In recent years, I have opened up the fishing report season with an emphasis on extremes in weather. This year the weather has been more normal, but the most dramatic change is the extremely low water conditions. Despite modest improvements, Lac Seul is still down over 7 feet from full pool. It is the lowest that I have ever seen the lake during opening week and the levels dramatically affected our fishing. I had to reconfigure the docks and boom logs, the Styx are not passable, and First Eagle’s bar, the mouth of Bray, and Broken stick pass are barely navigable.
As is typical for late April and May in Northwest Ontario, we have seen warm spells and cold spells. We saw more warm conditions early which helped to take the ice off our end of the lake on May 6. Since then, we have experienced several strong cold fronts. Opening day of walleye season began with strong north winds, high temps barely above freezing and snow flurries. For opening week there was very little settled warm weather, so the shallow jig pitching and crankbait bite was very limited.
The warm weather during ice out and the later major cold snaps resulted in remarkably similar surface temps across the lake (48 – 53 degrees). There were days that the “warmest” back water bays were only 5 degrees warmer than the main lake. The result was that we found many transition spots on or near the main lake holding walleyes much earlier than normal. We also caught walleyes from every depth between 2 – 25 ft. Jigs w/ and w/o twisters and minnows were the go to presentation.
In spite of the cold front conditions, walleye volume was fairly high this week with guide reports averaging over 30 walleyes over 18 in. per day. The highest daily total was 72. For the week, we caught and released 19 walleyes over 27 in. including 9 over 28. Big pike production was excellent but not traditional. For the week we had 32 over 37 including 4 – 40s, 4- 41s, 1 – 43, and a massive 46.25 inch pike caught by Jim Mason.
With the extremely low water conditions, the typical pike bays are high and dry. Most of the female pike that we are catching have not spawned and unfortunately, the lack of submerged vegetation will probably result in a failed year class of pike. Most of the big pike are being caught as incidental catch while walleye fishing. Some have been landed with husky jerks and X-raps, but most have been caught on jigs.
The smallmouth bass bite has dropped down a notch from previous season openers. We had 24 bass over 17 in., including 6 – 18s, and 1 – 19. The lake level has had a major affect on bass location. Like the pike, most traditional spring bass spots are now on dry land. In some cases the bass can be found on the next closest rocky break, but many typical bass spots are now barren. At the same time, we are now finding bass on areas that previously never produced them.
For better or for worse, Lac Seul is a new lake for the guide crew this year. The comment has been made on several occasions by the senior guides, that they are catching far more walleyes and big walleyes from non-traditional locations than from the usual spring big fish spots. It is a challenge and it keeps us all on our toes and I can tell you from personal experience that it is far more rewarding and fun to figure out a “new” spot and to pull big fish from it than to rework the same old water. The puzzle is what makes the game fun and our pieces really got scrambled this year.