Tuesday, January 31st, 2023
Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

By Tim Lesmeister

When Bill Slaughter and I chase pike in the Boundary Waters
Canoe Area Wilderness the adventure starts the day before we set
foot at the Fall Lake landing. The trip begins with a thorough
inspection of the sleds that will carry the gear. Are the runners
smooth? Are all the bolts, nuts, and screws in place? Are all the
tie downs and harness clamps firmly in place? If so, the sleds get
strapped onto the top of the dog boxes in the back of the

We then make sure that all the necessities to keep a dozen dogs
well fed and watered are packed properly, and we then choose the
best harnesses and throw in a couple of spares in case one breaks.
The checklist calls for food for the anglers, tents, and sleeping
bags for a couple nights on the ice, and we sure don’t want to
forget the tip-ups and dead smelt. I also like to install some new
blades on the auger just to make sure it cuts at peak

We get to the landing just as the sun begins peeks over the
horizon. Getting the dogs harnessed and strapped to the sleds after
they’ve been loaded is a much more labor-intensive process than
hopping on an ATV or a snowmobile, but in the BWCAW, it’s either
dogs or you walk or ski. Since we both like to get deep into
Basswood Lake, the dogs are a blessing.

The best part of the trip is gliding through the Four-Mile
portage. The air is crisp and the dogs are fresh. Surrounded by a
vintage wilderness setting you feel elated as the dogs pull you
deep into the bleak beauty of a Minnesota winter.

The camp is a sparse looking setup: a tent on the ice with a
table and a cookstove. You don’t need much, just a place to eat and

Drilling holes in the ice serves two purposes. It gives you a
place to put the tip-up, and it warms the body. You start out with
four holes, one for each setup and then when you start to feel a
little chilly you grab the auger and bore a couple more. Whichever
tip-ups are not producing get moved to the new holes.

The bite is typically in spurts. For an hour or so the flags are
flying, then it slows down for an hour. It goes like this all day
long. When the sun starts fading in the distance, grab a jigging
rod, head over to the rock pile and hook a couple of walleyes for

I don’t like making this next statement because I fear I’ll jinx
myself, but we always get one or two pike over 20 pounds. There are
plenty in the 5- to 10-pound range and a few that push 15, and
these are fun fish to catch. But, those 20-pound pike really make
you work until you pull their heads out of the hole. Pure power
these pike. If you make even a slight mistake, that fish will be

Sleeping in a bag on the snow-covered ice is not bad if you know
a couple tricks. Take an extra pair of felt boot-liners for your
feet. With a couple of foot-warmer packs in the felt liner your
feet stay toasty, which keeps the rest of your lower body warm.

Wear a loose-fitting full-face mask and slip a standard stocking
cap over that. Now your entire body is comfortable. Slaughter and I
were in the BWCAW camping some years back when the actual
temperature in Tower hit 60 degrees below zero. Fortunately the
wind was calm and the sun was out because it made it feel warmer,
like 30-below.

Dog sledding and winter camping in the BWCAW to chase pike isn’t
for everyone, but Slaughter does day trips also. It’s a trip you
won’t soon forget.

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