This week’s weather was a slow and steady progression towards what feels like a more normal spring. I still feel like there is a residual effect from the cold start, but we are beginning to see more consistent volume and the first signs of population movements towards traditional transition areas.
Walleye fishing results were good with guide sheets averaging 25 – 30 over 18 in. per boat each day. The big fish bite also continues to improve with 32 over 27 in., including 4 – 29s, a 31.25, and another 32. Most walleyes were caught in warm, back water areas where surface temps ranged between 55 -60. By the end of the week, we did catch some fish on transition spots as they began to make their way to the main lake. Jigs (1/8 oz.) and minnows were by far the most productive pattern.
The pike are fully in transition mode and it was difficult to establish any kind of pattern to replicate. For every
decent fish raised or caught in the back water, there was another one encountered already on the main lake. Even though there wasn’t a great deal of time spent chasing Northerns’ this week, we only caught 6 over 37 in., including 2 – 39s and 1 – 41.
About ½ the Bass catch was incidental while fishing for walleyes. There were still quite a few targeted this past week. Cranks and spinnerbaits were the key to cover water quickly in search of feeding bass. For the week, we caught and released 36 over 18 in., including 11 – 19s, and 2 – 20s.
The Take Away: It is difficult to identify a trend as it is happening in real time. Even though the sample size is small, I never would have guessed that we would start the 2019 season with 3 – 32 in. walleyes.
32’s. That is plural!
Not just one, but two of them this past week. Steve Lang caught and released a 32 in. walleye and Rocky Darnell came within a ¼ in. of breaking the lodge record with a 32.25 in. monster walleye. It was super exciting to see 2 of the biggest walleyes that we have seen in the past 18 years both caught on the same week.
Even though there were some giant fish caught and the sun did shine for quite a bit of the week, we continue to see some of the affects of a cold spring. You could still find patches of snow and ice on a few of the shorelines and beaches. The main lake remains just barely above 50 and some of the back bays are approaching 60, but not many.
The walleyes are on the move, but not even close to the frantic pace that they bit last year at this same time. I made the mistake of not “managing my group’s expectations.” We were actually doing pretty well, but they were comparing our results to last year’s. The bite is improving, but no one ever says that they want to go back to a lodge and catch half as many fish that are almost as big. It is human nature to always want more.
Volume was directly related to weather, specifically wind. If it blew, then you caught more walleyes. When the lake went flat, it got slow. Guide sheets averaged 20 – 25 walleyes over 18 in. per day. For the week, we caught and released 26 over 27 in., including 2 – 29s, and 2 – 32s.
Most walleyes were caught with 1/8 oz. jigs and minnows. There was the occasional shallow water Husky Jerk bite. And there were a few nice fish caught on 4 in. Gulp Nemesis long lined on 1/8 ths. The majority of fish were found between 7 – 14 ft. of water. Warm water was the key. If you found water close to the mid 50s, then the fish were usually a bit more active.
The cool weather also kept the big pike bite in check. There were a few big ones caught, but it was a slow week for pike action. We caught and released 12 over 37 in., including 2 – 39s, 2 – 40s, and 2 – 42s. Standard pike gear was effective (pig plugs, spoons, etc…), but most of the nice fish were caught one level deeper than would have been expected for this time of year.
The bass are everywhere. There were a few targeted, but most were caught while fishing for walleyes or pike. For the week we had 34 over 18 in., including 2 – 19s and 1 – 20. The guests that targeted bass this week used presentations that cover water; cranks, spinnerbaits, and jigs and grubs. Even the back water bays are not yet approaching 60 and until the water gets warm, there won’t be many guides intentionally chasing bass.
The Take Away: After talking with many of my guests that live in Iowa, Illinois, and Nebraska, the point has been made that tough weather is also relative. For those areas that have seen inches upon inches of rain, flooding, and farmers that still can’t get their crops in, our little cool spring spell that slows down our volume by a factor seems fairly insignificant.
We are catching fish and it gets a little better every week, but this is a cool start to the season on Lac Seul. At the same time, it is Lac Seul and we caught and released 2 – 32 in. walleyes this week. Those fish are a marker for the relative strength of an exclusive trophy walleye fishery.
The official ice out on Lac Seul, was May 16 for 2019. Even though that was only 1 day later than 2018, the consecutive springs could not have been more different. The 2018 season opener was a Hot one with winter turning to summer over the course of 2 days. This spring was a slow, cold creeper. There was only one day above average since the day that I arrived at the lodge on April 26. Fortunately, the ice was not extremely thick or strong and most of it melted in place. To make the point of how different the years are, there are still dozens of shorelines that still have ice piled on them on the main lake. On top of that It was a cold and cloudy, rainy, dreary week of weather.
Walleye opener was May 18 and lake levels are just a bit above normal for this time of year. With decreased water temps, there are many areas where we are contacting walleyes that are in the middle of the spawn on main lake rock reefs. Some populations of river run walleyes have finished and we are seeing these travelers already begin to show up in the warmer water bays. As expected, the numbers are not as strong as last season’s blazing start. We caught some big ones but the volume was half of what we experienced in 2018.
Guide sheets reported a relatively low volume of 20 walleyes over 18 in. for an average day. For the week, we caught and released 20 walleyes over 27 in., including 5 – 28s, 3 – 29s, and 2 – 30s. Most of the big eyes were caught on 1/8 oz. jigs and minnows, but there were quite a few mid-size fish caught on Husky Jerks in size 14 and 6 in. Jakes and Grandmas while casting for pike.
The main lake remains in the low to mid 40s, but without a great deal of warm sunshine, the shallow isolated bays are warming much more slowly than previous years. We have yet to see the waves of pike enter the skinny water to spawn in force on the south- central basin. Most of the big pike caught this week were found on the first piece of structure or slightly deeper water just outside of the shallow water bays. Minnow baits and cranks worked with a slower retrieve were often hit on the pause. We have found some 50-degree water here and there, but 60 has been nearly nonexistent.
For the week, we caught and released 23 pike over 37 in., including 3 – 39s, 2 – 40s, 2 – 41s, and 1 – 42. Almost none of the big fish were caught in the super skinny water.
The Bass fishing on our end of the lake usually doesn’t start to become consistent until surface temps get above 60. Even though it is still very early, we did pick up some random nice bass while walleye fishing. Guide sheets recorded 26 over 17, including 5 – 19s and 1 – 20.
Opener is always a gamble. With a cold spring, the beginning of the 2019 season was on average lighter on volume for all species. Despite the cold start, we did see some big ones to kick the season off.
The take away: I have spent many years watching ice go off lakes and it is never the same. It always starts slow and speeds up at the end. But stop and think about how much solar energy is required to melt off a 560 sq. mile sheet of ice that is 3ft. thick. At the risk of stating the obvious, the power of the sun is astonishing. When it doesn’t shine in spring the fishing is very tough, but just one or two days of brilliant sunshine, dramatically changes results. We are waiting on the sun.
This is the final report of our 2018 fishing season here at the Wheel. We had just a few boats on the water last week, but came back up to our usual fall numbers for this final week and I’ve combined the two weeks into a final fishing report for our 2018 season.
The big weather story for us this week was the low temperatures. Air temps were low enough that lake surface temps dropped by 10 degrees over the last 10 days, and one memorable day the temperature difference between air and water was large enough we could see steam rising from the surface of the lake for most of the day. Really lets you see how much the surface temps are being affected.
Colder temps and some weather brought a big change in the walleye patterns from last week. Early in the week sand at both summer and transition depths held fish in good numbers, but the weather change moved them back to an aggressive bite and later in the week transition and even shallow rock structures held our best bites. Even with a more aggressive bite the walleye did not answer well to plastics and our guides kept their anglers working with light jigs and live bait most of the time. Guide sheet averages were back up to more than 25 fish over 18 inches a day, and a few great days stood out where anglers boated more than 75 fish over 18 inches. The great bites and most of our big fish came out of transition depths or even shallower, more than a few big fish were caught out of less than 10 feet this week.
Our guided days were about evenly split between hunting big pike and walleye fishing, a total of 35 guided days for the week. The fifteen days dedicated to walleye produced 14 fish over 27 inches with the biggest a 29. The northern hunting days boated 21 over 37 inches with five over 40 inches and two extremely heavy fish, a 40 and a 42 incher caught by one of our guests of long standing, Ed Rosenow.
The end of a season here at Silver Water Wheel Lodge always makes me look back at the year’s fishing and try to find trends and patterns that were different or made this year stand out from the others. I put that question to our guide staff at our last few nightly ‘round table’ meetings, and the first thing everyone brought up was the jump in big walleye this season. We haven’t finished compiling our statistics yet, but from our rough count we are up to 79 Walleye over 29 inches for the year, a significant increase from the last couple years. And of those big fish a greater proportion than usual were fish over 30 inches as well.
This central section of Lac Seul has two key ingredients that we think are responsible for the great summer fishing we see here. Wide open basins, and in the middle of those basins some huge sand structures that every year produce great fish for us. These big structures are ideal for pulling big plastics at speed and this is an effective and exciting way of catching walleye. Guides and guest often love it when we can target fish this way, and this worked well through early and mid summer and a lot of our best days in late June and July this year were ‘gulp on sand days’. As we progressed to late summer and fall the walleye moved to rock structures and stayed there. Lots of years there are weeks here and there when the walleye are on rock, but this year was exceptional. Our best bites in terms of both numbers and size were almost exclusively on rock structures for most of August and September.
The early and late season were both good northern pike times, with lots of big fish caught in our favorite spots and favorite ways. But there was a stretch in mid summer when the big pike left their usual patterns and did something different. For a few weeks, it was the exception rather than the rule to find a trophy fish in the main lake summertime weed beds that usually produce so many of our big pike. At the same time our guide staff were remarking on how rare it had become for us to catch big pike on jigs or following or T-boning a walleye. Every year there is a period where the big fish leave the weed beds, but we always find them deep while walleye fishing when they do. This year, in mid summer they weren’t shallow or deep. When the big northern weren’t answering to the usual patterns most of our anglers went after walleye instead, but occasionally during this stretch a boat with determined pike fisherman was able to succeed by focusing on mid-depth rock. I don’t think we produced this way often enough to be sure it was what the trophy pike were doing, but it is a new possible pattern we will be watching for in the future.
As a fishing guide with a few years behind me now, the changes that Lac Seul throws at us every day, every week, and every year are what makes each new season a different challenge. That challenge is what keeps me coming back to see what answers – what new tactics, presentations, or locations will produce great fish over the course of the season. I think that’s what makes fishing Lac Seul interesting and fun for anglers and guides every day, every month, and every year.
Hope to see you all at ‘the Wheel’ next season!
Lots of weather changes and winds from all points of the compass this week, add in some major thunderstorms and the best we can say is the weather was changeable. There were also two days where we lost fishing time to those thunderstorms, and that kind of weather made walleye hard to pattern over the course of the week. A lot of our guides responded to the unpredictable conditions by encouraging their guests to switch things up and take advantage of this prime week for trophy northern.
We love to hunt for big pike this time of year and our guide staff took every opportunity the weather and our anglers gave them to chase northern. We found big fish mostly one stage deeper on rock during grey and windy days, and it took the right baits and knowledge of how to present them to consistently produce good fish off these structures. Our catch locations quickly moved to the remaining weed patches and the successful presentations shifted back to classic baits as soon as the weather settled into something steady. The pike shifted back and forth between rock and weeds a few times over the course of the week – and sometimes over the course of a day – as conditions changed, and production for big fish came when our boats were checking different kinds of structure all throughout each day.
As for the walleye, they were a struggle this week overall. The bright spots were an increase in sheet volume at end of week and quality walleye returning to the main lake sand structures that have produced so well for us over the years.
With a smaller staff this time of year we recorded only 49 guided days this week, and half of them had their main focus on trophy northern. For the week we caught and released 25 northern over 37 inches, with 6 over 40 inches, and topping out with a great looking 42.5 incher. Looking back at the nightly reports this week a couple of our senior guide staff noted the number of super-giants out there that were moved and seen but not hooked up.
Another interesting note was an increasing trend of big bass caught off deep rock piles. Numbers were few, but size was consistently good with 6 fish over 19 inches for the week. The bass made a nice alternative for those anglers not interested in pursuing pike.
This week gave us mainly stable weather, but unstable fishing. There were a few days with thunder storms rolling around, but no major weather shifts. We mostly got steadily cooler day temperatures and even cooler nights throughout the week. Looking back, we can see a gradual shift in the walleye patterns that tracked with the changing temps. Over the course of the week there was a steady change of depths and locations where our fish were caught. Early in the week most of our volume came from our summer locations and at summer depths. As the week went on some fish were caught at transition depths, but at or near the summer spots where they were the week before. By the end of the week boats were reporting steady numbers and some good size at many of our favorite fall transition locations.
In previous spring and fall transition times, big weather events like the cold fronts we had last week often signalled a big change in walleye patterns. I expected the same this year and thought the fronts last week would move the walleye directly into transition patterns. My boat devoted a lot of time this week to searching for that bite at some of our best fall transition spots, but the transition bite did not really get started until the very end of the week. This fall the walleye eased in to their transition spots with the gradual temp changes instead of jumping straight to them after the big fronts.
That gradual change in the walleye’s behaviour meant that the fish were spread out between summer spots, fall transition spots, and a lot of places and depths in between. Our numbers of big walleye caught this week are partly a result of this pattern, but also reflect the reduced number of boats on the water. Most weeks during the summer we record around 75 guided days, this week there were just 44 guided days on the water. For the week we boated 15 ‘eyes over 27 inches, and the top end was strong with two 30-inch fish and a 29.5 incher caught by Colton Nash, the youngest angler in camp – just 7 years old.
Our guides started searching for big pike a little more often this week. We caught and released seven pike over 37 inches this week, with our two biggest – a 41 and a 39 both caught on the first cast as we pulled up to a spot. What stood out to me this week was the number of big fish moved and seen, but not caught. For every big pike boated we saw three or more others. I know I will be recommending that the guests in my boat spend some time casting this week.
Well, it felt like the walleye were just recovering from the effects of the last cold front when another big front blew through early this week. A cold front following a cold front meant the active bite that we usually find at the leading edge of a front didn’t happen – the walleye hadn’t recovered yet from the first front when the next one blew through. The guide crew here responded by gearing down and using finesse techniques on those locations we knew held fish to produce numbers, and a lot of our big fish this week came from anglers investing time and patience in key spots.
Looking back at our guide sheets for the month of August, it’s clear it has been a “month of rock”, and good bites on sand structures continued to be few and far between this week. Our guide staff regularly checked the sand where we’ve seen so many great bites in previous Augusts because nobody wants to miss out, but we kept coming back to main lake rock to collect fish. The cold fronts, the high winds, and the walleye on rock this week led to most of our fish being caught with live bait and finesse techniques, but there were still bites to be found with big plastics and speed whenever the weather stabilized for a few hours. Key depths varied a lot both from spot to spot and day to day. It was common this week to hear nightly reports of boats catching both numbers and size in less than 15 feet of water all the way down to 39 feet.
The daily guide sheets reflect the challenging conditions this week and the number of walleye on the sheet varied widely day to day, but the average stayed at 25 walleye over 18” per guided day. For the week we boated 29 walleyes over 27 inches, with 9 over 28, and the biggest was a giant 30.5 inch fish caught by Paul Burkhardt.
Our anglers spent very little time hunting big pike this week. The boats that did chase pike sometimes found action but very few big fish up at casting depths. A lot of boats reported big pike seen or caught from deep water while walleye fishing, the two big cold fronts created a clear separation of depth and size. Our totals reflect the limited time devoted to pike this week with just 3 pike over 37 inches, the biggest being a 39 incher.
Local smoke, fire ban continues, Mike’s last report of the year:
This time of year always sneaks up on me. Brett will write the weekly fishing reports for the month of Sept. and I will be back to my Fall guiding season in Iowa.
The weather forecasts this past week featured a new phrase; “local smoke” was mentioned often. Sometimes that is just a hazy afternoon and at other times it is so thick that visibility is limited to less than a few miles and you can taste it in the back of your throat. It continues to be dry throughout the region and the lake level appears to have reached its summer peak 2 ft. below normal. It would take a staggering amount of rain to bring it up to full pool. The forecast for next week mentions showers, but for now, the fire ban continues.
The walleye bite has changed little over the past month. Main lake rock continues to be much more productive than main lake sand. The key depths have been around 30 ft, but we are seeing a few more walleyes moving shallower. For the week, we caught and released 24 over 27 in., including 3 – 28s, 4 – 29s, and 1 – 30. Volume continues to be steady with the sheets averaging 30 walleyes over 18 in. per day. There were some tough spells when guides marked 10 times more fish than they caught and then you would see a flurry.
The split this past week was 1/3 production with bigger jigs and Gulp vs. 2/3 of the walleye production on lighter jigs and minnows.
There was a bit of time spent throwing for pike this past week. Action for smaller fish was good and production for bigger fish was just OK with 3 – 38s and 1 – 39.
Overall, it has been a great season at the Wheel. We owe much of the success to an outstanding staff, especially the senior members of the crew. Both in the dining room and on the water, it has been a pleasure to work with them this summer. I know and appreciate that they make the difference and are the reason that the Wheel turns as smoothly as it does.
Super Hot early, Dry cold front, and then a Smokey Fire Ban:
The new normal for weather seems to be variable ….. and weird. I questioned the long-term weather forecast on Monday. I told the crew that in my experience, it is not likely that we are going to see daytime highs of 96 shift to night time lows of 45 without some kind of major front or wind event. As it turns out the weather guys were right and I was wrong.
My parents were fishing with us this week and they always bring their camper up. They were the place to be on Monday night with air conditioning. By Wednesday morning they were working on getting the heater fired up. The mist rising off the lake Wednesday morning was replaced by an erie, smokey haze on Thursday at noon. The smoke was so thick that the sky turned orange and you could look straight at the outline of the sun. The smoke got thicker and then the sun disappeared. When we got off the lake we found out that we had already been on fire ban. I don’t know what the walleyes thought, but it was definitely out of the ordinary for the guide crew.
It feels like we are in a pattern of extremely variable summer weather. What is consistent is the guide crew. Even when the conditions are challenging, the guys work hard to find the pattern that may only last for a few hours. The last 3 fishing reports have focused on variable weather and even though we fished different areas and patterns, we ended with just about the same results for numbers and big fish. For the week, we caught and released 30 walleyes over 27 in., including 4 – 28s, 4 – 29s, and a 30.5 in. monster fish of a lifetime for John Armstrong. Volume was good with guide sheets averaging 30 walleyes over 18 in. per day.
There were still many big walleyes caught from 30 ft., but there was also a pattern that we typically see in Fall frontal conditions. We found walleyes in mid depth, neck down areas with current. This pattern is not one of my personal favorites, but when it produces multiple fish over 28 in. in water 20 ft. or less, I am forced to pay attention. The hard part is there aren’t many fish on these spots. These are a trophy hunter’s gamble – boom or bust. Without good electronics, I would never even fish them. You have to scan before you invest the time.
I would say that the big Gulp Nemesis at speed vs. light jigs on live bait debate ended at 50/50 this week. I hesitate to name a key depth, but 28 – 30 came up more often than anything else at weekly round table meetings.
Pike fishing results were OK. Guests saw more big fish than were hooked, but we still managed to boat 6 over 37 in., including 2 – 38s and 1 – 40.
Missy and the kids are on their way back to Iowa to get ready for school. Meetings are planned for the next construction project and I am getting ready to prepare for my Fall guiding season. It is always shocking to me that the season can go by so quickly.
It was a warm week, but the smoke from fires near and far kept the day time highs from being too unbearable. Highs this week averaged in the 80s with a few days in the low 90s. Lack of wind and variable winds were the biggest weather complaint from the guide crew.
There were reports of walleyes caught in the weeds by pike anglers, but for the most part, we fished fairly deep this week. Key depths for numbers and size were 25 – 30 ft. Volume did improve over last week with guide sheets averaging 30 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day. For the week, we caught and released 32 walleyes over 27 in., including 5 – 28s and 3 – 29s.
We continue to be split 2/3 light jigs and minnows vs. 1/3 – ¾ oz jigs and Gulp for production. There was less discussion of rock spots vs. sand spots and more talk about fishing the rock to sand transition on deeper water spots.
The addition of the Humminbird Helix’s to our arsenal of electronics has been a game changer. For those of you that don’t know, there is no depth contour map of Lac Seul with any accuracy. Auto-chart live on the Humminbirds has been the feature that has allowed us to make our own lake maps and discover spot on spots and new hotspots, even in our own back yard. If you are a fishing geek and fish water that does not have a good lake map, I am certain that you will love this feature.
Groups spent more time fishing pike this past week and the results improved. The regular spots were top producers and main lake weeds adjacent to deep water were the key. For the week, we caught and released 10 over 37 in., including 2 – 38s, 1 – 39, and 2 – 41s.
I tend to stay focused on the fishing, but it was a busy family week at the lodge with many generations. In the evenings we had kids of all ages tubing, boarding, pitching bean bags, and playing Kubb in the yard. I know my kids had a blast.