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.
Walleye fishing continued last week’s blistering pace and top end size actually increased. It was good all week, but at times it was fast and furious. Bass fishing is improving and should peak in the next week or two. It is still a challenge to target pike, but the big ones are out there and they eat jigs too.
Gulp pulled at speed (1 – 1.4 mph) on a ¼ oz. jig was lethal when walleyes were active in 6 – 14 ft. Speed is the key when fish are spread out on the flats in or near growing weed beds. You could still catch walleyes with traditional slow presentations as long as you didn’t mind watching other guides using speed catch 3 times the number of fish.
The key for me is to coach my guests to give up on the concept of thumping the bottom with their jig. “Let those baits glide above the bottom on long lines and those active walleyes will come up and grab them. Miss a fish – drop your rod tip back and twitch. Sometimes they will hit 3 times before you hook up.” The long lines keep you out of the snags as well. When the Gulp bite did slow, we went back over areas that had held active fish with live minnows and 1/8 oz. jigs. We still fished with long lines and speed, just not as much of either. We are also beginning to see the first groups of walleyes move out onto the main lake summer sand and had modest catch rates in 15 – 25 ft.
For the week, we caught and released 92 walleyes over 27 in., including 12 – 28s, 7 – 29s, and Jessica Ginter caught a giant 30.75 in. fish. To put that in perspective, there were 84 guided days last week, meaning that we averaged over 1 – 27 per boat per day. Walleye volume continued to be extremely strong with guide sheets averaging 50+ walleyes over 18 in. per day. The highest daily total was 104.
Bass fishing picked up this week and many groups fished for them. For the week, we had 98 over 18 in., including 21 – 19s, and 3 – 20s. Top waters and tubes were top producers. If the weather holds, this coming week will be big for bass.
We had just a few groups spend time targeting pike with fairly limited success. There were however, quite a few really big ones caught incidentally while walleye fishing. For the week, we boated 16 over 37 in., including 4 – 40s, 1 – 41, and Pete Russell caught a massive 45.5 in. pike of a lifetime.
With so many groups returning year after year, my biggest challenge this week was to manage expectation levels for next year. The Bollinger group had 30 big fish photos on the wall before they left and they know that this was one of their best weeks ever. No fisherman ever comes back hoping to catch half as many big ones as they did last year, but 15 photos on the wall is still a great week for a group.
The Take Away – smashed the big walleyes, pike are still random, but Lac Seul’s biggest pike are Huge, and we are positioned for a big bass peak.
Walleye fishing was off the charts this week. Last week I said the walleyes hit the South shore of Lac Seul in Waves. This week, it was a Tsunami. As always, there were slower days than others when the wind didn’t blow, but the fast days were as good as I have ever seen them. I really don’t feel like we did anything new or different, we just maximized our production on fish that moved into areas in force.
Weather-wise, it was warm and stable with the expected rain for this time of year. Normal is the only word that comes to mind, but the walleye fishing was as good as it gets. We have had weeks with higher numbers of big fish, but the volume of walleyes this week was the shocker.
For the week, we had 81 walleyes over 27 in., including 13 – 28s, 4 – 29s, and 1 – 30. Guide sheets averaged 60 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day. The highest daily total was 129. This week will be the new bench mark for walleye volume and it was great for big fish as well.
As usual, jigs and minnows were the key in depths of 5 – 12. We did break out the Gulp and on the hot bite days, did very well. When the wind didn’t blow, it was live bait only.
The Pike bite was still expectedly random. Transition is always tough. There were a few big fish caught casting, but there were just as many caught on jigs while walleye fishing. For the week, we had 10 over 37 in., including 2 – 38s, 2 – 39s, and 1 – 40.
The bass have started to move into the shallows. Early stage areas already have big fish set up in 1 – 4 ft. and guides broke up flat water afternoons by targeting bass. It will still be a week or two before all of the bass move shallow. For the week, we caught 51 over 18 in., including 18 – 19s.
Dan Sigurdson has been bringing his sons Nick and Alex to the lodge since they were in middle school. They like to spend their evenings at the lodge in their boat at the dock getting organized for the next day. I joined them on their arrival day. Alex had already caught a 28 and they asked about the big fish numbers for the year. I always keep track, and I told them that this year was good for 29’s, but we hadn’t had a 30 yet. We all agreed it was just a matter of time. Two days later, Alex put the first 30 of the year in the boat.
Take Away: Epic Walleye Bite, Pike still on the move with weed beds 1 – 4 ft. high, and bass moving into the shallows in the next week or two.
It has been so long since we have seen a normal year that we almost forgot what one looked like. The recent years have been riddled with extremes; late ice, lots of rain, high water, early ice, etc… This first week of June had some cool mornings, some sunny days, and great walleye fishing. The lake level is just above normal for this time of year and finally the calendar matches what you would expect to see the fish doing. Waves of walleyes moved into the transition areas of the south central basin. The pike are in transition from spawning to summer locations, and the bass are getting ready. Surface temps are between the low 50s to the low 60s and we are starting to see tree pollen on the lake.
Walleye volume and size were both excellent this week. Guide sheets averaged 40 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day. The highest daily total was 72. For the week, we caught and released 66 walleyes over 27 in., including 12 – 28s, and 4 – 29s. Jigs (1/8 oz.) and minnows were by far the most productive presentation. There were a few walleyes caught shallow on the pitch bite, but most (and all of the big ones) were caught dragging long lines in 7 – 14 ft. of water. We did find fish on the main lake but transition areas between the back bays and the main lake were the most consistently productive.
There was some time spent chasing pike this week, but they were scattered and it was tough. For the week, we caught and released 5 over 37 in., including 2 – 39’s and 1 – 41. The randomness is hard to get around. Some were way back shallow, some were on the main lake, and I think you had just as good a chance of catching a big pike while walleye fishing this week.
We did have a few guides spot check the bass areas. It is a “normal year,” so there were a few bass in that 4 – 8 ft. staging zone in the warm water bays. The shallow, shallow was vacant, but not for long. For the week, we caught and released 9 bass over 19 in.
Long time guests Jerry and Jane Callahan were up this week. Jerry and I have known for many years that the ladies always catch the big ones, but this week Jane dominated the photo board with a 19 in. bass, 3 – 27 in. walleyes, and a Master Angler 29 in. walleye. I presented quite a few Master Angler pins this week, but Jane’s is the one that I will remember.
The Takeaway: Great Walleye Bite, High volume with big eyes, Pike on the move, and Bass Staging.
Spring finally arrived and the cabins filled up on May 22. We have seen so many days of sunshine and 70 that it is hard to believe how bad the weather was last week. Both the walleyes and the big pike moved back into the shallows and we had a great fishing week.
It wasn’t as strong of a peak as last year, but the pike fishing was really good. For the week we had great volume along with 25 over 37 in., including 5 – 39s, 3 – 40s, 3 – 41s, 1 – 42, and Kevin Winkley caught a massive 45 in. pike of a lifetime.
The big pike were back in the shallow bays, but not necessarily always in the shallow back. Many were suspended on the front side of the bays. If you found baitfish jumping away from your cast or super warm surface temps, you were in the right spot. The most productive baits were spoons and big floating plugs (6 in. Jakes and Shallow raiders). It all happened very fast. I know that many fish spawned before the big storm and the rest finished quickly after. At the end of this week, my gut feeling is that we are well into transition and the pike are moving on.
The Walleyes are on the move as well. The south central basins near the lodge are walleye central, but many of our summer residents spawn elsewhere. They are finally done and migrating to summer zones. For the week we caught and released 36 walleyes over 27 in., including 3 – 28s and 4 – 29s.
Walleye volume averaged 20 fish over 18 in. at the beginning of the week and ended with sheets averaging 50 over 18 in. It was a night and day shift. The water warmed up, the fish arrived, and we caught them. Jigs and live bait produced the most, though it was surprising to see how many fish were caught from shallow water with husky jerks and spoons.
The bass are showing up on the walleye bite, but the big push shallow is still a few weeks away. We saw five over 19 in. this week, but that will skyrocket soon.
The water level has risen 2 ft. in 3 weeks since ice out. It is still above average for this time of year, but will continue to rise with the recent rains.
It never ceases to amaze me how fast the different phases of season come and go. Spring is a blink and this year it happened this week. And then we move on like we always do. We are already finding the first groups of walleyes showing up on main lake transition spots.
The take away: The Spring pike peak is fickle and tough to predict, but when you time it perfectly, it can be the best big pike fishing of the year.
The official ice out date for the South Central basins of Lac Seul was May 8 for 2015. We would consider that uncharacteristically normal, but the weather after was not. Prolonged cool conditions followed by a Monster spring storm shook up the lake and sent the fish everywhere but the expected shallow spring locations. I have seen many spring snow storms over the years, but this one was exceptional in intensity. It rained several inches, the winds were sustained at 30 mph gusting to 40 for 2.5 days, air temps dropped into the 20s for daytime highs, and then the freezing rain turned into 2 inches of snow. It was a huge weather event. After the previous late ice outs in 2013 and 2014, I decided to plan camp opener for May 22. With a full book, I did have some adventurous groups willing to gamble on the early season weather. They made the most of it, but the fishing was not great. We had a total of 16 anglers in camp this past week. Walleye volume was less than expected. For the week, we caught and released 14 walleyes over 24 in., including 3 – 28s, and 2 – 29s. Guides targeted fish near main lake spawning reefs or back in some of the isolated warm water bays. Jigs (1/8 oz.) and minnows were the most common presentation with just a few caught on cranks. The disappointment was the big pike bite. Usually it only takes a day or so for the big ones to reverse direction and head back into the shallows. It has been warm since the last storm, but 4 days after and there are still very few fish in the back of the bays. There has been some debate amongst the guides as to whether it is done, delayed, or possibly split the groups of fish between those still in pre spawn and those that accelerated into transition. Time will tell. For the week, there were 20 pike caught over 37 in., including 3 – 40s, 1 – 41, and 2 – 42s. Spoons, big cranks, and Husky Jerks were top producers this past week. There were a few bass caught, but all were incidental while fishing for pike and walleye. Despite what is being written on a few of the fishing forums, Lac Seul lake level is currently above normal for this time of year and rising rapidly. The other surprise was how quickly we found walleyes out on main lake transition spots. Some of the old stand by spring spots produced far fewer eyes than areas that normally don’t start holding fish until June. The Take Away; It was a big storm and the fish definitely felt it.