Using the Minnesota DNR site I managed to locate several outfitters. The choices were endless: Kayaking the St Croix River, the Mississippi River, the Zumbro River, & Lake Superior were some of the options. The one that caught my interest was an outfitter in Rustic Big Falls, Minnesota that provided several opportunities on the Big Fork River.
Big Falls is located 40 miles south of International Falls on Highway 71. The outfitter in this area is Rivers North Outfitters of Minnesota. They offer canoeing & kayaking unlike anywhere else in the world. The Big Fork River offers 166 miles of tranquil waters and picturesque forest. Although the Big Fork is often very placid, the current can be shift and powerful when the water level is high.
For the fishing fanatics, the river offers an excellent variety of opportunities. Walleye, Smallmouth Bass, & Northern Pike are some of the tastier fish in the Big Fork, and some enthusiast come specifically for “Muskie Hunting”.
The first step in the arrangements was making reservations for two kayaks and lodging the night before. Marian & I decided to go with the Little Dipper Package. The Little Dipper Package is their fishing version that starts at a boat launch just in front of the Grand Falls a Class IV rapids and ends at the Ben Lynn Landing 10 miles downriver. Note that in the case of the Big Fork River this is 10 miles north of the drop in point. The Big Fork River empties into the Rainey River.
Next was the lodging. Rivers North Outfitters has rooms available. The rooms are basically furnished 2-bedroom apartments. There is also a motel and bed & breakfast in Big Falls but I opted for a 2-bedroom apartment to complete the deal with the outfitter.
Lastly I had to decide on what species to target on the fishing trip. I decided that it would be fun to target the Smallmouth Bass and hope for the occasional Walleye. With that decided I contacted my brother to borrow some of his equipment for the trip.
We arrived the night before the trip. Checked into our room and shortly discovered that the only café in town closes at 2 PM. This was fine as both of us are very flexible and decided to travel to the coldest spot in the continental US, (International Falls) to have dinner.
The next morning it was a partly cloudy day with a temperature of 33 degrees. After breakfast (about 10 AM & still 33 degrees) we met with Bob our shuttle guy. We got to the drop-off point and he provided some instruction concerning the kayaks, about the possibilities of wildlife sighting, and how to find Sturgeon River Landing for lunch. He also stated that he thought we were crazy to go out and that he would mark the Ben Lynn Landing as it might be difficult to see from the river side. He asked us about what our activities were going to be so that he could calculate the arrival time. He figured that we should arrive at the pick-up point at 3 PM. His thought was that it is better for him to be early and not us. We waved our good-byes and proceeded on the fishing adventure.
Fishing was very slow but relaxing. About 30 minutes into the float, I had a small (roughly 36 – 40 inches) Muskie attacked my Pumpkin Seed Curly Tail Gulp. There was not much of a fight as the ten pound line was no match for this monster. So I retied another jig head and threaded another gulp on the hook; hoping that I will get a hook-up on my targeted specie the Smallmouth Bass.
About another 1 hour passed by and I noticed some weird type of splashing going on near the far bank. Marian was in that area so I motioned for her to check it out. She got really excited about the sighting. She reported that there were three river otters playing around. We sat there watching them play. They were making a snorting sound. We were not too sure if they were playing with us or warning us to leave. After a while they got bored and left the area or went to their den.
When we got to Sturgeon River Landing we still did not have much action on the Smallies or any other fish. So we pulled into the landing and had a nice picnic. Marian checked the temperature and it was about 34 degrees. After about a 30 minute break we decided to continue with the trip and try to catch anything. By 4 PM we made the pick-up point and had not managed to catch any fish. But we do have great memories of a Fall Kayak Trip on the Big Fork River during which record lows were set.
About the Author: Darrell Olson is an avid Hunter / Fisherman. While living in England he was recognized as the 1981 Master Angler from the Rod & Gun Clubs of Europe. He has just recently taken up Kayak Fishing as a hobby.