The Seasons Are Changing – Important Dates to Know for Fishing and BWCAW Access In the Fall
September 20, 2019
Written By: Joseph Friedrichs
With the arrival of fall to the Gunflint Trail, there are some important dates to keep in mind along with the changing of the seasons. First, the end of the quota system for overnight paddling trips into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness ends on Sept. 30. These are the permits that are made by reservation during the peak of the paddling season, which runs from May 1 to the end of September. This does not mean paddling or staying overnight in the BWCAW is banned. Far from it, in fact! Some of the best paddling can take place in early to mid-October. In addition to the great scenery, you don’t need to pay or make an online reservation to travel overnight in the BWCAW starting on October 1. However, you still need to verify your trip with the Forest Service. To do this, self-issued permits are available from kiosks at BWCAW entry points and from Forest Service offices. We also have information on permits and paddling information available at our outfitting post at Gunflint Lodge. Again, no reservations are required for overnight trips and no recreation fees are collected starting October 1.
In addition to free overnight trips and excellent scenery, the fishing can be excellent for walleye and pike on some of the lakes near the Gunflint Trail during the fall. The fishing typically picks up once the lakes turnover, which is the time when the warmest water of the lake is actually in the deepest part of the water body. Walleye in particular will school up in these deep pockets and they are feeding aggressively before winter arrives. Jigging deep with minnows is a great approach in the fall for many lakes along the Gunflint. White, green or black jigs that can reach the bottom quickly work best.
Just as the paddling season has some date-specific information associated with it in the fall, there are fishing seasons that anglers need to be aware of during October as well. Most notably for the Gunflint Trail area, lake trout season ends September 30. This means you cannot target or possess lake trout once the season closes. Gunflint Lake, Seagull Lake, Saganaga Lake and others have both walleye and lake trout swimming in their waters. If you happen to catch a lake trout while attempting to catch walleye, the lake trout must be immediately released.
Walleye fishing is open until February for most lakes in Minnesota, so there is little to worry about with regard to the fall season for this popular sport fish. However, fishing seasons do end for splake, rainbow, brook, brown and all stream trout on inland lakes on October 31. There are many lakes along the Gunflint Trail that contain stream trout, including Meditation, Extortion, Leo and Mayhew.
Also, and this goes for spring, summer and fall on lakes in the BWCAW and near the Gunflint Trail, safety is very important when paddling a canoe. This means wearing a life jacket at all times while on the water. The water temperature is dangerously cold at this time of year. Keep it safe, enjoy the free overnights in the BWCAW starting on Oct. 1 and enjoy the hidden gem of the paddling season along the Gunflint Trail!