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    January 2015
    from www.CustomCabins.com
    14663 Vosburgh Rd. Ely, Minnesota 55731
    email: info@customcabins.com


    Dogs bark and whine with anticipation of the coming run. The sun, though not yet visible, has begun to take the potency out the night's darkness to make way for morning; a dull glow slowly defines larger white pines on the horizon and our headlights become less and less necessary. As the final dogs are connected to the lines, their varied voices mix in a roaring cacophony that leaves us resorting to hand gestures and grunts to communicate. The sleds, already heavily loaded, are tied to young popple saplings that waver further with every dog attached - their tops sway with erratic rhythm against the sky.

    All at once, a silence impacts the woods. The dogs, once they begin running, fall silent. The lines have been released and the mass of furry energy begins the trip northeast into the BWCA for lake trout and Knife Lake. Beginning about 20 miles northeast of Ely, the teams will move a load of fishing and camping gear through the Moose Lake Chain, Ensign Lake, and finally to our location on Knife Lake - an 18 mile trip.

    The teams move along the northern shore of Vera Lake, just short of the portage to Portage Lake. As snow fell steadily throughout the day, the dogs occasionally needed guidance after losing the trail.

    Steadily falling snow and winds made for slow travel conditions. After reaching Knife Lake around 3:00 p.m., we began setting up camp. Our tasks of drilling water holes through roughly 18 inches of ice, cutting and hauling firewood, setting up the tent, and finally settling in for dinner were accomplished just before dark. We then spent the first of our three nights enjoying grouse gumbo and preparing our fishing gear for the next day.

    With a standard Coleman lantern, our 14' by 16' wall tent stays bright in the evening.

    The fishing this year was spectacular. After canceling last year's trip due to heavy snow and slush conditions, we were eager to drop lines on some of the best lake trout fishing in Minnesota - we were not disappointed. From the first morning to our last, we enjoyed steady fishing action. The average size of the trout sat somewhere in the low twenties and the largest came in at 31 inches. Sadly, we have no photo of "the big one". The -20 degree temperatures that morning froze all of our cameras and cell phones. That fish will remain a fish story.

    In the days preceding our departure for Knife Lake, we watched the weather forecast change from tolerably unpleasant to completely disconcerting. Though we had chided the use of a portable fish shelter in preceding years, we finally bit on the idea and purchased one the night before leaving. Compact and relatively lightweight, these floorless fishing shelters set up in minutes and make those -20 degree mornings bearable and even pleasant.

    The dock boys venture into the wind from the comfort of the fish shelter.

    Many fisherman use small, propane heaters to warm these shelters, but due to our weight and space restrictions, we opted for another heat source. After fabricating a small stove jack through one of the shelter's windows, we were able to accommodate a very small wood stove (about the size of a trolling motor battery) that kept the small enclosure downright hot.

    A nice lake trout in front of our rusty but trusty wood stove - affectionately referred to as "Tetanus" throughout the trip.

    As the weather reports predicted, we enjoyed some good ol' fashioned January weather. With lows dipping into the -20's and winds exceeding 30 mph, the fish shelter proved an excellent investment. The three of us and our stove had plenty of room to jig for lake trout and occasionally peer out the windows at our other lines. Winter anglers in Minnesota are allowed two lines per person, so every half hour or so we went out to knock the ice from our holes or reel in a fish.

    Winds in excess of 30 mph kept us bundled when venturing out onto the ice.

    Not all of our weather was bad, though. Our camp near Thunder Point provided some views and scenery that we often take for granted in the Ely area. For the three nights and four days we spent in the BWCA, the shores of Knife Lake were quiet except for the whoop or screech following a big lake trout. We were fortunate to see no other people during our stay on Knife Lake.

    Our fish shelter enjoying the sun with Thunder Point soaking up the rays in the background.

    This trip of 2015 marks our fifth trip to Knife Lake, and the more trips we take the less we realize we need each year. Yes, we've added some gear with the fish shelter, but each year has also brought reductions in food, cookware, extra clothing, and items we once deemed "camp essentials." That solar shower never had the water pressure needed for a deep clean, anyway.

    The Engineer and the Dock Boys sporting a fine trout. On the list of essential equipment - good friends.

    Every year we endure some bad weather, but every year we keep coming back. The unique outdoor opportunity that Ely offers in the winter is one I'd recommend to any of our summer visitors. The Ely Winter Festival, February 5-15 of this year, offers snow carvings, an art walk, and nightly attractions to supplement days spent outdoors skiing, snowshoeing, or fishing. Visit elywinterfestival.com for more information.

    The permit lottery is over and the permits have been drawn for the 2015 season. We would appreciate you letting us know your results if you haven't already done so. If you are not happy with your results, there is still the "go live" option on Wednesday, January 28th at 9:00. From the recreation.gov site you will be able to obtain any permits that have not yet been drawn for your week. If you have any questions about this process, don't hesitate to contact us.

    The days are steadily growing longer, and we look forward to seeing all of you this coming summer when the lakes aren't so hard.

    Custom Cabin Rentals
    14663 Vosburgh Rd.
    Ely, Minnesota 55731
    218-365-6947 or 1-800-235-6947