May of 2008 will go down as one of the latest ice outs and probably the coldest that I can recall in 20 years. The fishing stats will back me up. Despite a few sunny warm days this week, there are still patches of ice and snow on the north shore of some of the main lake islands and main lake water temps are still in the low 40s.
We began the week with a blow out day on Memorial day; sustained 30 mph winds, freezing temps., and side ways snow. Today was another virtual wash. It was warm enough to justify going out, but the conditions were tough and the bite was even worse.
With the late spring, the south shore bite is slow and variable. We count on a post-spawn migration of the bigger females to kick off the local bite, and so far this year, it just hasn’t happened. In response, we have been on the throttle and traveling to areas that traditionally warm more quickly. Some of the areas that did produce this week were adjacent to known main lake spawning shoals.
Even when we did find fish, the bite was erratic. We found neutral to negative fish on rocks in 10-15 ft. one day, scattered on 20 ft. flats the next, and at the same time, some fish would pulse shallow and be caught with aggressive presentations, pitching jigs or casting cranks in 3-6 ft.. Depending on the conditions, effective presentations ranged from 1/8 oz. jigs with small minnows, to 1/4 oz jigs and tails pitched shallow, all the way up to size 12 and 14 Husky jerks cast up into warm stumpy bays. It was unusual to find a pattern that held for more than a few hours, let alone a few days. When it dried up, it was back to the drawing board again and back on the tiller.
Including the blow out days, guide sheets this week averaged 15 walleyes over 18 in. per day. The highest daily total recorded was 31. There were 10 walleyes over 27, including 3 – 28s and 2 – 29s.
We had a few groups targeting pike this week, but the variable weather never did produce the Apex bite that we watch for in May. Instead, the big fish were caught on the first break or point outside of the warm water bays with slower presentations. For the week, we had 9 over 37″, including 1-40, 1-41, and 1-43.
The bass have not quite moved into the areas that the guides generally target them, but they are showing up much more often as incidental catch while walleye fishing. For the week, there were 19 over 17 in., including 3 – 18s, and 1 – 19.
The way I see it, you take the good with the bad, and you take it all in stride. There is a reason that I discount our May group’s rates and that is because of the risk of adverse weather. During the last 2 seasons, we haven’t had it and May has been outstanding. This year is the extreme opposite and though it was a bit of a surprise (especially to those groups I had to cancel), the percentage of quality fish to volume was strong and several anglers caught their personal best, despite the tough conditions.