I've always been drawn to land's end. Whether it's Copper Harbor and the Keweenaw with Isle Royale beyond the horizon, or Key West with the Dry Tortugas offshore, they're me magnets. Same goes for WW&W wildlife correspondent Paris Hiltunen.
We're talking way beyond where the sidewalk ends, a remote island accessible only by boat or seaplane. I've enjoyed a lotta Land's Ends; there's Woods Hole, Mass., where you catch the ferry out to Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. Or Cedar Island on the Atlantic coast of North Carolina to Okracoke on the Outer Banks, that just got flooded by Hurricane Irene. Water-logged residents are only too happy to be singing "Goodnight Irene," except the Irene they're seeing in their dreams is a full-blown nightmare.
"I'm sure glad I'm not her," said Paris, "she sure messed up their Labor Day weekend.
"Lake Superior may be cold, but it's clean enough to drink and we're latitudinally and attitudinally immune to hurricanes."
"Instead of watching Irene, we're going to Lookout Louise," Paris yoked, referencing the island's spectacular view of the Sleeping Giant, the Canadian mainland. Hidden Lake backa Tobin Harbor is the trailhead and a great moose-watching spot.
What a girl; a smart, easy conversationalist with a virtue to match. How many girls do you know with multiple skill sets as a fashion model, a sophisticated correspondent who likes boats and fishing and looks good doing both.
Labor Day weekend and beyond is my favorite time on the island. The water has had all summer to warm up and is about as warm as it gets. We set course for Isle Royale Lighthouse and Malone Bay in glass smooth seas, reaching Menagerie, where we dropped a Reef Runner off to port and a Laker Taker off to starboard and reeled in a laker on each for our first meal on the dock at Malone. The island's waters are teeming with native redfin lake trout, salmon and steelhead that think the wiggle of a Rapala or the flash of a Finn Spoon is something good to eat.
After a left-over lake-trout omelet the next morning, we hiked up to Siskiwit Lake, pumped up our float tubes and finned out to find the legendary kinda lake trout and northern that like to tug you around. Finning is doing what comes naturally to Finns; we found fish on a yiggin' rod and geppu, and brought a native 10-pound laker to the apron. No trip here is complete without wetting your line in the Siskiwit River flowing from the lake to Malone Bay; It is truly brookie heaven.
It's a pleasant coastline cruise to the secluded fjord-like beauty of Chippewa Harbor, where we headed straight to the super-secluded back bay, anchored and caught a toothy 9-pound northern on a Gulp minnow dangled enticingly beneath a bobber, which Paris guided into my net. Only the brazenly-tame red foxes of Chippewa can outfox her.
Moving along to Saginaw Point, Middle Island Channel and Caribou, we snagged a shelter for the night. Trolling in Conglomerate Bay backa the lighthouse, the starboard rod bucked and Paris confidently reeled in a flashy, thrashing 8-pound king salmon, wide-eyed with surprise that it had been fooled by a nutrition-free Reef Runner. Less than an hour later it was swimming in butter and Dan Small's savory fish seasoning, FishandGameGourmet.com, while we enjoyed evening cocktails on the dock.
Isle Royale isn't just an island. It's a one-of-a-kind sweetwater, sweetheart of a wilderness. It's a national biosphere reserve, 45 miles from stem to stern with a beam of about 9 miles at her widest point. Much of the terrain is uneven glaciated bedrock, ancient lava flows thought by geologists to have tripped-up and stubbed the toes of all who've trod upon it for 4,000 years. Next morning we motored up to Snug Harbor and Rock Harbor Lodge, the only civilization on the island, gassed up, filled the ice chests, and lolly-gagged around the marina, then trolled north, dragging lines through Merritt Lane and around Blake Point and the Palisades, then ducking into Duncan Bay Narrows for our last night.
To book a post-season cruise to the island aboard the 100-foot Isle Royale Queen IV, call 906.289.4437 or visit isleroyale.com.
Even when he's northa the mainland, Jim can be reached 24/7/365 at firstname.lastname@example.org.