The 2014 guiding season has come to a close for us here at Silver Water Wheel. We do have one more boat fishing just one more day with the lake to themselves, but other than that our boats are officially off the water for the season! And it was a good week to finish our season on. The first half of the week had a lot of our boats hunting for trophy pike, with good results. The big pike were found on rock when the weather was less pleasant, but popped back into the weeds quickly as soon as we got a little cool sunshine. All the big pike were caught casting but there did not seem to be any one thing they were looking for. They answered to a wide variety of baits, anything from spoons to spinnerbaits, bucktails, or divers. During the past 10 days since our last fishing report 35 anglers fished with us and we caught and released 29 pike over 37 inches, with three 40’s, three 41’s, two 42’s, and two 43’s.
The second half of the week almost all our anglers focused on Walleye – also with good results. There were some high volume days out on the main-lake summer type sand structures, the highest daily total was 63 walleye over 18’’ on the guide sheet. But our big walleyes this week came from rock structure at transition depths and locations. The guides reported a lot of our big fish being caught using light jigs to work underwater rock points and shelves on the way into bays around the lake, but some of the best big fish bites came by trolling these structures and the flats around them – using speed to trigger responses from otherwise negative fish. In the ten days since our last report 35 anglers fished with us, and we caught and released 30 walleye over 27 inches, including eight at 28 inches, and four over 29 inches.
Here at the season’s end, we always look back over the summer and from a guide’s perspective some things really stand out about our 2014 fishing season.
The Walleye did not follow their usual progression this year. The late ice out followed by immediate warm weather jumped the walleye to transition locations early, later cold fronts and mixed up weather moved them back to spring spots some days and out to deep water other days. They settled in to more usual patterns through the summer, but it was one of the most unusual and unpredictable springs\transitions we’ve seen.
A big change from the last few years is the amount success we had jig fishing instead of trolling gulp at speed this year, especially in mid-summer. The big walleye clearly answered better to jig fishing this year, while over the last few years speed produced. The root cause of those kind of changes may be debatable (the guides debated that a few times this year!), but to a guide the lesson is clear – when fishing Lac Seul be flexible, be versatile, and be prepared to change tactics every day.
We also noticed a continued increase in the top end fish. This season there were 3 walleye caught that reached the 31 inch mark, and two northern over 47 inches. While making predictions is always risky, when we put those numbers together with a steady increase through the past years in 27+” walleyes and 37+’’northerns, the guides are looking forward to an increase in numbers of top end fish for both species in the years to come.
On the other hand, some things did remain as expected this season. We experienced some phenomenal weeks for big Pike both early and late season again this year. For guides, those weeks are something we anticipate and will aggressively search for next May and September.
For me, the changes Lac Suel throws at us each year, week, and day are what makes the hunt a hunt, and what keeps me searching and trying different tactics all through the season. I think that’s what makes fishing Lac Seul interesting and fun for anglers and guides day after month after year.
Hope to see you all in 2015 at ‘the wheel’,
On behalf of the staff here at Silver Water Wheel this fall, I’d like to pass on a sincere thank you to all the guests who singled out to us the staff members that had gone the extra mile for them or done an exceptional job during their stay.
The only constant anyone fishing Lac Seul this time of year can expect is change. This week gave proof to that. Water temps came down and the walleye were found on lots of different types of structure and in more varied depths – our guides reported 27 to 29 inch fish being caught on sand and mud flats in 15 feet of water, and off rock and sand in close to 40 feet. But if the depths and locations where fish were caught changed, the presentations they responded to best remained the same. Almost all our big walleyes this week were caught by anglers using subtler presentations. On the windy days out on the big lake, the guide staff emphasized in their reports that good boat control was essential to keep anglers using light jigs and fishing straight up and down over key spots on the structure.
Over the course of this week a total of 25 anglers fished with us, and our guide reports averaged 23 walleyes over 18’’ each day. We caught and released 18 walleyes over 27 inches, with 6 over 28 inches including a 29 and 29.5 incher caught by a father-daughter team who have been fishing with us for quite a few years now.
The guide staff have been waiting and looking for it, and this week the Northern Pike in Lac Seul started acting like it was fall. As the big pike started responding more aggressively to the lures they saw, quite a few of our anglers chose to change how they spent the majority of their day. Most of our boats spent at least part of their day casting and a lot of our boats devoted the majority of their time to pursuing big pike.
Every year, as September rolls through, lake surface temps steadily come down. As this week progressed the surface temp fell more quickly than usual, and by the end of the week we ended up with a layer of cooler water on the surface and warmer water below. We found some big pike in the remaining weed beds as usual this time of year, but as that surface layer of water cooled so did the weed bite. Later in the week, working deeper running lures off rock points directly adjacent to deep water also produced a lot of our big fish. For the week we caught and released 14 pike over 37 inches, including 3 over 38, a 40.25 and a 41 incher.
With just 10 days of fishing remaining in the 2014 season here at ‘the Wheel’, I’m looking forward to reporting on the big pike hunt to come, and whatever change Lac Seul decides to bring us next week.
Sand, sand, and more sand! The guide reports at our round table meeting were steady all week, the walleyes were on sand, and they were there in droves. Main-lake sand structures were our best producing spots this week and, as often happens in September, the fish trended towards a more active bite. We didn’t get to a full on ‘’gulp’’ presentation, but some of our boats found good bites using live bait on heavier jigs and moving faster – a big change from the trends of the last few weeks.
Walleye numbers were strong this week. The guide sheet average was 43 walleyes over 18 inches caught and released each day and the highest total was 75 in a day. Along with that, we caught and released 32 walleyes over 27 inches, with 7 over 28, including a 29.5 and 30.25 incher. I know to regular readers of these weekly reports those numbers may not sound exceptional – to put them in perspective, there were only 34 anglers through camp this entire week. I have to say that while I was out there, and listening to the guide reports each day, it felt like a great week to be fishing on Lac Suel. There were just 47 guide sheets turned in this week, and 11 of them had ‘’filled the back’’ (that’s 60+ walleyes over 18’’) – a SWWL guide’s standard for an exceptional day. One of our most senior guides, Mike Owen, saw a best for his 9 years on Lac Suel. His boat caught and released 6 walleye over 27 inches including 3 at 28 inches, all in one morning’s fishing! Days like that don’t come very often, you just have to enjoy them when they do!
Almost no time was devoted to casting for pike here at SWWL this week, but the boats that decided to pursue big pike found them. For the week we caught and released 6 fish over 37 inches, including a 40 and a 41 incher.
The end of our 2014 season is drawing closer. This week two more of our guides fished their last day of the 2014 season. Both received a parting gift from Lac Suel – their best day of the season. Ryan boated the biggest walleye of his season at 30.25 inches, and Stefano put his net under 4 walleyes over 27 inches on his final day. Both great days of fishing any time, and fantastic ones to finish your season on! I hope I get to finish the year as well as they did.
Until next week, and the next bite.
Well, I talked a lot about fall last week, but this week it truly arrived. We experienced some unsettled weather with fast changes in temps and conditions. There was a little rain, some wind, and some cooler temps…. Yep, fall.
The walleye were scattered, and definitely seemed to be moving. Over the course of the week we found bites in shallow water and deep, on rock structure, on sand, and on transitions. But guide reports had our biggest fish coming consistently deeper, in 30-40’. The fish steadied into a mid-depth sand bite with a sudden change to stable weather at the end of the week. With the stable weather there were multiple boats returning to the dock with reports of 60-80 walleye over 18’’ for the day, with the highest daily total at 100 over 18”. For the week overall, we caught and released 23 walleyes over 27 inches, including 6 over 28 inches, and one 29.
This week our anglers chose to spend almost zero time pike fishing, but a few big fish were caught anyway! One of each at 38, 39, and 40 inches.
I’ve always liked the change of seasons out on Lac Seul. Whether it’s spring to “transition” or summer to fall, the change means walleyes will be settling in to new patterns. And for me as a guide, searching, experimenting, and finding the next bite is what makes fishing great.
Until next week and the next bite,
It may only be August 23rd, but it sure feels like fall has arrived at Silver Water Wheel. For us that means the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting cooler, but what really brings it home for me is members of our guide staff giving their last daily “round table” report of the season.
The first of our younger guides headed back to college today, more are due to depart shortly, and Mike is heading back to Iowa. Every year around this time I get started thinking about fall fishing trends, and one of the first trends I get eager to focus on is big pike becoming active in the weed beds again.
Towards the end of August and beginning of September here on Lac Seul we usually see the big pike concentrating in smaller areas as the weeds begin their fall die off and the number and size of weed beds begins to shrink. And with cooler nights bringing surface water temps down the bigger fish are often more responsive than they are on hot summer days – chasing baits fast and coming back to strike at them multiple times.
Well, when you combine guides expecting a big pike trend to start soon with a day that really needs a subtle presentation to generate success with walleye, what you get are guides encouraging their anglers to spend part of the day chasing big pike. And there were some anglers fishing with us this week that preferred the big pike hunt to finessing walleye, so the guide crew spent a little more time than usual looking for big pike. As a crew we tried a few different tactics, but the boats that devoted most of their time to working deep water adjacent, main lake weed beds with spinner baits and spoons were the ones that produced the big fish. For the week we caught and released 13 pike over 37 inches, but the real story is a giant 47.25 inch northern caught by Darrick Werner! Very close to matching the new lodge record set earlier this season.
The weather was mixed this week. We had a bit of everything – sun, cloud, warm days, and cool days and winds were light and variable. With changing weather and a different wind each day – and sometimes each hour – to me it felt like there wasn’t any reason for the walleye to concentrate in any one area or become active. To get ‘em the guide staff targeted the spot on spot, had their anglers using 1/8th oz. jigs, and moved the boat slowly most of the time once again this week. Most days some boats devoted a little time to checking for more active fish, pulling gulp or just moving more quickly with live bait over larger structures. But every boat ended up returning to light jigs presented at slow speeds to generate their success this week. For the week we caught and released 37 walleye over 27 inches, including 9 over 28 inches.
Until next week,
Weather was consistently good and so was the fishing this week on the south shore of Lac Seul. There were some tougher bites when the wind laid down in the afternoon and there were times when you had to gear down to lighter jigs to coerce a bite, but there were also a couple of windows when the walleyes really popped. If there is such a thing, it was an average week of great fishing on Lac Seul accompanied by beautiful weather.
The key question that senior guides wanted to know at round table meetings was the depth that walleyes were caught. The rest of the variables were secondary. There were nice fish caught off deep rock and deep sand this week, but there were still some big ones on the top of the break. For every 27 caught deep, there was at least one caught in 18 – 28 ft. One of the largest walleyes of the week was caught pitching up into 8 ft. of water on a main lake rock point. I cannot stress enough how important it was to find the best depth for the hot spot to have a successful day.
In seasons past, I have written a great deal about fishing at speed with big jigs and Gulp to cover water searching for big walleyes. There were a few windows this week where that technique was successful, but there were many more where it wasn’t. One of the observations that has been mentioned often at round table meetings this year is the amount of big smelt that we are seeing walleyes cough up when they are caught. It is purely speculation, but this may be part of the equation as to why we can find and mark so many fish at times and yet still have reluctant biters. Whether it is related to smelt or not, there is a definite trend. Spot on spot fishing is the tried and true way to solve that problem, but “Spot and Stalk” is now the hot trend for consistently successful guides.
You have to prep your guests for “Spot and Stalk” sessions. We loved the spot on spot areas because they concentrated fish. The alternative is to identify big fish on flats and use Gulp style tactics to cover water, find them, slow down and catch them. Two major strategies have evolved. One is basically long lining ¼ oz. jigs with live bait at speed for walleyes that are suspended above sand flats. We don’t move as fast as we do with Gulp, usually .5 – .7 mph, but you can still cover ground. I like to think of this as “Gulp Lite.”
The other method is what most of the guide crew refers to as spot and stalk, and that is put the boat in reverse and move at 2 – 4 mph watching your graph until you locate a pod, pop the boat into forward, tell your guys to drop 1/8 oz. jigs and try to pick off a fish or two. Lose them and off you go again in search of another group. The better you are at identifying big arcs gives you increased odds at concentrating on pods of big fish. Almost all of the fish on the flats are at least a little suspended. We are constantly advising either 1 full crank up or 2 to get the baits between 2 – 4 ft. off the bottom. It is an active and fun way to fish and most importantly, it works. (It is far more fun than dead stickin 1/8ths.) Quality electronics are mandatory. Today’s high tech color Lowrance HDS sonar/GPS units are the most important tool that we use to make this technique work. You have to know which arcs to work on and which ones to ignore.
For the week we caught and released 43 walleyes over 27 in., including 6 – 28s, and 3 – 29s. Walleye volume was good with guide boats averaging 35 walleyes per day over 18 in. The highest daily total was 61
There were some groups slinging for pike in the afternoons and their results were good. Volume in the weed beds was generally good, although there were a few slow days. Big fish numbers were also solid with 11 over 37 in., including 3 – 40s and 1 – 42.
Over the years, I have been asked many times why there is such a dramatic change in guiding tactics between years. I had a few groups suggest that it was a way to sell different types of tackle, but the truth is that we constantly and aggressively compare old tactics with new. Call it a “free market” approach to walleye guiding. We love what worked in the past, but when it stops working, we are moving on, because we know the big fish are there and we just need a different tool to catch them.
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.