June 1, 2020 – Not Season Opener:
We should be well into Season by now, but 2020 is going to rewrite the History books for everyone. There has been surprisingly little news or information about what to expect for the remainder of the Summer. My concern is that no news is bad news. As of this date, all we know is that the border will continue to be closed, at least until June 21. I would put the emphasis on “at least.”
Missy and the kids are still not allowed to cross the border even though they plan to quarantine for 14 days when they arrive. They remain in Iowa packed and waiting.
We continue to work on our projects. The new fixed dock is coming along nicely. The guys are working on the landscaping of the new cabin. And most importantly, we are on the water every day training our new guides for their future guests. Along the way, all 3 have managed to catch and release some big fish this spring.
We look forward to introducing you to our newest guide staff members:
A season preview:
At the end of January our budget forecast predicted that we were about to have the best business year in our history. And like the rest of the planet, our world turned upside down in a matter of weeks in the face of a Pandemic. I have spent the last 3 months trying to research and plan for whatever level of season we could muster in the age of the Corona Virus. After all of that thought and effort, we still don’t know what is going to happen.
As of today, the US / Canada border will be closed to tourism at least until June 21. Personally, I do not believe that they will open it any time soon after that. There are dozens of polar points of view to be found written on the subject, but the fact is that there have been far more Covid cases in the US than anywhere else in the world. To date, the US is reporting over 85,000 deaths at the same time that Canada is seeing their cases decrease with more than 5,000 deaths. The different rates of infection between the 2 countries does not make me optimistic that we will see the border opened to US tourists any time soon.
We have been through the stages of grief and are left only with a plan to salvage whatever we can from a crippled 2020 season, but more importantly to improve for 2021 and beyond.
Many lodges have already made the decision to close for the entire 2020 season. We made the decision to bring some staff up to the lodge and complete our newest 10-person cabin. The Eagle’s Nest is nearly finished and is situated where the old cabin 5 used to be. Additional projects under way or in the works are a complete rebuild of the old fixed dock and installation of a new 80 kw generator. All of the old overhead power lines have been removed and replaced with underground service. By this time next year, the lodge will have a new and improved look.
When the border does open, we will be OPEN. At the same time, we know that we are going to have to change our current business model to adapt to the challenges of the virus. A new and more rigorous disinfection protocol will be implemented covering the entire property. The biggest challenge will be getting around the close seating of our current dining room. Our plan is to discontinue meals in the dining room and serve guests both breakfast and dinner in their cabins. We will miss the family style atmosphere of the lodge and the Master Angler Award ceremony but we feel that we can provide a safer meal service by compartmentalizing our groups in their cabin. Of course, shore lunches will continue to be served with your group on the beach. We still have a few more details to sort out before guests arrive, but we are confident that we can continue to provide a safe, high quality angling experience in the great Ontario outdoors.
I will try to provide updates with news reports on a regular basis. In the meantime, if you are a current SWWL guest and have concerns about your booking, please call me or email. I don’t know exactly when we will see all of our guests again, but when we do, we plan to continue to provide one of the best fishing adventures to be found in the north.
It was a week of warm daytime temps and lots of different wind speeds, but all from the south. There was even enough heat to generate large thunderstorm systems on three days – unusual for us this time of year. Despite the temperature change, the lake surface temps remained around 60 degrees, and we found walleye in both shallow transition depths and deep summer water again.
Interestingly, the cold early in September and then the return of warm weather this week seems to have the walleye stuck in between summer and fall. Just a week ago I would have said we were well on the way to an early fall transition and been searching transition depth structures for big walleye. Instead, this week we split our time almost evenly between transition and summer fishing again, but the warm weather does seem to have moved the top end fish back into summer pattern depths. We saw some volume fishing transition, but all of our top end fish were caught out of 25-35 feet of water at classic summer structures. We also returned to gulp and speed this week. There were more active fish to be found and gulp at speed was a good volume producer at times, though the big ones came on live bait rigs. The daily guide sheets averaged 20-25 walleye over 18 inches, and for the week we boated 9 walleye over 27 inches, but the top end was still good with 2 – 29.5’s, and an incredibly bulky 31.25 incher.
We tallied 56 guided days on the water this week, a little over half that of an average summer week. And the majority of our groups spent that time in pursuit of big northern. Steady water temps and some warm, sunny days meant no big change in lake conditions. No heavy winds to knock down the last of the weeds, and the big pike held to the remaining weed beds again this week. Some of our favorite fall big pike producing spots are rock – points and outside edges of back bays. They were just not producing this week; all the bait and all the big fish were in the weeds. For the week we boated 18 northern over 37 inches, including 4 – 39’s, 1 – 40, and 2 – 41’s. Blades were what most of the biggest fish ate, and spoons remained the volume producer.
On a side note: It’s been a trend in the last few years that we catch some big bass on main lake rock piles. 3 – 19’s and 1 -20 incher this week.
There were a lot of grey skies and cool temps this week. The cool air temps kept the lake surface temps dropping – lake surface temps were down to the 50’s by Friday. That’s a much earlier temperature drop than most years. There has been enough wind to mix that surface water with the rest of the water column, so water temps are likely similar at all our fishing depths. As the week progressed and the cool weather persisted our best walleye bites moved into deeper water. Plastics and speed were generally ineffective, and slow and subtle live bait presentations were the method of choice for our guides most of the week. One interesting note, as we moved to fishing deep water in some of our favorite big fish spots we saw a big surge in the number of fish under 18 inches. Contrary to our usual pattern, some boats were able to catch big walleye by spending the time to sort through the high volume.
This week we had just 41 guided days on the water, less than half an average week in the summer. About half of those days were devoted to hunting for big northern, and the top end walleye remained strong for the boats targeting them. For the week we caught and released 16 walleyes over 27 inches, including 4 – 28’s, 2 – 29’s, and 2 – 30’s.
A lot of our guests this week chose to spend their time in pursuit of big pike this week in spite of the weather. The heavy north winds from a week ago stripped most open water weed beds away, and low lake surface temps meant northern were just as comfortable back in the bays as on the main lake. As a result, most of our best fish this week came from sheltered water, in the remaining weed beds. The big pike were heavily concentrated in those weeds, there were a couple of days mid-week when we moved and saw 4 or 5 big northern for every one we caught. For the week we boated 13 pike over 37 inches, with 2 – 39’s, 2 – 40’s, and a 42 incher.
Bill Jablonowski and Joel Schneider are a pair our guests that have fished with us in the fall for many years. They had an incredible week this fall, catching nine “photo walleye”, including two 29 inchers and a gigantic 30.5 incher.
The weather this week had a little bit of everything – sun, clouds, warm, cool, windy, and calm. But no extremes of anything. Overall, it averaged out to pretty stable, and lake surface temps remained in the 60-65 degree range. That meant pretty similar water temps from the surface down to 30+ feet, and the walleye had a lot of water in their ‘comfort zone’ temperature range to choose from. We haven’t yet found many fish in less than 15 feet of water this fall, but we’ve caught good walleye from depths ranging from 15 to 40 feet. Our time and our best production were split pretty evenly between classic deep summer water and transition depths this week.
When the walleye are both deep and shallow, finding fish takes time and a back and forth approach. Many of our guides used speed and Gulp this week to search the various depths as efficiently as possible and pick up any active fish. Then they went back and targeted the less active biters with jigs and live bait. Overall, we spent more time with live bait and most of our big ‘eyes came that way.
This is the time of year when our staff numbers shrink, and we run at about half to two thirds the number of boats on the water. We average over 80 guided days a week throughout the summer months – this week we totaled 48 days on the water. Volume was spotty and heavily weather dependent, the average day’s guide sheet had 22 walleye over 18 inches. The top end was good, for the week we boated 22 walleyes over 27 inches, with 6 – 28’s, 1 – 29, and 4 – 30 inchers.
Our boats spent more time pike fishing this week. The weed beds are well into their fall die-off, and the big winds last week helped speed that along. That means the big pike are more concentrated now in the fewer remaining weed beds than they were throughout the summer, and we invested a lot of our time searching the weeds when the sun shone. But some of our best fish came from transition -type rock structures when the weather was grayer. Spoons and spinnerbaits remained our best producing baits when we were working the weeds, but deeper diving lures and jakes worked on rock structures. For the week we caught and released 9 pike over 37 inches, with 3 – 38’s, and 1 – 40.
My take-away: The seasons change, the weather changes, the bite changes, but ‘the program’ remains the same. Go fast, slow, deep, shallow – experiment, gather information, and apply it. The fish will come.
This week was about big wind. Every day had high winds and there were some days with sustained winds of 20-25 mph. A major front moved through mid-week, and continued cool nights brought lake surface temps down by 5-10 degrees from last week.
In mid-September, when we usually get dropping surface temps and high wind weather trends, walleye respond by moving back into transition depths. Our guides followed the weather and found good walleye in less than 20 feet of water regularly this week too. Most of the big fish still came from summertime deep water, and very few of our fish were caught with aggressive presentations – live bait and light jigs were the best producers.
We fish every day and deal with heavy winds all the time. As guides, our usual approach when we see a high wind day coming is to choose that day to focus on spots that are off the main body of the lake, spots that are sheltered from the worst of the wind and easy to drive to. We put in extra time on those areas and focus on getting some really good fish rather than driving around the lake and beating folks up to chase lots of fish – planning on being able to chase lots of fish on the calmer days. The hard part this week was that every day was a big wind day. That led to our boats spending the majority of their time this week working “big fish spots” and very little time chasing volume. As a result, our total numbers were lower than usual this week, but big fish production remained good. Daily guide sheets averaged 23 walleye over 18 inches, and for the week we boated 39 walleye over 27 inches, including 9 – 28’s and 2 – 29’s.
The big winds and weather meant we did almost no pike fishing at all this week. We caught and released just 5 northern over 37 inches, including 2 – 40’s.
My take-away: Weather trumps all. It may not be the right time of season, time of day, or the right water – doesn’t matter. Follow the weather to find fish.
This week it was hard to convince ourselves it was still only August. The weather continued very fall-like, nights were cool and some days were too, and there were lots of cloudy skies and blustery days. The walleye acted like it was fall as well, moving from shallow to deep and back again and just being much less predictable.
From talking with the guide crew two trends stand out this week and they were widely different. We finally started to catch numbers and size out of “deep summer” depths. We’ve been dipping out to 30-35 feet regularly all summer, but this is the first week of the season where catching both size and numbers out 30+ feet was the rule rather than the exception. At the same time some boats found good fish by going the other way and targeting typical fall patterns in less than 20 feet. Overall, the best volume and most of our big walleye came from following the bite out to deep water, but a couple of the biggest ‘eyes of the week were caught following the shallow fall trend.
This week our best volume came from gearing down – Lighter jigs and finesse presentations were the answer. Whenever we’re working a finesse bite kind of day, we’ll put on big jigs and turn up the speed to check on the reaction bite that Mike has been talking about in his last few reports. We kept checking, but the walleye liked the subtler approach this week. Though of course there is always an exception – the biggest walleye of the week was caught pulling Gulp in deep water. Walleye volume varied a lot from day to day. Most days it was not uncommon for a boat to check a half a dozen spots before finding a location that produced any numbers of fish for the sheet. Guide sheets averaged 30 walleye over 18 inches a day and for the week we caught and released 33 walleyes over 27 inches, including 6 – 28’s, 1 – 29, and 1 – 30.
We did very little pike fishing this week, and it shows in the numbers – we caught and released 3 over 37 inches including 1 – 39 and 1 – 40.75 incher.
We felt the first little hint of a change in seasons this week; mornings were cool (below 50), when you study the shoreline you can pick out the first hint of yellow leaves, and some of the shallowest weedbeds are beginning to die out. It was still summer fishing with both main lake rock and sand producing consistently, but we know that more changes will be coming soon.
Walleye fishing volume varied on a daily basis. There were a few really hot bites, a few slower ones, and most days were just consistent. It was more common to catch 5 sheet fish from 5 different spots rather than smash 25 off of one. Guide sheets averaged 35 walleyes over 18 in. per boat each day. For the week, we caught and released 35 walleyes over 27 in., including 6 – 28s, 2 – 29s, and 1 – 30. It was once again an even split between our two most productive summer presentations. Live minnows on 1/8 – ¼ oz jigs fished vertically worked well to entice reluctant biters, but we were also still able to trigger reaction bites pulling 6.5 in. Gulp Nemesis on ¾ oz. jigs at speed (.9 – 1.2 mph). I have had a few groups that have had a hard time finding the Gulp product in stores. I recommend going to Berkley’s website and make sure to look for the Saltwater version. On Lac Seul, it is hard to beat white. Key depths for the week were 20 – 30 ft.
The pike bite was not bad and results for big fish were pretty good considering the amount of time spent casting. For the week, we caught and released 13 over 37 in., including 3 – 38s, 1 – 39, and 2 – 41s. Big spoons were hard to beat.
The Take Away: It feels like summer is faster now. I had a meeting today finalizing plans for the construction of the next new cabin. Construction begins the first week of September and the hardest part of that job is coming up with a name for the new 10-man cabin. Missy and the kids are already back in Iowa for the start of school, soccer, and volleyball. It is hard to believe that this is my last report of the summer season. I will finish guiding this week, spend a few days chasing muskies, and then it will be time to head back to Iowa to get ready for the Fall guiding season. Overall it was another great season on Lac Seul. Brett will take over and run the operation for Fall and will be writing the next weekly fishing report.
MW – out.
The major weather event this week was a substantial cold front that went through mid-week. Warm humid weather instantly flipped to high winds from the Northwest, with cool showers, and colder nights. It felt more like the first week of Sept. than the first week of Aug. The weather did move the fish around a bit, but overall it was still a good week for big fish and good numbers.
For the week, we caught and released 41 walleyes over 27 in., including 8 – 28s, 4 – 29s, 1 – 30, and Don Kent caught a huge 31.5 in. monster. Volume was up and down each day, but overall was good with guide sheets averaging 30 walleyes over 18 in. The strange part of the story is that some days “eaters” were hard to find and some days they were everywhere.
Key depths for the week ranged between 18 – 28 ft. Both main lake rock and sand produced, but not at the same time. We are still in the reaction vs. tease tug of war for presentations. When you encounter neutral to negative walleyes, you can either slow down and grind them with finesse presentations or gear up with big jigs and 6.5 Gulp Nemesis to trigger reaction bites at speed. Once again, both worked better than running the middle ground for speed and presentation. The lean for big fish went to the Gulp bite this week. When guides found a spot that produced a walleye over 25 in. on Gulp, they could often go back and work the area several different ways to pull more big fish from the spot. The hard part was finding the first big fish. The others around that one, were much easier.
Quite a few guides hunted big pike this week and the results were pretty good. For the week, we caught and released 10 pike over 37 in., including 2 – 39s, 1 – 40, 1 – 41, and a huge 43 for Drayven Ribbink. The pattern was good weeds near deeper water and a fast presentation. Spoons were top producers, but in-line spinners worked as well.
The Take Away: Some times a big cold front is bad news, this week it just meant that you had to hunt walleyes in different places to chalk a win.
The week of July 26 to Aug. 2 was as close to normal as we have seen this year. The weather was warm and humid and fairly consistent. The walleye fishing was excellent for volume and good for big fish. The bigger walleyes showed up in greater numbers towards the end of the week, but they were mixed right in with all of the same fish that we have been catching this summer. It would be nice to be able to go to the back of the book and look up the answers sometimes, but Lac Seul walleyes don’t work that way. As guides we plan our experiments, evaluate the results on the fly, make adjustments and hope we have that day’s answer before the clock runs out at 6. This week was not easier, but the results were better than the previous three.
The common thread and consistent talking point at round table this week was finding and marking fish that were negative to neutral at best. That and the feet of bait fish showing up on the graph in all areas of the lake. Both main lake rock and sand held fish. Frequently bait and walleyes were found 2 to 5 ft. off the bottom. Guides responded with several different solutions. Many tried downsizing with 1/8 oz. jigs and live bait held vertically off the bottom. Others long lined 1/4s with minnows at .5 mph. Guys also set up drop shot rigs with minnows suspended 2 ft. off bottom. We also used big ¾ oz jigs and 6.5 in. Gulp Nemesis at speed to trigger reaction bites from groups of neutral fish. Each one of these techniques worked at times. The trick was to find a presentation that worked for the conditions and your boat and try to duplicate it.
For the week, we caught and released 48 walleyes over 27 in., including 13 – 28s, and 1 – 30. Guide boats averaged 40 walleyes over 18 in. per day. Even though it was sometimes tricky, it felt good to have the big walleyes return to the schools of mediums. It was still 50/50 for results between light jigs finesse and minnows vs. big jigs and big plastics at speed. Key depths varied each day, but 24 – 30 was a good range for the week.
Pike fishing results were hit and miss this past week. We did catch and release 3 – 40s and 1 – 41, but there were also many afternoons where results were very modest.
The Take Away: After 30 years, I am still learning. Even 10 years ago, when I encountered the 2nd or 3rd group of negative walleyes that would barely bite a 1/8 oz jig with a minnow, I would not have made the decision to pull through them with big Gulp at speed. But that was the pattern that worked this week.
The week’s best results came from both super finesse or high speed with big plastics to get reaction bites. Especially when it gets tricky, you have to rely on the formula. Forget what you read. Skip what you know. You can still make your predictions and hope for the best, but “the Formula” is still the guide’s best answer. Plan and execute your experiments in a timely and logical fashion, evaluate the results, adjust, and duplicate. Hope that you have enough information and time in the day to lock in a win, and when you don’t, listen to round table and wipe the slate clean for tomorrow and try again.