Professional Walleye Angler
Professional Walleye Angler
Start your Kabetogama Lake and Voyagers National Park Adventure here!
By: Theresa Meade
Envision for a moment an enchanted combination of majestic forest, blue skies, shimmering waters, granite islands and soaring eagles; where early risers can hear the echoing call of the loon, where there's over 200 islands with pristine undeveloped shoreline, a serene beauty that I've found nowhere else....If you think I'm talking about the Canadian wilderness, you'd be wrong!
There is a hidden gem just minutes from the Canadian border in Northern Minnesota.... Kabetogama Lake, "Kab" as it is affectionately called by many is in the heart of the Voyagers National Park. The Park name "Voyager" is French for traveler and is the name given to fur traders who paddled these waters hundreds of years ago. One of the lesser traveled National Parks in the nation, Lake Kabetogama is 1 of 4 vast, interconnected lakes in the Park; Kabetogama, Rainy, Namakan and Sandy point lake. They are all a part of 14,900 square miles of the Rainy Lake Basin with Kab being 25,000 acres in size with depths reaching to over 90 feet. This basin, formed by ancient glaciers is an untapped wild treasure just waiting to be explored and admired!!
In this article, I'll take you to my all time favorite spot, known for its beauty and abundant wildlife where you'll enjoy a variety of fish species ANY time of the year or just maybe that once in a lifetime trophy. Weather you go to relax, are an outdoor enthusiast or just going to fish, Kab is the place to go! Snowmobile on hundreds of groomed and marked trails through beautiful pine forests and snow covered lakes; an experience unequalled anywhere. A ride on the Chain of Lakes and the Kabetogama Peninsula is a must; a beautiful and peaceful ride that will transport you back to the early days of the sport. After "Ice Out” cruise between the abundant islands for beauty found nowhere else; view bald eagles, osprey and pelicans..... always keeping your eyes on the shore for deer, bear and the occasional moose. At night, hear the eerie call of the lone wolf howling or watch for the spectacular Northern Lights, one of the best places to view them I've ever found! Kab is the place I choose year after year...
Lake Kabetogama is known as the "Gateway to Voyager National Park”. As you head up Highway 53 through Gods Country, you will come upon a huge walleye, where you can sit in a saddle and take one of many memorable pictures. This walleye marks the entrance to the lake and park area. Fishing opener is traditionally on the second Saturday in May, which for 2016th is May 14th. This is a later start to the opening of fishing, put that together with this years El Nino weather may mean early ice out; the lake should be warmed up and ready to go by the opener. The earlier ice out, the faster the water warms, the better the spring fishing will be. Being in Minnesota, there is a limit of one bait per person which I have never found a problem....it helps me relax and enjoy my surroundings without too many things going on at once. Slabber crappie, Huge Northern (many OVER 40”!) abundant Small mouth and Jumbo perch are sure to be caught but it is the Walleye and Sauger action that keeps me coming back year after year! Lake Kabetogama has implemented a slot limit for walleye years ago which has helped make this a premier fishing lake for walleye. Fish between 17”-28” must be released right away with one lunker over 28” to keep if you choose to. A good starting point and one which I do every year is to visit the bait shops where you can tap into local knowledge, chat at the Gateway Store with the always friendly locals and surround yourself with the laid back atmosphere. Being such a large body of water, hiring a licensed guide your first time on the lake may not be a bad idea; many offer a shore lunch as part of the deal. You can have the choice of a guided trip for fish or a trip for lake information. Once you've set yourselves up, found that just right cabin, camping site, houseboat or resort you are on your way to your fishing and nature adventure!
The lake is fairly easy to navigate being marked by hundreds of buoy markers throughout the system. There are lots of walleye and sauger, eater size and over 30" beauties, you just have to figure out how to find them. I have been going to Kab for close to 20 years with my family and friends, learning the lake and admiring the setting but STILL have yet to learn it all. There are shores to pitch, rocks to bounce jigs off of, mud flats, reefs, drop offs, deep holes, weeds and rivers. There is every type of fishing you can imagine with early spring and late fall being my personal favorites. Keep a close eye on your depth finder, learning the waters and the rock piles that are abundant is a must to stay safe.
When planning our trip, we prepare ourselves for many different types of fishing..my favorite and one that works most anywhere and anytime is fishing with a jig or Lindy Rig. The bottom can go from sandy to rocky to boulders in a second, plenty of places for the walleye to lay in wait. It's important to keep your bait OFF the bottom to avoid getting stuck-vertical jigging will help you achieve that. One habit that has been hard for me to break is my jig size. Smaller=better but not necessarily on Kab; your jig needs to be just heavy enough to keep in contact with the bottom. I spool with a 10 pound Berkley green FireLine and tie on a #10 barrel swivel. From there, I use 6-8 pound XT Fluorocarbon, 12-18” in length as the lead. I've had many a good angler argue this style of fishing so I give them both setups, one spooled with Mono or Fluorocarbon and one rod spooled with Fireline. The Fireline gives you sensitivity; you can feel the slightest tic, bump of the bottom or the famous walleye suck, giving you that advantage of knowing when a fish is contemplating your presentation. When using a lindy rig, I go with the smallest, sharpest hook possible and color DOES make a difference! Experiment and you will find what the fish like....which may be different from one side of the lake to the other. We also bring rods for trolling with jerkbaits and crankbaits. My go to baits are flicker shads, Rapalas or even Salmos, bring it all and try it out. If possible, I hold the rod giving a sweeping motion (I can do that because of using only one rod) and that action draws a strike more often than not. During the day, the Northern are plentiful and fun to catch and...GOOD TO EAT! The Northern, because of the cool clean waters are great, it's hard to taste the difference between a Walleye and a Northern!
When visiting the Kabetogama and Voyagers National Park area, you will find yourself at the center of many attractions. On the system and accessible by boat only are several worthwhile trips. Historic Kettle Falls Hotel and Dam is worth the trip at least once if possible. Visit the dam, the 1912 dam-tenders cabin and Kettle Falls Hotel for a bite to eat. On the Northern shores of Kab is Ellsworth rock gardens, started in 1944 by Chicago contractor J.E. Ellsworth, who spent the better part of 21 years to complete it. Always a favorite with locals and guides, the area is equipped with piers, fire pits, tables and restrooms…. it is a place we go to several times during a trip. Other points of interest include the Kab/Ash Trail. This beautiful trail runs from Frontier Resort in the Ash River to Salmi Rd. in Kab, 26 miles of beauty and splendor! Or go for the Lady Slipper Festival where you will find great food, music, entertainment and exceptional local artists! Being close to the Canadian border, you will find many worthwhile attractions and side trips to try.
I encourage you to visit this hidden gem, once you go, you will find yourself going year after year! You can find a list of resorts by visiting www.kabetogama.com or calling 1(800)524-9085. Voyagers National Park 1(218)283-6600 or my favorite Lodge, Sandy Point Lodge and Resort 1(218)875-2615. Be sure to say hi to Gordon and Jennifer for me!
Experience the wonders of this Northern paradise, a trip not to be forgotten!
Theresa Meade, Licensed Guide, Professional Angler and Speaker