|Fishing Guide||Hiking Guide||Insect Guide||Leave No Trace|
Isle Royale National Park was authorized by Congress in 1931 "to conserve a prime example of North Woods Wilderness." The park was designated part of the National Wilderness Preservation System in 1976, under the Wilderness Act, and remains today as an example of primitive America. In fact, over 98% of the land in Isle Royale is designated wilderness. Further honors were bestowed in 1981, when Isle Royale was designated an International Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations, giving it global scientific and educational significance.
Wilderness is managed for preservation and solitude. We need such natural places for study, measuring the forces of natural change and dynamics, and as a place to renew the human spirit. Isle Royale has established rules and regulations governing group size, fires, sanitation, and basic conduct to help protect its varied resources as well as the quality of experience for users. Help preserve wilderness by following these guidelines.
Hiking in Isle Royale National Park can be a fun and rewarding experience as in other national parks. It is a great way to both see and experience the park.
A backpacking trip into the wilderness requires careful planning to make it a successful and enjoyable adventure. Your dreams of a pleasant experience can easily be shattered by an overloaded pack, forgotten or inadequate pieces of equipment, or sore muscles and blistered feet.
Keep it light. With lightweight gear, food, and sensible packing, your backpack weight should be more tolerable.
Sturdy water-resistant foot gear is a must. Be sure your boots are completely broken in BEFORE you come to the island. Expect blisters and prepare for them. Bring extra socks, moleskin, and foot powder to help keep feet dry and comfortable.
There are no medical facilities on Isle Royale. Sick or injured people may be stranded for days before assistance arrives. Be in good physical condition. Come fully equipped. Know your limitations. Carry a good first aid kit. Inexperienced backpackers should do a couple of "break-in" overnight trips BEFORE coming to the island. Test your equipment. Develop your endurance and confidence.
Expect mosquitoes, black flies, gnats, and other insects to peak in June or July. They are part of your Isle Royale experience. Bring plenty of insect repellent and netting or other skin barriers. Think in terms of being able to cover all exposed skin on your body from biting insects. Insects can bite through thin clothing. Make sure your tent has mosquito netting and that it has no holes. Bring materials to repair damaged mosquito netting.
The mosquito and black fly hatch generally starts at the end of May or the beginning of June. Black flies hatch in cold running water. They can be especially numerous if we have unusually warm weather during spring runoff, or when heavy rains keep streams high into summer. Large numbers of black flies are usually gone by July. Some years, the island has relatively few. In a heavy year, a few may linger until frost. The first frost may come as early as the end of August or as late as the end of September.
Mosquitoes usually get off to a quick start and then slowly taper down as the summer dries out. In a rainy summer, they will stay at high numbers. At least some mosquitoes will hang on until a heavy frost finally ends their season.
Insects are part of the natural scene at Isle Royale and they can be annoying. The number of bugs and when they arrive varies considerably from year to year. Insect numbers also vary from one location to another on the Island due to micro-climate effects and from day to day due to weather changes. For example, the cooler Lake Superior shores tend to have fewer mosquitoes, but wind direction and other factors can override that tendency. Hot, humid weather brings out every available mosquito and black fly. Cool, dry, breezy days slows them down.
In a typical year, the mosquito and black fly hatch starts at the end of May or the beginning of June. Black flies hatch in cold running water. They can be especially numerous if there is unusually warm weather during spring runoff, or when heavy rains keep streams high into summer. When they are really out, they can be so thick as to drive campers to desperate measures such as spending lots of time in tents, using head nets and breathing through their teeth. At times, the conversation turns to modes of protection. Discussions of the merits of DEET repellents versus citronella repellents entertain some folks, while others securely cover all exposed skin on their bodies with bite-proof material and receive the benefits of both insect protection and a walking sauna simultaneously. Do come prepared to protect yourself. Large numbers of black flies are usually gone by July. Some years, the island has relatively few. In a heavy year, they may not be completely gone until frost. (The first frost may come as early as the end of August or as late as the end of September.) Fortunately unlike mosquitoes, black flies do sleep at night.
Mosquitoes mostly hatch in standing water during warm weather. In a typical year they get off to a quick start and then slowly taper down as the summer dries out. In a rainy summer, they will stay at high numbers. At least some mosquitoes will hang on until a heavy frost finally ends their season.
Deer flies and horse flies are most prevalent during the warmer months.
Stable flies can be quite numerous during periodic hatches, mostly along shorelines. Long pants and thick socks are the best defense.
No-See-Ums come around from time to time during the warm part of the season. Make sure the zippers on your tent are closed really tight when they are around.
Mosquito: Most everyone knows what they look like, the flying hypodermic needle.
Black Fly: These look like overgrown fruit flies or a husky gnat, lots smaller than a house fly. Mostly teeth, they don't poke you with a needle; they chew a small hole to take a little blood. They love the backs of your ears and along the edges of clothing.
Deer Fly: The delta-winged B-1 bomber of the insect world. Some are quite colorful with green and orange markings. The most colorful are sometimes affectionately called "moose flies" on the Island. The most persistent of this species are capable of following the same hiker for miles often trying to land on the exact same place in the part of your hair every few seconds unless you persuade it to do otherwise. A hat also helps.
Horse Fly: Maybe not be as big as their southern cousins, but otherwise the same idea.
Stable Fly: Looks like a slightly undersize house fly (somewhat lighter in color) but the soft, blunt probe is missing (replaced by a retractable drill). They tend to stay close to the ground explaining one of their many names, "ankle-biter". Also known as the "fish fly", or "beach fly" for its favorite environment.
No-See-Ums: If you figure out what they look like you've got quick eyes. You feel them before you see them.
Leave No Trace
Isle Royale may seem rugged, but it is also fragile. The goal is to have minimum human impact. To help preserve it, follow low-impact camping practices wherever you go.
Plan ahead and prepare
An Isle Royale Topographic Map is recommended for all hikers. Information on trails is available through maps and booklets sold by Isle Royale Natural History Association, Isle Royale National Park, 800 East Lakeshore Drive, Houghton, MI 49931.
There are 165 miles of trail on the island, offering a variety of options for trip length and difficulty. Trails are generally well-defined and easy to follow. Most hikers average a two mile-per-hour pace and find a ten mile day to be plenty. Check with rangers when registering for advice on routes and trail conditions. Rainy weather may require hikers to wade through wet, muddy areas.
Crosscountry, off-trail travel is not recommended because of dense vegetation bogs, and swamps. It is very difficult and much less distance can be covered. Ponds and swamps must be frequently crossed and vegetation is thick. North- facing slopes are steep.
Drinking water can be a source of great pleasure on a wilderness journey, or it can ruin your trip.
Water-borne diseases may not be a problem at Isle Royale, but harmful bacteria and other microscopic creatures may contaminate the water.
WARNING! Water not obtained from spigots in Rock Harbor or Windigo must be considered contaminated with intestinal bacteria and the eggs of the hydatid tapeworm. Boil water for at least two minutes or filter through an adequate filter (0.4microns for bacteria; 25 microns for tapeworm). Halizone tablets, bleach, and other chemical purifiers WILL NOT kill tapeworm eggs although they may be effective against bacteria if used properly. PLAY IT SAFE!
Take time to read this basic information about how your should care for your drinking water at Isle Royale National Park.
Method of Take
Artificial lures only may be used. "Artificial lure" means any lure that is manmade, in imitation of or as a substitute for natural bait, used to attract fish for the purpose of taking them, and shall include artificial flies. Live, dead or preserved bait or organic food may not be used or possessed at any time. Digging for bait is not allowed.
|Place||Fish||Season||Min Size||Possession Limit||MI Fishing Lic Req||Note|
|Interior Lakes||Walleye, Northern Pike||15 May to 31 Oct||Walleye - 15 in; Northern Pike - 24 in||5 fish in any combination||No||Size limits in the interior lakes focus on leaving the smaller fish. Smaller fish are needed by natural predators, such as eagles, osprey, loons, and otter, who utilize fish as a major part of their diet.|
|Lake Superior Waters (within park boundaries)||Trout, Salmon||15 Apr to 31 Oct||10 in||5 fish in any combination
no more than 3 of any one species
|Inland Streams||Coaster Brook Trout||Last Sat in Apr to 15 Aug||Min size 7 in, only 1over 12 in||2 fish||Yes||Special regulations are in effect for "Coasters", a lake-dwelling form of brook trout. They are extremely rare; special catch regulations for both Lake Superior waters and the inland streams of Isle Royale exist to protect these fish.|
|Lake Superior Waters (within park boundaries)||Coaster Brook Trout||15 Apr to 31 Oct||Min size 15 in||1 fish||Yes|
General possession notes
All fish in your possession count toward your limit, regardless of where and when you caught them. All fish in your possession must be measurable and identifiable by species. This requirement will be met by leaving the head and skin on.
Disposal of Fish Remains
Please help to conserve the outstanding fishery at Isle Royale. Catch and release, while encouraged, can be very stressful on fish, especially those brought up from depth or which have been hooked in the gills. The park encourages fishermen to catch only what they plan to keep or eat and then quit fishing and enjoy the many other attractions of Isle Royale.
Keep in mind that the larger (usually 28 inches or more) fish are the ones that produce offspring. Leaving the larger fish and taking those smaller than 28 inches helps insure that there will be plenty of fish in the future. Smaller fish are also better-tasting, so consider taking pictures of the large fish, then carefully releasing them. Instead of killing trophy fish, please consider modern graphite mounts.
Transporting Fish to the Mainland
A permit from the Michigan DNR is required to ship fish on a commercial vessel. The permit is good for a possession limit only and may only be used once a year. Fish must be claimed by someone at the end destination and cannot be stored. Permits may be obtained by mail or phone from the Michigan DNR. Fish may not be transported in coolers of boats riding on the Deck of the Ranger III. Ask the ship's purser how to properly transport fish.
While on public waters, you may not possess mutilated fish that cannot be measured or identified. WARNING Depth at dock may fluctuate as much as one foot. Know your boat's draft.
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