It always comes down to weather and this week was a curve ball. It was a stormy, windy, cool week at the Wheel. It felt more like the first week of June. Multiple fronts and rapid weather changes, usually scatter the fish and it definitely put them on the move this week. The most significant change is that there was a lot more “marking and not catching for walleyes.” For every nice walleye caught pulling Gulp at speed, there were 10 or more caught dead sticking minnows with light jigs. It was a tough week for weather and successful walleye fishing was very hard work.
The walleyes moved deeper this week. There was still the stray fish caught shallow casting for pike, but the vast majority moved 10 ft. deeper than they were last week. Based on the nightly round table reports and the guide sheets, I would tell you that most of the walleyes were caught between 25 and 32 ft. this week. Scanning was mandatory. The beauty of pulling Gulp at speed is that you can watch your electronics as you travel at 1.2 – 1.4 mph and pick the spots you want to go back on. If the walleyes are deep, negative, and belly to the bottom, then you do not have that option. Pulling Gulp is a great tool, but when those fish are not in the mood, then you are just dragging baits over the top of them and learning nothing. When these weather conditions happen, guides have to be ready to shift their mindset. To win last week, you had to scan with sonar, locate pods, check them for size, and hope that you could get them to bite. If any part of that equation did not work, you had to move on and move on quickly. Deadsticking live bait is a time suck. As a guide, if you are not watching the clock and actively calculating catch rates per hour and quality, then you will not win. It is so easy to miss a great bite by 5 ft. or 50 yds, but that is what happens when the weather goes nasty in July.
For the week, we caught and released 50 walleyes over 27 in., including 8 – 28s, and 2 – 29s. Volume was all over the place. We averaged 25 – 30 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day, but there were days, when I did not fill the front (23 fish) and there were days when everyone was half the back (40 fish). Well fed Lac Seul walleyes can become very difficult to get to bite. One of the techniques that we use for very tough bites is a drop shot with a size 2 or 4 octopus hook with a small minnow 18 – 24 in. off the bottom. It is no guides first choice for a presentation because you can’t cover water, but if you have to use it, it can save the day. I like the Gamakatsu drop shot hook and often I use a ¼ or 1/8 jig with a minnow on the bottom. Data is critical. Guides usually set themselves up with a light jig and then they keep track of how many fish they catch compared to how many fish their guests are catching with the drop shot rig. How many were on the top hook? How many on the bottom? We just want intel to improve our experiments for the day. Again, I try not to use my boats results to tell the story, but I had a daily guide sheet where my name was listed 3 times out of 35 fish and all but 5 were caught on the top hook. Fishing two minnows at once may sound over the top, but we want the results and, on that day, I needed it. The drop shot was a complete difference maker.
We did not have as many anglers chasing pike this week and the results were mixed. Based on the number of big pike that we caught fishing down deep fishing for walleyes, we know that the weather change affected the pike as well. For the week, we caught and released 10 over 37 in., including 1 – 38, 3 – 39s, 1 – 40, and 1 – 41. Spoons and in-line spinners were top producers and again, main lake weed edges were the key.
I have tried to personalize the fishing report more this year because it is not always about the fishing at SWWL. We lost our cook and a guide this week and those things, like life, happen. The result is that Missy, Rachel, Raelene, and the lodge staff stepped up to fill the loss and they did it so well that most of our guests did not even know. I guide and host many business owners that complain about the quality and commitment of their staff or about a generational change in work ethic. That may be true for their labor force, but I know that is not what we see here at the Wheel. Both Missy and I sincerely appreciate our staff members that have consistently pulled together and covered when times get tough. Our senior staff are the core of our program; from guides, to lodge, to guest services, they are the backbone of our operation. We hope you appreciate them as much as we do.