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.
It is still an unusual summer, but we are getting closer to normal this week. The weather was a typical summer mix of warm and humid days and a few showers or an afternoon thunderstorm. The walleyes moved onto the main lake sand and sometimes they bit well and sometimes they were a little more difficult. Walleye volume was excellent and we caught quite a few big ones although not quite as many as you would expect considering how high the volume was.
Guide sheets averaged 40 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day. For the week we caught and released 44 walleyes over 27 in., including 12 – 28s, and 2 – 29s. Production was once again split evenly between big jigs and Gulp Nemesis and smaller jigs and minnows. Key depths changed every day but 18 – 24 was a good range to begin your search each day.
The big pike effort and results were both modest. For the week, we caught and released 6 over 37 in., including 1 – 39 and 1 – 40.
The Take Away: I have struggled to explain exactly what is different about this summer and why it feels like the walleyes are off their normal schedule. Yes, it was a cool spring, but surface temps have been above 70 for weeks. What I can tell you is that today, multiple guides in several different areas of the main lake basin reported the remains of a massive mayfly hatch. Even though I down play the effect of a hatch on our walleye production, it is still significant to note that in the previous 30 seasons of guiding in Northwest Ontario, I have never seen a big mayfly hatch this late in the year.
Despite some storms and volatile weather this week, we are just now starting to see the signs of walleyes beginning to concentrate at depths. By the end of this week, most of the action was from 18 – 22 ft. That helped the walleye volume, but I cannot say the same for size. The big fish were difficult to find this week. It is often tough to find big ones on those days when you get showers, then sunshine, followed by more showers and a Thunderstorm. This felt like even more of a struggle. We are still catching large numbers of over slot fish, but the big ones just didn’t seem to be in the mix.
For the week we caught and released 24 walleyes over 27 in., including 6 – 28s, and 1 – 29. Volume was good with guide sheets averaging 30 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day. Production was pretty evenly split 4 ways; 6.5 in. Gulp Nemesis or 4 in. with ½ oz. or ¾ oz jigs or live minnows on ¼’s with long lines, or 1/8ths and dead sticking. We just ran multiple combination of experiments in different locations every day and tried to duplicate the pattern. Every combo worked at one time or location or another.
Main lake sand is just beginning to hold walleyes again. Main lake rock was off and on.
A few groups chased big pike this week and they did well. For the week, we had 11 over 37 in., including 4 – 38s, 3 – 40s, 1 – 42, 1 – 43.25, and 1 – 43.5. Most were caught out of weed beds with Big spoons and In-line spinners.
The Take Away: Sometimes we don’t have the answers. I cannot tell you why the big walleyes were hard to find this week, but they were. Volatile weather is a factor, but when I read fishing reports from the Great Lakes to the Midwest, there is a common theme. This Spring was tough fishing and early summer has not been a fast improvement.
It feels like summer. We had one big front with a giant rain event on Wednesday and some more storms and showers after that. The water is beginning to rise a bit, but it is still lower than normal for this time of year. The only thing that didn’t feel like summer was the lack of concentration of walleyes anywhere. Especially vacant was main lake sand. We start to live on the edges of the big sand flats this time of year, but for whatever reason, they are NOT producing walleyes. Main lake rock was good, but the hard part was a lack of a consistent depth. On a Tuesday, you could find them in 20, Wednesday in 26, and Thursday in 14 ft. Sometimes they moved in the same day.
It was a challenging week for the guide crew. I listened to round table reports where guides listed 8- 10 spots in a row that produced 1 or 2 fish each. I heard a report that was highlighted with 20 sheet fish in front of the weeds in 8 ft. smashing big Gulp, followed up by a report of dead sticking neutral to negative fish in 35 ft. with 2 sheet fish including a big one dead sticking 1/8ths and minnows. There were just a few patterns to be found each day and you had to shift through a dozen combinations of areas, depths, and speed to hopefully find one. At the same time, it is still Lac Seul and a tough day here still stomps a good day in most of the rest of North America.
Volume dropped off a bit this week with guide sheets averaging 25 – 30 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day. For the week, we caught and released 26 Walleye over 27 inches with 4 over 29 inches. Production was still split about 50/50 between live minnows and Gulp Nemesis. The 6.5 in Nemesis surprisingly turned some big fish with flat calm conditions that felt like they should be for dead sticking only. You can guess, but you don’t know. You have to do the experiments to solve for that day’s conditions.
There were some groups targeting big pike and they did OK. It was a good day followed by a slow day, but if you got the right fish to bite and you didn’t screw up, you could put a big one in the basket. For the week we caught and released 8 Pike over 37 inches with one 39 incher, and a giant 42.5 inch fish.
Targeted Bass fishing is finished for 2019.
The Take Away – I spent some time at check out talking with Julie and Steve Blake from Iowa. They talked for 20 minutes about how much they enjoyed just catching big 21 – 24 in. walleyes. I shared our conversation with the guide crew at round table to make the point that we all want to guide “photo” fish, but we make a huge mistake as guides when we forget that a 21 – 24 in. walleye is a hard fighting, fun big one, and catching 12 of them is just as good or better than guiding for one 27 for most groups.
The changes are happening fast on Lac Seul this week. Above the surface, we had lots of stable warm flat days with a little rain. Below the surface, it was a scramble. The bass finished their spawn and moved on. Mayflies hatched and disappeared. The weeds are almost topped out and some pike almost moved in. And the walleyes are spread out through the water column and the spectrum of their annual spring transition. That means that you can catch A mature walleye on deep summer sand structure, A walleye on a transition spot next to one suspended, and A walleye holding on to the last bit of early season spring spots. The hard part was finding a concentration of fish. The guide crew didn’t find many, but when they did, they ground them out to get as much production as they could.
Overall Walleye volume for the week was really good with guide sheets averaging 40 walleyes over 18 in. per day. The only surprise is that it was hard to find the big
mixed in with the volume. Usually, if you find a bite that gets you half way down the back of the page (about 40 fish over 18), then you are going to just trip into some of those 26 – 29 in. fish. There were guide sheets this week reporting 60 walleyes over 18, but topping out with just one or two over 25 in.
There were some big walleyes caught this week, but they were a bit more scattered and more difficult to predict than normal. For the week, we caught and released 44 over 27 in., including 10 – 28s, and 4 – 29s. Many of the big ones were caught with big jigs and 6 in. Berkley Nemesis. You don’t catch as many fish with the big plastics, but it feels like those baits select for bigger fish. There was no key depth for big fish this week and that was the issue. Big eyes were caught in 30 ft. on jigs and minnows and in 3 ft. on pike plugs. They were everywhere.
The cabbage weeds are just starting to top out and that is usually a key window for big pike on Lac Seul. There were a few groups targeting pike and their results were OK. For the week, we caught and released 7 over 37 in. with 3 – 40s.
The smallmouth bass bite feels like it happened a month ago. There were still a few nice fish caught, but most have moved into their transition out into the main lake. Totals for the week – 48 over 18, with 10 – 19s, and 1 – 20.
The Take Away – This time of year marks the fastest change of pace. The weather drives our system. When it is consistent and the wind blows, it is easy. When it doesn’t, it is not. Tonight, we are hoping that a wind change blows the super heavy smoke out of our area.
Discovery Channel has Shark Week, and Silver Water Wheel Lodge has Bass week. And this was It! Almost every group fished bass for part of their stay and the results were impressive. There were 242 bass over 18 in. released this week, including 59 – 19s, 10 – 20s, and the new lodge record at 21 in. was caught and released by John Ivie.
Plastics and tubes were the preferred presentation for smallmouth, but top waters and cranks also produced at times. The first mayfly hatches started showing up at the end of the week and that usually marks the beginning of the end of Bass season on Lac Seul. It was fun while it lasted.
It was another week of almost no wind. Even though there was less time spent walleye fishing than usual, the flat-water conditions did not help with the top end walleye numbers. For the week, we caught and released 37 walleyes over 27 in., including 11 – 28s, and 3 – 29s. Volume was actually pretty good with guide sheets averaging 35 walleyes over 18 in. per boat each day. Production was evenly split between Gulp and minnows. There were walleyes caught from 2 – 32 ft., but key depths were 8 – 15 ft.
There was little time spent pike fishing. We closed the week with 9 over 37 in., including 1 – 38, and 2 – 39s. The main lake weeds have not topped out yet, but they are on their way. The first groups of pike are just starting to show up in the new growth.
The Take Away: It feels like there are more and more bass on Lac Seul every year. There is a significant increase in the number of places that we now target for big bass. And this year the weather lined up perfect for the groups that planned to target them. But, overall, there are more and bigger smallmouth everywhere.
We are like Midwest farmers, pretty much every conversation eventually turns to the weather. This past week was warm, sunny, dry, and there was remarkably very little wind. That was great news for bass anglers, a marginal improvement for the pike guys, but not the best of conditions for walleye anglers. I take that back a bit. The walleye fishing was still good, it is just that this is the time of year when the right conditions can result in one of those phenomenal bites that every angler remembers forever. We did not experience one of those.
Guide sheets averaged 30 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day. For the week, we caught and released 47 walleyes over 27 in., including 9 – 28s, 2 – 29s., 2 – 30s, and 1 – 31. Even though the volume was just OK for this time of year, there were still some really big fish caught.
Gulp and 4 – 5 in. Power grubs pulled at speed were responsible for about ½ of the big fish caught this week. The other ½ were caught on some combination of 1/8 – ¼ oz. jig and minnow. The biggest variable from this past week’s weather was depth. Big walleyes were caught out of 2 ft. of water and 32ft. of water and every depth in between. Each day was a search for a key depth. Guides that found it quickly won, those that didn’t struggled.
The bass fishing has kicked into high gear. For the week, we caught and released 188 bass over 18 in., including 70 – 19s, and 7 – 20s. Tubes, plastics, topwaters, and cranks all worked at times. The results varied by day and weather conditions. I am expecting that the coming week will be the peak of the bass fishing season.
There was some effort put into chasing pike this week. Some days were tough, but there were also some good results. For the week, there were 11 over 37, with 2 – 38s, 1 – 39, 1 – 42, and on his day off, one of our guides, Kurtis Broad, caught a massive 44.
The Take Away: If you are reading this report for intel for your upcoming trip and the weather stays flat and calm, do not ignore the super shallow water bite for walleyes. We caught so many walleyes, including big ones, in less than 6 ft. of water this week. If the wind blows and the weather changes, then all bets are off. But the Lesson this week is that if you have multiple days of sunny and flat calm conditions this time of year and you are not finding the answer – go Shallow! Or go bass fishing!
This past week’s weather was pretty normal for the second week of June. There were a few warm, nice days, a rainy day, some showers, and a few cold fronts. Lake surface temps went up above the 60s even on the main lake in places and then crashed back down into the 50s again after a cold North wind. Production for walleyes was split just about in half between warm back water areas and main lake spring transition spots.
Even with the variable weather, the walleye production was excellent. Guide sheets averaged 35 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day. For the week we caught and released 65 walleyes over 27 in., including 14 – 28s, 4 – 29s, and 2 – 30s.
Gulp and plastics were responsible for about 1/3 of the catch and minnows and light jigs made up for the rest. There were a few walleyes caught on the 6 in. Nemesis and some of them were big, but most of the bite came on 3 and 4 in. plastics pulled at speed (1 mph) with ¼ oz. jigs. Dragging minnows with long lines on 1/8ths is still hard to beat for results when the walleyes are spread out on the warm shallow flats.
The pike fishing was another story. There was nothing to concentrate them; no spawn, no weeds, and uniform temps throughout the water column. There were a few groups that spent time chasing them and the results were modest. For the week we caught and released 2 – 38s, 2 – 39s, and 2 – 40s.
The story was much the same for the bass. There were some fish that had moved shallow, but after every little cold front, they went right back down. We caught a few targeted, but just as many while walleye fishing. For the week, we caught 13 – 18s and 5 – 19s.
The Take Away:
Spring in the North is always variable. The walleyes responded more predictably to the weather changes than the bass and pike and then we focused hard on the walleyes.
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.