How to Ice Fish in the Boundary Waters

IMG_7846We spend most of our free time in the first three months of each year ice fishing for lake trout. Because our business keeps us busy all summer long, in any given year, we spend considerably more time fishing in “hard water” conditions than we do on open water.

Boundary Waters Ice Fishing Lake Trout Tip up rod catch

Ice fishing can seem a little daunting. For one thing, it can be downright chilly and people are sometimes apprehensive to invest in the specific gear needed for ice fishing. But while you might have to work a little harder to succeed at ice fishing, that just makes the experience all the more rewarding. The specialized gear needed is limited to a few rods, ice scoops, and augers. Best of all, ice fishing is a great excuse to spend sometime outdoors in the winter months, even if you come home empty handed.

Throughout the year, we hear a lot of questions from those curious about trying their hand at ice fishing. What’s your favorite lure? What’s the best hand auger? Why don’t you use a sled to haul your gear? To answer all those questions and more, Andy put together this ice fishing gear video tutorial.

Don’t worry, you don’t need to make a list of all the gear Andy mentions in the video.  Just use our printable ice fishing packing list as an easy reference point when you pack for your next ice fishing adventure in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.


Here’s one of the lures highlighted in the video:
Best Lake Trout Ice Fishing Lure

The DNR’s Lake Finder website is a great resource to guide you in choosing a Gunflint Trail lake to ice fish on. You can always give us a shout at 218-388-2221 for lake recommendations too.

Good luck anglers!


7 Things You Can Do Right Now to Prepare for this Summer’s Canoe Trip

Summer Boundary Waters Quetico Canoe Trip Planning

Happy New Year!

A quick glance out the window to snow-covered, frozen Round Lake reveals that we have a ways to go until Paddling Season 2017. However, it’s never too early to start planning this year’s canoe adventure and these long winter nights are the perfect time to get your ducks in a row for summer paddling.

1) Set a date

We can be flexible about a lot of parts of your Boundary Waters trip, but the date you start your canoe trip is not one of those things. As anyone who’s taking the infamous Boundary Waters rules and regulation quiz knows, “You must enter the Boundary Waters at the entry point and date shown on your permit.” The BWCA and Quetico permit system sets a daily quota for each individual entry point that allows only so many groups to enter the wilderness/park through each entry point each day, so the first thing we need to know to get serious about your canoe trip is the exact date you plan to enter the Boundary Waters or Quetico.


2) Choose a route

Check out our canoe routes or give us a call at 218-388-2221 to get some ideas.

If you’re a visual planner, you can order maps to start plotting out your journey. We primarily use Fisher and McKenzie maps for routing, but the Voyageur maps are also good if you’re okay with a slightly smaller scale and Voyageur has a great interactive website for trip planning. If you want a general overview of the entire BWCA area, check out National Geographic Maps or the official Superior National Forest map.

Once you’ve got your route and date picked, it’s time to move on to item #3 . . . .

3) Get your trip paperwork in order

If you’re headed to the Boundary Waters, the only piece of paperwork you need to worry about is your BWCAW permit.

One question we’ll get a lot in a couple weeks is, “I know the permit lottery is over. Is it too late to get a permit for the 2017 season?” The answer is a big, resounding, “NO!” The permit lottery is an archaic hanger-on from the early days of BWCAW permitting and is now basically obsolete. The earliest that anyone can book a permit for any BWCAW entry point that we outfit for is 9 a.m. CST on Wednesday, January 25 over at If you’d rather have us do the permit reserving, give us a call at 218-388-2221 and we’ll add your trip to the stack of permits we’ll book on the morning on January 25th. In general, if you know exactly when and where you’re going, you might as well just go ahead and book your permit.

Headed to Quetico in 2017? Now is the perfect time to take care of your necessary paperwork – a valid passport and your Remote Area Border Crossing permit – since both documents can have up to an eight-week turnaround time.  You will be so happy in the summer when you don’t have to stress about your RABC or passport arriving in time for your trip!

Quetico permits can be booked five months in advance of your entry date.

4) Decide who’s going

Let the herding of cats begin! Remember, the maximum group size for a permit is 9 people. If you have a larger group than that, the group will be divided appropriately and sent on different trips. Don’t worry, your group size can be in flux until the moment when the permit is actually issued to you at the start of your trip; you don’t need to know your exact group size when you book your permit.

BWCA Camp Food Breakfast

5) Set the menu

If you’re taking care of your own food, you can get your specialized camp food (i.e. Backpacker’s Pantry) at any time since it’s designed to be shelf stable for years. It’s also a good idea to start thinking about any special dietary needs people in your group might have. If you’ve opted to have us do your food, submit your completed food menu at any time.

6) Reserve your canoe

When you have an idea of how many canoes you need, give us a call at 218-388-2221 to reserve them. We take a $50 deposit per canoe. If you’re planning to visit the Boundary Waters or Quetico during the high season (mid-July through mid-August) or over a holiday weekend and you’re counting on an ultralight kevlar canoe, it’s always a good idea to have your name on the canoes you’ll need as soon as you’re able. Learn more about our canoe fleet here. It’s not too early to book your bunkhouse and French toast breakfast either!

7) Inventory your gear

Aside from the canoes, we can accommodate just any about other camping gear you might need without advance notice when you show up to start your trip. However, it’s never a bad idea to take an inventory of your camping gear and that of other members of your party so you don’t have to spend the better part of your first day of the trip sorting through everyone’s gear in the bunkhouse until you’ve pared your packs down to the necessities. Take a couple hours to make a list of the gear you have, the gear you need, and whether you’ll rent or buy the gear you need. Now is a great time to check out gear reviews if you’re planning to make some camping gear purchases before your trip. If you’ve opted for complete outfitting, our printable packing list will help you plan what personal gear to bring.

Be sure to check out our trip planning page for more help preparing for your trip. To paraphrase Eisenhower, “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” The more time you can spend carefully preparing for your trip, the more you’ll get out of the actual trip and the better you’ll be able to handle the unexpected.

When do you start planning for your summer paddling adventures? Are you a super planner or do you prefer to fly by the seat of your pants?

Boundary Waters Winter Weather Report

No surprise, it’s been COLD in Minnesota this last week. Today we woke up to a temperature reading of -22 F and last week, we never got above zero on the Gunflint Trail.

We’ve been shooting a weekly winter weather report video this season each Sunday. You can view the rest of the videos on our Facebook page.

Here’s this week’s edition, with stops at Round Lake, Cross River, Gunflint Lake, and Seagull Lake.

We hope you’re staying warm, wherever you are!

Left with Lefse? A Recipe for Holiday Entertaining

The holidays are upon us and if your fridge is anything like ours, it’s starting to fill up with ingredients it only ever contains this time of year. You know: cheese ball remnants; that bit of smoked fish you were strong-armed into taking home from the holiday party; a gallon-sized Ziploc bag of lefse that was really exciting when it was fresh off the griddle, but now no one can rally the enthusiasm to reheat and smear with butter. For so many of us, it’s just not Christmas without a taste of this or that, but once we’ve had that obligatory taste, the leftovers gets pushed around the fridge by milk and condiment bottles for weeks until its undignified end as a moldy heap in the trash can.

A couple years back, we had some smoked salmon and lefse at the “eat it now or forever hold your peace” stage and rather than push them deeper into the depths of the cheese drawer, I decided to give them a Tex-Mex makeover as the star ingredients of a Scandinavian inspired enchilada dish.

Mrs. Olson's Potato Lefse

Now, we make this dish about once a year, usually in the midst of the holiday season. The recipe is so good that I (the proud non-Scandinavian Minnesotan) actually buy lefse to make this dish when we have leftover smoked fish.

Smoked Fish Lefse Enchilada Collage

It’s a straightforward enough recipe. Shred the fish and sauté it up with some onions, jalapenos, garlic, cumin, and chili powder, then roll the mixture up in lefse sheets with some cheese. Bind it all together with a lime-flavored white sauce and bake until bubbly. To serve, top it off with your favorite taco toppings: tomato, lettuce, avocado, and a liberal dose of salsa verde.

We thought you might like to have the recipe in your arsenal this holiday season, on the off chance you too have some smoked fish or lefse kicking around your fridge, or just in case  you’re looking for a little inspiration for your next Christmas potluck.

Smoked Fish Lefse Enchilada meal

Bon appetit!

Print Recipe
Smoked Fish Lefse Enchiladas
If you're looking for a conversation piece for a holiday potluck, this fusion main dish serves up seasonal favorites in a fun, festive twist. Recipe can easily be doubled or quadrupled as needed. 1 9.6 oz package of potato lefse, such as Mike's or Mrs. Olson's, will provide the right amount for this recipe. If you must, you can substitute soft taco flour tortillas for the recipe, but the final result will not be nearly as luscious.
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Passive Time 30 minutes
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Passive Time 30 minutes
  1. Shred salmon into small pieces, making sure to remove any bones or skin; set aside. Heat olive oil in a 10" nonstick skillet over medium heat until oil shimmers. Add onions and jalapeños to skillet and sauté until onions are soft and transparent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and spices and sauté until fragrant - about 1 minute. Stir in salmon. Heat salmon through; then remove from heat.
  1. Melt butter over low heat. Whisk in flour, chili powder, and salt and cook for 4 minutes. Slowly whisk in milk, then stir in lime juice. Continue to cook and stir until sauce is thick and smooth. Remove from heat.
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease 9x5” loaf pan. Pour ¼ cup of white sauce into bottom of pan. Wrap fish mixture in lefse pieces with approximately 1 tablespoon of cheese in each roll. Place rolls in pan, then top with remaining sauce. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Bake and serve
  1. Bake for 25 minutes, until bubbly and cheese has formed melted crust on top. Let sit for five minutes, then serve topped with chopped vegetables and salsa verde.
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Welcome to the Winter Wonderland

Things have changed a little since we last spoke. After a seemingly endless string of days in mid-40s, a week ago Thursday, just before midnight, it started to snow.

Cattails in the snow off the Gunflint Trail

And snow.

And snow.

By the time the weather system had passed us by on Saturday morning, we had almost 11″ of fluffy snow. By the time Monday morning rolled around there was a thin layer, about 1″, of ice completely covering Round Lake. Talk about Insta-winter!

Frozen Round Lake near the BWCAW on the Gunflint Trail

The thing is, the winter weather hasn’t let up since. On Tuesday and Wednesday, another 5″ of snow accumulated and all day today, fluffy (and un-forecasted) snowflakes drifted down lazily to earth to freshen up the already very wintery scene. As much as winter clobbered us with its arrival this year, after such a long fall, the change in season was very welcome.

Chickadee songbird at the bird feeders

We’re steadily marching towards the shortest day of the year, but there are plenty of sights in this new winter wonderland to keep us distracted from the fading daylight. The songbirds (and squirrels) are back at the feeders, each morning we find a new set of wolf tracks zigzagging through the resort, and the otters have been busy slipping and sliding across the beaver pond near the Gunflint Trail.


Now that it actually looks like winter, it’s a little easier to thinking about things like winter camping and ice fishing. Dare we say, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas . . . ?

If you’re hoping to spend some of your holiday season at Tuscarora, you can check out cabin availability and give us a call at 218-388-2221 to book.  Because the Lodge will be closed for renovations over Christmas and New Year’s, we have limited availability over the holidays this year and the cabins we do have available are booking up fast. Consider yourself warned!


As the snow accumulates outside we’re hunkering down, knuckling down on the Lodge bathroom renovation, and preparing for the busy holiday season ahead.

Not to add to the commercialism over this retail-centric weekend, but if you’re looking for Boundary Waters/Tuscarora presents for some of the paddlers on your gift list, look no further than the Gift Shop Mini-Mart we just launched on our website. You’ll find BWCA stocking stuffers like stickers and patches, as well as slightly larger items like coffee mugs for under the tree. Happy shopping and thanks for supporting small businesses!