This weekly fishing report needs to be delivered in two parts. As with most major changes to our fishing patterns, this one revolved around a dramatic change in weather. July 4 was the turning point in the week. That was the day that endless sunny, flat, hot, and calm turned into windy, stormy, choppy, and cool. At the beginning of the week, we were swimming at lunch and talking about air conditioners and by the end of the week, we were adding layers, closing the lodge windows at night, and thinking about wearing a toque off the dock.
And the fish moved!
At the beginning of the week, it was not exactly a weed bite, but it felt like there was a pretty consistent pattern across the lake. The walleyes were not super shallow, but the main lake deep patterns were vacant. As a continuation from the previous week’s report, we were fishing walleyes in 10 – 16 ft. of water and we were moving fast with plastics. Both volume and size could be consistently found in that band of the water column and not surprisingly, that zone was filled with clouds and clouds of bait. There was a small amount of variation between guide boats. Some were on 3/8 oz. jigs and some were on 1/2s. Some were at 1.0 mph and some felt like they were doing better at 1.5 mph. The guide crew likes to debate and discuss, but it was all some version of moving at speed with bigger jigs and Gulp to target active and scattered walleyes.
All of that changed on July 4. Storm clouds came in, it rained and hailed, the wind blew, and then it got cold. And the walleyes went everywhere. Guides still found some very good bites, but they were very different than the previous week. And for every guide that found a new good bite, there were several others that tried multiple different experiments that failed. When dozens of great bites shut down, we did what we always do; and we started the experiments over again. Just as many guides located walleyes in 20 – 25 ft. and targeted them with light jigs and minnows as guides that stuck with big jigs and plastics and just covered more water. Both worked, but they didn’t work as well as they did the first half of the week.
Even though the volume and consistency took a nose-dive, there were still some really big walleyes caught in the second half of the week. One 30 was caught from 7 ft., another 30 was caught from 15, and a 29 was caught from 32 ft. of water. Those were the big fish. Volume changed dramatically as well.
For the week, we caught and released 46 walleyes over 27 in., including 6 – 28s, 4 – 29s, 2 – 30s, and 1 over 31. Volume averaged 30 over 18 in. per boat per day. Many boats had way more.
Casting for pike was a crap shoot.
Some days were awesome and some days sucked. And they were back-to-back.
For the week, we caught and released 14 over 37 in., including 2 – 39s, 1 – 40, and 1 – 42. Spoons and blades worked best. The cabbage weeds are topped out and are the key to big pike. Some weed beds from previous seasons have failed.
Production for big Pike also took a major hit after July 4. We still caught a few, but it was night and day. The bite was off. There was a slight recovery today. I am not saying that I would go casting all afternoon, but it was very much better than yesterday.
The Take away:
Weather changes can sneak up on us….
The SWWL guide staff are not only watching for those changes, but they also know that they will have a plan to find the next solution.
Over the years, I have had a few long-term guests make comments or tease us about our brochure, “it looks like it never rains at Silver Water Wheel Lodge.” And the point is well taken. We choose to highlight the prettiest photos on the nicest days. The fishing report is a different story. I tell it the way it was. Overall, this was another excellent week of production at the Wheel. At the same time, there were some very difficult days when even the most senior guides struggled to come up with a pattern for walleyes.
We are finally getting some wet weather with showers and thunderstorms off and on this week. I don’t think that it is enough to end the fire ban any time soon, but it is a start. We expect to continue to mix it up using propane burners on the beach or coming back to the lodge for shorelunch. We prefer to cook on driftwood fires, but we can still put on a pretty good show with propane burners.
The most important hour of the day at SWWL is the nightly round table meeting. It is a time to share insights, discuss trends and patterns, and to talk about what to expect in the near future. The fishing report is another marker in the season that I use to reflect back on what our collective experience was during the previous week. Once again, the stats look great! But Lac Seul and her well fed walleyes can be tricky. Just about the time that you think about getting a little cocky as a guide, she will slap you down.
For the week we caught and released 54 walleyes over 27 in., including 6 – 28s, 6 – 29s, and 3 – 30s. Volume was high with guides sheets averaging 35 walleyes over 18 in. per day. The reason that there were production differences between days of this past week is that the walleyes were on the move.
Many of us were ready and prepared to move right into summer patterns and presentations. If you were stuck on that mindset this week, then you were burned. There were a few big walleyes caught off deep water rock and main lake sand, but the bulk of the production came on sand/rock transitions in front of the growing weed beds in 10 – 16 ft. of water.
If there was one take away for this past week, it was the use of plastics at speed to locate active walleyes. Some guides were able to continue to work Gulp and plastics at speed for a win and others used plastics to locate a pod of fish and then went back on them with live bait and lighter jigs to pick off the rest of the reluctant biters. You definitely had to be on your toes and even then, sometimes it didn’t matter.
I prefer to use the entire guide crew experience to explain the patterns, but to illustrate this week’s bite, I am going to describe my last 2 guide sheets. On June 28, we had flat calm conditions and I fished absolutely everything I could think of. At the end of the day, I had almost as many spots on my guide sheet as I had walleyes. I did not fill the front of my sheet until 5:25 pm (23 walleyes over 18 in. from 16 locations.) On June 29, I used a good piece of intel from Brandon’s previous round table and found a hot bite. We only fished 3 spots that day and put 56 walleyes on the sheet with just a hand full of slots. All of those fish were caught on Gulp at speed in 10 – 16 ft. of water on sand in front of weeds. Everything was big and we never used a minnow. That is the snap shot from the week of walleye fishing. When it was good, it was great and when it was tough, we scrambled. It isn’t always sunny at SWWL, but we always work hard to solve each day’s puzzle.
The past week’s most productive search bait was a 3/8 oz. jig with a 5 in. Gulp Alive Crazy legs jerk shad pulled at 1.0 – 1.4 mph in 11 – 16 ft. of water. Many other variations worked, but if you had to pick one, that was the base line.
The big pike results surprised me again this week. We caught and released 24 over 37 in., including 6 – 39s, 5 – 40s, 1 – 41, 1 – 42, and 1- 43. On an average year, the cabbage weeds usually top out on or around the first week of July. This year, many topped out this past week. Timing of weed growth was part of the reason for a good week of results, but the guides responded to guest requests and put more effort into chasing Northerns as well. Big spoons were the key to production, but in-line spinners also turned some nice fish. A super highlight of the week – Tim Buckenberger caught and released the lodge record 42 in. tiger musky. We do not see many, but over time, they are getting closer and closer to our home waters. It is easy to get jaded guiding on Lac Seul every day, but this fish was Stunning!
The smallmouth bass bite lingered for a bit, but as predicted, it faded fast. We caught and released 9 over 19 in. including 2 – 20s. It is still possible to catch a few bass, but we are moving on. Bass season is pretty much over at the Wheel for 2023.
The Take Away –
We all would prefer to go “catching” instead of fishing.
We would all prefer that every day is sunny at SWWL, except when it ends up leading to a fire ban.
And we all want to guide big fish and lots of ‘em.
But it doesn’t work that way! Even on a great fishery, it is tricky and complicated. And that is what makes us appreciate it even more….
and is why we don’t book one day fishing trips!
There are many story lines from this past week at SWWL on Lac Seul, but the most obvious is that we hit the peak of the smallmouth bass bite with our groups that most appreciate it. Many of this week’s guests don’t care to chase smallies and they devoted their time to fishing for big walleyes or hunting big pike. Surprisingly, all three were success stories.
Kendal Hartley and Mark Bailey have been bringing a big group up to the Wheel from Texas for more than 20 years. Some of the guys prefer to fish for walleyes, but many of them love to catch big smallmouth bass. Timing is critical. Some years they have been a little early and some years, they have been a little late but this year, the weather was perfect and the bass bite was on. For the week, we caught and released 53 smallmouth bass over 19 in., including 9 – 20s. My buddy Davis Hartley caught 2 – 20 in. Master Angler smallmouth bass during his stay.
Volume was high for most days, but there were a few off periods. Today was the first day that I fished grade A smallmouth spots and saw mayfly casings on the water with a few adults. On Lac Seul, the beginning of the mayfly hatch is the environmental marker that let’s us know that the smallmouth bass bite is on the wane. Some years, there is a wide span of time between the hatch in the range of smally spots. This year it is happening all at once. The cold front last week was a break and the heat this week kicked it back to full speed. This is the first year that I have seen the mayfly hatch start on the North shore. We will see a few more big bass on the sheet next week, but my prediction is that it is going to come to a grinding and screeching halt. I saw surface temps in the low 80s today. And we have already had reports of random bass being caught out of 12 – 15 ft. For my boat, bass season ended today.
Ed Rosenow has been fishing for big pike on Lac Seul for more than 30 years. He taught my guides a few spots back in the day. He and his wife Debbie have been fishing with us for years and they had a good week of pike hunting. Ed caught a 38 and 39 and Debbie caught a 40 with Jason. They spent some time on bass and walleyes, but they prefer to chase pike. And for them, this was also a successful trip.
For the week, our pike anglers caught and released, 18 over 37 in., including 5- 39s, 4 – 40s, and 1 – 42. I could spend a week telling you what worked. The bottom line was, be aggressive and versatile. The guides love to debate this issue on a daily basis, but the truth is that sometimes emerging weeds are the key, sometimes wind-blown structure is more important, and sometimes during transition, you just cover as much water as you can and hope for the best. Spoons (Williams whitefish and Cabela’s) were top producers, but Jakes, spinnerbaits, and In lines were also up there.
There were many big walleyes caught this week, but there was one that was off the charts. Brett McCallum has been guiding at the Wheel forever, and he will tell you that Emma Larson is magic. I did not look it up, but I think she started catching big walleyes when she was 9. Back in the day, Brett would say, “she is a great young walleye angler and just catches big ones…..” This week, Brett just said, “She did it again.” Emma caught and released a massive 30.25 in. walleye that is our cover photo.
For the week, we caught and released 61 walleyes over 27 in., including 18 – 28s, 4 – 29s, and 1 – 30. Volume was high and then it wasn’t. The big ones were caught deep in 20 – 30 ft. and then they weren’t (10 – 14 ft.). We had to slow down and fish finesse presentations down deep and then we caught them pulling big Gulp at speed shallow.
Sometimes I am concerned, that readers will get frustrated with our seemingly random fishing report. But then…. this is what happened. And to be truthful, for every success story there was another one that was not so successful. And some days, that is my story. You appreciate the win more when you have to fight through the loss.
The last story line is that I still guide every day. I know that I shouldn’t, but I have groups that I love to guide and I can’t give them up. And for that reason, I am writing a fishing report at 12:31. It will not be Shakespeare, but I am going to do my best to tell the story…. and then I am going to get up tomorrow morning, make plans with my crew, and we are going to do it all over again.
Living the dream… but a little tired.
It was a bit of a bonkers week at the Wheel. For those that follow us on a regular basis, you know that it has been hot and dry in Northwest Ontario. The “normal” spring patterns have been disrupted by unseasonably warm weather and we are currently under a fire ban. We saw several fires blow up on the lake this week and watched the MNR fight them with helicopters and water bombers. At the same time, we also had a pretty sharp, dry, cold front come through midweek that definitely scrambled the fishing puzzle pieces. In short, it was complicated, but the guide crew worked together and managed to figure out most of it.
I am going to give you the walleye stats first, but then I am going to add some details.
For the week, we caught and released 74 walleyes over 27 in., including 11 – 28s, 4 – 29s, and 2 – 30s. Volume overall was very good, with guide sheets averaging 40 walleyes over 18 in. per day.
Those numbers sound off the charts and would give the impression that the fishing was easy. It was not. We caught walleyes in 2 ft. of water and 32 ft. of water. We caught walleyes in spring locations and we caught them on main lake summer spots. We caught walleyes that were aggressive enough to eat Williams Whitefish spoons casting for pike and we caught walleyes that were so negative that we had to dead stick 1/8s and minnows or rig drop shots.
Not only that, it was sporadic. One area or region would be hot one day and dead the next. Guides fished an area that was dead in the morning and hot in the afternoon. Even worse, was the localized pocket bites. A generally good fishing area would be mostly vacant, except for a very small area that was holding a concentration of fish. They may have been relating to a specific rock sand transition, newly emergent weed growth, or a gradual depth transition. The point is, if you missed noticing that small detail, then you missed the 12 fish you could have put in the boat.
The big walleye patterns were just as messy. For every 27 in. walleye that we caught out of 8 – 10 ft. in front of an emerging weed bed, we caught 2 or more out of 20 – 25 ft. of water on main lake rock summer spots. Bottom line: walleye fishing was good, but it was hard.
Pike fishing was just as schizophrenic. As the oldest senior guide, I advised my guys to steer guests away from the “difficult transition” pike. Thankfully, they did not take my advice. We had groups that wanted to hunt for big Northerns and my guides did what they are supposed to do. They listened, explained the odds, gave the options, laid out plans, and tried. Their results were far better than I expected. For the week, we caught and released 14 pike over 37 in., including 3 – 38s, 2 – 39s, and 2 – 41s. Spoons were the most productive. Newly emergent weed beds produced many, but there were also quite a few big pike caught casting to rock.
And the bass were a surprise too. At one time, the guide crew were worried that the peak of the bass bite would happen before our guys from Texas arrived. There were several good bass bites last week and there were also several disappointments. For the week, we caught and released 11 bass over 19 in. including one over 20.
Ben Beattie is a SWWL guide staff alumni and writer for “Ontario Out of Doors.” He is a Northwest Ontario Musky guiding expert, but Musky season does not open until June 17. Ben was guiding with us this past week and one of my guides gave him a “hot tip” about a North shore location for big smallmouth. At our nightly round table meeting, Ben got to this point of the story and asked the crew what they thought the surface temps were on the North shore. (Keep in mind the main lake has been 65 – 70 for the past two weeks.) Ben says, “I got all the way up there, I look at my graph, and I think it must be broken. It says that the surface water is 48 degrees F!” This is on a prime-time spring smallmouth bass spot. Ben knew to explain and bail, but the point of the story is that we were all shocked that main lake surface water temps could have dropped more than 20 degrees F just because the wind blew from a different direction. The North shore bass bite has not even started. Like everything else these past few years, it could happen quickly, but the cold snap this week did adjust our fishing calendar.
The calendar may be adjusted, but having a top-class guiding crew sharing information is the most powerful problem-solving tool a guide staff manager could ask for. They don’t always take my advice, but sometimes they solve the problem faster than I would.
The weather still felt like summer this past week. The daytime highs and surface temps may have moderated a bit, but the fishing was on fire. Pick your favorite species as they were all three popping this past week.
The surprise for me was the pike fishing. Usually when pike transition from spring / spawning patterns to summertime locations, they are generally difficult to consistently pattern and target. My general advice to the guide crew is to mix your day up a bit by casting for pike if you want, but always be ready to fall back on the more predictable walleye bite. Many guests this past week asked to spend time fishing for pike and they were very successful.
For the week, we caught and released 31 pike over 37 in., including 8 – 38s, 3 – 39s, 3 – 40s, and 2 – 41s. Spoons and big cranks were the most productive presentations. The locations were split evenly between late spring feeding zones and what I would consider standard summer locations. Main lake weeds are already over 2 ft tall and in many areas that was enough to begin holding big pike.
There were a few slow times for walleyes, but for most of the week, the walleye bite was hot. The numbers; 70 over 27 in., including 9 – 28s, 5 – 29s, and 1 – 30. The key was to search for the walleye bite that produced numbers of walleyes over 24 in. and then grind it out for the really big ones. Sometimes it was on sandy transitions, others it was on current based rock bites, and there were still good bites on the shallow sections of classic main lake summer sand. The key was not to try to replicate the previous day’s bite. The most successful guides ran multiple experiments on a variety of different locations until they found a pattern and duplicated it. There were a few bites that responded to plastics, but most success this week revolved around what size jig, what speed, and what depth to fish minnows. Those details may sound tedious, but they were the difference between doing well and crushing it. We talk about catch rates all the time. In general, 5 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per hour is the recipe for a good day. Guides left those bites this past week and often found better. The key depth for big walleyes this week was 10 – 14 ft.
The smallmouth bass are definitely ahead of schedule. That doesn’t mean they were always easy. They have definitely moved towards their preferred spawning locations. There were the sporadic reports of a few beds sighted, but there were also several days of not just neutral, but absolutely negative bites. I heard several guests say they saw a hundred bass swimming around, but only caught 3. At the same time, there were a few feeding windows where it didn’t matter what you threw in front of them, they were going to eat it. For the week, we caught and released 23 over 19 in., including 6 – 20 in. bass. Plastics were preferred, cranks caught a few, and surprisingly, a few were already looking for topwater.
The Take Away – Gouws is my stats guy this year and he took some time off for his sister’s graduation. Justin volunteered to tabulate the numbers for the week. When he came upstairs to hand me the results, he said, “MW, this was a total Big Fish Beat Down!” and I agreed.
I have been guiding in Canada since 1989 and I have never seen a Spring like we are experiencing this year. In 2023, Spring lasted for a day or two and pretty much instantly turned into summer. Even though the ice just went out 2.5 weeks ago, it looks and feels like July in NW Ontario. We have had high temps in the 80s for more than a week and the lake surface temperatures are close to 70 degrees even on the main lake. Conditions have been so warm and dry that we are now on Fire Ban.
Guiding and finding fish was a little tricky this week. I mentioned last week that some of the traditional spring spots were not holding as many walleyes. With the rapid transition to Summer, that trend just got stronger. One of the principles that we teach in early guide training is that post spawn walleyes often travel great distances in search of food. Those fish seek out areas of the lake that warm more quickly than others and attract more baitfish. This year the main lake heated up so quickly the motivation was not that great for walleyes to seek out the more isolated and protected areas of the lake. Not only did the walleyes bypass some of their traditional early season locations, but they moved right onto some of the main lake structures that we fish in the middle of summer.
Guiding walleyes was a challenge in that some were still back in the warm shallows, some were already set up on summer spots, and the rest were in between. On the same day, we caught walleyes from 3 ft. of water in a backwater boggy area and we caught walleyes out of 33 ft. of water on main lake summer sand structure. If you were not open minded and ready to adapt quickly, you would struggle. The shared information at our nightly guide’s round table meeting was absolutely the key to success this week.
And it was a big week for walleye volume and size. We caught and released 45 walleyes over 27 in., including 9 – 28s, 2 – 29s, 1 – 30, and 1 – 32. Guides averaged over 30 walleyes over 18 in. per boat each day. Several boats filled the back of their sheets (over 60 walleyes.) There were a few pitch bites where jigs and plastics were used to target active walleyes in very shallow water, but most of the week’s production hinged on some version of the jig and minnow. Guides long lined 1/8 oz. jigs and minnows at a moderate speed (.5 – 1 mph) to locate fish in shallower water or they used electronics to find walleyes on main lake summer structure and used 1/8 oz. jigs and minnows with a vertical presentation. The most consistently successful guides bounced back and forth between the spectrums of speed, depth, and region and changed gears multiple times per day.
I expected the big pike bite was going to slow down with the spawn over and fish moving to transition spots. There were a couple of big pike caught on jigs while walleye fishing, but many guests were able to capitalize on pike that were still on or near traditional spawning areas. There weren’t too many big ones caught from the super skinny water, but many were caught on or near the first break just outside of spawning areas. Jakes, spoons, and Husky Jerks (HJ14s) were all productive at times. There was a definite change of preference between different days. The best strategy was to fish a mix of baits until you found out was working for the day. For the week, we caught and released 33 pike over 37 in., including 7 – 38s, 5 – 39s, 4 – 40s, and 3 – 42s. There were several high-volume days with guides reporting 20 or more pike over 30 in.
The big surprise of the week was the early arrival of smallmouth bass fishing. We often catch random bass early, mixed in with the walleyes but this week marked the beginning of the pre-spawn for bass. They were not set up on or building beds just yet, but they are definitely hanging around the spawning areas. Small cranks and jigs with plastics fished quickly were the most productive choices to target bass. For the week we caught and released 7 Smallmouth over 19 in. In the next few weeks, bass fishing production for both size and numbers should increase dramatically.
The Take Away – If you are planning a return fishing trip to SWWL or Lac Seul in general in the next week or so, Do Not expect to find fish where you used to catch them. This weather pattern is a shocking outlier from normal and the fish have responded accordingly. I do hope we get enough rain soon to end the fire ban.
I know that many of you have been waiting for the first fishing report of the year and I cannot tell you how happy I am to be writing it. Covid is in the rearview mirror. There are no border restrictions or issues. When you come up to go fishing, crossing the border will be just like it was in 2019 or earlier.
We worried about ice out and debated what to do. I got to the lodge on May 1 and it was full on winter. You could have driven a tractor trailer on the ice, there were 4 – 5 ft. snow drifts in front of the cabins, and the weather forecast was terrible. And then the sun came out. You cannot comprehend the power of the sun until you watch an ice out on Lac Seul. It was not a super cold or snowy winter up here and when the ice went out, it went fast. Official ice out for Lac Seul in 2023 was May 15.
I watched the walleye fishing forums and just shook my head. There were many threads about how low the water was on Lac Seul this year. Sure, compared to last year’s once in a 100-year flood. It is lower than that. If you want facts, go to Lake of the Woods water control board website and look for yourself. We are smack dab in between 45 – 50% for the past 40 years. Lac Seul is always low in the spring and fills up in the summer. We have not had much rain recently, but the snow melted and the water went up 1.5 ft. since May 1. This is normal.
Since ice out, Spring has been normal to on the warm side. Water temps have skyrocketed and the trees are almost all fully leafed out. The progression has been surprising. The main lake is close to 50 degrees and some of the back water bays are already over 60. It happened fast.
We constantly debate, but the guide crew consensus is that the pike spawn is half done. There are still a few pre-spawn fish, some were definitely spawning today, but many are already done and on the move. The walleyes have even more of a head start on their annual migrations. The warm forecast will only amplify the progression.
For the week, we caught and released 23 walleyes over 27 in., including 3 – 28s, 3 – 29s, and 1 – 31.25. Most of those fish were found in our usual spring spots. Live bait was important, but when water temps exceeded 58 degrees, plastics were just as effective. Volume was pretty good for May, but there were a few spots that did not produce like they usually do.
Pike fishing was good, but not at the same level as 2022. For the week, we caught and released 40 Northerns over 37 in., including 6 – 40s, 2 – 41s, and 1 – 42 in. monster. Spoons, Jakes, Husky Jerks, and Johnson silver minnows were all effective.
Small mouth bass were not targeted, but it still feels like there are more and more each and every year. For the week, we caught and released over 100 as incidental catch along with 7 – 19s and 1 – 20.
The seven-day forecast looks like summer and we are expecting a rapid shift into transition.
Monday, September 26, 2022. End of Season.
Our 2022 season has come to a close here at Silver Water Wheel Lodge. Our first full season of fishing since 2019. A number of guests asked me out in the boat this summer if we had seen any difference in our stats after two seasons of much less angling pressure. They were usually wondering if the year had been especially strong, if there had been an increase in the numbers of big fish caught compared to 2019. I was asked this question often enough that I came up with a stock answer – The bad news is: there was no difference. The good news is: there was no difference!
Of course, we would have all loved to have seen a bump in big fish. We haven’t finished counting all our stats yet, but it’s already pretty clear there’s no big walleye bump – that’s the bad news. On the other hand, if there had been a significant increase in big walleye caught this year, that would mean that for all those previous years our angling effort had been having a negative effect on the fishery! The fact that we have seen no difference in overall results between 2022 and an average pre-covid season is evidence that we are not – very good news! We should be able to look forward to many more seasons of big walleye on Lac Seul.
For this final 10 days of our 2022 season, we were back to more usual fall weather, a more usual number of guests, and back to the usual numbers of walleye. Air and water temps got chilly, there were 55 guided days on the water, and daily guide sheets were back to averaging 24 walleyes over 18 inches per day. There were 17 walleyes over 27 inches caught, and the big one of the week was 29.5 inches. Slow moving, finesse presentations were the norm, and a lot of our big fish came from 35’ or deeper.
There were no anglers devoting their whole day to hunting big pike during these last days, but a number of boats spent at least a few hours of their day casting. Our guides had to switch gears frequently again this week, moving from weed to rock and back again as the weather changed. For the week there were 10 Northern over 37 inches, with a 40, 41, and 42.5 incher.
After two seasons of not fishing every day, it was refreshing to be back on the water all season long. Sometimes, you don’t realize how much you’ll miss something until it’s gone. The last two summers have been a good reminder to me of just how much tracking fish day to day, week to week, and all the way from spring to summer to fall matters to a guide. And a reminder of just how much I enjoy that!
Here’s looking forward to tracking down those fish with you all in 2023!
I started writing this report in the afternoon today. I stewed about it for a while and I began with this sentence – “There’s no two ways about it, this was a difficult week of fishing on Lac Seul”, and things went downhill from there. I was half-way done with the report when supper rolled around and I went down to eat with the rest of our guide crew. Over supper we commiserated with each other; no big fish today, lower numbers on our guide sheets, and having to sort through so many small fish in the last couple days. The report to be written tonight began to look even gloomier…
Then I spoke to some of our guests after supper and at checkout. What they talked about was; the high number of fish caught, the afternoon they spent on a hot bite, the 27 or 28 incher their boat caught earlier in the week! The difference in perspective was black and white, and a good reminder that those of us lucky enough to fish on a lake like this all day, every day, all season long can easily become “Lac Seul spoiled”!
The first half of the week the weather was pleasant; cool and sunny, with light to no wind. Good walleyes could be caught, but they only wanted slow moving, finesse presentations – we had to be patient and work for them. The weather shifted mid-week, and our guide staff expected the fish to get more active on the leading edge of the front. We spent that first day of the weather change looking for an aggressive bite that just did not happen. Our conclusion was that the walleye still wanted finesse presentations, but now they were harder to get to and harder to finesse in the big winds and rain. There were, as always, a few exceptions – some boats had great days during the week. And even if the average size had shifted below 18 inches, there were still lots of fish caught.
Volume on our guide sheets was down this week, our boats averaged just 19 walleyes over 18 inches per day. For the week we boated 11 walleyes over 27 inches, with 2 – 28 inchers, and a 29.75 incher. The straight up number of big fish is low, but there were just 34 guided days this week, 13 of which were spent primarily hunting big pike. That left 21 walleye days, translating into one 27″+ fish for every 2 guided days of walleye fishing.
We did have a lot of boats hunting Northern Pike this week. Our staff did some scouting for pike on their down time last week and reported lots more weed beds green and healthy than expected. With that information in mind, we focused on summer patterns early in the week – targeting main lake weeds. There were big fish there, but we moved or saw many more than we caught. As the wind and rain began the bite shifted to fall patterns, fish were deeper and often on rock structures, fewer fish in the weeds. However, numbers went down and the bigger fish became harder to find. For the week we boated a total of 7 over 37 inches, including 1 – 40 incher.
There are still no two ways about it, the numbers we’re reporting this week are lower than we’re used to. But Lac Seul remains a great fishery, and it’s good for those of us who are “Lac Seul spoiled” to remember – the very next bite could be the fish of a lifetime!
The highlight of this week is 7 walleyes over 29 inches, including 3 over 30 inches. With just 42 guided days this week – that’s about half as many as a typical summer week – that many top end fish really stands out. In contrast, daily guide sheets had relatively low volume, averaging just 26 walleyes over 18 inches per day. When I look back over our stats from previous years, that kind of contrast for a week is very much an outlier compared to a typical week.
These outlier numbers came despite unusually stable weather. We experienced a long stretch of warm temperatures, sunny days, and south winds. That kind of stable weather usually leads our guide staff to return to summer patterns, and pretty consistent bites. This was not the case. All through the week, our daily guide reports once again had fish being caught anywhere from 15 feet and 35 feet. While fall spots and depths were often the answer despite the summer type weather, most of the big fish came from summer structures. We also saw very different bites day to day, and spot to spot. Walleye seemed to become active or go negative in different locations without any significant weather or condition changes. One of our guides described it as “boom or bust fishing”. Results each day were either great or terrible, not much middle ground.
As a group we did almost no piking again this week. Very few anglers chose to devote even a few hours to piking. There was some scouting by our guide staff on their down time, with limited success. We totaled just 4 Northern over 37 inches, including one 40 incher. Our scouting reports did note that the weed beds are just this week beginning their die off. That is often a sign that the best piking of the fall is still to come….