I know we’ve talked about the weather quite a bit in this year’s fishing reports, but this week’s weather tops them all. We started the week with warm, sunny and calm, went through our biggest thunderstorm of the season, followed by one of the heaviest rainfall days, then “blowout” and cold conditions, and ended up with sunny, flat, and hot again. In short, this week Lac Seul gave us just about every kind of weather it could and the walleye bite reflected that.
With the constant and extreme changes in the weather it was almost impossible for guides to predict each morning where or how the fish would bite that day. The best answer was to keep searching – sand, rock, deep, shallow – and keep trying new tactics – fast, slow, ‘spot on spot’, ‘spot and stalk’ each day until you found a location and tactic that produced one of those good bites. While the top end fish were harder to come by, our searches led to some highlights over the course of the week. There were three daily guide sheets this week that had 20 or more walleyes over 24 inches for the day, and seven boats this week recorded more than 60 walleyes over 18 inches for the day. Looking back on the week all three of those ’20 over 24’ days came using different tactics, and the seven ‘fill the back’ days came from widely varied depths on different structures. Definitely a week for searching rather than patterning. For the week overall we caught and released 16 walleye over 27 inches and 2 over 28 inches.
Fall is here on Lac Seul. I can tell because the weather is changeable, the first hints of colour are appearing on the leaves around the lake, and SWWL guides are going after big pike. Despite the cold front conditions, a couple of groups chose to focus on the pursuit of big pike this week. Weather rules the pike as much as the walleye and it was when the days went sunny and calm that boats really started to see big fish. For the week we caught and released 6 over 37 inches, including a 41, two 42’s and a 43 incher.
The week on Lac Seul was like every other week – just a lot more so. It always helps to search and experiment when walleye fishing this lake, and to fish how the fish and conditions dictate. To generate a good bite this week you really had to.
It is hard to believe that this is my last fishing report of the year. Brett will take over next week when I head back to Iowa to get ready for another Fall deer guiding season. It was an absolute weather roller coaster of a week and as always, it had an enormous impact on the fishing.
We started the week with Blazing hot, flat calm conditions, descending into a late Fall style massive rain driven cold front event, and ended with balmy humidity. The guide crew takes it all in stride and when the conditions are at their worst, we still do relatively well. We did take the time to explain how the weather effects the walleye bite and how it changes our approach.
For the week, we caught and released 30 walleyes over 27 in., including 5 – 28s, 1 – 29, and 2 – 30s. It was a slower week for 27s, but still good for the really big fish. Volume did go down, especially during midweek when sustained winds were 20 mph gusting to 30. The fish were likely biting, but we could only effectively fish 20% of our spots. Guide sheets averaged 30 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day. We did still bounce back and forth between big jigs and plastics and lighter jigs and minnows. Live bait with light jigs were the top producers for the week.
There was a 39 and 42 in. pike caught this week, but the weather just didn’t allow for much casting.
The Take Away: When the weather turns bad, you can whine and cry or make the best of it. Some of our guests caught their personal bests this week.
I usually reread the previous week’s report before I begin the current one. With the busy summer, it does become a bit of a blur, but I honestly forgot how cool it was last week. It was anything but cool this week. It started warm and ended blazing hot with no wind.
It wasn’t hot enough to move the walleyes super shallow, but it was enough to change the bite. The young of the year perch are now about an inch in length and the clouds of bait are often 5 – 15 ft. thick in many of our best spots. The good news is that the walleyes are well fed. The bad news is that the walleyes are well fed, and when the weather is not in your favor, it is tough to get them to bite. A late afternoon with a high of 90 degrees and zero wind is just such a condition when the weather is not in your favor and that is how we ended the week.
Overall, it was still a good week for walleye fishing. We caught and released 45 walleyes over 27 in., including 6 – 28s, and 2 – 29s. Volume was good with the average guide sheet reporting 45 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day.
Main lake sand in 20 – 35 ft. was the best, but rock on the main lake was also good at times. You really had to fish it all to find a pattern. Gulp worked occasionally, but live bait, dead sticking over arcs with 1/8 oz. jigs was the overall most productive pattern for the week.
The heat helped the pike bite. We didn’t have many groups targeting pike this week, but the ones that did had good results. There was not only action for smaller fish, but the big ones were back in the weed beds and biting. For the week, we caught and released 9 over 37 in., including 2 – 39s, 2 – 40s, 1 – 41, and 1 – 42.
The Take away: If you are a lodge owner and a guide, don’t write the fishing report at 10 p.m. on a 90 degree day with no wind when you got smoked. (It was still a good week, but I can’t help but take each day personally!)
There was no swimming, no sun tanning, and there were no shorts at Silver Water Wheel this past week. It was windy, wet, and cold for the entire week. My guests and guides fished in rain gear for every minute of every day. Lowest temps were below 50 and daytime highs were 60 to almost 70. It would have been great weather for the first week of Oct., except it was August.
I think the walleyes were just as surprised as we were. Most fish were caught on main lake rock, but a few were found on deep sand as well. Depths varied by spot and by day with some nice fish found as shallow as 18 ft. and others as deep as 35 ft. Gulp worked sometimes and then it didn’t. Jigs and live bait were most productive. The typical round table guide discussion was marking 20 – 40 walleyes for every fish caught.
Even with tough conditions, we were relatively fairly productive. For the week, we caught and released 40 walleyes over 27 in., including 5 – 28s, and 1 – 29. Volume was good with guides reporting an avg. of 40 – 45 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day. It should be noted that groups targeting big walleyes had fewer total fish in the boat, but were able to land more big ones.
Pike fishing was pretty much a bust. There were a few 37s caught casting, but it felt like the pike moved deep. We had tons of “drive bys” while walleye fishing.
The Take Away: What happened to summer?
Weather conditions for the last week of July were a roller coaster ride. We started the week with blazing hot sunshine, flat water, and high temps in the low 90s. We ended the week with 3 days of sustained NW wind gusting to 20 – 25 mph, high temps of 70, and a series of afternoon rain and thundershowers each day. As you would expect, the walleyes moved and we chased them.
Main lake summer sand was the big loser. Main lake rock; deep and mid depths were where most of the walleyes were found this week. We always want wind, but sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. There were many areas of the main lake that we could not effectively fish because of the waves. Often, we were still able to fish the main lake current created by the wind without having to fish directly on exposed shorelines.
Plastics and Big jigs produced a few nice fish this week, but almost all of our walleyes were caught on jigs (1/8 – ¼ oz.) with live minnows. Volume was good with guide sheets averaging 45 over 18 in. per boat per day. For the week, we caught and released 59 walleyes over 27 in., including 13 – 28s, and 5 – 29s.
One or two boats spent some time casting for pike this week. Results were mixed with 11 over 37 in., including 3 – 39s, and 2 – 40s. One of the guides did manage to land a 47 on a jig while walleye fishing.
The Take Away: The roll continues in spite of Gong Show weather.
It was another good walleye week at the Wheel. We always keep track of big fish caught and volume (we’ll get to them later), but one of the stats that stood out to Brett and I this week was the number of “medium sized” fish caught. Our guests caught and released 205 – 25 in. walleyes and 74 – 26s. Even by our standards, that is a ton of big fish.
On top of that, we caught and released 59 walleyes over 27 in., including 10 – 28s, and 8 – 29s. Guide sheets averaged 45 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day. The highest daily total was 110.
Despite the strong numbers, there were still some spells of time with tough bites. There were a few fish caught with big plastics on ½ or ¾ oz. jigs at speed, but most of the catch came from lighter jigs with live bait, marking far more fish than you were catching. Locating fish was the key. The big ones were deep, 20 – 35 ft. Sometimes they were on deep water sand, but just as often they were on deep water rock. Shallower water held a few more aggressive fish, but the big ones were conspicuously absent.
There was almost no time spent casting for pike this week. The 7 over 38 in., including 1 – 40 were incidental fish while walleye fishing.
The Take Away: On a Big Walleye Summer Roll!
We begin every morning by passing the weather sheet around the guide table. As it goes from hand to hand, you can almost see the wheels begin to turn. Every good guide knows that weather rules the walleye world. Each guide has his own guess as to what the day will hold, but we truly don’t know until we get on the water and the experiments begin. In different areas, in different orders, and at different speeds, we all apply the SWWL Formula. We let the fish tell us what is going to work by fishing fast, slow, deep, shallow, sand, rock, suspended, weeds, mega sand, and everything in between.
This week was a perfect example of why the Formula works. It began with variable weather and a large number of walleyes using main lake deep water rock structures (avg. 30 ft.). The weather shifted mid-week with torrential rains and storms followed by more stable conditions with heat and humidity. There were inches of rain this week. By the end of the week most of the active fish including big ones were being caught in much shallower water on main lake sand and even on transition sand in 12 – 20 ft. of water. The only way to win consistently was to be aggressively flexible and continuously searching.
Scanning and “Spot and Stalk” were critical components to this week’s success. If you pulled up to a spot and just started fishing live bait at .3 mph, then it would take you 30 minutes to learn what you could figure out in 3 minutes of scanning a structure with your electronics. We use Lowrance HDS products and they are awesome tools. In the end, a guide’s day boils down to math and efficiency. The more experiments you try, the more you scan, the faster you learn, and the more water you cover exponentially increases the odds of having a good to great day.
“Spot and Stalk” is a tactic that we have used more and more in the past few seasons. It requires open minded guests and discipline. There are many variations, but I usually have my guests reel up and I tell them to get ready. I drive the boat in reverse over structure quickly until I mark high quality hooks and then I pop the boat in to forward and say, “drop ‘em. Good arcs 3 ft. off the bottom in 25. Let your jigs hit bottom, make two turns on your reel and hold it steady!” Within 2 – 4 minutes we either get them or we don’t and then we move on. When it works, it feels great, but most of the time it is lose, lose, win, lose, ½ win, lose, win. It is hard work, but at the end of the day, you usually have a much better idea of what the walleyes are doing than the guys that are spot on spot sitters.
When the walleyes are spread out in all depth zones, our volume always suffers a bit. You just spend more time looking. Daily guide sheets averaged 35 – 40 walleyes over 18 in. per boat. The highest daily total was 80. For the week, we caught and released 50 walleyes over 27 in., including 11 – 28s, 3 – 29s, and 2 – 30s.
Big pike fishing kicked back into high gear again this week. Roughly 10% of our total effort was spent chasing pike, yet there were 12 over 37 in. caught this week, including 3 – 40s, 1 – 42, and 2 – 43’s. Top end Lac Seul pike aren’t just long, they are thick and this week’s big fish were giants. Spoons, in-line spinners, and glide baits were key producers in and around the weed beds close to deep water.
The Take Away:
There is a reason for the Formula – it works. Keep an open mind, search broadly, cover water, let the fish tell you what they are doing, and adjust. And tomorrow – do it again. There is no easy answer, so don’t look for one.
We experienced the same big weather front that went through the upper Midwest this past week. Heavy rains, thunder storms, and high winds were followed up with very cool temps. The week continued with volatile weather, more storms, and ended with a blast furnace of hot SW winds. As you would expect, the change in weather had a major effect on fish locations and activity level. We began the week with most all of the walleyes pretty much doing the same thing then ended the week with walleyes all over the place.
My Dad retired from the Air Force and he would always say, “Flexibility is the Key to Air Power.” It is also the “key” to on the water power. Guides were on their toes this week and made daily plans designed to gather as much information as quickly as possible. When you know you have groups of walleyes on main lake deep water rock, in 8 – 10 ft. of water in front of the weeds, suspended, and also moving on to main lake sand, then you have to plan a strategy to eliminate water and narrow your focus. The tough part is that the formula changed every day.
Despite the challenges, SWWL guides were able to not only find good volume, but also consistently produce big walleyes. For the week, we caught and released 45 walleyes over 27 in., including 6 – 28s, and 7 – 29s. Walleye volume dropped from last week to 50 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day. I again had to have some expectation management discussions with groups. The guides get used to charting 10 walleyes over 18 in. per hour and when they can’t find that bite, they call it slow. In reality, it was still very high volume walleye fishing. Live bait and lighter jigs produced far more than Gulp and big jigs at speed.
Pike fishing ebbed a bit with the change in weather. We still caught volume, but the top end size slid down a notch despite some serious effort to chase the big ones. For the week, we caught and released 10 pike over 37 in., including 5 – 38s, 2 – 40s, and 1 – 41. Big spoons in the weeds were the top producers. I don’t push name brands often, but the William’s Whitefish spoon was a super top producer.
The Take Away: Spoiled – even when we actively try not to be. Human nature is that way. I checked a group out this week and they talked about some of the afternoon fishing being slow. They had guide sheets with 70, 50, and 80 walleyes over 18 in. per day along with several huge fish. They suffered a detailed lecture …
“Flexibility is the key to Air Power” ….. Gary Willems
“Flexibility is the Key to Fishing Power” …. Mike Willems
It was a hazy, smoky week on the south shore of Lac Seul. The weather was warm, humid and bounced between prolonged periods of flat calm and the occasional thunder shower. It felt like summer, but when we tested the usual mid-summer deep sand or deep rock for walleyes, we came up with little to zero results.
We have run into this combination of weather before and it usually coincides with our bait trappers also having trouble catching minnows. The most significant observation about this week was the fact that almost 90% of the baitfish on the graph were marked in the top 10 ft. of the water column. We found and caught suspended walleyes in many areas, but most were slightly deeper than the nearest weed bed in a dead end bay on the sand flats. Typically, we found smaller walleyes closer to the weed bed and larger walleyes in 12 – 20 ft. suspended 2 – 10 ft. off the bottom.
Most of the guides tweeked some combination of depth and speed with another combination of live bait or gulp to find that day’s formula for success. There was no consensus for a pattern, but the answer was often shallow – kind of. Main lake points sticking out into the basin were OK, but if you could guess where a walleye would go after it fed on mayfly larvae in a shallow weed bed, then you had the answer for that day’s puzzle.
Production for walleyes was 25% plastic and 75% live bait this week. Volume was excellent with daily guide sheets averaging 60 walleyes over 18 in. per day. The highest daily total was 117. For the week, we caught and released 64 walleyes over 27 in., including 13 – 28s, and 4 – 29s.
The big pike bite was strong again this week. Many of the cabbage weed beds are topping out and the gators have moved in. Big spoons, in line double 8 spinners, and big spinnerbaits were the most productive baits this week. There was also good action to go along with the high quality trophy production. Only about 25% of our groups spent time casting, but most that did experienced some level of success. The flat calm afternoons that result in a slower walleye bite do not seem to have the same impact on the Pike. For the week, we caught and released 21 pike over 37 in., including 5 – 39s, 2 – 40s, and 2 over 41.
You could catch a bass if you wanted to say that you did, but for me, the bass bite is done for the year. There already isn’t enough time in a day to fish all the pike and walleye spots I want to try.
The Take Away: Summer is here – Adjusted tactics to target suspended walleyes, bass are done, and big pike in new weed growth.
The weather felt more like July than June this week with high temps close to or above 80 with thundershowers. The smallmouth bass bite peaked just in time for our Hartley/Bailey Texas group to enjoy the show. The cabbage weeds shot up with the warm sunshine and light winds. The big pike moved into the weeds just a little ahead of the normal calendar. The walleye fishing was still very good overall, but it was often the second choice species for many of our groups.
The smallmouth moved shallow so both top water and tubes were very effective. There were windows that were more productive than others, but overall it was a good bass bite. For the week, we caught and released 153 bass over 18 in., including 31 – 19s, and 4 – 20s.
There were some great walleye catches for boats on days when ½ the other guests were bass fishing and another ¼ were pike fishing in the afternoon. There were also a few flat, calm, sunny afternoons that made for tough walleye production. Considering the amount of time that was spent chasing bass and pike, overall numbers for walleyes were still good. For the week, we caught and released 43 over 27 in., including 11 – 28s, and 4 -29s. Walleye volume was a bit more variable, but averaged 45 fish over 18 in. per boat per day.
The walleye bite was less predictable this week. There were some good “Gulp at speed days,” but there were also several “slow the pace down and drag jigs and minnow days.” We ended the week with a hot, flat spell that sent most of the walleyes super shallow.
The pleasant surprise this week was a good big pike bite. Historically, we have seen a spike when the cabbage weeds hit the surface the first week of July. Whether guides were anticipating that bite or the big ones moved in early is up for debate, but the results were solid. For the week, we caught and released 16 over 37 in., including 2 – 39s, 3 – 40s, 2 – 41s, 1 – 42, and Debbie Rosenow caught a 44 in. pike of a lifetime. Most were targeted and the growing weed beds near deep water were the key.
Great guides seek out the unexpected windows for opportunities to land big fish. The best ones don’t care what species, they just offer options to their guests and let the current conditions dictate the order in which they conduct their experiments. Many guides were off the beaten path this week and it made for a great week.
The Take Away: A big bass peak, the cabbage is almost to the surface with the big pike in it, and the walleyes were less predictable, but still a good choice.