May 25, 2024

May 25th, 2024 by

Joe Carr 43

The first fishing report of the season usually revolves around some version of an extreme condition: last year it was a blazing hot start that led to a tough fire season, the year before was a 100 year flood, the years before that we were dealing with Covid, and the list goes on.

If there was such a thing as a normal spring and ice out in northwest Ontario, then this has been as close as it gets.  It was a mild winter and there was very little snow.  I was hoping for an early ice out, but April turned cool.  The ice went out on Lac Seul May 7.  The 30-year average is May 8.

After the ice went out, we had some nice days and we had some cold weather.  We had a few days of sunshine leading up to opener and the first groups had great fishing.  On Wednesday, we had a massive front move in.  We are talking about inches of rain, 50 mph winds, and it ended in snow flurries. The next few days were cold, cold.  I called Wednesday morning a blow out and no one fished.  We had a few bold anglers that went out for an hour or two in the afternoon, but they may have well stayed in.

And that is a normal May.  It is a gamble. One weather system can have an enormous effect on production.  If you take that 2.5 day weather event out of the equation, then we have had a great start to the season.  The Peter Martin group crushed it.  The middle of the week was tough.

We started the year with relatively low water conditions.  Some of the fishing forums have had exaggerated reports of how low the water is.  Lac Seul always begins the season low and builds up.  The change is usually 5 ft.  This year at ice out the lake was at 1164.62 ft. above sea level.  Full pool is 1171.  The average is 1165 at ice out.  I may have been concerned until it started raining.  My guess is that if the trend continues, then we will be close to normal levels by the time we get to June 1.

For the week, the numbers have been good but not off the charts.  We know the weather was the issue, but I was still surprised at how well we did despite the conditions.  For the week, we caught and released 24 walleyes over 27 in., including 4 – 28s.  Early in the week, we focused on the north shore spawning population.  By the end of the week, we were already catching the first wave of big walleyes migrating back towards the main lake basin.  Light jigs (1/8 oz.) and minnows were key.  We caught a few pitching shallow, but the majority of the big walleyes were caught in 8 – 14 ft. of water.  For those watching this forum for details – I have seen 60 degree water just once this year.  We are catching walleyes in water that ranges between 44 – 51 degrees.  I told you that this is a normal year, but that is not.

That surface water temperature issue is also the reason for the difference in big pike production from the first half of the week to the second half.  Before the front, the guides found big pike shallow in and around wind protected bays.  After the front, many of those bays saw water temps drop from 58 to 44.  And the big girls were gone.  For the week, we caught and released 26 pike over 37 in., including 1 – 40, 1 – 41, and 2 – 43s.  Big spoons were key in shallow water.  We caught a few incidentals walleye fishing, but most of the big ones were targeted.

We don’t chase them at ice out, but every year we see more and more big bass up shallow where we are hunting walleyes.  For the week we released 9 smallmouth over 19 in.

We know that there will likely be huge changes in the coming week.  You can’t trust the forecast, but the walleyes know that they want to move towards the Silver Water Wheel basin.  A cold front may slow them down, but they are still on the move.   And we will be ready.

September 16, 2023

September 17th, 2023 by

Jim Mizgalski 43.5

This week we had 56 guided days on the water, averaging 9 boats on the water per day.  Our guest’s focus was divided, about two thirds of the boats fished walleye and one third chased pike.  Walleye volume was good – the daily guide sheets averaged more than 28 walleyes over 18 inches per day.  For the top end, we boated 13 walleyes over 27 inches, with 4 over 28.

Fall fishing is always less predictable than summer, but there are some trends we anticipate.  This time of year, we’ve come to expect the walleye to push up into transition depths – 15 to 20 feet deep – as soon as water temps lower and the wind blows.  Well, water temps are down around 60 degrees and we’ve had plenty of good winds – so we keep checking for the push to shallow, but haven’t seen that change yet.  Almost all our volume came from summer structures again this week, both sand and rock, and most of our fish were caught from 30 feet deep or more.

I was happy that we were able to return to a gulp bite, it’s a fun way to catch walleye and it’s good to be able to change things up.  The heavy jigs and big plastics pulled at speed on deep sand produced some of our best volume days this week.  Even though most of our fish were caught deep, there were a fair number of medium to large walleye caught on pike lures in shallow water.  It’s an interesting trend and might be the first sign of walleye pushing shallower, but we haven’t been able capitalize on it yet…

Once again, this week pike fishing was a big part of the story.  Of the 58 guided days mentioned, 17 of them – so about a third – were focused primarily on pursuing big pike.  Those 17 guided days produced 16 Northerns over 37 inches, including 2 – 40’s, and a 43.5 incher.  Over the course of the week the guide staff shifted the focus of their pike efforts from big weed beds to rock points and back again a few times.  When the skies were cloudy any of our favorite rock structures that had some weeds remaining produced fish.  When the weather cleared the big pike were back to being caught on classic summer weed beds.  If you could visit enough of these structures a big pike could be found.  Spoons and blades remained the top producers, but we added more jakes and diving baits – getting deeper by the rock structures was often effective.

This week also turned into an unofficial “Friends and Family Week” here at Silver Water Wheel Lodge.  Two of our former guides – Kurt and Tyler – have come back to fish with us for a few days.  Also, this week three of our current staff members have friends and family members up to fish with them.  We are happy to have them here – I think it’s great for the guides to be able to show their family members all the work they put in and the fishing success it can lead to.  Speaking as a staff member, the chance to bring friends and family fishing is one of the best perks of working at SWWL – I bring my family out to fish as much as I can, and I look forward to sharing with them great fishing on Lac Suel each time.

 

September 9, 2023

September 10th, 2023 by

Fall arrived with a vengeance this week.  Last week I talked about fall starting – the changes in the weather and the changes in the fishing we’ve come to expect this time of year.  But this week was a reminder that real fall comes with the first true big front blowing through.  It hit us early mid-week, and we had the first days this year where it was windy enough on the water that some folks decided to take a couple hours or even the afternoon off.

Looking back on the week we almost need two separate reports.  The first two days of the week began as a regular fall week – we caught a good volume of fish, a couple of guide sheets “filled the back” – more than 60 walleyes over 18” for the day.  Most reports for those two days had walleye at mid depths, 20-30 feet, on regular summer spots.  Both live bait and plastic produced fish and some big ones – standard fall fishing.  Then the front arrived.

As the front blew through it was windy enough that all our boats avoided the main lake and just fished locally and sheltered.  When the lake calmed down and we headed back out to the main lake basins it seemed like a whole different fishery out there.  The fish had moved, reported volume dropped and big walleyes were hard to find.  Any fish we did find were deep and negative – almost every report had guides spending the whole day deeper than 30 feet, and finesse presentations were the norm.

Due to some last-minute cancellations, there were fewer boats than usual on the water. We averaged just six boats fishing each day for a total of 37 guided days this week.  Volume was down – and I’d love to blame it on having fewer boats on the water, but the truth is that during and after the big front the walleye bite was extra tough.  Our daily guide sheets averaged 24 walleyes over 18 inches per day, and the big fish numbers were down as well.  We boated just 9 walleyes over 27” this week, and none over 29.

Northern Pike were the best story for us this week.  As a group our guests devoted less time pike hunting than walleye fishing, less than 1/3 of our time overall.  But time spent pike fishing ended up being more productive – we caught and released more “photo fish” pike than walleye.  There were a total of 13 Northerns over 37 inches – including 3 – 39’s, a 40, a 41 incher, and one of our long-time guests Bob Hansen caught a massively heavy 43 incher.  Spoons and Blades in the remaining weed patches or on rock produced the most fish.  But during the front some experiments with deep running plastics and jigging spoons produced fish as well.

I always wish every weekly report could be nothing but great fishing, but there will always be some tougher days out there.  Despite the gloomy tone of this report, lots of good things still happened on Lac Seul this week.  A couple of our anglers caught their personal best fish, and some anglers caught two or three trophy pike in a day.  The weather has turned nice, the bite is already picking up, and guess what – we get to go fishing tomorrow!

September 2, 2023

September 2nd, 2023 by

Mike Mac 29.5

Mike Mac 29.5

It is the time of year here at Silver Water Wheel when our staff starts to depart.  Three guides have left already, and two more are done today.  We averaged 10 guides and boats on the water this week, about two thirds capacity and we will average about that for the rest of September.

A couple of the guys that usually depart stayed for an extra week this year and they noticed something that was new to them – but it’s a change we’ve come to expect this time of year.  Nights were cool, even on the hot days.  The weather was more changeable, each day often had sun and rain, wind and calm. Lake surface temps began dropping.  But the key part for guides is the change in the behavior of the fish at this time of year.  Walleye will be found in a wider range of depths, answer to a wider range of presentations, and most importantly be a lot less “pattern-able”.  Welcome to fall fishing on Lac Seul!

I was talking about the week with some of the guides in preparation for writing this report and thinking their comments over to try to find the common trend.  But after a while it became clear, the take-away for the week was: there was no take-away.  As a guide crew we did not come up with a consensus for the best method to catch fish this week.  The guys had a lot of different answers for the best way to target walleye, and there were lots of varying results.   What worked one day or one spot did not work on the next.

There was one constant in all the reports – marking many fish on our electronics.  Many spots we would see lots of fish, but building a pattern was tougher than usual.  A structure might produce 20 or even 60 fish on the guide sheet, but the next three similar structures had just a handful or none.  Usually when we see fish on our graphs in those numbers we can generate good production, but this week it was common to see those fish and not be able to convert them into numbers on the sheet.  The guide crew ended up about evenly split on their preferred strategy to counter this: either keep moving until you found an active bite, or experiment with many different presentations on known spots or marked fish until you identified the one method the fish would answer to.

For the week we caught and released 20 Walleye over 27 inches, including 2 of the heaviest 29 inchers I’ve seen in a long time.  And another giant – a 32 inch walleye!  Caught by Lenny Marks.  A handful of our big walleye were caught moving fast with gulp.  More were caught on live bait, but the presentations they answered to varied more than usual and we were left without a clear pattern.  More than half the biggest fish were found down deep, but on the other hand the 32 incher was caught in less than 17 feet of water.

Piking this week – once again there were not many hours spent.  We boated 8 over 37 inches, including 2 -40’s and a 42-inch fish.  The main lake weed beds began thinning out last week and progressed quickly this week.  Some of the big pike were caught in fall locations, but there were also still good fish on the remaining main lake summer weeds.  Our guides moved back and forth between summer and fall stuff in their search for big pike.  Spoons and blades were still our best producers, not much on deep running baits yet… but that is coming soon.

August 26, 2023

August 26th, 2023 by

Tom Thomas 32

The end of my season always sneaks up and surprises me.  After I write this report, I am packing my gear to get ready for my annual Musky adventure with long time friend and former guide, Cory McKiel.  We have 3 days booked at the other end of Lac Seul and when I get back on Tuesday, I pack up to head home for another Fall deer guiding season.  I said it in an earlier post, time flies.

The information for the fishing report is second hand this week.  I spent most of my time  bear baiting and preparing for our first bear hunter to arrive on Tuesday.

It was an odd week. Overall, walleye fishing was a bit of a challenge.  Little fish were everywhere, finding slot fish happened in streaks, there were the usual number of bigger walleyes, but if you caught a big one this week, it was Huge.  For the week, we caught and released 25 walleyes over 27 in., including 3 – 28s, 4 – 30s, and an absolute monster 32.

Last week was exceptionally windy.  Most of this week was unbelievably flat, until Fall arrived today. Especially on days with light to no wind, it was a vertical light jig and minnow bite.  There were a few days where the walleyes responded well to Gulp pulled at speed, but not as many as last week.  There was a definite shift to deeper water for bigger walleyes this week.  Most were caught in 30 – 35 ft.  At the same time, you had to spot check shallower as many were also caught in 20 – 30, including the 32.

Volume was all over the board.  There were days when everyone had 40 or more on their sheet and there were days when only half the crew got onto the back (23 walleyes over 18 in.)  The seasons are changing and when the fish are on the move, it can be a challenge to catch them consistently.

We did not spend much time pike fishing, but those that did had good results.  For the week, we caught and released 8 over 37 in., including 2 – 38s, 1 – 39, 1 – 40, and 1 -41.  Spoons, spoons, and more spoons.  There are a few weed beds that are starting to die off and the surface temps have dropped into the upper 60s.  We don’t quite have the formula for a full-on Fall, big Pike bite yet, but it is getting closer.

We get to know so many people in this business.  One of my longest running guests and his friends and family were in camp this week.  I can still remember the spot on Lake St. Joe where I guided Tom Thomas to a 28 in. walleye back in 1991…. or maybe it was 92.  Tom was fishing with Brett on Thursday and they hit the right spot at the right time. They caught several big walleyes including the biggest walleye that Brett has ever put in the boat.  Tom’s big one was a huge 32 in. fish that will go down as one of the biggest walleyes that we have ever caught at the Wheel.  Our lodge record is 32.5 held by my Mom from back in 1999, but with more and more 30s, I don’t know how much longer that record will hold.

As a guide, an angler, and a hunter, I am always in search of outliers.  I want to know those areas that consistently produce big whitetail bucks, or big bass, or big walleyes, or big crappies, or big pike.  For anglers like me, this fishing report is not a great one for numbers or consistency, but it does make a point.  We caught and released 5 walleyes over 30 in. on what would be considered a less than average production week.  Lac Seul is an outlier.

Combine that status with an excellent guide staff and it is easy to understand why most of our guests return year after year and why it is so difficult to get a spot.

It has been a great year at the Wheel.  I will hand the reigns over to Brett and Missy tomorrow and I am already looking forward to the 2024 season.

As I look back on the 2023 season, I credit a successful summer to a great staff.  Everyone still at the lodge did well, but the senior staff were the key; Raelene, Rachel, Brett, Brandon, and Orrin are the bedrock of our program.  I hope to keep them with us long into our future.

As I close out this report, I would like to thank all of our guests who have supported us and returned again and again over the years.  We plan to continue to improve our program and hope that you also want to come back for years to come.

MW – out

August 19, 2023

August 19th, 2023 by

Bob Klinger 30

We had our first hints of the coming Fall this week.  We had some September style weather and there are a few trees near the shoreline that are starting to show some yellow leaves.

There was a midweek cold front that sent some walleyes back into retro – Fall locations and we ended the week with 3 straight days of sustained 30 mph winds with some gusts that were even stronger.  The weather was a bit of a challenge, but the fishing results were good.

Most of the walleyes caught this week were in 20 – 30 ft. of water.  There were a few outliers, but that was the baseline that most guides began the day with.  The exception was the rainy, heavy northwest wind cold front day.  One of the patterns that we have seen over time is that type of weather, especially in Fall, can send walleyes back into some of the shallower basins that we normally associate with Spring fishing.  They are not going back into the 6 – 10 ft., but they do set up on the edge of the deeper water in those basins.  There were several 26 – 28 in. walleyes caught in 18 – 28 ft. in those regions that we generally consider springtime zones.  As fast as that bite happened, it shut down just as quickly when the weather changed.

As usual, it was big Gulp at speed with big jigs or lighter jigs fished vertical with minnows.  The answer was different every day and often different between regions.  If you weren’t trying both, multiple times a day, then you were not going to consistently chalk up a win.  Almost everyone is on ¾ oz jigs with big Gulp now when they are covering water with speed.  The crew is fishing ¼s with minnows most of the time and reluctantly going to drop shots if the walleyes are being super stubborn.  Main lake sand and rock were both productive this week.

Volume was really good this week with guide sheets averaging 40 or more walleyes over 18 in. per day.  For the week, we caught and released 35 walleyes over 27 in., including 6 – 28s, 3 – 29s, and 1 – 30.

We did have several groups this week that spent serious time casting for pike and their results were also good.  For the week, we caught and released 11 over 37 in., including 5 – 38s, 1 – 40, 1 – 41, and 1 – 43.  Our guests chose to throw a lot of different presentations this week, including, bulldogs, medusas, and big cranks.  They even convinced their guides to try a trolling run or two.  At the end of the day, casting spoons and blades at main lake weed beds or basin rock structure still turned the biggest pike.  As a guide crew, we try to be open to new ideas and presentations, but it is hard to not push what we know works.  This week, tried and true caught the win.

I made a decision early this year to personalize the fishing report.  For those of you that have never been to the Wheel, we know that we are a source of intel for your fishing trip somewhere else and we hope you appreciate it.  For those of you that are in the club, we welcome you back.

The Take Away:  My last guiding day is tomorrow.  We talked about turning the page last week and we did.  This is another one.  When you go 100 mph all year long, it is very difficult to come to a grinding halt.

But as I do, my guys (and Hayley) come up to my room to say goodbye.

I don’t like it.

I know that I am probably not going to have Gouws, Jason, or Hayley back up to the lodge next year.  I get it.  We wish nothing but the best for them and they are always welcome back.  But I understand.

Jason and Gouws were part of the core of our senior guide staff for the 2023 season.  I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the contribution they have made to our program over the years.  They are great people and excellent guides. They will be missed by their guests, me, Missy, and the crew.

August 12, 2023

August 12th, 2023 by

It has been a long stretch of warm, dry weather through the end of July and the beginning of August on Lac Seul.  We turned the page this week.  We started sunny and nice, had some unsettled stormy weather midweek, and finished with a full-on dawn to dusk, cool soaker.   Looking back on the summer, this was the first all day rain event we have seen since May and the forecast is for continued cooler and wet weather.

For a change, the weather did not have an immediate impact on the walleyes.  We continue to consistently see key depths ranging from 18 – 25 ft.  There are always some outliers, but I will tell you that 75% of the walleyes this past week were caught in that depth range.  Same as always, sometimes they responded well to big jigs and Gulp pulled at speed and others they preferred vertical presentations with lighter jigs and live bait.  This week the split was 50/50.

It was also a 50/50 split between main lake basin sand and rock structure that held walleyes this week.  We did catch most of the big ones from the deeper side of known Grade A summer big fish spots.  For the week, we caught and released 31 walleyes over 27 in., including 5 – 28s, and 1 – 29.  Overall volume was strong.  One of the consistent comments from round table meetings, was “heavy sorting.”  Guide sheets averaged 35 walleyes over 18 in. per day, but often we were catching 2 – 4 eaters for every sheeter.  The smaller walleyes have definitely made their way out to the main lake basin as well.

There was less time spent chasing pike last week, but it was also a much tougher bite.  I heard a couple of reports of good volume of smaller to medium size pike for guides casting main lake weedbeds, but the number of big fish was down.

For the week, we caught and released 4 over 37 in., including 1 – 40 and 1 – 43.5.  For those of you paying attention at home, second-year guide Justin McLean caught both of the big ones.  He has been working hard at expanding his range for both known and new spots and his hard work has paid off.

It is so hard to beat Blades and spoons for big pike in summer on Lac Seul that I almost forget to mention it.  At round table, we pay attention when someone catches a big pike on something different.  Even though we experiment, it does not happen often.

The Take Away:

I guided this week, but I also sent my family home, met with our contractor for our fall project, picked up a new staff member in Kenora, my folks arrived, and I spent a great deal of time with my second-year guides – Tyler, Curtis, Brody, Justin, and Carson.

Missy and I appreciate all the hard work from our incredible staff, but as second year guides these five have exceeded our expectations.  They have crushed it this year.

I told them that the “page has turned” and because of how well they have done, we expect more.  I asked them to take on the responsibility of teaching and training the next crew to become as good as they are. That may not be fair, but that is the formula that has resulted in a consistent string of rock star SWWL guides and I am confident that they will help me make that happen again.

August 5, 2023

August 5th, 2023 by

Kyler Kinn 44.5

After last week’s roller coaster ride, we started down the road to more typical fishing patterns this past week.  The walleyes were a bit more predictable and even though they did not completely move back into deep water, they were moving in that direction.  Until today, when they went right back shallow again.

This was also the first week of the year that I have had significant partial cancellations and absolute last-minute cancellations.  It was also the first day in months that the full guide staff had dinner in the dining room.  There were only 7 guided boats on the water today.  I am not complaining, I am just stating the facts of the week.  And yes, it is a frustrating when we manage a huge waiting list of groups hoping to fish with us and then the cancellations are so late that we can’t fill the spots.  A lodge owner’s motto, “it is what it is.”  At the same time, it is difficult for me to reconcile the issue of repeat groups treating their bookings casually when I have so many groups on the waiting list that really want to come up.

Rock and sand spots adjacent to the main lake basin both produced walleyes this week.  The majority of the fish were caught between 18 and 25 ft.  There were a few exceptions, but that was a fairly consistent starting zone for most of the week.  Production was fairly evenly split between moving fast with Gulp and vertically fishing live bait and small jigs (1/8 – ¼ oz.) over arcs.  The guide crew has been using heavier jigs when fishing plastics lately.  The ½ to ¾ oz. jigs give you the option to move faster over water when you are not marking fish.  Sonar coverage improves when we fish deeper than 18ft., but even then, we caught a surprising number of fish in areas where we weren’t really marking much.  It is a hard thing to accept, but even the state-of-the-art sonar does not show you walleyes that are belly to the bottom in 25 ft.  I still believe that there are 2 – 10 walleyes down there for every fish I mark.

For the week, we caught and released 21 walleyes over 27 in. including 7 – 28s, and 1 – 30.  Volume improved with daily guide sheets averaging 35 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day.

When the walleyes are not cooperating, the guides often shift gears to pike.  Several groups had good results, but this bite was also a bit slower.  For the week we caught and released 14 over 37 in., including 1 – 39, 2 – 40s, and one monster.  Kyler Kinn caught and released a world class 44.5 in pike.   This fish was a giant.

Spoons and in-line spinners fished around main lake weeds were key to success for both volume and size on pike.

It is hard to believe how fast the summer goes.  This week begins our transition into Sept.  We have new lodge staff hired and, on their way, up to replace our students returning to school.  Missy is getting packed up to head back to Iowa at the end of the week with Blake.  She will be helping Brooke get ready to begin her freshman year at the University of Iowa.  After Brooke is settled in, Missy plans to return to the lodge for the remainder of the season.  Time flies.

July 29, 2023

July 29th, 2023 by

Orrin Digby 31.5

Most weeks the walleye moves are gradual or if they are sudden, then there is an obvious major weather change that can be directly identified as the cause.  This week was the biggest blind side of the year!

Even with the advantage of hindsight, it is still, just about impossible for us to identify any weather change that could have caused such a complete and total shift in walleye location.  They flat out left the deep water.  I am not talking about a slower bite or catching fewer fish on deep water sand or rock.  I mean they left.  Gone!

We have played this game a long time and part of our guide training curriculum is to watch for the environmental cues that predict when the walleyes move to shallow water in the summer.  Usually, after three or more consecutive days of blazing hot sunshine with no wind, we expect the smaller to medium sized walleyes to leave the deep breaks of the main lake and head shallow.  Normally, this is the beginning of a weed bite.  We teach that we expect to see a separation in the walleye populations.  The really big walleyes stay deep and the smaller to mid-sized fish move shallower.  We do hit them on shallow main lake rock, but the big volume shallow water bites are usually focused on the deep side of the weeds.  Historically, during prolonged sunny hot spells that extend into 5 or more days, the big ones can move shallow as well.

That is not what happened this week.  All of the walleyes got the memo.  We did not!

Complicating our guiding puzzle, the walleyes that did move shallow did not move shallow into the usual “summer weed bite weed beds.”  Only about 10% of the main lake cabbage weed edges were holding walleyes.  The ones that did were loaded.  The rest were empty or had a few micros.

Personally, this was my most difficult guiding week of the year.  Even though I was armed with the knowledge of how we have solved these puzzles in the past, there were several days that I flat out failed.  Fortunately, I am surrounded by a bunch of clever guides that hate to lose as much as I do and eventually, we came up with a solution.

Last week the answer was scan, screen, and dead stick light jigs down deep on main lake rock or sand.  This week, the answer was move as fast as you can with jigs and Gulp of varying sizes to identify areas holding active walleyes.  Find enough active spots, and sort long enough, and you found big walleyes as well.  More than 90% of our walleyes this week were caught between 8 – 15 ft. of water.   Guides that know our history and were hunting big fish, ignored initial reports and stuck to deep water.  This week, we caught most of our 27s and 28s in less than 12 ft.

The stats took a hit this week.  We caught and released 37 walleyes over 27 in., including 3 – 28s and 1 – 31.  Volume is hard to talk about.  Guide sheets were up and down, but we averaged less than 30 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day.

Several guide boats convinced their guests to shift gears to chase pike and their results were good.  For the few boats casting, we caught and released 13 pike over 37 in., including 4 – 38s, 2 – 39s, 2 – 40s, and 1 – 41.  The Williams Whitefish was hard to beat and was the number one producer this week.

The Take away:  There was some debate amongst the guide staff about whether we should showcase a guide with the front-page fish photo.  I vetoed the argument.  Many of our guide training teaching points are focused on the principle – “That it is not about the guide…. – it is about the guest.”  And that remains true, but I don’t care who catches a world class walleye.  That photo is front and center.  If you have read this far into my fishing report, then I am guessing that you are just like me, and you don’t come to Canada expecting to catch a 30 in. walleye.  We both just want to fish where they live.

On this challenging week, one of my core senior guides caught the fish of a lifetime and I want everyone to celebrate it!  Orrin Digby – 31.5 Walleye ….. and she is still out there!

 

 

 

July 22, 2023

July 22nd, 2023 by

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.