The Gunflint Trail is about to awaken from a short rest between winter and summer. Our snow melted very early and the ice was off most lakes by the first week of April. No one can remember it going out so early. In fact, I can remember the spring of 1996 when Gunflint Lake had ice on it until May 19th. Even last year we were not sure that the ice would be out for opening.
The early ice-out, will change the fishing strategy for many fishermen. The question is what is the best plan? The majority of the walleye spawning is over. The lake trout will still be in shallow water. The theory is that the fish have spread to their summer habitats. Stay tuned next week when we know what happened.
Meanwhile there have already been some fun activities going on along the Trail. On Sunday May 2nd, the Ham Lake Run was conducted. There are three parts to the run depending on your age and how far you wish to run. All together about 190 runners participated which was a nice increase from last year. The cool weather cooperated and the light breeze helped too. After the race, a great meal was served to racers and volunteers.
The weekend of May 7-9 was the Gunflint Green Up. Just under 200 people participated on Saturday in releasing pines planted in previous years. Through studies the USFS had found that if they go in a couple years after planting pine seedlings and cut away the broadleaf plants around the seedlings, the survival rate is greatly increased. The main reason for this is that the young pines now get much more exposure to sunlight. In addition to the volunteers' work, the USFS will be releasing on an additional 3000 acres.
Just north of the North Gunflint Lake Road is a perfect example of how effective releasing is. As you are driving up the Gunflint Trail there is a plantation immediately north of the road and on your right. It was planted just after the Blowdown of 1999. Two years later the USFA went in and released the pines. The result was the wonderful growth of red pines that is now visible to anyone driving by. Many trees are talled than I am (5-6).
Talking with the volunteers afterward was interesting. Many of them worked where they had planted trees in previous years. When they first looked around, it didn't seem as if many trees had surived. Then someone spotted a tree and pretty soon everyone was seeing lots of trees. They just had to learned how to "look" for the trees. These volunteers will be checking on "their" trees for many years to come.
On May 29th there is going to be a Gunflint Trail garage sale. Each business will have tables out with things they are interested in selling. It should be quite a lot of stuff. If you are on the Trail that Saturday, spend a little time visiting the sales that will be going on up and down the Trail. I'll probably meet you as I search for some treasures.
As usual the Gunflint Trail is having some busy winter weekends. Shari Baker of Gunflint Pines wanted me to remind you there are activities these next two weekends. This weekend is Winter Tracks. It is a time for people to get out and enjoy the variety of activities that winter offers up here. Many resorts are also ofering special activities so check out the Gunflint Trail website.
Next weekend is the Mush for the Cure. It is a fun dog sled run between Gunflint Lake and Trail Trail center to raise money for breast cancer research. Many of the participants dress in pink. There will be about 30 teams. The event starts with a Pink Prom at Trail Center where a king and queen will be crowned. Again check out the website for times and places of events. (Aren't websites wonderful for stuff like this!)
It seems like all the resident animals have been making appearances. Dan Baumann of Golden Eagle Lodge was out grooming one night last week. Even though he never saw them, fresh tracks revealed that Dan was chasing wolves off the ski trails all night. On Flour Lake he counted eight different sets of tracks. Another day he was fishing on Birch Lake when a wolf ran out onto the ice. Dan said it was a beautiful gray wolf that probably weighed 100-110 pounds. When Dan made a noise, the animal did a 90 degree turn and took off into the woods.
Golden Eagle also has a lynx hanging around especially in an area where there is a good rabbit population. On the east end of Flour Lake is a family of five otter who occasionally are seen at the lodge. Moose tracks blend in with all the other tracks. The only thing missing is deer, which are not very plentiful around the lodge this year.
At Bearskin Lodge Sue McCloughan reports that the birds have suddenly returned. When the feeders first went out, they had to be filled daily. Then during January and early February the birds seemed to disappear. Well, they are back again. Pine grosbeaks and woodpeckers are particularly well represented.
Mammal activities at Bearskin have centered around pine martins. One in particular was seen sorting his food on top of the dumpster. One pile must have been the goodies and the other the rejects.
Luana Brandt at Nor'Wester Lodge has had four wolves hanging around. She says they look hungry and she has been keeping a close eye on their dog.
Lin Sherfy at Rockwood Lodge has been watching a flying squirrel that is living somewhere around her house. The animal is eating like crazy and visibly gaining weight. Lin speculates that "Clipper" is pregnant. This will be confirmed if there is a sudden weight loss.
Nancy Seaton at Hungry Jack Outfitters mentioned that now is the time to start planning canoe trips. One of the great aides for first time family canoe trips is a little book called "Becoming a Boundary Waters Family." This book takes you through a step by step process to get your family out on the canoe trails of the BWCAW. If you happen to live near Madison, Wisconsin, and would like to talk with someone about a trip, this group with be attending Canoecopia along with Smokey the Bear later this winter.
Finally we get to fishing. The lake trout have been biting well especially if you are willing to walk a bit. On the Minnesota side of Saganaga (which is in the no motor zone) people have been having great luck. But my favorite fish story came from Barb Gecas at Heston's Lodge. It seems that a father, son and grandson had one day of fishing off of Heston's Point on Gunflint Lake. The pre-teenage boy caught a 15 lb. lake trout. We all agreed that having the boy catch this fish was the best.
All the ski trails and snowmobile trails on the Gunflint Trail are in excellent condition. Word of the good conditions must be spreading because everyone reports good reservations for March. So figure out some dates and come up to see us on the Gunflint Trail.
Winter has turned the Gunflint Trail into a wonderland with our last snowfall. The trees are all heavily laden with snow which just adds to the beauty of it all. For the last week there has been a full moon with clear skies at night. During the day there has been sunshine and blue skies. All of it has sent people out to ski, snowshoe and walk almost any time day or night. Luana Brandt at Nor'Wester Lodge says that everyone wants to walk around just to soak in the beauty of what is out there right now.
Of course, all the snow on the trees makes for a huge job clearing the trails for cross country skiing. Barbara Young at Poplar Creek Guesthouse and Bed and Breakfast told me that Ted was out with a group working on the Banadad Ski Trail. After working for ten hours, they had only cleared 4 miles of the trail. While her other trails are open she estimates that it will be early next week before the Banadad is fully cleared. Bob McCloughan at Bearskin Lodge echoed the fact that his crew has also been working hard to clear trails after the storm. As a result the cross country ski trails on the Gunflint Trail are in excellent condition.
The many fishermen in the area are also having a good time. Sue Ahrendt at Tuscarora Lodge has been watching fisherman ski and snowshoe into Tuscarora Lake where the fishing has been hot. Her husband, Andy, was in last weekend. They landed 8 nice lake trout, returning those extras to the lake for another fisherman to catch. There is no slush on Tuscarora which makes it easy to get around as long as you don't consider the 5-mile trek into the lake. Interestingly, the Ahrendts have also seen several parties going in for some winter camping.
Barb Gecas at Heston's Lodge says that there has been good fishing at the Palisades on Gunflint Lake. Shari Baker from Gunflint Pines also reports that her guests have been having good luck on lake trout. Luana Brandt says that guests have been catching trout all over the mid-Trail lakes.
Those of us on the Gunflint Trail are very proud of Ted Young from Poplar Creek Guesthouse. This last week Ted received the Volunteer of the Year award by the Minnesota Bed and Breakfast Association. It is an award he truly deserves for all his hours of volunteer work.
Teresa Baumann from Golden Eagle Lodge had an interesting story to tell. As you may know the John Beargrease Sled Dog Race passed through the Gunflint Trail these past couple of days. Teresa and her husband, Dan, worked at one of the places where the race crosses the main trail. At about 11:00 p.m. the leader and his team ran by them. Teresa said it was a magical moment of moonlight and quiet as the dogs glided by. All of a sudden they are there and then gone just as quickly
I am sure that you thought I disappeared but no such luck. The winter lake trout season has opened on the Gunflint Trail. Looking out over Gunflint Lake on the 15th, we could see little groupings of fishermen at various "hot spots" for lake trout. The ice was strong enough to support cars and trucks which made for easy access. One party told me that they had 22 inches of ice. On Saganaga Lake you can't get out with vehicles since it is in the BWCA. The ice at Honeymoon Island and American Point was 12 inches thick. The assumption is that all lakes have safe ice on them by now. You should, however, always check with people living on the lake regarding the condition of the ice. Springs and moving water are always dangerous.
Fishing for the opening weekend was spotty. On Gunflint one party brought in 3 nice ( 4 lb, 5 lb, and 6 lb) lake trout using ciscoes on a tip-up in 18' of water. Down at the east end another party limited out on the first day and was skunked the second day. Up on Saganaga one party caught 7 lake trout (returning 5 to the lake) on Nilsmaster Jigging Rapalas in 46 feet of water. During the entire weekend, the weather was warm which made fishing pleasant.
On Gunflint there was one party of ten with trucks towing ice houses who set their holes well into the Canadian side. Luckily some Minnesota game wardens came over to point out the error of their ways since the lake trout season is not open on the Canadian side yet. The party moved back to the Minnesota side of the lake. It was a good thing because Ontario game wardens came by later. They have the authority to take vehicles, ice houses, and everything else if they wish. On these border lakes, it is best to know where you are and all the fhising regulations.
Long time visitors to the Gunflint Trail have often eaten at Hungry Jack Lodge. A while ago their main lodge building burned to the ground. I am happy to say that Forrest Parsons has just opened a beautiful new lodge building. In the Loggers' Lounge Bar he is serving burgers, sandwiches, wraps and appetizers along with a full range of drinks. They serve daily from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. On the weekends they are running some daily specials. The food is good and the building is just wonderful. Congratulations to Forrest for getting this new building up and running.
Wolves are still all over the place. This must be a year to thin down the deer herd. A deer kill about 200 feet out on Gunflint Lake was totally cleaned up in one day between wolves and birds. We are also seeing fewer deer coming in to feed on corn. Some of them have been napping on the ground between the cabins. For the first time in the winter, a wolf got into my tightly covered garbage can and spread the bag all over the driveway.
The weekend weather on the Gunflint Trail was beautiful. It made up for some cold, windy and rainy weather last week. Mike Berg from Seagull Creek Fishing Camp reports that lake trout fishing has been doing well with jigs and ciscoes. Jon Schei guiding out of Gunflint Lodge agrees. He was out yesterday (7/20) with his parents on Saganaga Lake. They started out the day with a 27" walleye in 32' of water. Then they switched to lake trout and 30 minutes later there were six lake trout in the boat. The fish were in 40-60 feet of water and caught with crankbaits.
Meanwhile Guide Dennis Todd from Gunflint Lodge spent the week on Saganaga and Northern Lights Lakes with the Sherrick party. Using Lindy rigs and jigs with leeches and nightcrawlers they caught 9 walleyes over 28" They also limited out with eater-size walleyes. The fish were in 16-20 feet of water. The bonus for their fishing was catching two northerns over 40" on jigs.
Debbie Mark from Seagull Outfitters had a family come in from a canoe trip. They were fishing at the west end of Saganaga Lake (in the 1st Bay, 2nd Bay, 3rd Bay area) with a slip bobber and leeches. Suddenly they hooked what appeared to be a large bass. With a little help from the wind, the fish towed them all over. Finally after 20-30 minutes they beached the canoe. Their line was wrapped around a tree in the water. As they struggled to untangle the line and keep the fish on, they noticed a brown thing in the water where the line was. They had hooked a beaver! No wonder the "fish" had fought so hard. At that moment of realization, the line snapped. Debbie has lived on the Gunflint Trail for most of her life and never heard a story like this.
Meanwhile down at Nor'Wester Lodge, Luana Brandt had a bird story for me. A baby bird fell out of its nest. It was hard to tell if the baby was a hawk or an eaglet. After much looking (but no touching). Luana decided it was a baby hawk. It had lots of feathers and was still molting on the shoulders. They cordoned off the area. The baby disappeared. A phone call to the DNR assured them that the mother will continue to care for the baby until it could fly.
Only one moose story today. Andy McDonnell at Bearskin Lodge said that last week's momma moose and calf have taken up permanent residency around the lodge. There is a very dense bunch of trees and shrubs that they are comfortable in. Andy does say that the mother gets a little testy if anyone comes too close to the baby. The guests are loving it.
With the rain last week and the sunshine over the weekend, everything is growing. The wildflowers along the roads are in a blooming frenzy. On the south-facing rocky outcroppings, the blueberries are ripe. Shari Baker from Gunflint Pines was out picking and had good luck in those areas. No sign of the raspberries yet but they can't be far behind.