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.
A Tough Week:
We were due for a hard week and we got one. The weather was dominated by a massive cold front that hit us on Tuesday. The forecast on Monday did not sound terrible, but the Low of 7 (45 F) predicted for Wed. night raised an eyebrow. Weather changes that dramatic are usually accompanied by strong North winds and this one was no exception. It was a howler on the southern basin and was much worse than the Weather Network promised.
Fires were lit. Heaters were turned on. Clothes were dried out. Below the water, the walleyes scattered and prepared to ignore everything we were going to put in front of them for most of the rest of the week.
Keep in mind that we are terribly spoiled and our guests have very high expectations, so we did still catch many walleyes. It just wasn’t as fast and they weren’t as big as we expect for this time of year.
For the week, we caught and released 29 walleyes over 27 in., including 4 – 28s, 1 – 29, and 1 – 30. Volume dropped to an average of 24 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day. Production split to about 1/3 Gulp at speed vs. 2/3 light jigs and minnows.
One trend that was new for the week, was guides pulling the smaller 4 in. Gulp on ¾ oz. jigs. It started with guides rigging their own lines with smaller Gulp to increase their odds for shorelunch fish. That worked, but it also turned out to be a solution for short bites after a cold front. And the big fish ate them as well. When the focus was for giants, we still pulled the 6.5 in. Gulp, but after a front, the little tails pulled at .8 to 1 mph were a better solution overall for action.
There was no real key depth. Many of the big walleyes were caught deeper than 25 ft., but there were also some shallow water bites this week as well. Main lake rock was better than main lake sand.
There was a bit more time and effort spent on chasing pike this week and the results were not bad in light of the weather. For the week, we caught and released 6 over 37 in., with 1 – 38, 2 – 39s, and 1 – 40.
With so many repeat guests, they know the big fish are here and that weather is the variable that will have the greatest impact on their relative success during their stay. Fortunately, most of them are fisherman, so they already know that massive cold fronts alter expectations and results.
This is year 20 for me owning and operating The Wheel, and the biggest difference between the early years and now is that I don’t have to argue and prove the quality of the fishery.
A really good year to date for big walleyes:
Last year we ended the season with a total of 58 walleyes over 29 in. With many fishing days still left in the year, we have already matched that number of big walleyes for the 2018 season. Even more significant is that 19 of those 58 fish were over 30 in.
This week was an outlier for weather. It felt much more like a last week of Aug. or first week of Sept. It was cool, often showery, and again quite windy. I left my windows open one night and woke up to a morning low of 50.
The walleye bite was split between main lake rock and sand. It was also equally split between Gulp Nemesis with ¾ oz. jigs at speed and dead sticking minnows on ¼ s or 1/8 s over neutral to negative walleyes marked on the graph. It was also split between groups of walleyes in 15 – 24 ft. of water and groups in 30 ft. or deeper.
If you read this report on a regular basis, you are probably tired of hearing that we fished it all…. or conducted multiple experiments each day looking for a pattern to duplicate, but that is exactly what happened again this week. The one significant difference is that after the cool front, there were a tremendous number of marked arcs that did not want to bite. Years ago, we would have sat on them or moved on to another group marked. Surprisingly, pulling Gulp through those fish sometimes triggers a bite that I would not expect. The take away is don’t let the results of one or two experiments color your impression of the whole day.
At round table, we talk extensively about how a bite changed on a spot or how a group of walleyes moved shallower or deeper in an area as the day progressed. The hard work is to stay focused and continue to work the problem until you find a solution.
There were several slow spots this week, especially in the afternoon, where getting the big ones to bite was extremely tough.
For the week, we caught and released 54 walleyes over 27 in., including 8 – 28s, 2 – 29s, and 3 – 30s. Walleye volume was average with 36 walleyes per boat, per day over 18 in. Most of the 27s and all of the 28s and over were caught in 24 ft. or deeper.
The unsettled weather did nothing to improve the pike fishing. Some guides tried, but the results were weak. For the week, we had 2 over 37 with one 39.
My favorite part of the end of the week is that 2 of my second-year guides Garrett and Gouws smashed their results even though senior guides advised against their strategy or fished past them. Full disclosure – I was one of the guys that fished past. They lit it up and and that is the program. Teach the system and let it work. Everyone learns all of the time and we all get better.
Not Extreme weather changes, but unsettled:
Looking back over the week, it was usually windy, but the weather shifted from hot to cool, rainy to dry, and from dry to humid and cool. None of those changes were dramatic and the overall walleye bite improved over last week.
We fished it all hard this week; rock, sand, deep, shallow, not so deep, not so shallow, weeds, not weeds….. You get the idea. Each day was a mixed bag. The 6 in. Gulp Nemesis caught a bunch of big walleye on ¾ oz. jigs pulled at speed. We found a few new areas with steep rock walls adjacent to deep water that produced well. The guide crew continues to use the standard operating procedure of covering water with big jigs and Gulp and then going back over the best areas with smaller jigs and live bait. The bigger walleyes were caught in water deeper than 20 ft.
Sometimes the numbers paint a better picture than the words. For the week, we caught and released 57 walleyes over 27 in., including 9 – 28s, 4 – 29s, and 1 – 30. Average walleye volume increased to 36 over 18 in. per boat per day. Walleye fishing was good, but there was never a focal pattern or location. Every boat was switching up speeds, techniques, and areas multiple times a day.
The big pike are still MIA. There was some effort spent searching for them this past week, but aside from a few sightings of bigger fish, it was uniformly considered a fail. For the week there was 1 – 39 and 1 – 37 caught and released.
Not every group takes advantage of the borrow rod options available in all our guide boats, but most do. The ability for guides to simply switch out rods and conduct a different experiment moving from 1.3 mph vs. .003 mph or back, is a huge tactical advantage. The average guide boat completes more than 6 full rod switches each day. Occasionally, that number can approach a dozen. Flexibility and a problem-solving approach to the day were keys to consistent success this past week.
Warm and Windy Days:
Just looking at a printed report of last week’s weather would lead you to believe that it was just another normal summer week on Lac Seul. On the water, it felt very different. A series of really big wind days churned up areas of the main lake basin. You could find cloudy, clay colored water miles away from shore and surface temps that had been into the 70s dropped into the low 60s. It didn’t feel like a huge change, but we did see a significant response from the fish. Groups of walleyes scattered throughout the lake and water column. And the big pike disappeared.
We found walleyes shallow and deep, but there were also many suspended fish this week. The biggest change for me was the number of walleyes targeted on screen that were in a negative feeding mood that you just could not get to bite. Surprisingly, big plastic at speed was just as effective as complete dead sticking with light jigs and minnows. Overall volume dropped dramatically this week with guide sheets averaging 26 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day.
The big walleye numbers were still good with 44 over 27 in., including 7 – 28s and 6 – 29s. All of the big ones were caught in water deeper than 20 ft. in or near the main lake basin.
There was some effort chasing pike this past week, but the results were zero pike over 37 in. We didn’t even catch them as incidentals while walleye fishing.
On balance and in reference to previous year’s fishing reports for this week, I would summarize that this week’s results were more normal. Compared to previous weeks in 2018, I would conclude that we were spoiled with some outstanding fishing results in June and early July.
It is officially summer on Lac Seul:
The weeds are up and topped out. It was a warm and sunny week with a few thunderstorms, some high winds, and a couple of extreme 180 degree wind switches. And the Walleye bite is on.
It was another great week of walleye fishing in the south central basin. Volume was high with guide sheets averaging 42 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day. The top end size continued to be excellent with the guide crew catching and releasing 51 walleyes over 27 in., including 11 – 28s, 3 – 29s, and 3 – 30s. The percentage of 30 inch fish is up considerably this season.
Wind shifts are normal this time of year and they typically turn gradually from 10 mph South to 4 mph SW and then slide into 15 mph West the next afternoon. This week was harsh. We had 2 wind shifts that were 20 – 30 mph sustained one day, immediately shifting to stronger winds the opposite direction the next day. There were even subtle micro shifts on days before and after. The result is that the lake surface temps dropped from 74 to 65 and that means that there was a good mixing of the top 10 ft.
The walleye trends:
This week is usually the beginning of one of our windows of big pike production. When the cabbage weeds top out, the show is usually on. In practice, it was hit and miss this week. Much of the lack of production can be blamed on the wind shifts. There wasn’t much effort in play and we will see what happens next week. The totals: 4 over 38, including one 39. Nothing to write home about.
There wasn’t much time spent on pike last week, but there will be this week.
I always ask my first year guides for a “take away” from the round table meeting. I already knew the answer this week and I was waiting to hear it. Moving at speed with big Plastics is the fastest way to learn the key depth and presentation.
Shifting Gears: Bass to Walleye
The rules of the photo board allow departing guests to pull the pictures of their fish when they leave and most do. Before the board was decimated last week it was almost all bass. Tonight, it was almost all nice walleye photos before the groups checked out.
The common theme for “what was learned at round table tonight?” this week was that we were often catching walleyes from dramatically different areas, depths, and with extreme presentations at the same time. We caught walleyes dead sticking minnows on main lake sand in 20 – 30 ft. We caught walleyes in front of the weeds in 9 ft. of water with big Gulp. And we found good volume on mid depth sand flats with light jigs pulled at speed to cover water and contact suspended walleyes. You really had to be on your toes this week to stay on fish. There was a lot more “4 fish from 10 spots” than “30 from 1 spot this week”.
It is still a 50/50 split between Gulp and Minnows for volume, but the size goes to the Plastic. For the week, we caught and released 55 walleyes over 27 in., including, 11 – 28s, 4 – 29s, and 2 – 30s. Most of the really big fish fell for the 6.5 in. Nemesis. A few ate the minnows. But the key was to figuring out each day’s depth and bite preference. When the fish are a bit more scattered, the guides tend to rely more on plastics and speed to solve the puzzle of the day.
Walleye volume was good again this week. Guide sheets averaged 40 walleyes over18 in. per boat per day.
We did get some much-needed rain this past week, but the lake is still down just a little under 2 ft. The lake level does not really affect the walleyes this time of year, but the quality and depth of the weed beds are a major factor for big pike. Some traditional summer spots are great, but others are not holding the size of fish we expect. There was not a great deal of effort spent chasing pike this past week and the results were limited. For the week we caught and released 5 over 37 in.
Last week we did have several groups that chased smallmouth bass and did very well. This week, the groups were much more focused on walleyes. Between the effort and the weather, bass numbers fell off sharply. For the week we caught and released 11 over 19 in. There are still a few out there to be caught, but there may not be the anglers around to hunt for them. The mayfly hatch is the environmental indicator that we watch for to let us know that the bass bite is in decline. The hatch has already occurred in some of the warm water bays and is just beginning on the main lake. As noted in previous year’s reports, the mayfly hatch has virtually zero affect on our walleye production.
A Week With No Wind
Almost the entire week was sunny, hot and flat calm. Lake surface temperatures soared into the mid 70s and there were even reports of areas in the low 80s. The Texans laughed at the criteria for a heat advisory in Northwest Ontario, but we did have 3 days that qualified this past week.
Extreme weather always impacts the fishing. This week it put the Smallmouth bass bite into overdrive. It also sent tons of walleyes into shallow water, but the big ones were not represented in the same numbers that you would normally expect. Volume was high, but the top end took a hit. The weeds are ahead of schedule, even on the main lake, but it still takes time for the big pike to settle in.
Historically, this week has been the peak of the smallmouth bass bite for the year at The Wheel. And the flat water and bright sunshine sent all of our top Bass regions into high gear. For the week we caught and released 80 bass over 19 in., including 5 – 20s. Top waters, tubes, jigs w/tails, and cranks all had their time and place. At one point, the photo board in the main lodge was 75% Bass.
Two factors affected the walleye results for the week. Number one; many anglers were bass fishing. Number two, there was a separation in the walleye population when they moved shallow. We caught tons of walleyes in the slot – 25 or 26 in. size, but with the flat calm conditions, it felt like the big girls just didn’t come to the party. For the week, we caught and released 35 walleyes over 27 in., including 6 – 28s, 6 – 29s, and 1 – 30. Volume was good with guide sheets averaging 40 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day.
There is the possibility that our group pattern and approach to walleye fishing is the reason that the results are amplified, but I am still confident that the “extremes” approach is still the most productive answer for most days. We are still consistently experimenting with finesse, slow long lining 1/8’s with minnows or jumping straight up to 3/8 oz. jigs and 6.5 in. Gulp Nemesis pulled at speed (1.2 – 1.4 mph). When one result is clearly better than the other, we try to duplicate the pattern in areas with similar conditions. Most walleyes were caught between 6 – 12 ft. of water this week. The majority of walleyes 27 – 30 in. were caught in 12 – 20.
With the heat wave and lake levels just a little over 1 ft. lower than normal, the weeds are growing just a bit ahead of schedule. The cabbage weed beds topping out on the surface on the main lake is one of the environmental indicators that we watch for to key in on a big pike bite. The typical time frame is July 4. We aren’t there yet, but it is close. We had minimal effort spent chasing pike this week, but we still caught 10 over 37 in., including 5 – 38s, 2 – 40s, and 1 – 41.
The Bass fishing was so good this week that even the hard-core walleye hunters broke ranks and spent some time on the chunk rock shorelines.
It is always the weather, so I might as well talk about that first. It feels like late spring / early summer on Lac Seul right now. The weather has been beautiful and the fishing has been great. I actually looked back and read the previous week’s reports and the take away for me was that the early season weather was volatile and that this week was much more normal. We did have some windy days early, some rain in the middle, and some calmer days at the end, but nothing felt extreme.
Especially towards the end of the week, main lake sand cups in the 10 – 15 ft zone really took off for walleyes. Even if the wind was light, you had to have it blowing into a dead end zone. Without the wind, there was very little action. Add a perfect wind to a Grade C- spot with a quick break into 10 ft. and a guide might put 30 walleyes on his sheet (and often did).
As a crew, we were pretty much 50/50 this week on Gulp @ speed vs. 1/8 oz. jigs and minnows. Earlier in the week, the Gulp helped to pick off aggressive walleyes on wind blown shorelines. Later in the week, we used Gulp to contact scattered walleyes on flats. At the same time, other guides found walleyes deeper on breaks that had been exposed to wind the previous day and were able to catch neutral to negative fish deeper. The trick was to run a dozen experiments with your group every day and evaluate the results and adjust as you go. The guests like it. It makes the day fun. And it works. The 4 in. Gulp served a purpose, but the 6.5 in. Gulp was a proof. If you found a group of walleyes that would hit the big baits, then you knew you could move at speed and work to target big fish.
And it was a great week for big walleyes – 74 over 27 in., including 9 – 28s, 5 – 29s, and 1 – 30. Volume was really good with guide sheets averaging 45 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day. We caught and released a ton of nice walleyes this week.
The Bass are just starting to come in shallow on a regular basis. Some boats did well this week. Some areas that have been excellent in the past were tough. The lake is about 1ft. lower than normal and some of our classic bass spots are choked with weeds. The bass are still there, but it is just tough to catch them. For the week, we caught and released 15 over 19 in.
Transition pike are often tough. The weeds are up in the back bays and about half way up on the main lake. The big pike can be anywhere and that is where they were. For the week, we caught 7 over 37 in. including 1 – 42.
The theme at check out was the same for every group this week; great trip, can’t wait to come back…. My response was the reminder, that even on the best fisheries, the weather during your short stay can make fishing tough or make it great. I do my best to report the fishing as it is and manage expectations for those groups that return year after year.
No one, ever goes back to a lodge hoping that they will catch ½ as many fish that were almost as big as last year. The groups that have been up for 10 – 20 years know the drill. They don’t doubt the fishery or the guides, they just know that it is fishing and that sometimes the fish are snapping and sometimes they aren’t. Those are the easiest groups to guide and this time of year the schedule is packed full of them.
Instant Summer turns back into Regular spring: And then we experience a massive cold front
How big of a cold front was it? Main lake temps that were in the 60s and up to 70 plummeted to 48 degrees. For those of you that have fished through one of these weather events before, the results are 100% predictable. The blender affect sends fish everywhere and anywhere all at the same time.
During the front, the fishing was excellent, but after the front passed and the winds died and the lake turned flat calm and cool, finding biting fish became much more of a challenge. The average depth was the biggest change that we had to solve for. Last week, most walleyes were caught between 5 – 10 ft. By the middle of this week, most walleyes were being caught between 12 and 20 ft deep. Guides reported catching walleyes as deep as 30 ft. Post frontal walleyes that go deep are almost never active this time of year. The good news is that they are deep enough that you can find them and mark them with electronics. The bad news is that you have to slow way down to consistently catch them. It is warming up again and we are just starting to see some pollen returning to the surface of the lake. As an environmental indicator, you can do no better than chasing pollen on the water to find shallow water walleyes.
Despite the Blender mix, over all walleye fishing was very good. For the week, we caught and released 61 walleyes over 27 in., including 9 – 28s, 5 – 29s, 1 – 30, and 2 – 31s. Guide sheets averaged between 35 – 40 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day.
Most walleyes were caught with 1/8ths and 1/4s oz jigs with minnows. There were a few experiments pulling Gulp at speed. The 4 in. Nemesis had steady results, but there were a few windows where the 6.5 in. Nemesis were key to catching big walleyes.
We were still able to solve the walleye puzzle, but the post spawn / transition / lake blender combination was difficult to crack for big pike. There were a few nice pike targeted, but they were few and far between. The majority of the bigger pike this week were incidental catch while walleye fishing with 4 – 37s, 1 – 39, and 1 – 40. An exception was a 45 in. monster targeted and caught by Jim Layton at the end of the week.
And if the Pike were a challenge, then it felt like the Smallmouth bass packed up and moved to another lake. A few guides spent some time checking the shallows with almost no success. There were hardly any boated accidentally. For the week, there were just 3 – 19s caught. Their time will come soon.
Statistically, the sample set is very small, but it does feel like we are seeing more really big walleyes at the beginning of this season. Time will tell, but it has been a great start of the year for trophy walleyes.