Missy was talking tonight to Alex (20) and Nick Sigurdson (23). They have been fishing at the Wheel with their dad Dan for the past 15 years and they agreed that this was the best weather and best fishing that they have ever had. The same comments were repeated again and again at each of my check-outs and the stats chime in even louder. I was surprised at how good last week was for big fish. I am shocked at how much better this week was for big fish, plus volume. Over the years, my lead guide Brett McCallum has seen it all and his conclusion is that it can’t last, but right now, it is as good as it gets at Silver Water Wheel…. Walleye full on, Big pike on, and Big bass just starting.
There were a few slow mornings in certain areas and a few disappointing runs to normally productive spots, but on balance, this week was as good as we have seen in the past 7 years. For the week we had 54 walleyes over 27 in., including 13 – 28s, 7 – 29s, and 1 – 30. Walleye volume was excellent as well with daily guide sheets averaging 35 walleyes over 18 in. The highest daily total was 80.
About half of the big walleyes were caught on 1/8 oz. jigs and minnows and half on jigs and plastics or gulp Alive minnows. With water temps averaging 60 degrees F all over the lake, we have quickly moved into transition. We still caught some big eyes way back in the retro spring spots, but there were just as many big ones caught from the deep side of main lake transition spots. I think that one of the big differences we are seeing in production is the universal aggressive approach that all SWWL guides take to searching water and hunting for big fish. No one is happy sitting and catching a bunch of “littles.” You can do that anywhere. The guide crew in general and the freshman crew in particular are aggressive at searching for big fish bites.
We also had many groups actively chasing pike this week. For the effort applied, the results were equally impressive for pike as they were for walleye. For the week, we caught and released 23 pike over 37 in., including 5 – 40s, 1 – 41, 1 – 43, and 1 – 44. The weed beds are about ½ way up in transition areas and almost to the surface in the back water bay areas. I had no idea that the spring could progress so quickly after such a late ice out, but 14 days of warm sunshine has been the key.
Bass fishing is also now right on schedule after a full week of bright warm sun on the shallows. Some bass are on beds in Burntwood and they soon will be in Bray. I took Brooke (8) and Blake (6) out fishing tonight for an hour. We fished random shorelines with rocks and sand transitions and caught bass off all of them. Brooke’s biggest was a 19. For the week we caught and released 16 – 19s and 1 – 20. The next 2 weeks will be the peak of Bass fishing season.
The most difficult thing about being the guide manager and owner of SWWL is trying to objectively balance guide production and staff performance with guest expectations. When we smash it, we want to take credit. When we get beat up, we want to blame the weather. In between is the transition from old guides to new, training and coaching, and lengthy nightly round tables combined with evening advanced training. I encourage my senior guides to push the new guys. And I keep track of everything. This week, one of my first year guides reported the following walleye catch: 25s – 11, 26s – 5, 27s – 7. I had walleyes at 25 – 12, 26 – 6, and 27s – 8. My return guests know that it doesn’t matter who you fish with. The information is shared across the board and the training program is now so intense that first year guides know that they are expected to keep pace with senior guides. That new program has paid off in a big way. Jesse and I agreed that it felt awkward to be talking about transition and production during our “iced in seminars” in the lodge this spring, but the results are real.
I know that it is going to end, but this past week has been a fun one for me. Pete Bloom has been fishing at Silver Water Wheel Lodge for 33 consecutive years. I had the pleasure of putting the net under a 27, 27, 27.5, 27.5, and a 29 inch walleye this week for him. He and I both know that this is the “Good ole days” and that we will talk about this past week for years to come.
I am 45 this year and am admittedly in between generations. Having the young guns around keeps me sharp and up to date and one of the things that I am most proud of this week is our new video on You tube. Jesse Wright has been and will be the key to this project. He introduced me to the “Go Pro” video camera and showed me his first Wheel video. I saw the potential, bought my own camera, and have been working with him to produce new, current , and fun videos to better show what it is actually like to fish at the wheel. The first clip of the year is now uploaded to let you get a feel for the Spring of 2013. I knew it was good when I got excited watching it even though I was here when it was filmed…. I Know you will enjoy it. Even though we are exhausted, we are planning many more to come….
The monsoon ended as the week began. Lake levels rose more than a foot in one week as the inches of rain made their way into Lac Seul. Weather patterns stabilized early and we enjoyed a week of light winds, warm temps, and Brilliant sunshine. Volume improved and we smashed the big fish. I will be surprised if we have another week this year that can beat this past week’s catch for top end numbers. We caught and released 42 walleyes over 27 in., including 13 – 28s, 5 – 29s, and 3 – 30s.
Post spawn walleye migration continued on its normal course as fish steadily moved into the early stages of transition locations. Most of the big walleyes are still back in the warm water bays, but there are enough on the move to warrant checking out some of the “next” spots we fish as Spring progresses.
Most of the big walleyes were caught dragging minnows on light jigs in 8 – 13 ft. of water, but there were a few caught very shallow pitching jigs and plastics into 2 – 6ft. Volume continued an upward trend, with most daily guide sheets reporting 20 – 30 walleyes over 18 in. per boat. The highest daily total reported was 48.
The big pike disappeared early, but returned as lake surface temps warmed into the upper 50s on the main lake and into the 60s in protected areas. There were a few gators caught way back in the skinny water, but most were found on slightly deeper water locations (points, cups…) just outside the spawning bays. For the week we caught 37 pike over 37 in., including 6 – 39s, 1 – 40, 2 – 41s, and 1 – 42. Spoons and In-line spinners were top producers.
Our first attempts at Bass this year resulted in modest returns. There are some bass moving into the shallows, but many of the bigger bass were caught deeper as incidental catch while dragging jigs or pitching for walleyes. For the week we caught 6 over 19 in.
A Good Problem to Have: We try to keep the photo board in the dining room current with all the big fish caught during the week. With 42 walleyes over 27 in. and 37 pike over 37 in., there just wasn’t enough room.
This week’s weather began where the last one ended. Sunshine, stable conditions, and high temps in the 70s sent the fish migration into overdrive. The big pike invaded the warm shallow bays and the walleyes began their post spawn roam. Areas that were vacant one day, held fish the following, and were bumping the next. And then the weather turned on Thursday and the wind blew, inches of rain fell, temperatures dropped, the big pike fled the shallows, and the walleyes slipped down the break and fell into a pseudo sulk.
If I was writing this report on Wednesday it would have been a full on chest thumping brag about how great the fishing had been. But instead, I am writing it on Friday after I have been blown around, rained on, with aching hands, and struggling to find fish close to the lodge because it has been too tough to run up North for the last two days. I am going to try my best to follow my own advice to my guide crew and search for “The Balance.” Overall, It was a Bang up week. We smashed big fish and lots of them, but we ended on a bit of a wimper.
It was a big week for big walleyes but we also racked up some big stats for huge pike. We caught big walleyes on the north shore, but we also found trophies down south near the lodge as well. For the week we caught and released 33 walleyes over 27 in., including 10 – 28s, 4 – 29s, and 1 – 31. Volume improved, but the average guide sheet reported just over 15 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day. Early in the week, jigs and twister tails or Husky jerks turned some big walleyes shallow. Most of the really big walleyes were caught dragging big minnows on light jigs in areas with relatively warm water. This week, 45 was tough, 53 was OK, but if you could find 58 degrees F surface temps, you were a happy guide.
The hunt for really big pike was a bit different this spring. The usual spots still held volume and a few big ones, but the guides that found most of the Huge pike relied on wind direction, surface temps, and scouting to find unexploited areas for numbers of big fish. Most of the really big pike this week were caught from spots that don’t even earn Grade C- ratings from most of the senior guide staff. With most fish in 2 – 6 ft. of water, shallow presentations were the key. We have relied heavily on Husky Jerks in the past, but Medium to large spoons were clearly the best choice this week. Multiple guide boats returned with the same story – “All the big pike were caught on spoons.”
For the week, we had 37 Pike over 37 in., including 6 – 40s, 1 – 41, 1 – 42, 1 – 43, and 1 – 44. I will do my best to make sure that the guides remember that we began the season with a blast. The third day of bright sunshine on the shallows was the key. Without the warm weather and sunshine, it would have been a bust.
Smallies are just beginning to show up as incidental catch, but it won’t be long before we are fishing them hard.
As always, weather is the key. If it hadn’t gone bad, then there is a good chance that this would have gone down as THE big fish week of the year. As it was, it was still great and we sent many guests home with master angler pins. We just didn’t hand out many on Thursday or Friday.
For those that have been patiently waiting for a new round of SWWL fishing reports to begin, I do apologize, but it has been a rough start. I just reread my first fishing report from 2012 and compared to this year, it reads like “Bizarro World.” The easiest way to begin to describe how dramatically different two years can be:
Ice out 2012 – April 15
Ice out 2013 – May 21
You can still find 4 -5 ft. piles of ice on main lake islands right now. I had to hire a D7 bulldozer to plow snow to get into the lodge on April 27. The 7 ft. pile of snow and 4 -5 ft. snow drifts took weeks to melt. And all of those terrestrial details don’t even begin to do justice to how different the fishing has been between the two openers.
I cancelled my first week groups this year because of ice. The Wooge group of 4 arrived on May 19 and suffered through some of the worst possible fishing conditions you can imagine. The ice went off the lake earlier than it could have with a massive cold front, packing sustained 30 – 40 mph winds and rain. Nothing says lock jaw more than a post cold front ice out.
We did catch a bit of a break when weather conditions improved dramatically as the lodge almost filled up on May 22. Main lake temps were 40 and the back bays struggled to get to the low 50s, but that was enough for us to begin to scrape together some patterns.
As usual, when faced with difficult conditions, the guides pooled their resources and came up with some creative solutions. Some walleye bites were very temporary and most were based on exceptionally shallow presentations associated with barriers and warm water.
Despite the few guests in camp and just ½ a week of sheets, we did manage to put together a surprising number of big walleyes. For the week we had 32 over 27 in., including 6 – 28s, and 3 – 29s. Despite the strong top end numbers, it is hard to describe how few areas produced walleyes, let alone big ones. It was feast or famine and even when we were doing well for big fish, it was often hard to find small fish to eat for lunch. One of the known patterns that we deal with on an early, early spring is that the big female river spawners disperse first. When they leave, they move to warm water and that is one thing that we find in relatively very short supply this spring. The result is that volume has been relatively very weak, yet we have seen some big fish.
Pike fishing has been good, but not quite what you would expect it to be on a Late ice out spring. For the week we had 10 over 37 in., with 2 – 40s, 1 – 41, and 2 – 43s. As you would guess, most were pre spawn, very shallow, and very uninterested in eating.
Weather patterns have been warm and consistent over the last 4 days and the run up to a more normal spring season should accelerate.
Fishing conditions have been challenging, but I did just check out a group that I had tried to cancel. I had been concerned that the bite would be tough to find, but they reminded me that sometimes I tend to err too far on the side of caution. They experienced their best big fish week in years with 18 walleyes over 27 inches for 6 guys over 3 days. Shorelunch fish may have been tough to find, but some of our groups smashed the big ones this week.
It is long over due, but we have recently added a detailed article on how Silver Water Wheel guides have refined techniques developed to catch more and bigger walleyes on Lac Seul.
This is the last fishing report of the year from up here at the Wheel. We had a great week of fishing to close out our guiding season. Fall weather was in full force – lots of wind, cold nights, brisk days, even some sleet and hail throughout the week. But surprisingly the fish kept on biting (I had my doubts some mornings) and guides and guests alike did a great job to wrap up another great year at the Lodge.
The walleye fishing was good this week. Fish are huge right now, getting their feed on for winter (I think I said that last week, but it’s still true!). Our numbers were above average for this time of year (20-30 fish over 18” per boat) and we saw some big fish too. For the week we had 13 walleye over 27 inches, including a 28 and a 29. The challenge this week was you really had to key into the few areas holding biting fish. It may sound like an obvious statement, but the challenge was that there were fish at all the spots (the screen was always lit up)… it was finding spots where they were actively feeding that mattered most. One method that worked over multiple days was fishing some of the lake currents created by big winds funneling water down into narrow pinches. This pattern was replicated in a few different places and it paid off. The average depths varied anywhere from 20ft down to 40.
The pike fishing was great this week as well. We had 15 fish over 37 inches, with multiple 39s, 41s, and a 42. Pike were found in some of our classic spring pike fishing spots, which was surprising to us. Usually we are throwing for pike in fall spots that are closer to deep water, but many of the big fish came out of 3-4 f.o.t. in back bay stumps, and most of them where found in proximity to the healthy weed beds that still remain.
A final end of the year bonus was that our friend Mike Harnetty came up and got the chance to scoot up to the far end of the lake to do some Lac Seul Muskie fishing, and folks, he caught a big one. He and Dave worked hard all day and it paid off with a 53” giant.
We had an awesome season up here at Silver Water Wheel Lodge, and a big thanks goes out from all of us to our amazing guests. Without you, we’d just be a bunch of unemployed fishermen! Just joking, I am sure we’d find jobs, but none that would compare to taking friends out fishing on one of the greatest fisheries in the world.
So thanks again, and hope we see you next year.
Senior Guide, Silver Water Wheel Lodge.
Fall keeps on rolling on here, and this will be our 2nd last fishing report of the season. This week we saw it all as far as weather is concerned. Early in the week was “stable” (long johns in the morning and sunscreen in the afternoon). 3 days ago it was blowing 40km/h all day, gusting to 60. The next day rained all day. Today the fog was so thick leaving the dock that boats disappeared into the mist after 100ft. So I am guessing tomorrow will be nice!
Our efforts are still equally divided between pike and walleye fishing and the bear hunt. There were only a few boats fishing walleye consistently and the pattern of deep rock and sand held steady (30-40ft). For the week we had 9 walleye over 27 inches including 2X28 and one huge 30.25 inch fish.
The pike fishing is on in full force. 2-3 boats were fishing pike all week and stayed busy. Only a few monsters were found (one 41 and one 42) but we saw 9 fish over 37 inches and many many mid-30s kept anglers happy and busy. In this week coming we should see similar volume for pike and the boys are anticipating some big ones for sure.
For those still coming up (Larson and Co.) we await your arrival! For those who have come and gone – thanks for checking in on us and making this season a great one. Tune in next week for our final report.
Senior Guide, Silver Water Wheel Lodge
Another great week of fall fishing up here at Swwl. The walleye bite was on in a wide range of locations, and fish were settling back into many of the spots we have been anticipating. In general fish seemed more active as the week went on, but whether they were active or not – these fish are huge right now, and obviously they have been feeding heavily in anticipation of the coming winter.
The walleye numbers this week were very good – 24 walleye over 27 inches, with 4 of them being 28. If the angling effort was doubled as it would be in summer, this week could complete with some of our most productive summer weeks. Stats like these go to show that there are still lots of bigs ones to be caught here in the fall, and as I mentioned, the girth on these fish is astounding right now! Average depths for good bites were deep – 35 to 40ft. Some fish remain shallower I am sure, but most of our attention is still on deep water, whether it be rock or sand.
The pike bite was on as well, and it is only getting better. The increasingly cold nights and the last cold front seemed to do just what we had hoped for – the Lac Seul giants are returning shallower water where they can be targeted. Pike numbers for the week included 12 over 37 inches, with some really big ones in there: two 40s, a 43, a 44, and a 46! We currently have several serious pike anglers in camp right now and this week we should continue to see some great pike fishing.
Thanks for checking in, hope to see you soon!
Senior Guide, Silver Water Wheel Lodge.
Hello again from the Wheel.
It is Sept. 1st and the camp is full of an even mix of fishermen and bear hunters. Weather has been warm this week again, with nightly temps dropping only to the mid-teens (60F). Wind has been blowing on and off (never just in the middle, like we prefer) and today it was very calm, overcast, and humid out there.
No need to sugarcoat it, the fishing was tough this week. From a guide’s perspective it was very tough. We managed to find a few spots that were producing, but many of our standby spots were vacant. You know the feeling – not marking bait, not marking arcs.. it means things are changing, fish are moving, or as I like to call it – “reorganizing”. But while they are moving, we guides are working harder than ever. For me, its weeks like these that I fish as much random stuff as I dare in effort to stumble into something out-of-the-box that pays off.
From the guests’ perspective, I can say that the fishing was pretty good. The team found a pile of fish stacked up in an area not too far from camp. It was perfect – a well sheltered area for the big wind days when our mobility to our go-to spots becomes limited. With a lot of hard work, we managed to find enough fish to keep our stats up, our cameras flashing, and our guests happy. For the week we had 18 walleye over 27 inches, including 2X28s (one of them a monster 28.5). The daily guide sheets averaged between 25-35 fish over 18 inches per day, and often some big incidental pike were on there as well. The highest daily boat total was 65 walleye over 18 inches. Good numbers when you consider we are about 6 boats on the water per day.
Fish were found in a depth range of 15-30 ft. (still very spread out). What was significant to me was that the area that held all these fish is (for us) a classic spring spot – a small protected lake basin bottoming out at 30ft. It is something we usually fish in May and early June. So often “we” (those obsessed with theories about fish behavior) box ourselves into thinking that big walleye have to be near deep water at this time of year (50+ft). Apparently, they are just wherever the cisco are – they were spitting up many, and clearly feeding actively. So this week, it turned out something that seemed like a ‘retro-move’ had enough fish to pad all our sheets during a rough week. Personally, I find it amazing how complex this fishery is, and that is what makes fishing on Lac Seul so exciting and challenging at the same time – so much water!
There were still more incidental big pike caught this week than targeted, but there were 3 or 4 nice pike found casting in good weeds that remain intact. For the week we had 7 over 37, including one 40 and one huge 41. I have a feeling this fall will be prime time for pike once the cold nights start to set in. Well, I guess that is enough rambling from me. We hope to see you soon, and check in on the report next week.
Senior Guide, Silver Water Wheel Lodge
We have once again reached the fall season here at the Silver Water Wheel Lodge. Mike, Missy and the kids have headed back to Iowa. The cold weather is not yet here, but the trees are turning, the wind is blowing, and we have had several powerful storms move through this week. All this wind has stirred up the lake significantly by mixing the water around (we call this the “blender effect”) and what follows is a scattering bait and as a result, a scattering of fish behaviors.
The walleye fishing was stable early in the week, with most guides finding success by fishing deep (30+) on both sand and rock. But then the storms and the wind came and shook all that up. A powerful 3 hour electrical storm made for a slow day following, and the next day a similar system moved through. In general, continued high winds and storm systems have this week a harder week for “easy street” guiding, but we still managed to pull it off in style. For the week we had 23 walleye over 27 inches with 2X28s, which is good considering there were less guides on the water (some days as few as 5). Daily guide sheets averaged 25-30 walleye over 18in. per day. We did have to find fish in more scattered depths (20-35ft.) and we are all watching out for changing trends put in motion by the mixing of water this week.
There are still some big incidental pike coming up while fishing deep water, (38s and a 42) but the big pike have yet to come shallow enough to target consistently. Only a few afternoons were spent checking on the pike bite, but this is something we are all watching out for and anticipating… there is nothing like big fall Lac Seul pike fishing!
This fall is shaping up to be a busy one with many great guests coming in – so that should mean good numbers, big fish, and lots for me to report for the next 4 weeks!
Have a great week and looking forward to the next report.
Senior Guide, Silver Water Wheel Lodge.