The walleyes are in the weeds. It was another warm, sunny, and mostly windless week on Lac Seul. The mayflies are emerging in many areas of the lake. And the lake level is beginning to slowly fall.
When we talk about the walleyes being in the weeds, there are 2 key concepts to consider. Fishing in the middle of a cabbage weed bed is extremely difficult. We know that there are fish inside the thick stuff, but presenting baits to them in an efficient manner is very difficult. We basically fish jigs with live bait or Gulp on the deep side of the weeds in 9 – 15 ft. of water. You occasionally foul your hook with weeds, but you can still cover water. The other issue is that not all weeds are holding walleyes. In fact, there are far more weedy areas not holding walleyes than are. If you try 2 or 3 weed beds without success and then give up on the pattern, then you are likely going to get your feelings hurt when you hear the reports from your fellow guides at the nightly round table. Further complicating the puzzle is that you can find different results from the same weed bed on different days. Like any other pattern, you have to remain disciplined and focused to find the day’s best bite.
We continue to check and there were a few walleyes out on the main lake summer sand and rock spots, but they were very negative and very difficult to catch. Even with some ups and downs, walleye volume was better this week with guide sheets averaging 35 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day. 95% of those fish were caught between 8 – 16 ft. There were some big walleyes in the weeds as well. For the week, we caught and released 32 over 27 in., including 5 – 28s and 1 – 30. The lone 30 was caught out on deeper water, main lake sand. It was a 50 / 50 split between minnows and Gulp this week.
The health, depth, and size of the weeds were also a draw for numbers of big pike again this week. We released 24 pike over 37 in., including 2 – 40s, 1 – 41, 1 – 42, and 1 – 44. Big spoons were responsible for more than 90% of pike production this week. The William’s Whitefish was still very difficult to beat.
There were a few smallmouth bass caught this week, but almost all were incidental while fishing for walleyes. We released 2 – 19 in. bass. The environmental indicator for the end of smallmouth bass season for us is the emergence of mayflies and it proved once again to be accurate.
The Take Away: I heard one of my guides wishing that the walleyes would move back out to main lake sand and rock where they are easier to find. I reminded him that it’s a walleye’s world and we have to chase them where they choose to be.
All Silver Water Wheel guides are required to record their results from every guiding day. We care about the details and we care about the trends, but the simple act of writing down the data of each day as it happens, helps you do a better job of guiding. We talk about catch rates per hour and time invested in experiments. The primary purpose of this information is to objectively evaluate the fishing results of the week.
In review, it was another very challenging walleye bite. Part of the reason that the big pike results were better, was because our guides wanted a win. Walleyes were difficult, so they shifted gears and focused on gators. With this weird weather year, smallmouth bass were still an option and some of the guys took advantage of the opportunity and targeted bass in the afternoon.
I am not going to sugar coat it. This was a very difficult week of walleye fishing. I don’t care what the stats say, I was out there and I struggled. We teach all of our guides the system. Do your homework, make a plan, make another plan, do your experiments, and be creative until you find what works for that day and then replicate it. I personally got stuck on what works that day.
The weather was the complete opposite of previous weeks. In general, we had many more calm and sunny days. In fact, there were several days of blazing hot sunshine, with no wind. We have done this long enough that we think we know what to expect. When the sun beats down on flat calm water in early July, we are quick to check for a weed bite. And there were some walleyes shallow, but they were tough to catch. If you follow along with this fishing report page, you will remember that the higher lake levels in spring time extended our early season big pike bite. Well, that high water from spring has made every weed bed bigger, growing deeper, and much less fishable. By the end of this week, the entire lodge staff knew that the walleyes were moving shallow, but it was very difficult to do anything about it. We understand neutral, to negative deep-water walleyes. We know how to catch them. But what do you do when the walleyes are shallow, in the weeds, and negative? Our answer was to shift gears and target another species.
For the week, we caught and released 24 walleyes over 27 in., including 4 – 28s, and 2 – 29s. Volume was down, with daily guide sheets averaging fewer than 30 walleyes over 18 in. per day. Gulp, plastics, and speed only worked occasionally. There were many more stories of guys switching back to lighter jigs and minnows to catch reluctant shallow water walleyes. More than 75% of walleyes caught this week were turned with live bait. Minnows were the key.
We almost never talk about bass this time of year, but with a late spring, we were still able to catch the tail end of the season. The reality is that we had very, very few anglers in camp that wanted to chase bass. Those that did, had strong results. For the week, we caught and released 16 over 19, with 3 – 20s. Tubes, cranks, and top water were top producers.
The surprise was the pike bite. I don’t know if it was extra effort put in to get away from walleye fishing, but guests caught big pike this week. We recorded, good volume with 21 over 37 in., including 8 – 38s, 2 – 39s, 1 – 40, and 1 – 43. The cabbage weeds are not quite to the surface, but they are close enough. It was a high speed, weed bite for gators. Spoons were hands down the best producers. The Williams Whitefish and 4.5 in. Cabela’s five of diamonds were hard to beat. We did land a few of the bigger pike on double 8s, but if you had to pick just one bait, it would be the William’s Whitefish spoon.
The Take Away: In the middle of the season, it is always about the weather. Blazing sunshine on flat calm water is just about the worst forecast that you can see for consistent big walleyes. Rather than pound a round peg into a square hole, consider you other options. This week, it was big pike.
It is pretty safe to say that the weather this week had a greater effect on the fishermen than it did on the fish. It was an unbelievably windy and cool week. With multiple days of sustained winds over 30 mph along with higher gusts, we simply chose not to fish on the main lake. I can tell you first hand that it was a physically and mentally draining week of guiding.
The big news of the week is that we caught and released 3 walleyes that were 31 in. or over. We get spoiled handling so many big walleyes on Lac Seul that are 25 – 29 in., but fish over 31 in. are in a completely different class. We don’t see them very often, but when we do, it is special.
Even though we caught some really big walleyes this week, it was Not a good walleye bite. With the heavy winds, we expected to find walleyes stacked up, but instead they were scattered. There were just as many walleyes caught out on main lake summer sand as there were caught on wind-blown, dirty-water transition areas. We caught walleyes in 7 ft. and we caught them in 27 ft. We caught them in front of the new weeds and we caught them on main lake rock. Some of the big ones were caught dead sticking 1/8 oz jigs and minnows. Other big ones were caught pulling 3/8 oz. jigs and 6 in. Berkley Nemesis. They were all over the place.
For the week, we caught and released 29 walleyes over 27 in., including 5 – 28s, 1 – 29, and 3 – 31s. Volume was down from last week. Guide sheets averaged 30 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day.
July 1 is usually a bench mark for our Lac Seul fishing calendar. On most years, the cabbage weeds usually top out on the surface by this time. They are not quite to the top yet and the big pike have not yet moved in. The guides spent very little time targeting pike this week. We caught and released 5 over 37 in., including 2 – 38s and 2 – 39s.
Without the wind, it probably would have been an awesome bass fishing week. With it, very few anglers spent time chasing bass. Those that did had great results, but overall, we likely missed the peak of the smallmouth bass bite for 2022. My best guess is that there was less than 30 hours of angling effort spent chasing bass this week. Even with that minimal effort, guides caught and released 17 smallies over 19 in., including 1 over 20. The most significant observation is that with the high water, most of the bass were caught deeper than usual.
The Take Away: We always want a wind direction to target fish, but be careful what you hope for. The high winds and big waves made it a very difficult week to fish regardless of your target species.
I closed last week’s fishing report with a prediction of change. Truth be told, that is a pretty safe bet for every third week of June. What I did not expect was massive winds and dramatic changes in weather. Early in the week it was flat out Hot. In the middle of the week, we dealt with sustained winds approaching 40 mph. By the end of the week, nights were once again cool and felt more like June. The old Joke applied. If you are in Northwest Ontario, and you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes.
We were so close to hitting the peak of the smallmouth bass bite at the beginning of the week. Surface temps were approaching 70 and the smaller bass were moving into the shallows. All we needed was one or two days of blazing sunshine and it was going to be perfect for our Texas bass fishing guests. Instead, we almost got blown off the lake, but then the high water combined with monster winds, left entire regions of Lac Seul with super dirty, clay-stained water.
The bass that were moving shallow left or staged one level deeper. We caught smallmouth bass this week and it was fun, but the top end size and the volume for big fish was significantly lower than what our long-time guests were hoping for. I always try to tell a straight story on this report and even though my boat caught some nice bass, there is no way around the fact that it was a little disappointing. On the plus side, those groups scheduled for next week will have a once in a decade window to catch numbers of really big smallmouth bass.
For the week, we caught and released 25 smallmouth bass over 19 in., including one 20. For the casual reader, that sounds great. We expect double those numbers for this week. To clarify the bite, it was all tubes and plastics. There was not near enough activity to warrant any crank bite, let alone a top-water bite. What we know tonight is that the peak of the smallmouth bass bite on Lac Seul is 4 – 7 days away.
The big winds and dirty water that I mentioned earlier were a boon for the walleye anglers. Volume and size were excellent this week, with 45 walleyes over 27 in. including 9 – 28s, 5 – 29s, and 1 – 30. Guide sheets averaged over 40 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day. The most significant trend identified is that many of the bigger walleyes were caught in 12 ft. or less in the wind blown, dirty sections of the lake. The high water still changed some of the key big fish locations, but overall, walleye volume and size were well above normal for the week.
Jigs and minnows edged out Gulp by a slight margin, but the clever guide switched his guests’ multiple times every day to stay on top of the changes in the walleye bite. Walleye anglers were jacked about this week’s results.
With all of the focus on bass and walleyes, there wasn’t much effort applied to chasing big pike this week and there were almost no results to show for it. The big pike are in transitions and can be anywhere. I do not expect to see guests targeting big pike for at least another week until the cabbage weeds top out.
It appears that the lake level has crested at 1170.67 ft. above sea level. There may still be some small changes based on precipitation, but the overall trend appears that the lake levels should begin to slowly fall in the coming weeks.
As a final thought for the week, I cannot over emphasize how significant the dirty water was for this week’s results. For those of you who haven’t seen the milky, clay-stained water on Lac Seul after a big wind, It can be a shock. It was a definite negative for the bass bite, but it was also a huge win for walleye anglers. Don’t bother fishing the edge of the dirty water, get right in it with confidence and you will be surprised at how many big walleyes move shallow when the water is stirred up.
Apart from the lake level, it was a very normal week for the middle of June. There were some rainy days, some sun, some wind, and some flat calm. Despite some fairly significant rains, it feels like we may be close to the peak and that water levels may begin to fall in the near future. Tonight, the lake is at 1,170.7 ft. above sea level. We still have 4 – 6 inches before it goes over our fixed docks and I am hoping that this is as high as it gets.
The big pike bite was once again very strong this week, although it did taper off quickly at the end. For the week, we caught and released 21 pike over 37 in., including 3 – 40s, 2 – 41s, 1 – 42, and 1 – 44. The big ones were still shallow at the beginning of the week, but several major weather changes sent them into transition by the end. Spoons and big cranks were the top producers.
One of the big questions that is yet to be answered is what the high-water level is going to do to the cabbage weed growth this summer. Surprisingly, we are already seeing 2 – 3 ft. of weed growth on our electronics in 8 – 9 ft. of water. The cabbage may not top out by July 1, but my feeling is that the weed growth is going to be pretty normal, despite the high water.
As production began to decline for big pike, the guides shifted gears and began to focus more on hunting big walleyes. This week, we caught and released 40 walleyes over 27 in., including 7 – 28s, 2 – 29s, and 1 – 30. The pattern is that there was no pattern. We caught some big ones pulling big gulp at speed in the shallow, warm water areas we typically fish in spring and we caught big ones dead sticking light jigs and minnows on main lake points and transition zones. The quality of the bite often changed drastically from one area to another on the same day. The best strategy, was to continually experiment with different presentations, speeds, locations, depths, and regions. With that many variables in play, there was a difference in volume and production from boat to boat. Overall, guide sheets averaged 35 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day.
As a walleye guide, the first question that I want to find an answer for every day is the key depth. Again, there wasn’t one. We found some active fish and some big walleyes shallow (4 – 10 ft.) We found just as many walleyes, including big fish and walleyes that were not active in deeper water (14 – 24 ft.) The key this week was to keep an open mind, regardless of the results and to continue to experiment.
The bass are pulsing shallower, but there is still no major push into the spawning bays. We are still catching many random bass while walleye fishing, but most efforts to target big bass have resulted in modest returns. For the week, there were usually 4 -5 bass on every guide sheet, even when they were not being targeted. We did release 5 over 19 in. with 1 – 20.
June is a major month of change and I will not be surprised if next week’s synopsis is very, very different from this one.
The big story of the week is the water level. In the 24 years that I have been on Lac Seul, the highest water level that I have ever seen was just over 1171 ft. above sea level. At that time, the water level was just an inch or two above our fixed docks. The floating docks were riding higher. Tonight, the water level is 1170.55 ft. above sea level and the Lake of the Woods Water control board is predicting that Lac Seul is likely to rise another 2 -3 inches over the next week. All of the controlled water outlets in Northwest Ontario are wide open. Without another unexpected major rainfall, it looks like we will probably not reach 1171. All of our structures are well above 1175, so we have no concerns about our buildings or operation. But the high-water levels have made a big impact on how we chase our favorite fish.
The high water has been a huge advantage for guides and anglers focused on big pike. I have never seen the super skinny, back water bite for big pike last so long. The low water throughout the entire 2021 season resulted in a ton of grass growing in what used to be the back bays. That grass is now flooded. Pike are green colored, ambush feeders and now they have a ton of bait swimming around submerged grass in the shallows. These conditions have prolonged the backwater big pike bite and SWWL guides have capitalized on it.
For the week, we caught and released 26 pike over 37 in., including 5 – 40s, 2 – 41s, and 1 – 43. With most of our return guests focused on walleyes and bass, this is a significant change in what we consider normal big pike production for the first 2 weeks of June. Spoons, cranks, and spinnerbaits were all affective. Location was the key.
Guides with groups targeting walleyes had to be much more flexible. Sunny afternoons with light winds sent the walleyes shallow. The problem is that what we used to consider shallow is now 8 ft. deep. Knowing your structure was critical. Finding the new productive shallow vs. the new unproductive shallower was tough. The pieces of the new puzzle are beginning to come together and we share our information every night. With that insight, we have begun to narrow down the new normal.
After adjustments, walleye volume was good this week with guide sheets averaging 30 fish over 18 in. per day. The increased volume eventually led to better numbers of big fish. For the week, we caught and released 25 walleyes over 27 in., including 7 – 28s, and 2 – 29s. Jig size was 1/8 or ¼. Most production was with minnows, but there were quite a few caught pitching the shallows with Gulp or twister tails. Several of the biggest walleyes this past week were caught on the pitch in 2 – 5 ft. of water.
I spent the last half of the week on advanced guide training. Our bass groups are scheduled to arrive soon. Some of our favorite spots are still good and others are not. We invested a great deal of time and effort trying to locate bass in the new high-water conditions. As we did, it feels like the smallmouth bass bite is going to be as good or better than previous seasons. Even though most surface temps are barely scratching the low 50s, we still caught and released 27 smallies over 19 in. including 2 – 20s. We won’t know until it happens, but the guide crew is looking forward to the peak of the bass bite that should occur in the next week or two.
The Take away – we are all hyper-focused on chasing down the next big bite. Species doesn’t matter. Just like the good old days, there is no guide discussion about anything related to covid. We are happy spending hours debating how to adjust to high water and how to find the big ones.
It was a cool and rainy week in Northwest Ontario and water levels are still going up everywhere. Lac Seul is not at a flood stage like many of our neighboring bodies of water, but the lake is at the highest level that I have seen since 2014. In the 23 years that I have owned the lodge, we have never seen water levels this high in spring.
The high-water levels have changed some of the spring spawning areas for pike. The newly submerged vegetation and cool conditions were likely the reason that many of the big pike remained in or near the shallows this week. There were not that many anglers chasing big pike, but those that did, absolutely smashed them. Both numbers and size were big with most caught on large spoons and cranks. The 6 in. Jake was a favorite.
For the week, we caught and released 35 pike over 37 in., including 6 – 40s, 4 – 41s, 1 – 42, and 2 – 43s. Volume was also extremely high. The past 2 weeks will likely be some of the strongest big pike results that we have seen for some time. Mike and Nick Cochran fished hard for the big gators through some tough weather conditions and were responsible for catching more than half of the fish on the photo board. I joked about needing to charge them a photo paper surcharge. What is most surprising about those big pike results is how few anglers were chasing them. It was an exceptional week of pike fishing.
The weather and water conditions were a little trickier for the walleyes. The sun is powerful in the north this time of year and it only takes a few days of sunshine to heat the surface. Areas that are protected from the main lake often warm more than 5 degrees in one day. Usually, the warm water draws baitfish and the walleyes are right behind them. As a benchmark, we like to see 50 degrees, 55 is better, and at 60, the bite can be on fire. With almost a full week of cool showers, the main lake remains in the high 40s and many areas that are normally in the 50s are stuck in the high 40s as well. When the surface temps are similar across the lake and from top to bottom, there is no motivation for groups of walleyes to concentrate in the shallows. We caught walleyes from 4 – 24 ft. this week. There were some caught on the main lake, some in the back water bays, and some in transition areas. The guides worked hard to find good bites.
It was primarily a jig and minnow bite with most boats using 1/8ths and 1/4s. There were a few fish caught on plastic, but most of those were earlier in the week before the real cool weather set in. Volume was down a bit from last week. Guide sheets averaged 20 – 25 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day. For the week, we caught and released 25 walleyes over 27 in., including 4 – 28s, and 2 – 30s.
We did see a few random bass in the mix, but it was not quite time to focus on them just yet. For the week, we had 7 over 19 in. including 1 – 20.
The Take Away – Given the same water and weather conditions, our results 15 years ago would have been much more modest. The accumulated knowledge of 20 years of exceptional guiding, helped our current crew make the most out of a tough bite. The foundation of our guiding program is shared knowledge and that is the only reason we were able to turn good results out of a tough bite.
I am happy to be writing the first fishing report of the 2022 season. It has been a very long and difficult 2 years and despite all of our efforts, we are still feeling the pain of late cancellations. At the risk of being repetitious, I will write again that you will not be allowed across the border if you are not vaccinated. I received another full and 2 partial cancellations yesterday.
Official ice out on Lac Seul was May 20. What first appeared to be a potential record late ice out was broken by heavy and persistent rain. The runoff and spring melt were off the charts. Every lake, pond, stream, and puddle are filled to capacity. On a normal year, Lac Seul is right around 1165 ft. above sea level in late May. Today it is fast approaching full pool of 1170. I have never seen the lake this high in spring time. This evening you can step from the fixed dock to the floating dock without a step down. We are way better off than many of the lodges in Northwest Ontario that are dealing with flooded camps, docks under water, and roads washed out.
I did end up cancelling the groups scheduled for walleye opener on May 21. We knew it was going to be close, but having done this for a long time, we also knew that walleye fishing the day after ice out on the main lake basin of Lac Seul can be challenging at best. We have had fairly sunny and warm weather since the ice went out and the fishing improved rapidly. Our first guests of the year arrived on May 24.
We were able to target groups of main lake spawners as well as the first wave of walleyes migrating back to the main lake basin after spawning. The main lake surface temps are still in the mid 40s, but some of the back water bays have already warmed into the low 50s.
Considering that the ice went off the lake just one week ago, the walleye fishing has been very good for both volume and size. Looking at the guide sheets, we averaged between 20 -30 walleyes over 18 in. per boat each day. For the week, we caught and released 21 walleyes over 27 in. including 2 – 29s, and 1 – 30.
There was a fairly even balance for walleye production between 1/8 oz. jigs and minnows, Husky Jerks (size 12 and 14), and jigs with plastics pitched shallow. Most of the numbers were caught shallow between 2 and 10 ft., but some of the bigger fish were found just one level deeper in 10 – 16 ft.
We didn’t have as many groups chasing big pike this week, but those that did were very successful. The high water has flooded some of the grassy areas at the back of the warm water bays. We have found many big pike in new areas spawning on the submerged vegetation. Spoons, cranks, and spinnerbaits were all effective. The trick was to find a presentation that you could work around the weeds.
I knew it was a good week as it happened, but I didn’t realize how good of a big pike week it was until we did the numbers. Our guests caught 33 pike over 37 in., including 7 – 40s, 3 – 41s, 2 – 42s, 1 – 43, and 2 at 44.5 in. The number of pike over 30 was also off the charts. May is a gamble, but when you hit it right, it can be some of the best fishing of the year. The Ed Rosenow group has been fishing for big pike on Lac Seul for almost 30 years and this was one of their all-time best weeks.
The Take Away – Opener is always a gamble, but when you hit it right, it can be some of the best fishing of the year.
Another take away – I have been calling and emailing groups on my waiting list all Spring. This year is also off the charts for cancellations. My waiting list is no longer as deep as it usually is. If you want to hear about possible openings from cancellations, please do not hesitate to email me.
NOTICE: If you are not vaccinated, you will not be allowed to cross the Canadian Border!
I don’t know if I can be any clearer.
Even after contacting every group several times over the Winter, I continue to have multiple groups give me surprise notice that they are dropping anglers from their bookings. The excuse is that they were hoping that the Canadian govt. would relax the rules at some point in time this summer. They will not.
The long waiting list of groups hoping for a cancellation doesn’t do me any good, because the group of 7 that turned into a group of 3 is still holding that cabin space. I have had several groups express their hope that their partial cancellation won’t be an “inconvenience” to us.
As a lodge owner, I am always ready for problems. We don’t complain, we just solve the issues. This year we are battling a hard winter, tons of snow, late ice, and record high gas prices. Oh, and we have not been able to operate for the last 1.5 seasons.
If it was just one group, then that would be an inconvenience. With multiple groups calling with partial cancellations, it is brutal for business. Throughout the pandemic, we have made every effort to take the high road for our guests. We did not take away anyone’s deposit when the border was closed. We transferred every deposit or refunded anyone who asked. We opened the lodge the day that we were allowed in 2021 even though many lodges chose to remain closed. Unlike other lodges, we are trying our best NOT to have to implement a fuel surcharge for this year’s bookings despite the financial beating we are taking.
We are struggling to get back to normal. Please help us out by making sure that all of your group members understand the stakes at hand. It is much more than an inconvenience.
Most of the upper Midwest has been experiencing a cooler than normal spring, but recent photos from the lodge show that Winter still has a death grip on the Lac Seul region. I have seen snow on the ground at the lodge in April and May before, but I was shocked at how much snow there is yet to melt. There is currently a 2 – 3 ft. base of snow everywhere along with multiple drifts that are 5 – 6 ft. deep.
Even after the snow melts, we still need to thaw 3 ft of ice from the lake. I bought the lodge in 1998 and through those seasons, the latest complete ice out was May 26 in 2014. I am guessing that we are going to break that record this year.
I am usually arriving at the lodge by this date. This year we are pushing back and I expect to arrive now on May 9.
I have been in contact with almost all of my first week guests to let them know that their walleye opener fishing plans are going to need some modification. I am hoping not to have to cancel the second week as well. I will have a better feel when I get up to the lodge and see the details for myself.
Eventually, the ice will melt. When it does, we are going to be thrilled to get back to the business of chasing big walleyes. We can’t wait to see you soon.