Historically, the week of the fourth of July has been one of less demand than the rest of the summer. The cabins were all still occupied, but we had a few more guides with some time off and some of our regular unguided groups staying with us this week. We were still on the water, but we were not out in force.
It was very much a carbon copy of the previous weeks for weather and fishing results. The weather changed dramatically every day and the fish continued to be scattered and tough to pattern.
As a change of pace, I am going to tell you what happened in my guide boat today to give you a snapshot of what it is like on Lac Seul right now. The control of the experiment is that I was guiding guys that I have fished with for 15 – 25 years. I know that they like big fish. Earlier in the week we had 1 slow “scouting” day, we had 1 good pike day with 3 over 37, and we had one good walleye day with 10 over 25 in., and on day last, their only request was to hunt big fish.
We started the day pulling big plastic with jigs on a main lake sunken island and quickly caught a 25 in. walleye suspended 5 ft. off the bottom in 20 ft. And then nothing. We marked a few fish on that pass. Switched our gear and worked ¼ oz. jigs over a few arcs in 18 – 20 ft. We caught some eaters and a few slots, but it was slow. The guys mentioned piking, but we decided that we should fill out our lunch fish before we started. We moved to another area to fish in 10 – 12 ft. in front of the weeds looking for “eaters” with jigs and live bait with some speed. We caught a 24 in. walleye and then nothing. We left there to go to a pike spot that we had fished the previous day. It was not a known walleye spot, but with a SE wind blowing into a weed bed, I had marked some big arcs the day before and thought it was worth a try. We instantly caught all of our eaters and put some fish on the sheet. Time to go piking. At the first “pike spot,” the first fish in the boat was a 21 in. walleye that hit a spinner bait near the surface in 4 ft. of water. The morning pike spots were OK for action but we never even saw a medium sized fish until after 11. In the afternoon, we focused on Grade A pike spots and fished them as fast as we could. Some were main lake weeds, but others were “retro” back water weed spots and both produced. At the end of the day, the guys finished with lots of pike action, a dozen medium sized pike, and top end of 37.5, 39, 39, and 40 inch pike. It was a smashing pike day for our boat and at the same time the walleye results were a mess. We didn’t spend any more time fishing for them, but we still caught another 24.5 in. walleye out of the middle of the weeds in the afternoon on a 6.5 in. spoon.
That same type of search, test, experiment, and adapt approach happened in every guide boat every day this past week with varying degrees of success. Once again, the weather made it hard. It was warm, then flat, then a front, then windy, then rain, then cool, then repeat. The fish were never in the same place from one day to the next.
Walleye volume suffered this week with fewer boats on the water, but mainly because of the conditions described above. Guide sheets averaged 30 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day. For the week, we caught and released 40 over 27 in., including 9 – 28s, 7 – 29s, and 1 – 30. As I write this, I am thinking that those are good results, but I was here and I know the level of creativity it took to catch them. To not call this a tough week on Lac Seul would be untruthful.
There were just a few guide boats pike fishing this week and their results were good. Main lake weeds and even some transition or “retro” weed areas held numbers and some big pike. For the week we caught and released 12 over 37, including 3 – 39s, 2 – 40s, and 1 – 41. Big spoons were number one, but the weeds are topping out and spinnerbaits and top water were just a bit more effective in the heavy weed beds.
The big surprise for me this week was the bass. We only had one or two days of guests that targeted them for a very short amount of time, but they were on. In hindsight, it is likely that the peak for some of our best areas happened a week after we were targeting them heavily. With just 2 guide sheets targeting bass for 1 day each, we had 8 – 19s, and 1 – 20 for the week, all on top water.
It was another roller coaster of a week on the south shore of Lac Seul. I know you have heard this story before, but the weather truly was all over the place. We had a morning low of 45 degrees F. We had a daily high of 86. We had high winds. We had flat calm. We had inches of rain and Thunderstorms. We had 3 wind shifts in one day that ended flat calm. And I could go on.
It wasn’t just the weather that was all over the place, the walleyes were too. We caught walleyes in the weeds including fish up to 29 in. And then they left. We caught walleyes down deep at the base of the drops on summer sand. And then they left. We caught walleyes on shallow windblown rock. And then they moved. We caught walleyes on big plastic at speed in 10 ft., 20 ft., and 30 ft. And then they didn’t bite anymore. We caught walleyes pitching shallow. And then, you guessed it… Not only was the bite inconsistent, but you were almost better off fishing the extremes to come up with a temporary pattern. We never caught fish at the same place on consecutive days. They ALWAYS moved on.
It was a challenging week to guide, but the results were still pretty good. Walleye volume averaged 30 fish over 18 in. per boat per day. For the week, we caught and released 41 over 27, including 14 – 28s, and 2 – 29s. About 5% of these were caught on Gulp, but the vast majority were caught on jigs with minnows. The trick was to figure out where to fish them and how fast to move.
There were a few boats that targeted big pike this week. Despite the weather, the results were good. All of the big fish targeted were in the weeds and most were caught on spoons. For the week we caught and released 10 over 37 in., including 4 – 38s, and 3 – 40s.
The bass bite is definitely winding down. The mayflies are hatching in different areas and this seems to be one of the annual events that marks the beginning of the end of the Bass season. I think we can still catch a few more, but it won’t be a bite to spend your afternoon on. For the week we had 10 Bass over 19 in.
All of the guides struggled at times this week. But at the same time, there was at least 1 or 2 reports at each nightly guide round table meeting that were exceptionally clever, creative, or productive outside of the box. As a crew, we don’t get better when the bite is easy. But we improve exponentially when the bite is difficult and we share and build on our solutions.
Discovery channel has “shark week” and Silver Water Wheel has “bass week,” and it just happened. We have had top bass weeks with stronger volume, but this week was about as good as it gets for top end size. We caught and released 71 smallmouth bass over 19 in., including 7 – 20s.
The series of heavy cold fronts that so affected the walleye bite earlier in the year also had an effect on the bass. There were days when the strike window was 5 ft. and fish would chase baits down and the very next day after a big cold blow, the window was down to 5 in. and it was then time to go chase walleyes or pike. There were a few trends that worked for us; dirty water was good ground for bright spinnerbaits, flat calm water with heat and sun was the recipe for good topwater action, and when you were searching or fish were scattered, shallow diving cranks and suspending jerkbaits were a good solution. If you weren’t changing baits and doing different experiments every hour, then you were not winning. With lower water levels, we had to fight through more weed growth. Tubes and plastics worked on occasion, but there were many areas where they just didn’t produce.
Despite the heavy pressure on bass, it was still a very good walleye week. The same disclaimer applies. When it was on, it was great. After the front, when it went flat calm in the afternoon, it was slow. For the week, we caught and released 53 walleyes over 27 in., including 12 – 28s, and 5 – 29s. Production was evenly split between main lake deep water spots and spring transition areas in the shallows. The sun and heat towards the end of the week pushed a few more into the shallower water weeds, but it wasn’t a mass migration. Some big fish were still caught out deep in 20 – 30ft and some were caught in 8 – 10 ft.. You had to try it all to come up with a pattern each day. There was no pattern for the week.
With water levels 1.3 ft. lower than normal, the cabbage weed beds have peaked earlier than usual this year. When they hit the surface, the pike bite is usually on. We just didn’t have that many guys chasing them this week. Results were pretty good for those that did with 6 over 37 in., including 1 – 40, 1 – 41, 1, – 42, and 1 – 45. Weeds were the key. Baits that got through without getting hung up were the ticket; spoons, spinnerbaits, and occasionally jerk baits.
The patterns change quickly this time of year and the fish can move with surprising speed. Last week’s report talked about bass fishing picking up and this week’s report feels like it is winding down. Next week will be the first week of July. Will the walleyes have moved deep onto summer locations? Or will they trend shallow towards the weeds? Maybe they will move “backwards into retro transition zones.” Only time will tell and that is why the “formula” is the key to our consistent guiding success.
The last few reports have referenced some version of a blender. This week, we are finally settling in to some more normal patterns and production and it was a good week, but we haven’t had a “rager” walleye bite yet.
As a group the guides are still working through their day by spot checking dramatically different areas. The deep water bite was never fast, but did continue to produce some big walleyes. The difference at the end of this week is that we saw the first stages of the shallow water weed bite begin and it included some really big fish as well. I think the best way to describe the difference between this year and last year, is that in 2015, when it was “on,” almost all the guides would be in 2 or 3 areas and they could stay in one spot for the entire day. This week’s stats totals were not quite as good for numbers, but the top end was solid. The difference is that this week, the guides would have 5 – 10 different locations on their sheets where they caught a few good fish. The key is making good decisions based on catch rates.
Walleye volume went up this week as some groups of fish moved more shallow. Guide sheets averaged 35 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day. For the week, we caught and released 67 walleyes over 27 in., including 10 – 28s, 4 – 29s, and 1 – 30.
There were a few times and places where Gulp and speed produced, but it was largely a live bait bite. Jigs ¼ and 1/8 oz with minnows were top producers. There still was no predominant depth, but this week we caught just as many 27+ in. fish in 8 – 12 ft. as we did in 14 – 30 ft. If the weather is warm and stable, that trend will continue into shallower water.
The water is still about 1 foot lower than normal this year. That difference means that some of the main lake cabbage weeds are a bit closer to the surface than normal. The result is that the pike have set up shop much more quickly than in previous years. There were still a few random big fish caught in the back water skinny, but most of the Bigs were caught from transition spots with newly emergent cabbage. For the week we caught and released 12 over 37, including 2 – 40s, 1 – 41, and 1 – 44. Spoons and big plugs were top producers.
The bass fishing is just starting to pick up speed. At the end of the week, guides were adding 10 – 30 bass over 15 in. to their stats sheets. It definitely was not the peak, but it was fun. For the week we logged 19 bass over 19 in., including 2 – 20s. Best presentations were totally dependent on conditions. Flat calm, sunny days were good for top water. Dirty water, windy bays were good for ¼ oz. white spinnerbaits. Areas with low concentrations lent themselves to covering water with super shallow diving cranks and rattle traps. Even though I know not to make predictions, next week should be good for bass (unless there is some crazy weather.)
The first report of the year talked about the blender, the second report of the year talked about the “puree,” and in hindsight I should have come up with another mixer speed in the middle and saved “puree” for this week. Three massive cold fronts in three consecutive weeks sent the fish to the four corners of our world. It was a shock to wake up to 39 degrees F for more than one morning in a row. Even more of a shock was to find how scattered the walleyes were after the front.
I brag about my guide staff to a fault and this week they more than earned their praise. The guides found walleyes literally everywhere. They used our formula for searching and experimenting to figure out which groups of fish would respond to speed changes and depth changes to find the best catch rate for that day’s conditions. It wasn’t easy. And it wasn’t easy to keep track of during round table, but I will give you just an idea of some of the extremes.
Ryan – found multiple big walleyes in 30 ft. of water on main lake summer structure but had to slow down with 1/8 th oz. jigs and dead stick to catch them.
Ryan – (the next day) found walleyes way back in 2 ft. of water on the edge of a creek channel in a stump filled bay. Caught them by pitching light jigs and plastics up into shallow water.
Trent – put 30 fish on the sheet in one afternoon dragging jigs and minnows on a secondary ledge in 20 ft. of water next to a normal transition spot.
J.R. – pulled ¼ oz jigs and Gulp at speed in 10 ft. of water for an active bite in what would have been considered a normal spring spot.
J.R. – (the next day) marked fish on his graph suspended 4 ft. off the bottom in 20 ft. and had to dead stick 1/8ths to get them to bite. Every fish was over 22 in. with a 4, 5, and 2 – 6s.
I could go on, but you get the point. What I didn’t mention was the 150 experiments that didn’t work. My take away for this week is that, if presented with these conditions 15 years ago, my crew would have had a tough time. Years of accumulated shared information and experienced guides who trust the program are the only reason that we had good results this week. And to be honest, it was fun to shock some groups. “I never imagined that we would catch this many big walleyes out of 25 ft. in the first week of June!”
Volume averaged 30 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per guided day. For the week, we caught and released 43 walleyes over 27 in., including 7- 28s, and 3 – 29s. There was no average depth or consistent presentation.
Surprisingly, the big pike action improved at the end of the week even though there was just a little bit of sunshine and surface temp increase. Many big pike moved back into the shallow water bays. The “retro” bite was not uniform across the lake and only worked in a few specific areas. For the week, we had 21 over 37 in., including 4 – 39s, 2 – 40s, 2 – 41s, and 1 – 42. Spoons were most productive.
Bass fishing just started to pick up at the very end of the week, but it is not even close to being on. There was only one 19 caught for the entire week.
I learned long ago not to make predictions about the next week and write them into a fishing report. Historically I was wrong ½ the time, but that is why I love being part of this guide crew. Even if I don’t figure it out, someone else will and we will all have a better chance to win the next day.
The good news is that the fire ban is off.
The reason that the fire ban is off is because we had prolonged periods of cold rain that fell in inches. There were a few breaks, but the overall weather pattern was extremely unsettled, cold, and wet. It is fair to say that we already began the week with a “blender” effect on the walleye location. This week we hit “puree.”
Yesterday, my guests caught walleyes from traditional spring locations in 4-8 ft., then we caught walleyes from main lake transition spots in 8 – 15ft., and then we caught a dozen from 20 – 25 ft. on main lake sand structure. The walleyes are literally everywhere. The trick is to correctly decide how much time and effort to apply to each group with the given weather conditions.
Even with the challenging weather, it was still a good week of walleye fishing in the southern basins of Lac Seul. There were some slow times, but average volume was good with guide sheets averaging 30 – 35 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day. For the week, we caught and released 45 walleyes over 27 in., including 7 – 28s, and 4 – 29s.
There were a few random walleyes caught on plastics, but lighter jigs (1/8 oz.) and live minnows were clearly the top combination.
The weather was a challenge for walleye anglers, but it was a disaster for those anglers that really wanted to cast for pike. Almost all of the bigger pike were incidental catch while walleye fishing. Transition for pike is unpredictable, but with the “blender” effect, we caught pike on jigs as deep as 25 ft. There was one monster 43 in. pike caught and released this week.
The bass bite has also been delayed this week and won’t even begin to improve until conditions stabilize and the sun shines. There were only 2 incidental 19 in. bass caught this week.
Official ice out for the central basin of Lac Seul was May 5, but we have been at the lodge since April 12. It was a
challenging spring, but we finished the new Bonfire Bay Cabin, installed a new 50 Kw John Deere power plant in a new diesel shed. We built and finished a new pump house for distribution of water and power. And we did many more things that you don’t care about, but they make it easier for us to do a better job of taking care of our guests.
Fishing season officially began on May 21 and we have been full since. May 5 was another “normal” ice out, but we had two weather extremes since then. We started the season dry and hot which led to a fire ban that is still currently in effect. We also had a massive cold front the weekend of the 14th that scattered fish all across the lake.
This is the second year in a row that the pike spawn has been interrupted by a huge cold front. It feels like most spawned before opener and the rest finished quickly after. The pike are in full transition now and have become less predictable than normal. It was still a good pike opener with 18 over 37 in., including 2 – 40s, 1 – 41, and 1 – 42. During preseason guide training the crew caught 9 between 40 and 42, so it could have been better timing.
The extreme weather also affected walleye patterns and locations. Many main lake areas have had surface temps above 60 and are already holding some walleyes. At the same time, we are also catching walleyes on spoons way back in 1 – 2 ft. of slop water while we are fishing for pike. And The first wave of big ones have already moved in to our local springtime locations.
We are fishing all of them.
Volume is always a little lower than average for walleyes during opener, partly because of the amount of time spent pike fishing. The guide sheets averaged between 25 – 30 walleyes over 18 in. per day. For the week, we caught and released 43 walleyes over 27 including 13 – 28s, and 2 – 29s. Most were caught with light jigs and minnows in 2 – 12 ft. of water.
The warmer water resulted in a few more bonus bass catches while pike and walleye fishing. There were a few scattered big ones in the mix with reports of 5 – 19s and 2 – 20s. It will still be awhile before we really begin to target them.
As usual, the lake levels talked about on some of the fishing forums are exaggerated. The median lake level for Lac Seul this time of year is 1166.4 ft. and today it is 1165.78. It is a little low for this time of year, but in no way does it affect how and where we fish.
I say it every year, but it is still amazing how quickly the seasons progress and how quickly the fish move.
Our story this week was trophy pike hunting. Most days we had only a few boats on the water, adding up to just 31 guided days for the week. The majority of those 31 guided days were spent in pursuit of big pike.
I remember mentioning last week that we were looking forward to this week’s forecast for good pike fishing weather. Unfortunately, we never did get the cool, sunny days that we consider ideal for big pike this time of year. Quick weather changes and strong winds from all directions this week meant those dying off weed beds that are our mainstay for producing giants in the fall uprooted quickly. The weeds disappeared in a rush, leaving no time for the northerns to concentrate in those shrinking weed patches. With our primary patterns and locations not producing like we hoped our guides had to invest more fishing time in searches and experiments this week. Some days the experiments produced better results than others, but we did find a couple of answers. One option was to stay in motion, jumping from weed patch to weed patch and then another, and another, and another patch. Moving quickly through the spots that showed nothing and putting in casting time on the patches where we saw fish or caught mediums to find the one that held a good fish that day. A second option was to focus on rock structures. We often find big pike on rock points leading into shallow water bays in the fall, and if we could identify locations holding pike that day we were able to collect some good sized fish. Overall, for the week we caught and released 14 northern over 37 inches including three over 41.
While most of our guests chose to chase big pike we still had a few boats dedicated to walleye fishing this week. With only a boat or two’s information to rely on when building a pattern each day, our guides found their best success sticking with the trends from last week, targeting rock structures for big walleye and checking shallow water as well as the deep stuff. This week we counted just 31 guided days and caught and released 14 walleyes over 27 inches including one 29.
My takeaway: This week was a good reminder for me of the dangers of making predictions here on Lac Suel!
It felt like summer here on Lac Seul at the beginning of the week and fall by the end. We started the week with warm and sunny days, but we saw less and less sun and temperatures steadily dropped as the week went on. As the weather changed over the course of the week, the guide staff’s focus and choice of tactics changed with it.
The walleye kept with the trend they were following last week and stuck to the rock structures through most of this week. Sand continued to produce good numbers of fish up to the 21 inch range but the guide staff dedicated their time to rock when searching for the big ones. As our guests and guides shifted their focus toward northern fishing in the second half of the week, a lot less time was spent searching out the next move of the walleyes. But one trend our boats that were fishing walleye identified toward the end of the week produced good sized walleyes in shallower water as the weather cooled off. A good number of our big fish this week came from just 12-18 feet of water. For the week we had 41 guided days on the water and caught and released 21 walleye over 27 inches including four fish over 28 inches.
This week saw many of our guests really begin to focus on big pike. Through the week the weather cooled off and lake surface temps dropped. Add a little cool sunshine, and the guides here start looking for the big pike to show up. In the second half of the week a lot of boats chose to devote at least half their time to casting, and some of our boats spent their entire day searching for big northern. The number of spots reliably producing big pike went from just a couple to half a dozen over the course of two days of cool sunshine. We’re looking forward to a good weather forecast for pike fishing next week, and it feels like we’re still just getting started with trophy northern this fall. For the week we caught and released 12 northerns over 37 inches including three over 41 inches, almost all of them in the last few days.
A guide’s takeaway: All year long, when the weather changes on Lac Seul smart guides change their approach with it. The fall brings bigger weather changes and smart guides win by checking for big changes from the fish too.
The week’s weather was steady, hot and sunny with southerly winds, and the walleye were steady as well. As often happens this time of year there were strong numbers of fish to be found in lots of places and sorting out the locations that held the best chance of big fish was the challenge of the week for our guides.
As a group the guides found that through the week fish of size trended to rock structure. There were lots of fish on the summer sand breaks but catching 22-27+” walleye there took quite a bit of sorting through smaller fish, and some days you could easily use up too much fishing time on a sand break before getting to enough of the right size fish. As the week progressed our guides shifted their focus to rock structures to be able to concentrate effectively on those “medium” sized and bigger walleye. Rock structures being the way they are, they lend themselves well to fishing “spot on spot” and moving slow with light jigs. The trick this week was combining those slow and subtle tactics with covering water. The best day of the week for my boat came from fishing a big, spread out rock pile in the middle of a deep basin. We jumped around still-fishing “spot on spot” on individual rocks on top of the structure, collecting fish quickly at each stop. The combination of spot fishing with getting to more water produced good numbers of 22-25+” walleye and a couple of big ones that day. For the week our boats caught and released 21 walleye over 27 inches, including 2 over 28, and 2 over 29 inches.
The first few days of heat and sun this week looked good for the pursuit of big pike. We had just two boats devote part of their time in the afternoons to casting, with some success. We caught and released 6 northerns over 37 inches with our best being a 41 incher. Surface water temps continued to climb as the hot weather continued, that made our guide staff a little less optimistic about the big pike and our guests elected to focus mostly on walleye in the latter half of the week.
A guide’s takeaway this week: the fish were there to be caught – the key was finding an approach that got us to the fish we wanted.
September is a month of changes for us here at Silver Water Wheel Lodge. There are plenty of changes on the lake that our guides look forward to – the weather can let you know fall is near, the walleye often move deep in numbers, and the big pike start to concentrate in shrinking weed beds. There are plenty of changes at Silver Water Wheel Lodge too. Many of our young staff members head off to continue their education or other winter activities. We are currently fishing with just 9 guides on the water – down from a season high of 15. That means 45 guided days recorded this week instead of the 75 in the summer months. I like to mention the number of guided days each week this time of year for our regular readers of the fishing report, who might compare numbers of fish caught in this report with reports from earlier in the summer. When you do the math the 21 walleye over 27” for 45 guided days in this report is right on pace with lots of our summer weeks for the past few years.
Silver Water Wheel Lodge