This is the final report of our 2018 fishing season here at the Wheel. We had just a few boats on the water last week, but came back up to our usual fall numbers for this final week and I’ve combined the two weeks into a final fishing report for our 2018 season.
The big weather story for us this week was the low temperatures. Air temps were low enough that lake surface temps dropped by 10 degrees over the last 10 days, and one memorable day the temperature difference between air and water was large enough we could see steam rising from the surface of the lake for most of the day. Really lets you see how much the surface temps are being affected.
Colder temps and some weather brought a big change in the walleye patterns from last week. Early in the week sand at both summer and transition depths held fish in good numbers, but the weather change moved them back to an aggressive bite and later in the week transition and even shallow rock structures held our best bites. Even with a more aggressive bite the walleye did not answer well to plastics and our guides kept their anglers working with light jigs and live bait most of the time. Guide sheet averages were back up to more than 25 fish over 18 inches a day, and a few great days stood out where anglers boated more than 75 fish over 18 inches. The great bites and most of our big fish came out of transition depths or even shallower, more than a few big fish were caught out of less than 10 feet this week.
Our guided days were about evenly split between hunting big pike and walleye fishing, a total of 35 guided days for the week. The fifteen days dedicated to walleye produced 14 fish over 27 inches with the biggest a 29. The northern hunting days boated 21 over 37 inches with five over 40 inches and two extremely heavy fish, a 40 and a 42 incher caught by one of our guests of long standing, Ed Rosenow.
The end of a season here at Silver Water Wheel Lodge always makes me look back at the year’s fishing and try to find trends and patterns that were different or made this year stand out from the others. I put that question to our guide staff at our last few nightly ‘round table’ meetings, and the first thing everyone brought up was the jump in big walleye this season. We haven’t finished compiling our statistics yet, but from our rough count we are up to 79 Walleye over 29 inches for the year, a significant increase from the last couple years. And of those big fish a greater proportion than usual were fish over 30 inches as well.
This central section of Lac Seul has two key ingredients that we think are responsible for the great summer fishing we see here. Wide open basins, and in the middle of those basins some huge sand structures that every year produce great fish for us. These big structures are ideal for pulling big plastics at speed and this is an effective and exciting way of catching walleye. Guides and guest often love it when we can target fish this way, and this worked well through early and mid summer and a lot of our best days in late June and July this year were ‘gulp on sand days’. As we progressed to late summer and fall the walleye moved to rock structures and stayed there. Lots of years there are weeks here and there when the walleye are on rock, but this year was exceptional. Our best bites in terms of both numbers and size were almost exclusively on rock structures for most of August and September.
The early and late season were both good northern pike times, with lots of big fish caught in our favorite spots and favorite ways. But there was a stretch in mid summer when the big pike left their usual patterns and did something different. For a few weeks, it was the exception rather than the rule to find a trophy fish in the main lake summertime weed beds that usually produce so many of our big pike. At the same time our guide staff were remarking on how rare it had become for us to catch big pike on jigs or following or T-boning a walleye. Every year there is a period where the big fish leave the weed beds, but we always find them deep while walleye fishing when they do. This year, in mid summer they weren’t shallow or deep. When the big northern weren’t answering to the usual patterns most of our anglers went after walleye instead, but occasionally during this stretch a boat with determined pike fisherman was able to succeed by focusing on mid-depth rock. I don’t think we produced this way often enough to be sure it was what the trophy pike were doing, but it is a new possible pattern we will be watching for in the future.
As a fishing guide with a few years behind me now, the changes that Lac Seul throws at us every day, every week, and every year are what makes each new season a different challenge. That challenge is what keeps me coming back to see what answers – what new tactics, presentations, or locations will produce great fish over the course of the season. I think that’s what makes fishing Lac Seul interesting and fun for anglers and guides every day, every month, and every year.
Hope to see you all at ‘the Wheel’ next season!