA HERE!  GO AWAY!!!! ” as Delilah stopped them in their tracks.  I tried to call her off, but she was unrelenting, so I picked up my pace to see two guys decked out in nylon shirts, zip-off pants, trail boots, blue-white-black paddling gloves, big hats and bug nets.  Delilah finally shut up as her job was done attacking the space aliens.  I chuckled and said when they passed, “I bet that scared the crap out of you!” to which one replied “Maybe a little…”

Delilah looked back at me all proud and alert for taking down the “aliens” with a good, solid whoopin’.  Then, she blasted down the portage once again.

When we hit the water, we endured a beautiful day with moderate catching but enough to keep up busy all day long.  In a pretty true test, we found that live bait and artificial lures ended up producing  about “neck and neck” .    There was no real, obvious gain in using live bait over lures.   Later in the day, the wind picked up and screamed from the west making for about 1.5 hours of tough rowing with a significant chop and some whitecaps.  I put together this video called “A Landing Net’s Life”  since the I had the camera stuck to the net.

Upon returning to the parking because not much wears Delilah out, she took off and chased a 70 foot long semi roaring past on the Fernberg Road.  The present road crew tried to catch her but she blew past them, returning to me and prompting a parking lot visit by a concerned, but laughing foreman looking for “a little brown dog that was chasing one of their semi’s down the new asphalt.”  Delilah stood up on the truck seat and smiled at him.

Good dog, Delilah.  Never give up.

My Big Fish at Northwind Lodge

This is a true fish story by Terry Rose, a longtime guest of Northwind Lodge.  Terry had a really great day a few summers ago and told this incredible story to me – and a lot of other people from what I can tell.  It’s a heck of a good story about how everything went right for once.    

Sheila and I just finished cleaning up after a great fish dinner in the cabin and I was kind of tired and thought I would just stay in and relax.  Todd and Ali went out past the narrows and it was so nice and calm on the water that I  thought, “What the heck?” – I will go out and throw the Spook around a little before it gets dark.  I went to my spot across from the cabin in the big lilly pad area.  I was in about 4 feet of water and working the Zara Spook across the top when there was a huge swell in the water behind it.  It looked like a submarine rising to a breach and then it’s mouth opened and the Spook was gone!   Before you knew it I was hanging on as I lost my grip on the reel handle and the turning handle spun over my knuckles, beating them up.  Keep in mind,  there was no real splash or anything in the water.   I could not see the fish but knew there was something really big on the line.  At first I thought it was just a good sized small mouth bass, but it just did not budge when I pulled on the rod, so I just maintained pressure with not even a millisecond of slack line.  The fish shot out in one direction taking my line around a lily pad stem and then line would cut through it like a hot knife through butter with the pad floating free.  Then, this unseen monster would shoot off to another pad and saw it off as well while lots of other weeds rose up from their tethers not surviving the strength of this gargantuan fish and the line he towed.

After shearing off weeds in various directions,  the fish finally found a clearing and actually started dragging the entire boat towards the north shore of the island on Jasper.    At this point, I just hung on some more hoping the line wouldn’t break and my reel’s drag would not fail.  About 15-20 minutes passed.  I finally got a look at him as he passed by the boat on another shorter run.   It was one of those looks where you take a big breath and then forget to breathe as the monster surfaced for the first time in many long, arduous minutes.  A thousand thoughts flew through my mind including “How am I going to net this?”, among others including, but not limited to, “OMG!”

On the shorter pass, I could tell he was about as tired as I was, but I was still able to get his head into my very small landing net.   It was really only his head up to the end of his gill covers that actually fit in the net.  I somehow managed to flip him over the gunwale into the boat and realized I had more than I could handle by myself!    At this point, I thought about just cutting the line and letting him go, but I knew that no one would believe me and it would just be another fish story.   Keeping my foot on the net to keep him from jumping out, I reached back and started the motor.  After going as fast as a 5 HP Honda four-stroke outboard would go, I arrived at the piers at Northwind Lodge.   Wouldn’t you know it?   There was not a soul around.  Nobody!!!!   I just wanted to get that monster back in the water before he croaked and, to my amazement, there was nobody at the beach on this beautiful day!   Not knowing the next move to make, I stood on the pier and yelled at the top of my lungs for help.

The man in the cottage across the lake road, Pat Webb  came down the hill as quick as he could.   He helped me measure and weigh my fish.  My major concern at this point was to get the hook out and release him.  As Pat held the mouth open, I looked inside and saw the lure just laying there in that big white cavern of a thousand, razor sharp teeth with those white and blood red gill edges at the bottom.   It appeared – to my surprise-  that the Spook was just laying in his mouth on the top of the gills and throat opening!    None, not even one,  of the big treble hooks on that good-sized Zara Spook were actually stuck in the fish!  After all that fighting, all that pulling and towing and slicing off lily pads and weeds with the Sufix 832 braided line on my reel not to mention the fish also actually towing me in my 14 foot aluminum boat out to deeper water, the fish was not hooked!  He simply would not let go of the lure.  It was a fight of him vs. me and the most stubborn won, apparently.

Wanting to get it back into the water,  I was forced to actually reach down inside with a 9″ Baker Hook-out tool and my hand had to cross the boundary of the fish’s outer most lips and into the “forbidden zone”  of its mouth.   Full knowing that touching any part of a northern pike’s mouth would result in a sudden, overriding “clamp-down” like an alligator snapping shut on a baby sheep, I was very careful to not touch anything as I gingerly reached in for that Spook.  It was very intense and felt like I was  diffusing the detonator on a nuke knowing that while extracting the device, touching any of the side would make the bomb blow taking out half of Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area and all of Northwind Lodge. The intensity of focus along with the adrenaline rush of seeing a fish THAT big that I managed to get in the boat when I was all alone was immense.   Amazingly to me, I was able to get the lure out without “setting off the veritable nuke” on my hand thereby not needing a trip to the ER for extreme, slime-infused, lacerations.

After I got the Spook out, we quickly placed the fish back in the water and with a little back and forth motion to get the water across his gills he perked right up and swam away with a big flick of his big tail.  Of course, Todd and Ali missed the whole thing.  The fish measured 46 inches and weighed approximately 28 pounds.  This was certainly an experience I will never forget.   My grandson Dylan always talks about it because he was only 48 inches tall at the time.

And, that big northern is still marauding fish much smaller than himself to this day in Jasper.  That was quite a day!

Fish Are Biting!

Reports have been coming in from Northwind Lodge guests.  While the week started out slow, it began to pick up tis pace yesterday as many Northwind Lodge guests caught small mouth and large mouth bass, bluegills, northern pike and perch.  We have several guests at the lodge and everybody has been eating fish in the last two days.  One guest caught an 18″ small mouth bass with several more reported in the 3 to 4 lb. range.  Another party ended up boating about 15 small and large- mouths  combined yesterday (June 15).  As I predicted from looking at the weather, the increasing barometric pressure of yesterday afternoon resulted in great catching action for most of the day but particularily from 3 PM to 9 PM.  One guest had the drag ripped out of his reel by a very large fish which subsequently broke his line and took his lure.  He said “aside from almost losing his rod, he didn’t have a chance.”   Who doesn’t love a violent fish attack?

Fire last night at the beach

Fire last night at the beach

Several guests ended fishing by supper time since they had a good day and wanted to kick back on the beach and enjoy a campfire.  That was evidenced by the Adirondack chairs circled around the fire pit.

Today, a whole bunch are heading over to Wood Lake in search of excellent walleye fishing in the BWCA.  Unfortunately, the  barometric pressure is dropping today, but any movement, even  downward can improve biting activity.   It’s when it sits steady and unbudging (hi or low) that makes fishing somewhat sluggish.

Bug Activity for this week at Northwind Lodge:  I saw a mosquito and killed it.  They are coming out at dusk a bit, but they aren’t here in full force by any means.  That makes sales of bug repellent kind of lousy, but it’s been really nice!

Temperature for this week:   During the day it has reached 80° F for about an hour – once.   At night it is dropping to 45º F or so.  Our cabin guests have all been complaining that they are sleeping too hard and it is tough to get out of bed.

Comments of the week thus far:  From three unrelated parties in three different cabins – “I really love my cabin!” & “We’re having a really great time!”

Northwind Lodge footpaths in the morning sun

Northwind Lodge footpaths in the morning sun