Trophy Anglers' in Canoe Areas
I opened my left eye just a crack, trying to stay in the moment, all snuggled up in the first awesome sleeping bag I ever owned, on top of a state of the art bed pad. I was momentarily amazed at how nice it was in my bed at this time. The bliss was leaving me by the moment however, as I admired how well my new gear worked. After all I was enjoying this bliss on a cold, early summer morning in a wilderness area that can only be accessed by canoe or kayak. Or by rowboat, too, I guess. But, to be sure, no motors of any kind and no wheeled assistance either. This area is one the last true wild places at least in the lower 48, the famed BWCA, in northern Minnesota.
Annoyed at the interruption, I realized it was futile to pursue this endeavor as I listened to the noise that hauled me unwillingly from my dreams. Then it occurred to me that I was this comfortable in one of my favorite places on earth, and this was an opportunity to enjoy this beautiful, peaceful sunrise. Except that incessant noise. That splashing! Splashing? Like I was hit with the splash water, I realized the noise was something ravaging our stringer of walleyes, that was submerged just off the shore of our camp, in about 10-12 feet of water. We put them there in an attempt to keep shoreline predators from stealing our catch over night. Alas, we did not account for turtles. But turtles don't make those kinds of splashes, so I thought "Bear!" As I eased my head out of the security of my tent, I was relieved it wasn't a bear. But astounded that it was seagulls. These scavengers, who strangely enough were actively feeding even before the sun rose, were dive bombing our stringer and succeeding! Pulling out fish pieces with every dive, in 12 feet of water! What a shame. All the fish were decimated.
The previous day's fishing was one of those days that you dream about. My Dad, brother Dan, and I arrived in our paradise with only about 2 hours left of light. We had planned on eating the fish we caught for that day's supper. The concern was we were so late that we may have to eat bread and water. We were greatly pleased by a huge school of walleyes that chose residence just 100 yards or so from camp. We effortlessly stringered a cool dozen fish in plenty of time to get a fire going before dark. We ate like kings and looked forward to a fish filled trip. Both belly and soul. This was going to be one heck of a trip, we thought.
About an hour or so after the beatiful, peaceful sunrise, we were greeted by the obligatory rainstorm that seems to accompany every entry into this wilderness. It can be nice everywhere within 500 miles, but it will dump on you when you go there. Be prepared. It stormed for the next day and a half, which kept us tent bound contemplating an early exit from this piece of Eden. As the sun began to shine, the hope was rekindled, we were going to have a great, rest of the trip. That was about the time the wind arrived, 20-30 mph winds out of Canada made its way upon us and ended our dilusions. Even a hike over land to the area that provided the fish at the beginning of this "adventure", proved fruitless. We were able to fish from shore, the same area the walleye were residing in, only to find they had either left or contracted lockjaw from the cold front. We did not catch another fish the rest of the trip. We ate more pancakes, dried potatoes, and oatmeal than I ever would again. Luckily for us the weather turned just as it was time to leave this wonderland, so our exit was the highlight of the trip.
The subsequent days led me into another storm. The one in my head. I could not get over how the events of that trip came together to ruin what had started as a dream trip. I kept thinking there had to be a better way to keep fish alive when in the boundary waters so I wouldn't be caught short again, if possible. I even harkened back to a 36" behemoth walleye I caught as a kid on a trip into Canada with uncles and cousins. I was disheartened to not be able to keep it alive long enough to get it home to mom and dad. Surely they would let me get a fish like that mounted. But, I was overruled by the leadership and the fish was processed through giant fish fry that evening. I couldn't stand the idea of these type of events. Necessity is the mother of invention. My baby is the Trophy Anglers' Livewell. At only 2 1/2 lbs. it packs in and out with ease. It can easily be tied to a pack, or even in an armful of paddles and life jackets. It isn't hard to portage in and out, and allows for the "long term" holding of fish. An insurance policy for the bounty.
It tows alongside your canoe and actually helps stabilize the canoe steering. There is a lot less switching back and forth, particularly alone too. That lends itself well to kayakers as well, as you are generally alone while using one. It has spent quite a few nights deployed and full of fish. I am pleased to say I have not lost a fish that was kept in the Livewell. Except for one, a smallmouth bass that waited for its chance to escape. As I removed the fish for pictures, forgetting it had been in the water for days, fully recovered and fresh, the fish shook so hard it ripped the pad on my thumb which broke my grip and the clever smallmouth bass fell free into the water and escaped. I haven't had the same experience since. No more stringers. No more buckets. I've even been able to take some fish home when the trip is done because they can be held alive until the trip out. We always have some ice left, certainly enough to get to a place where we can get more, so now we actually can plan to take some home. I won't go there without it.
The Trophy Anglers' Livewell was made for the boundary waters, or for that matter, anywhere one may paddle.