Published April 26, 2009, 12:00 AM

Get close to the walleyes by camping near the water

Sometimes, the best way to get close to Minnesota’s walleyes is to sleep near them. And if you don’t have a cabin “up north,” the next best thing is camping where you fish. Fortunately, that’s easy to do in Northeastern Minnesota.

By: Sam Cook, Duluth News Tribune

Sometimes, the best way to get close to Minnesota’s walleyes is to sleep near them. And if you don’t have a cabin “up north,” the next best thing is camping where you fish. Fortunately, that’s easy to do in Northeastern Minnesota.

Here are several great places to pitch a tent or park a pop-up where you’ll have excellent access to good early season fishing.

O-Ne-Gum-E Campground on the Cut Foot Sioux Flowage, Deer River — A traditional gathering place for opening-weekend and early season walleye anglers in the Cut Foot and Big Winnibigoshish lakes area northwest of Deer River. Walleye fishing is often good on the opener because walleyes spawn farther up the flowage and are dropping back to Cut Foot and Big Winnie. This U.S. Forest Service campground is perched right on the Cut Foot Sioux Flowage, and many anglers fish from boats and from shore on Minnesota’s opening weekend. No reservations are taken for the opener, and the sites fill quickly.

Getting there: Off Minnesota Highway 46 at Cut Foot Sioux Flowage

Sites: 46

Electricity: Yes

Rates: $20 per night

Boat launch: Yes

More information: Chippewa National Forest, (218) 335-8600; www.fs.fed.us/r9/forests/chippewa

Also in the area: Mosomo Point Campground off Minnesota Highway 46 at Cut Foot Sioux Flowage, 23 sites, no electricity, $16 per night, boat launch.

East Seelye Bay Campground on Cut Foot Sioux Lake, 13 sites, no electricity, $16 per night, boat launch.

West Seelye Bay Campground on Cut Foot Sioux Lake, 22 sites, no electricity, $14 per night.

Private camping in the area: Go to www.visitgrandrapids.com

South Kawishiwi River Campground, Kawishiwi River, Ely — Flowages are always good places to fish for walleyes early in the season, and the Kawishiwi is a bit of a sleeper. You can put your boat in at this campground and navigate the wide portions of the river, but if you want access farther upstream, bring along a canoe and portage in from access roads. The U.S. Forest Service campground is on Minnesota Highway 1 about 10 miles southeast of Ely. It’s a nice spot.

Getting there: On Minnesota Highway 1 about 10 miles southeast of Ely

Sites: 31 back-in only

Electricity: No

Rates: $12 per night

Boat launch: Yes

More information or reservations: www.fs.fed.us/r9/forests/superior, or (218) 365-7600

Private camping in area: Ely Chamber of Commerce, www.ely.org

Crosby Manitou State Park, near Finland — This state park is tucked in the boonies and has a stocked trout lake — Benson — with carry-down boat access. Splake will bite in summer, but not as readily as in winter. But camping at Crosby Manitou will give you access to a number of other lakes in that area. Consider Dumbell for walleyes and muskies; Divide Lake for splake and rainbow trout; Section 8 Lake for brook trout; Crosscut Lake for brook trout; Delay Lake for walleyes, northern pike and smallmouth bass. Most of those lakes have carry-down access only, although Dumbell has a ramp. Divide Lake also has three campsites.

Getting there: Seven miles north of Finland on County Road 7

Sites: 21 backpacking sites (½ to 4½ miles in)

Electricity: No

Rates: $12

Boat launch: Carry down to Benson Lake

More information: www.mndnr.gov or call Tettegouche State Park, (218) 226-6365.

Fishing information on area lakes: Al Anderson, DNR fisheries office, Finland, (218) 353-7591.

Private camping in area: Lutsen Tofte Tourism Association, www.americasnorthcoast.org.

Woodenfrog State Forest Campground on Lake Kabetogama — Most of the campsites in Voyageurs National Park are boat-accessible only. But you can drive to this state-managed campground snug on the western shore of Lake Kabetogama, an excellent walleye lake in Voyageurs National Park. If water temps are 42 to 48, says Kab guide Tim Watson, look for walleyes in the shallows. Once they’re through spawning, they drop to deeper water and you’ll want to vertical-jig for them.

Getting there: U.S. Highway 53 to 30 miles north of Orr; turn right on County Road 122 (Gamma Road); go six miles, following signs to campground.

Sites: 61 drive-through sites

Electricity: No

Rates: $12 per night

Boat launch: Yes

More information: Call Bearhead Lake State Park at (218) 365-7229.

Private camping in area: Kabetogama Lake Tourism Bureau; www.kabetogama.com.

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, access from Crane Lake, Ely, Tofte, Grand Marais — If you don’t mind toting your canoe over a few portages, you can put yourself in this million-acre canoe-camping wilderness for the opener or beyond. Early in the season, look for moving water and fish in currents with jigs and minnows. The water flows from lake to lake, so current isn’t difficult to find. We won’t name anyone’s favorite lakes here, but you’ll find fish in nearly every lake where you drop a line. You’ll need a day-use or overnight camping permit, which are regulated by quota. Call (877) 550-6777 to reserve one or go to www.recreation.gov.

Getting there: Access from many entry points, by permit only, from Crane Lake, Ely, Tofte and Grand Marais areas.

Sites: Hundreds of primitive sites (fire grates and latrines) are sprinkled across the wilderness area.

Electricity: None

Rates: $16 per overnight trip for adults; $8 per trip for children; plus $12 non-refundable reservation fee. No fee for day trips.

More information: Go to www.fs.fed.us/r9/forests/superior

Fishing information: “Boundary Waters Fishing Guide” book by Michael Furtman, www.michaelfurtman.com; “Boundary Waters Tips and Tricks” DVD by Jeff Murray, www.moonguide.com.

Trail’s End Campground, near Saganaga Lake north of Grand Marais — This U.S. Forest Service campground puts you within a few miles of Saganaga and Seagull lakes near the tip of the Gunflint Trail. Sag is one of Minnesota’s premier big-walleye lakes, and both lakes also have lake trout, pike and bass, too. Parts of the campground were burned in the Ham Lake Fire of 2007, so you’ll see natural forest regeneration in progress. Because parts of both Sag and Seagull are within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, you’ll need a permit to travel there, and there are motor size limitations on both lakes.

Getting there: From Grand Marais, take Cook County Highway 12 (Gunflint Trail) 60 miles to dead end at campground.

Sites: 32, most back-in

Electricity: No

Rates: $16 to $22 per night depending on location

Reservations: Accepted, go to www.recreation.gov

Boat launches: Two nearby, operated by Cook County. Fee charged.

More information: Go to www.fs.fed.us/r9/forests/superior or call Gunflint Ranger District at (218) 387-1750.

Private campgrounds in area: Go to www.gunflint-trail.com

Wakemup Bay Campground, on Lake Vermilion near Cook — Great access to an excellent walleye, muskie and smallmouth bass lake. Lake Vermilion’s walleye population is in good shape, and muskie fishing continues to be tremendous. This campground, managed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, gives you quick access to the western end of this sprawling body of water.

Getting there: From Cook, take County Road 24 north for 2½ miles. Turn right on County Road 78 and go three miles; then turn left and go 1 mile to campground.

Sites: 21 drive-in sites, two walk-in sites

Electricity: No

Rates: $12 per night

Reservations: No

Boat launch: Yes

More information: Call Bearhead Lake State Park, (218) 365-7229 or go to www.mndnr.gov.

Private campgrounds in area: Go to www.lakevermilionresorts.com

Jay Cooke State Park, near St. Louis River in Duluth/Superior — Obviously, you won’t need Jay Cooke if you live in Duluth or Superior, but if you’re coming from farther away, it’s a good option. The park straddles the upper St. Louis River where it pours through a rugged gorge. It’s just a few miles from some of the most popular boat ramps on the St. Louis at the Minnesota Highway 23 Bridge, at Boy Scout Landing and at the Munger Landing. The river provides some of the best early-season walleye action in Northeastern Minnesota.

Getting there: From Minnesota Highway 23 in Fond du Lac neighborhood, follow Minnesota Highway 210 six miles west to the River Inn visitors center.

Sites: 81 total, four of them walk-in sites

Electricity: Available at 21 sites

Rates: $24 with electricity; $20 without

Also: Four rustic camper cabins, $50 per night

Reservations: Go to www.stayatmnparks.com

Boat launches: At various points along the river in Duluth/Superior (see above).

More information: Go to www.mndnr.gov or call the park, (218) 384-4610.

Private campgrounds in area: Go to www.visitduluth.com

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