Wednesday, May 12, 2021
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Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters

Fishing in the BWCA

On Tuesday, May 6th, we held a webinar about the Beginners Guide to Fishing in the Boundary Waters, with guests Tom Landwehr, Lauren Eggert, and Sam Bogan. In case you missed it, you can watch the full hour long webinar or read a summary below.

Why fish in the Boundary Waters?

There are many reasons why the BWCA is an incredibly unique place to fish. There are over 1,200 lakes to fish on, most of which are lightly fished. There are numerous game species to fish, most of which have pretty good numbers and sizes. One of the best reasons is simply the possibility of a delicious meal awaiting you at the end of your day! All Minnesota game fish are great to eat, especially for a “shore lunch”!

Fish to catch

There are a variety of fish to be caught in the Boundary Waters. Some of the most notable ones are: 

Smallmouth Bass

Smallmouth Bass are great fighters that are fairly common and can often be found in shallow waters.


Walleye is the Minnesota state fish - and for good reason! They are excellent for eating and put up a good fight which means more fun for you.

Northern Pike

Northern Pike are the largest of the Boundary Waters gamefish; they are toothy and aggressive, but are common to find. 

Lake Trout

Lake Trout are known as a “bucket list fish” in the Boundary Waters because they are relatively harder to find, making them somewhat of a trophy. They also make for great eating and an added feeling of accomplishment! 

What to Pack

Here is a packing list to get you started:

  • Spinning rod/6 lb test (for most uses, but depending on the size of fish you’re after!)

  • Lures, slip bobber, tackle box, leader for northerns (use a good fishing knot)

  • License, trout stamp, rules book (see )

  • PFD, stringer, fillet knife, ruler & net

  • Live bait and a bait bag

    • Leeches are good for walleyes, relatively easy to transport, and durable.

    • Crayfish (you can catch your own in the BW, and they are great for smallmouth bass!)

    • Preserved minnows (live minnows are too difficult to transport and maintain)

  • Depth map, GPS map, or depth finder

  • Rope for an anchor (use a rock or get an anchor bag)

Watch this video about packing from our Executive Director, Tom Landwehr

When and where to find fish

When: Boundary Waters fishing is the best in the Spring or the Fall. Mid-summer is a “slower” time for fishing. As for the time of day, morning and evening are highly recommended; however, if it means you can be out on the water in America’s most visited Wilderness, anytime is a good time for fishing!

Where: We recommend you plan your route and then figure out what you want to catch. With experience, you eventually figure out what you want to catch and then pick your route. DNR Lake finder is a great resource for checking out the data for the lakes you are considering.

Cleaning and cooking the fish

Cleaning: if you are taking the fish home with you, be sure to keep a patch of skin on the fish per state law. If it is still alive, be sure to kill it before you try to clean it (whack it on top of the head with a rock or cut it’s head off first). A sharp knife is essential to successfully filleting fish. 

Cooking: When it comes to eating your catch, you can indulge in virtually all BW fish and each one is different. There are a variety of ways to cook fish in the wilderness; look online for details. Some recommendations for ingredients to bring include: peanut oil, shore lunch breading, lemon, tartar, cocktail sauce, salt and pepper.

Here are some resources for cleaning Walleye, Smallmouth, and Northern Pike (very common fish to find in the BWCA!)

Here are the other resources mentioned in the presentation:

This year, the Minnesota fishing opener is May 15th. Start planning your Summer trip now and get your Minnesota fishing license and Boundary Waters permit today!