There were many changes at the Wheel and on the south shore of Lac Seul this week. Walleye fishing volume remained high, but there was a split in the size classes of fish that became more pronounced at the end of the week. The weather was fairly consistent, hazy and warm and we watched many groups of walleyes trend shallower on main lake sand and rock. There wasn’t a full on weed bed invasion, but many slots and eaters made their way to the deep side of the weeds. The really big walleyes stayed out deep and even trended a little deeper. The split in the groups of fish required the guide staff to shift strategies and give guests different options. One of the options was to go chase pike and many groups did so successfully. The ratio of walleye to pike effort changed from 90 – 10 to 60 – 40.
The most significant difference for me was a changing of the guard. Jesse Wright guided his last day on Aug. 5 and went out with a bang. He put a net under a 40 in. pike and a 29 in. walleye. Guides and guests will miss him immensely, but I will miss him the most. He was an integral part of my guide staff management team and brought a level of care and passion to the program that was infectious. He will still be working on Go Pro footage and videos and we will see what the future holds for guest appearances. At the same time, Senior guide Dave Suggitt returned to the ranks and will be with us until early Sept. As much as I hate to see Jesse go, it is great to have an esox fanatic back on staff again. It shakes up the program and makes us think differently about the guided day.
I guided Billy Brindle this week and we always fish walleyes straight time looking for big ones. He topped out with a 28, but on a slower afternoon, I asked if they wanted to mix it up and throw for pike. They said yes and had a blast. Action was great and we topped out with a 37, but it was a surprise to me how much our southern bass fisherman enjoyed the change up and excitement of casting for pike.
For the week we caught and released 16 pike over 37 in., including 1 – 39, 4 – 40s, 1 – 41, and 1 – 43. We continue to find more deep weeds and the action for casting was great. Spoons and in-line spinners worked, but many weedbeds were so thick that you just had to throw spinnerbaits or Johnson’s silver minnows to get through them.
Walleye volume remained high with guide sheets averaging 45 walleyes over 18 in. per day. The highest daily total was 67. For the week we had 30 over 27 in., including 10 -28s, and 3 – 29s. Groups had to make a choice between spending time shallower and catching volume or heading down deep and fishing for big ones. The big fish hunt was more difficult than normal, because many of the small to mediums that keep your boat interested had moved shallow. Many guests say they want to chase big fish until they have spent 20 minutes on a spot without a bite.
Gulp and big jigs were effective about 5% of the time and that was just enough to suck me in one time too many. Jigs and live bait were the main stay. We used ¼ oz. jigs when we could and we geared down to 1/8ths when we had to. A full 50% of walleyes caught this week came on 1/8ths. That alone should give you an idea of what the bite was like. Lots of risers, moving, and work to put the fish in the boat.
Change is a challenge, but it is inevitable. This week was a game changer and next week is likely to be one too.
I was talking with one of my most senior guides before writing tonight’s fishing report. I asked Jesse Wright to give me his synopsis of the week. He said, “It was good…. But it was Tricky. I mean I had one of my most productive days of the year for size and numbers and I followed it up with a day where I got smoked.” We both agreed that our version of “smoked” these days is still very relative and is far better than an average day 5 years ago. The top end of the Lac Seul walleye fishery is just that much better now than it was back then.
The biggest difference in the walleye fishing this week in comparison to the last week in July is that we didn’t see the ridiculous amount of really big fish. Volume remained very high across the board but a few of the bigger ones managed to elude us on those flat calm warm sunny afternoons. For the week we caught and released 46 walleyes over 27 in., including 4 – 28s, and 5 – 29s. Those results are a drop from last week, but would have been one of the absolute best weeks of the year in 2008. Volume remained very strong with guide sheets averaging 45 walleyes over 18 in. per day. The highest daily total of 150 broke the old lodge record.
It continues to be a “spot and stalk” bite for walleyes. We experimented with Gulp and speed on a regular basis and the fish just aren’t up for it. We caught a few, but the Big Gulp bite just has not kicked in this summer. Jigs and live bait in ¼ to 1/8 were the most productive presentations by far.
I simply do not stop on a spot without scanning it first these days. You just have to eliminate as much water as you can before you slow down. In the past we would have relied strictly on spot on spot structure to key on this type of bite. Mid to deep water flats were extremely important this week. If the walleyes are deep on the sand flats and aggressive, we all reach for the Gulp and move fast. When the walleyes are podded up in groups on the flats and neutral to negative, you have to hunt with sonar first or you are wasting time. This week, we had to find them first and then slow down with slower presentations. Even then, we caught 1 out of every 10 we marked and just about every fish coughed up big smelt. So, Yes, “It Was Tricky!”
This is probably one of the best years for deep cabbage weeds that I have seen in a decade. It makes the key spots for big pike a little easier to find and we have had a small percentage of groups spend time chasing them. They found fairly good action for small fish and steadily improving results for bigger fish. For the week, we recorded 6 over 38 in., including 1 – 39, 1 – 40, and 2 – 42s.
I didn’t mention the weather in the intro, so you know it wasn’t a huge part of the story. It was a Goldilocks week, it wasn’t too hot, it wasn’t too cold, it wasn’t crazy, it wasn’t even worth talking about…. It didn’t hurt fishing, but it didn’t help either. It was Just Right.
I can’t tell you that the lake level is falling much, but it is not rising any higher than last week.
It was a bang up week of walleye fishing on Lac Seul. The stats for both volume and size were excellent, although many of our long term guests were surprised that it was a “spot and stalk” bite rather than a high power plastics trolled at speed game.
For those that don’t fish with us or who haven’t followed our reports, I will try to give a brief bit of background to explain the difference in speed and presentations from what we would consider normal for this time of year. During the traditional summer peak, we use speed and large Gulp Alive baits on big jigs to cover water quickly and trigger big walleyes. That bite is not working.
Instead, the guide crew is relying on electronics to cover water quickly, locate fish and then slow down with lighter jigs and live bait to catch fish. The trick is to figure out what kind of a mood the fish are in. Locate a pod, drop a ¼ oz. jig down, watch the fish rise up on the graph multiple times on a bait only to refuse it, and then you know that you are dealing with negative fish. Your choice is to gear down or move on. Make that decision correctly 6 out of 10 times in a day and you’re a hero. Miss that group of fish by 5 feet in depth or arrive 3 hours too early 4 out of 5 times and your results may not be as strong. You still caught fish, but you might have missed the big ones and that is the story of this week.
It is hard to describe, but it was a strong week with a subdued bite. One of the senior guides at round table said, “… It felt like a slow afternoon, compared to the morning until I looked at my sheet and realized that I had filled the back (60 walleyes over 18 in.) with 2- 25s, 3 – 26s, and 2 – 27s. When you have to gear down, it takes time to find the pods and then one or two 10 – 20 fish flurries makes up for an hour of searching…”
We know we sound spoiled, but that is just how it is in the south basin of Lac Seul when times are good and the fish are reluctantly biting. For the week, we caught and released 83 walleyes over 27 in., including 14 – 28s, 5 – 29s, 1 – 30, and 1 – 31. Volume was once again extremely high with guide sheets averaging 50 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day. The highest daily total was 118.
Jigs and live bait were the key. When the fish were active, 1/4s worked best, but when the bite slowed down during flat calm conditions, 1/8s and minnows were the only way to go.
It was easy to spot an SWWL guide boat in the groove… The guide wasn’t fishing, he was holding the boat in one place, netting, baiting, and writing. Main lake sand structures were most productive, but there was some occasional rock bites as well.
Mayflies were on the water this week and the lake level finally dropped a few inches. It continues to be a wacky weather year, but no one is complaining.
The weedbeds are larger and deeper than they have been in years past and the pike are just starting to move back in. There were 10 pike over 37 in., caught this week topping out with a 42. It wasn’t a great summer pike bite, but it is improving. We missed the peak of the Bass bite this year and will likely not have much more to report for smallmouth until the spring of 2015.
One of my favorite things about Lac Seul is that it is huge and that there are literally thousands of fishing spots. My guests that have fished in my boat know that I love to move. It doesn’t matter if we are catching fish or not, I still start every day with 20 – 30 ideas and I am disappointed if I don’t get to try at least half of them. So when my round table reports this week began with spent the morning at…. or fished all afternoon at…. then you know that something is going on.
What happened is that summer arrived. It didn’t show up in the form of blazing hot flat calm sunshine that pushes walleyes into the shallow weeds, it came with hazy, humid days that were warm but not quite hot enough take your bibs off, especially when a breeze or shower kicked in during the afternoon. The walleye bite was hottest on main lake deep water sand structure this week. Some deep water rock worked, but it wasn’t the bite that made you stay all morning. All of the fast action bites that were too good to leave were on deep sand. More accurately, many were associated with deep sand, because sometimes the most active fish were up in 18 -24 ft. near 40 – 50 ft.
We absolutely smashed the walleyes this week. At times, it was some of the fastest fishing that I have seen in 10 years. This was the highest volume week that I can remember. Daily guide sheets averaged 50 walleyes over 18 in. per boat. The highest daily total was 112 walleyes over 18 in. in one day.
And the big fish were in the mix too. We caught and released 88 walleyes over 27 in., including 11 – 28s, 5 – 29s, and a monster 31. I make note of the really big fish, but it is significant that there were also 300 – 25 in. walleyes caught this week as well as 130 – 26s. It was off the charts.
This was not a cover water and find the active fish with Big Gulp bite, this was a locate the fish on deep water sand and determine how slow you have to go with live bait to catch them. Good electronics were critical. It was more important to locate the fish first and then grind them out. Miss a pod or two on a specific spot and you might as well move on.
Most guides relied on ¼ oz. jigs and minnows for the week, but there were times and places that we fished heavier and lighter. I never change a jig for color, I always change a jig for size. Match the weight, with speed, activity level, and depth of target and then you win. There were many, many different winning strategies this week, but not a single one had anything to do with jig color.
A few groups chased pike this week and there were 5 over 37 in. with 1 – 38 and 2 – 39s. The guide crew has by default put an end to Bass fishing season. It was tough. And the high dirty water just makes it worse. Another week of hot weather could bring the Pike up into the weeds, but most of us will be walleye fishing anyway.
It appears that the high water level probably peaked this past week. On Monday, we had a heavy North wind and the waves were breaking on the lawn and over the fixed dock. I have never seen the lake that high. It looks like lake levels have fallen a few inches since then, but it remains extremely hazardous for big floaters on the lake.
The effects of a historic late ice out and the volatile spring weather can still be felt this week. Summer has still not arrived on Lac Seul and even though the weather is improving, we have yet to settle in to what we would consider normal patterns. Despite the weird year, walleye fishing was good for size and great for volume. We don’t know about the bass and fishing for big pike was not productive.
I was guiding friends for the first half of this week and Steve asked me if I minded if he dropped a camera down on the spot we were fishing. I said no and he lowered the lens into 27 ft. of water on a main lake sunken island. The visual on the screen was just what I expected, but this camera had a temp sensor and it displayed 62 degrees F at depth. Surface temps that day were 64 degrees F.
The group had read my fishing reports and had joked about my “blender” reference from the week before, but this single piece of information truly put things into complete perspective for me. It is all about the food. If the temps are the same from top to bottom and from side to side, then the baitfish can and will be everywhere. And they were. And so were the walleyes. During the first half of the week, there were big walleyes caught in 10 ft. and 30ft. Towards the end of the week, many populations of walleyes began to trend shallower. The smaller fish always go shallow first, but there were many 23 – 27 in. walleyes caught in 10 – 12 ft. by weeks end.
For the week, we caught and released 67 walleyes over 27 in., including 13 – 28s, and 5 -29s. Overall volume was very good with daily creel sheets averaging over 40 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day. The highest daily total was 98.
Many guides spent time pulling Gulp and big jigs with speed for very limited results. Live bait was the answer this week. Again, it is a strange year!
There was a substantial and unwarranted amount of effort spent chasing big pike this week. Transition for pike on Lac Seul is usually the third week of June as we bass fish and it doesn’t feel that bad. This year, Transition is this week. There were a few big pike caught off main lake weed beds, a few caught in the way back skinny water, and once again the rest were in between. It was tough piking. For the week we only had 3 over 37 in., including 1 – 38 and 1 – 41. I can personally attest that it was a waste of time that could have been spent smashing walleyes, but as good guides, our job is to check it all out.
Windy conditions and colored water kept many guides from Bass fishing. Those that checked it out, proved the point. It is very tough to justify 1 bass per hour compared to 6 walleyes per hour. For the week, we did catch and release 4 bass over 19 in., including 2 over 20.
It will take sunshine and warm weather to push the walleyes all shallow, but we have been close this week. As always, the weather will once again be the story for next week’s fishing report.
Tell me if this sounds familiar. This week’s fishing was once again dramatically affected by a huge weather system that blew through during the beginning of the week. Tuesday was Canada day and my staff postponed the beach party because of the cold, windy, and rainy conditions. Usually by this time of year the summer pattern has set in and we will get the occasional showers or T-storm. This was another May /June like blow out with sustained 30+ mph winds ending with cold rain. Lac Seul is FULL! We are almost at the extreme high water mark.
The weather did improve towards the end of the week and the fishing rebounded quite quickly, but to put things into perspective, the main lake surface temps were below 60 degrees F for the first week of July. That never happens up here.
Walleye fishing patterns ran across the spectrum. We found walleyes in super shallow spring spots, down deep on main lake rock, on the shallow side of main lake summer sands, in front of the weeds, and everywhere in between. The fish are phenomenally scattered.
For the week, we caught and released 68 walleyes over 27 in., including 16 – 28s, and 2 – 29s. Numbers were way down during the storm, but improved during the end of the week with guide sheets averaging 35 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day. The highest one day total was 68.
Typically, our big plastics bite is full on at this time of year and despite many attempts, the results with big jigs and Gulp have been modest at best. Most of the guides are rigging 1/8 oz jigs for live bait even when they drop down to deeper structure. The shallower fish tend to be more active, but the deeper fish can still be caught if you gear down with light jigs and live bait.
The Bass are a head scratcher. Some areas have been productive, but other sections of the lake that historically have been good a little later in season are a bust. We caught bass in 10 – 12 ft. while jig fishing for walleyes. It is either going to be an extremely late spawn or some may just skip it. Compounding the bass fishing troubles is high, dirty water and a tremendous amount of new weed growth. There were a couple of good bass days and the highest one day total was 97, but there were also many groups that opted to focus on walleyes. For the week we caught and released 6 – 19s and 2 – 20s.
Pike fishing was attempted by a few, but most were incidental catch while walleye fishing. We caught and released 13 over 37 in., including 1 – 39, and 3 – 40s.
Regardless of what the weather is like for the 2nd half of the summer, 2014 will go into the books as an all-time extreme. What is even more surprising is how consistent the big walleye production has been despite the challenging conditions. I know that there are some bites and locations that we would have missed or not found 10 years ago, but the accumulation of knowledge over the years is a huge asset to a highly motivated guide crew.
This week was once again dominated by unsettled weather. Monday was another wind driven rager with a ½ inch of rain. Lac Seul water levels are approaching the highest that I have seen them and are definitely at the highest I have seen for this time of year. You actually have to step up onto the floating docks from the fixed dock. There are floaters everywhere. I saw one today that was 3 huge ancient trees entwined together. If you ran into it at speed, I don’t know that you could get your boat off from it. Especially with just a slight chop, it is very hazardous driving on the lake right now.
The continued unsettled weather resulted in more unsettled fish locations. The “blender” is the most common term that SWWL guides use to refer to the current conditions. There were catchable walleyes on main lake rock in 35 ft. of water and at the exact same time there were 25 and 26 in. walleyes being caught by guides bassin’ and pikin’ in 2 – 5 ft. of water, way back in the skinny. The fish are absolutely everywhere. Tonight at round table, I found out that I was 10 ft. too deep on one trolling pass and 10 ft. too shallow on another that I fished earlier in the day. My result was zero and the other 2 guides hit a good streak. Not a great streak, but 4 on the sheet or 8 on the sheet always makes a difference at the end of the day.
It was definitely hard work guiding this week. Fish deep for lethargic risers? Fish shallow sand? How shallow? How fast? Summer spots? Spring spots? Transitions spots? They all held some fish. And 20 minutes later and an hour later, you find yourself having to run down the same set of questions again and again. Finding a big fish did not mean that you solved an equation. It just meant that it was probably time to move and search for another big fish at a different spot.
There were some really good 1 day patterns put together and we did catch some big fish, you just weren’t picking one spot and one pattern and spending the day on it. For the week, we caught and released 36 walleyes over 27 in., including 8 – 28s, 4 – 29s, and 1 – 30. Volume was all over the place, but in the end the average was the same as last week with 30 over 18 in. per boat per day.
The bass fishing improved in some sections of the lake, but remained behind in others. It was never full on, but we did have quite a few groups apply concentrated effort chasing bass. For the week we caught and released 147 over 18 in., including 28 – 19s, and 3 – 20s. There were no 100 bass days and I don’t know if there were more than a few 50 bass days. I would say that the peak is still on the way. Tubes were the bait of choice, but there were some mornings especially, when a Mann’s Baby 1 minus twitched on the surface outperformed every other presentation. The key was to work it like a skitter pop, twitch it, let it sit, let it sit, twitch it, let it sit, let it sit, let it sit, then twitch it. Instead of balking at the pop R or the skitter pop, when they came up on the Baby 1 minus, they ate it. The results were significant.
During the best of times, fishing for pike during transition is a crap shoot. With a late spring and unsettled weather this year it is even more chaotic. There were some nice pike caught this week with 7 over 37 in., including 1 – 38, 2 – 39s, and 1 – 40. All of those fish were targeted, but they were all caught in dramatically different types of water. The Blender hit the pike as well.
I can’t remember the last time that I didn’t have some extreme fishing or weather condition to talk about and this week was no exception. Along with the massive weather system that closed out last week’s fishing report, we were again subjected to two more huge fronts with rain this week. We are talking inches of all day rain. I cannot remember seeing Lac Seul this high at this time of year. Water levels are already higher than they were at the peak of last summer.
Big weather changes result in big changes in fishing patterns. Senior Guide Brett McCallum described it best, “hot weather at ice out sent walleyes on to the main lake fast, but these last three blasts of cold rainy weather have acted as a complete RESET. There are still walleyes on main lake transition spots, but they are very hard to catch. The walleyes that weren’t in the shallow back water bays have finally moved back in and that is where many of the big ones were caught last week.”
Main lake walleyes are deeper and require slower presentations to catch. Big walleyes in “Retro” spring time locations are the first to respond to big plastics at speed and we saw many of our biggest walleyes this week caught on Gulp pulled fast.
It was a week of tough choices. Senior guides know that they have to check out the “next” step areas, but the options contracted with the onset of bad weather. We still caught a bunch of big fish, but the major story this week was the result of the weather, not the quality of the fishery.
Despite the bad weather, it was still a good week for big walleyes. We caught and released 43 over 27 in., including 5 – 29s, and 2 – 30s. Average volume dropped to 30 walleyes over 18 in. per day on the average guide sheet.
The biggest effect of the weather was on the Bass fishing. This is the time of year that groups that love smallmouth book their trips knowing that the timing is critical. Well it is, and last week’s weather kept surface temps in the back water bays below 62 degrees F. The bass boycotted. There were a few up, a few deep, a few back in the super shallow bays feeding, and who knows where the rest of them were. I cannot remember a single season before this where we had not hit our bass peak by this time. Despite significant effort to find them and pattern them, we only caught and released 45 Bass over 18 in. for the week, including 3 – 19s, and 3 – 20s. The bottom line is that when the warmest backwater bays are only at 60 degrees, the big bass just have not moved into the shallows.
The Bass definitely felt the reset.
I like to be right. It probably is a character flaw, but it is a fact about me that I know. And this week I was wrong. I did not expect the biggest pike to move back into the super skinny water, but some of them did. I do not know why. Water levels may be part of it, the storm fronts may be in the mix, and I have to remember that 1 month ago there was still 1 foot of ice or more over most of the lake. The guide crew know to take nothing for granted, and especially when the fishing is tough, they take chances to figure out what is going on.
We had a few groups chase big pike this past week and the results were mixed and unpredictable. For the week, we caught and released 9 over 37 in., including 2 – 40s, 2 – 41s, and 2 – 42s. Bright spoons were the most productive presentation and many of the really big fish were caught back in the “spring time” skinny water.
Readers of this post have different agendas and motivations. I feel that my job is to post the conditions, facts, and relative trends as best as I see them. The biggest surprise was how dramatically the bass migration was slowed by the bad weather. It was also significant to note that even though the weather hurt volume for the week, we still caught a nice bunch of Big walleyes.
I keep trying to stop predicting, but the Bass must move into spawning mode soon, the pike always move to transition spots when the weeds are half way up, and the walleye bite should get snappy when surface temps creep into the low 60s across the main lake. Instead I will watch the weather closely and like all of my guides, we will continue to search and push to find that weird weather answer. The big fish are out there this year, we just have to work through the variable weather to find the pattern that works. And a few weeks later it will all change again. And that keeps it Fun!
Historically, the second week of June has been a time of transition for both weather and fish movement on Lac Seul. The weather was normal this week, but the fishing results were extraordinary.
The lodge record Northern Pike was broken this week when guide Kevin Mifsud landed a 47.5 in. monster. The second largest pike this week was a 45.
There was a 30 and a 31 in. walleye caught.
There were 28 walleyes over 27 in. caught in one day at the lodge.
One guide boat reported 24 walleyes over 24 in. for one day….
These are just a few of the details that help describe the quality of the fishing despite the fact that Thursday was an absolute “blow out” day and that Friday was “post frontal.” We still caught fish on those days, but 30 mph wind driven rain with High temps in the 40s made for some tough fishing conditions. We still caught fish on Friday after the front passed, but we did not see as many big fish.
What that means is that almost all of the top end production came from the first half of the week when the weather was “normal” and the fishing was awesome.
For the week, we caught and released 68 walleyes over 27 in., including 12 – 28s, 5 – 29s, 1 – 30, and 1 – 31. I highlighted Pete Bloom in last year’s second week report and although there was some debate about whether this was 31 or 33 straight years of fishing at the Wheel, I can tell you that Pete’s 31 in. walleye was certainly the biggest that I have held in many years.
Walleye volume was excellent this past week with guide boats averaging 40 over 18 in. per day despite the blow out days included. There were several distinct groups of fish that the guides targeted at different times. We are still finding numbers of walleyes and some big fish in the traditional warm water bays, but the guides are also finding large groups of bigger fish already located on main lake transition spots. Walleyes in the typical spring areas were caught from 6 – 12 ft., but main lake fish were holding one level deeper at 10 – 20 ft.
General walleye activity level was still tepid. Minnows and light jigs far outperformed Gulp or plastics and most fish were caught on 1/8 oz. jigs.
There was a small but concerted effort made to chase big pike this week and the results were very good. For the week, we caught and released 18 over 37 in., including 1 – 40, 1 – 41, 3 – 42s, 1 – 43, 1 – 45, and the new lodge record at 47.5 in. Big spoons were top producers on the first points or structure outside of the shallow spawning bays, but some big fish did pulse back into the skinny water.
There was some effort made to check the progress of smallmouth bass movement into the shallows. A few fish have moved up, but most are still off the first break in 8 – 12 ft. This week’s storm further slowed the mass bass migration into the shallows. The next sunny warm stretch of weather will flip the switch. Most of the big bass this week were caught as incidental catch while walleye fishing. For the week, we had 22 over 18 in., including 5 – 19s and 2 – 20s.