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Boreal Community Media

Know before you go: 2023 fishing opener, camping season

May 08, 2023 09:14AM ● By Content Editor
Photo: USDA Forest Service

From USDA Forest Service - Superior National Forest - May 8, 2023

Minnesota’s fishing opener is almost here and officials on the Superior National Forest would like to remind anglers and other visitors to recreate responsibly and safely, and plan ahead before traveling. It is especially important this year as winter conditions linger, especially in the northeastern portion of the Superior. Some forest roads, particularly on the Gunflint and Tofte Ranger Districts (Grand Marais and Tofte area) are covered in mud, slush and snow and may prevent travel to certain areas. Flooding is also a concern, especially on the Kawishiwi, Lacroix and Laurentian Districts (near Ely, Cook and Aurora).

Check conditions!

While fishing opener is approaching, summer temperatures and clear roads are not yet here. Lakes in northern Minnesota remain cold through spring and can be dangerous, and even lethal if exposed for several minutes. Many lakes are still partially or completely frozen; some are open on the edges only. Be careful that you do not get stuck on a lake by the wind blowing ice around and blocking you in bays and other areas. Underwater ice chunks in lakes are another hazard for boaters this year, accidents have already occurred. Learn more cold-water safety on the Minnesota DNR website.

If you are interested in particular lakes or roads, please call ahead to the local district ranger office to inquire about status. Outfitters and guides are also great resources for local conditions.

Find a fishing spot

The Superior boasts hundreds of lakes and 77 boat accesses. Motorized and non-motorized boating opportunities are available. As a rule, areas listed under motorized boating are lakes or campgrounds with a drive down boat ramp for launching a trailered boat. McDougal boat ramp is open (however the campground is not). These lakes can also be accessed by non-motorized boats; more information can be found on our website, water activities. For general fishing outlooks by region see the Minnesota DNR fishing outlook 2023 (PDF).

Campgrounds–Campgrounds on the Kawishiwi, LaCroix and Laurentian Districts have delayed openings until May 10 due to lingering winter conditions. Campgrounds on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts are also not accessible due to conditions. Please contact the nearest Superior district office or for information on developed campgrounds.

Water systems

Water systems in many campgrounds have not been turned on yet. Drinking water will be available as soon as ground and water lines thaw. Some outhouses and garbage bins are not available. Other important information includes:

  • Fee campgrounds offer some first come, first served sites and some reservable campsites. Campsites can be reserved at More information is available at: Campground Camping
  • Rustic campgrounds are free of charge and are first come, first served. They have outhouses, tables and fire rings but no drinking water. Outhouses are open but bring your own toilet paper.
  • Backcountry sites are free of charge and offer a more remote experience while still providing a fire grate and wilderness latrine. 
  • Rustic campgrounds and backcountry sites do not have a garbage service. Please pack your garbage out, and do not bury it or throw it in restrooms or latrines.

Although rustic and backcountry campgrounds are open, they may not be accessible due to road conditions and snow or passable by low-clearance vehicles. Alternative campgrounds can be found on state forestsstate parks and county land.

Be bear aware!

Bears are out of hibernation and in search of food. A fed bear is a dead bear! Wherever you chose to recreate on the Superior, take all precautions to discourage bears from visiting your camping area site by keeping it clean. Here are some bear aware best practices:

  • Dispose of fish remains by traveling at least 200 feet away from campsites, trails, portages and shorelines and pack out live bait. 
  • Never eat or store food in your tent. 
  • Be prepared to securely store your food, toiletries and trash, or anything with a strong or sweet odor in a bear-resistant container, your vehicle or by hanging your food pack. 

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness permit holders

While the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) campsites are open, be aware most are inaccessible due to snowy and flooded access roads, along with partially or fully covered lakes of ice and slush. BWCAW interior lakes to the north are expected to have ice. Call for conditions before setting out and know BWCAW Regulations and Rules.

Permit holders must pick up permits from the issue station specified on the permit. Group leaders or alternates must pick up the permit on the entry date or one day prior.

Gunflint, LaCroix, and the Kawishiwi Ranger District offices are open seven days a week for BWCAW permit issuance and in-person Leave No Trace and Tread Lightly education. The Laurentian Ranger District and Supervisor’s Office are open Monday through Friday. Forest offices are open 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Permit holders need to watch parts 1 and 2 of the BWCAW Leave No Trace video series (under Need to Know) prior to departing for their trip. To receive credit for watching the videos, click the links in the emails sent to the permit holder to access the videos online (use Chrome to avoid errors). If you have not reviewed parts 1 and 2 before arriving at your issue station, you will need to watch the complete BWCAW Leave No Trace video series before receiving your permit. All permit holders are required to watch part 3 of the video series and review the BWCAW Regulations and Rules at their issue station prior to receiving their permit.

Thank you for doing your part to help keep the Superior safe, enjoyable, and pristine for all visitors.  

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