It felt like summer at The Wheel this week. It was warm and a little humid for our standards with the occasional shower, but overall it was just a nice weather week. At the risk of being repetitive, it was also another excellent fishing week in the Southern Basins of Lac Seul.
The mayflies are emerging on the main lake, but it really never affects our walleye fishing. There are actually times that we will locate pods of walleyes suspended beneath the floating exoskeletons in the wind driven current lines.
There are still some walleyes on the deep side of the weed beds, but this week they were smaller with more slots and unders. Most of the big walleyes this week were found on main lake rock shorelines in 12 – 20 ft. or on the windblown sand flats in 12 – 18 ft. Once again, many of these fish were suspended anywhere from 2 – 6 ft. off the bottom relating to balls of suspended baitfish. Guides employed several different techniques to target suspended walleyes. Some reduced jig size and increased speed to float baits on long lines up off the bottom. Others cruised at 1 – 1.5 mph until they located a pod with their electronics and then stalled the boat and fished them vertically with ¼ oz. jigs and minnows. A helpful piece of information is that 1 full revolution of a Shimano 2500 sized spinning reel brings up roughly 2 feet of line. Guides would make a quick estimate how high off the bottom they were marking fish and advise the number of cranks to pull up off the bottom.
It was about 50/50 production between light jigs (1/8 and 1/4s) with minnows and Bigger jigs (3/8) and Gulp Alive plastics. The Gulp ripple shad paddle tails worked well and the Crazy legs jerk shads were also top choices in white and chartreuse.
For the week, we caught and released 75 walleyes over 27 in., including 13 – 28s, 6 – 29s, and 1 – 30. Walleye volume was up with guide sheets averaging close to 40 fish over 18 in. per boat each day. The highest daily total was 78.
There was a small amount of effort put into chasing pike this week and the results were modest. We did post photos in the dining room of 6 over 37 in., including 1 – 40 and 2 – 42s.
After you factor in the “new normal” for top end size for walleyes, it felt like a really great mid-summer week of consistent weather and consistent big walleye production. The fish are on the move towards their summer haunts on the main lake. The “usual” spots have been good and we have added several new spots to the summer mix as well.
I have spent the last few weeks describing the rapid increase in the numbers of big walleyes that we are now catching in the south basins of Lac Seul. There is zero doubt in my mind that the fishery has changed dramatically in the past 5 years. We now have a very large class of 23 – 28 in. walleyes that make up a greater percentage of our catch than we are used to seeing.
Tonight’s stats are just one more example of that trend. For the week, we caught and released 92 walleyes over 27 in., including 19 – 28s, 4 – 29s, and 2 – 30s. Average walleye volume was good with an average of 35 walleyes per boat per day over 18 in. The highest daily total was 107.
With the change in the population trend established, I am going to begin focusing fishing reports more on how recent weather patterns have affected the day to day fishing results. What will surprise people is that even with that incredible list of big walleyes caught and released this past week, there were actually quite a few slow periods.
We had several days of blazing sun and flat calm conditions that resulted in very brief and sporadic shallow water walleye bites mixed in with some quiet bites. There were multiple reports of guide boats fishing the same areas at different times with dramatically different results. When the wind picked up, the walleyes were snapping. It was a largely shallow water bite this week with most ‘eyes caught between 6 – 15 ft. of water. The deep side of weed beds was a major pattern, but there were also many big walleyes caught on the basin flats suspended in 10 – 14 ft. over 16 – 30 ft. of water. The suspended bite is tough, but the guides watch their graphs and when we see fish suspend we use a combination of speed and jig size to target fish. Most of the suspended walleyes are catchable, the trick is to find a presentation that matches depth at speed. When you dial it in, it can be deadly. One of our guides worked the same area with many different types of passes and presentations today and finished with 35 walleyes over 23 in. Production was evenly split between light jigs and minnows combos and Big jigs w/ Gulp Alive Plastics.
We did have several groups chase pike this week and for the limited time spent hunting, their results were very good. For the week, we had 7 pike over 38 in., with a 40, 41, 43, and Josh Rogers caught his personal best – 45 in. massive pike on a big spinnerbait.
The bass bite is over in my mind, but groups still spent time working for them this week. As the bite winds down, there were still 14 – 19s and 1 – 20 caught and released.
No matter how great your fishery is, the weather is still the number one variable affecting how many fish are caught on any given day. This week, we had some slow days and some hot days, but overall, walleye fishing was once again terrific in the south basins of Lac Seul.
It was another very good week in the south basin of Lac Seul. High winds on Monday along with unsettled showers on Wed. and Thursday did mix up walleye locations a bit and there were some slow periods, but overall production was on the same great pace that we have seen all season. Last week’s report was exceptional, largely due to the fact that there was almost no slow periods with constant and stable weather. When the wind blows 30 – 40 mph, as it did on Monday, you are going to have slow fishing no matter how high quality the fishery is.
For the week we caught and released 78 walleyes over 27 in., including 19 – 28s, 6 – 29s, and 2 – 30s. Walleye volume averaged 40 walleyes over 18 in. per day per boat. The highest daily walleye total was 64, but that sheet also had 25 bass over 16 in. as well, for a total of 89 “sheet fish.” Again, I am not going back to look at every week of stats, but from memory, that total would have been far higher than any week for the past 4 seasons. Yet it only takes a few weeks for both guides and guests to get spoiled.
One of my more difficult tasks is to manage expectations while still trying to give an accurate snapshot view of the week’s fishing experience. When I was doing shows, I always “undersold.” I would much rather lose one booking and have everyone who did book pleasantly surprised that they experienced better than they were promised. In that light and with the previous week’s fishing reports, I have had to begin to deal with the first stages of “heightened expectations.” – “…It wasn’t a bad day, but I still haven’t caught my first 27 yet this week….”
I wasn’t the only guide this week that had a day where I struggled to find shorelunch fish. We all want to chase big ones, but if you wait until 11:00 to shift gears to find eaters, you can get burned, especially with weird weather. On Wednesday, my boat had landed more walleyes over 26.5 in. than walleyes under 18 in. by 12:00.
An awesome fishery is still subject to weather driven bites. It is also always built upon a massive and diverse forage base. When you can see smelt jumping out of the water as you fight a bass or walleye in shallow water, you know that most of the gamefish are very well fed and are often full. You would be surprised at how often that fact is lost upon visiting anglers.
So, No, the big walleyes aren’t jumping into the boat as we drive by. They are being caught at an unbelievable pace by guests who are fishing hard with their guides as they work through the hundreds of changing variables each day.
The big jig and Gulp bite was a major source of production for big walleyes this week. We did also turn many big eyes on the deep side of the weeds with 1/8 oz. jigs and minnows. Most walleyes were caught between 6 – 12 ft. of water, but on the tough bite days, there were walleyes caught in 4 ft. and 34 ft.
During flat water and bright sunshine, many of the guide boats turned to bass and pike for production and were successful based on the time invested. Bass production was very good with many boats reporting 20 – 40 bass per day over 16 in. For the week we had 25 over 19 in. and 3 over 20. Tubes and cranks turned many bass, but topwater was a big producer this week.
About 1/3 of the guide boats spent some time chasing pike this week and once again the results were better than expected. For the week we had 17 over 37 in., including 3 – 40s, 3 – 41s, and 1 – 43.
My background in science compels me to talk about stats, year classes, and production. At the same time, I preach to my crew that 50% of their job is customer service. In the list of what was caught and released, the best family fishing stories are lost. My personal highlights this week were handing out master angler pins to the Tjaden and Buckenberger families.
Kay Tjaden caught a 28 and a 29.5 in. walleye this week. At check out, she told me that she really wished that one of her grandson’s had caught the big one. I respectfully disagreed and was very happy that Tyler had a great photo of her big fish to post this week.
Ron Buckenberger caught a big 41 in. pike while pulling Gulp for walleyes, but his grandson Jack caught a MONSTER 43.25 in. pike fish of a lifetime to top off the family fishing week.
It was once again, another great fishing week in the central basins of Lac Seul, however there were very many peaks and valleys. Not every guest in every group caught a huge fish, but they had their chances. Most did, but those that didn’t know that they were fishing big fish water with cutting edge tactics and technology. My closing speech at tonight’s guide round table was focused on the balance between managing expectations with the strategies to motivate guests to apply the effort required to chase big fish. Our meeting ended with my advice to my guide crew to take a step back and truly enjoy how many big walleyes we get to put in the boat. At the same time, I reminded them that we all need to provide the mature overview of just how fortunate we are to be chasing another peak-year class of walleyes.
Our first video – Spring is Here!
Check out our new video – Happy Summer Solstice!
The fishing this week was epic. And I do not say that lightly. Every report this year has yielded results that exceeded my expectations based on the weather and fishing conditions. This week was no exception, except now I am starting to believe that “the good ole days” may be back again. The difference is that we now know how to appreciate them.
For those that have not followed along with our fishing reports and studied the trends of our production over time, I will digress and tell a brief story that most of my long term guests already know. Just a few years after I purchased Silver Water Wheel in 1998, we experienced several seasons of back to back, unbelievable walleye fishing. Those years helped me get on my feet, fill the lodge, and establish The Wheel as a destination adventure for Trophy walleyes combined with great customer service.
The mistake that I made during that time was that I did not realize that we were riding the crest of a couple of great walleye year classes that grew up during excellent growing seasons and instead, attributed our fishing success to high quality guiding. We were doing a good job, but instead of patting ourselves on the back, we should have been advising our guests that this was an anomaly that would eventually wind down over time. And it did. The lesson was learned and we began to watch for the next wave. You can go back through the years and all of the weekly reports on this site and track the progress of the year class of fish that we are now chasing. I am again surprised at how quickly they have kicked in, but it is hard to argue with this week’s production.
As usual, it is very late and I did not go back and look up the actual stats from all of the seasons, but I can only remember one week back in the peak of big walleye production when we caught 100 walleyes over 27 in. in one week.
For the week, we caught and released 90 walleyes over 27 in., including 23 – 28s, 4 – 29s, and 2 – 30s. Daily guide reports averaged 40 walleyes per boat, per day over 18 in. and the highest daily total was 78. I try to always state our stats in a matter of fact style. Good or bad, no matter, “this is the way that it was.” It is hard for me not to find a silly emoticon or at least add an exclamation point, but Again, this week was OFF THE CHARTS for big walleye production.
Surprisingly, the big fish numbers were split between the end of the spring locations, the peak of transition spots, and even a few big fish from summer locales. The guides were aggressive in chasing down the bites this week and I was surprised at the end of the week at how diverse the areas were that turned big fish. The one trend of note is that big plastics selected for big fish. There were several different bites that hinged on big plastics and Gulp Alive Minnows and Crazy legs jerk shads on ¼ – 3/8 oz. jigs.
The advantage of working the big jigs and plastics fast first, is that you can watch your electronics and isolate areas to gear down and slow down with live bait later. If you are fortunate enough to guide on a high quality fishery, your next challenge as a guide is to increase your productivity by increasing your efficiency. You can gather 100 times more information pulling Gulp at 1.3 mph than you can dead sticking 1/8ths over 1 or 2 arcs. The information gathered is the fuel for that day’s fire. If the fish are aggressive, you can continue to cover ground and catch them as fast as you can with Gulp. If the fish are neutral to negative and you pull Plastic by 15 – 20 arcs without a bite, then it is time to mark those areas and slow down with live bait.
We apply the same efficiency approach to pike and bass as well, but when the walleye fishing is this good, it really is tough to try to convince your guests to chase them. Smallmouth Bass are moving into the shallows and the bite has been good. Some areas have warmed more slowly than others and our overall volume of bass is down because of the time spent chasing walleyes, but the big bass numbers are still good. For the week, we had 20 – 19s and 6 – 20s. Tubes and topwaters were top producers
Incredibly, there were groups that chose to take time to fish for pike despite the hot walleye bite and they also did quite well for the time they spent. For the week we had 14 over 37 in., with 3 – 40s and 2 – 41s.
When I begin the weekly fishing report stating that walleye production was “epic,” it does require some context. I can vividly remember guiding on another nearby lake and my guests told me that they had enjoyed the great fishing that day, but it still wasn’t as good as the walleye fishing they had seen on Lac Seul. I was ticked off until I experienced the Lac Seul walleye fishery and then I understood the standard. For the first few years that I owned the lodge, big walleye production was so huge that In-Fisherman magazine changed their benchmark for Master Angler Awards from 29 in. to 30 in., because of the number of submissions from Lac Seul. In that context and with that history, this week was awesome for Big walleye production and it shows no sign of slowing down.
Missy was talking tonight to Alex (20) and Nick Sigurdson (23). They have been fishing at the Wheel with their dad Dan for the past 15 years and they agreed that this was the best weather and best fishing that they have ever had. The same comments were repeated again and again at each of my check-outs and the stats chime in even louder. I was surprised at how good last week was for big fish. I am shocked at how much better this week was for big fish, plus volume. Over the years, my lead guide Brett McCallum has seen it all and his conclusion is that it can’t last, but right now, it is as good as it gets at Silver Water Wheel…. Walleye full on, Big pike on, and Big bass just starting.
There were a few slow mornings in certain areas and a few disappointing runs to normally productive spots, but on balance, this week was as good as we have seen in the past 7 years. For the week we had 54 walleyes over 27 in., including 13 – 28s, 7 – 29s, and 1 – 30. Walleye volume was excellent as well with daily guide sheets averaging 35 walleyes over 18 in. The highest daily total was 80.
About half of the big walleyes were caught on 1/8 oz. jigs and minnows and half on jigs and plastics or gulp Alive minnows. With water temps averaging 60 degrees F all over the lake, we have quickly moved into transition. We still caught some big eyes way back in the retro spring spots, but there were just as many big ones caught from the deep side of main lake transition spots. I think that one of the big differences we are seeing in production is the universal aggressive approach that all SWWL guides take to searching water and hunting for big fish. No one is happy sitting and catching a bunch of “littles.” You can do that anywhere. The guide crew in general and the freshman crew in particular are aggressive at searching for big fish bites.
We also had many groups actively chasing pike this week. For the effort applied, the results were equally impressive for pike as they were for walleye. For the week, we caught and released 23 pike over 37 in., including 5 – 40s, 1 – 41, 1 – 43, and 1 – 44. The weed beds are about ½ way up in transition areas and almost to the surface in the back water bay areas. I had no idea that the spring could progress so quickly after such a late ice out, but 14 days of warm sunshine has been the key.
Bass fishing is also now right on schedule after a full week of bright warm sun on the shallows. Some bass are on beds in Burntwood and they soon will be in Bray. I took Brooke (8) and Blake (6) out fishing tonight for an hour. We fished random shorelines with rocks and sand transitions and caught bass off all of them. Brooke’s biggest was a 19. For the week we caught and released 16 – 19s and 1 – 20. The next 2 weeks will be the peak of Bass fishing season.
The most difficult thing about being the guide manager and owner of SWWL is trying to objectively balance guide production and staff performance with guest expectations. When we smash it, we want to take credit. When we get beat up, we want to blame the weather. In between is the transition from old guides to new, training and coaching, and lengthy nightly round tables combined with evening advanced training. I encourage my senior guides to push the new guys. And I keep track of everything. This week, one of my first year guides reported the following walleye catch: 25s – 11, 26s – 5, 27s – 7. I had walleyes at 25 – 12, 26 – 6, and 27s – 8. My return guests know that it doesn’t matter who you fish with. The information is shared across the board and the training program is now so intense that first year guides know that they are expected to keep pace with senior guides. That new program has paid off in a big way. Jesse and I agreed that it felt awkward to be talking about transition and production during our “iced in seminars” in the lodge this spring, but the results are real.
I know that it is going to end, but this past week has been a fun one for me. Pete Bloom has been fishing at Silver Water Wheel Lodge for 33 consecutive years. I had the pleasure of putting the net under a 27, 27, 27.5, 27.5, and a 29 inch walleye this week for him. He and I both know that this is the “Good ole days” and that we will talk about this past week for years to come.
I am 45 this year and am admittedly in between generations. Having the young guns around keeps me sharp and up to date and one of the things that I am most proud of this week is our new video on You tube. Jesse Wright has been and will be the key to this project. He introduced me to the “Go Pro” video camera and showed me his first Wheel video. I saw the potential, bought my own camera, and have been working with him to produce new, current , and fun videos to better show what it is actually like to fish at the wheel. The first clip of the year is now uploaded to let you get a feel for the Spring of 2013. I knew it was good when I got excited watching it even though I was here when it was filmed…. I Know you will enjoy it. Even though we are exhausted, we are planning many more to come….
The monsoon ended as the week began. Lake levels rose more than a foot in one week as the inches of rain made their way into Lac Seul. Weather patterns stabilized early and we enjoyed a week of light winds, warm temps, and Brilliant sunshine. Volume improved and we smashed the big fish. I will be surprised if we have another week this year that can beat this past week’s catch for top end numbers. We caught and released 42 walleyes over 27 in., including 13 – 28s, 5 – 29s, and 3 – 30s.
Post spawn walleye migration continued on its normal course as fish steadily moved into the early stages of transition locations. Most of the big walleyes are still back in the warm water bays, but there are enough on the move to warrant checking out some of the “next” spots we fish as Spring progresses.
Most of the big walleyes were caught dragging minnows on light jigs in 8 – 13 ft. of water, but there were a few caught very shallow pitching jigs and plastics into 2 – 6ft. Volume continued an upward trend, with most daily guide sheets reporting 20 – 30 walleyes over 18 in. per boat. The highest daily total reported was 48.
The big pike disappeared early, but returned as lake surface temps warmed into the upper 50s on the main lake and into the 60s in protected areas. There were a few gators caught way back in the skinny water, but most were found on slightly deeper water locations (points, cups…) just outside the spawning bays. For the week we caught 37 pike over 37 in., including 6 – 39s, 1 – 40, 2 – 41s, and 1 – 42. Spoons and In-line spinners were top producers.
Our first attempts at Bass this year resulted in modest returns. There are some bass moving into the shallows, but many of the bigger bass were caught deeper as incidental catch while dragging jigs or pitching for walleyes. For the week we caught 6 over 19 in.
A Good Problem to Have: We try to keep the photo board in the dining room current with all the big fish caught during the week. With 42 walleyes over 27 in. and 37 pike over 37 in., there just wasn’t enough room.
This week’s weather began where the last one ended. Sunshine, stable conditions, and high temps in the 70s sent the fish migration into overdrive. The big pike invaded the warm shallow bays and the walleyes began their post spawn roam. Areas that were vacant one day, held fish the following, and were bumping the next. And then the weather turned on Thursday and the wind blew, inches of rain fell, temperatures dropped, the big pike fled the shallows, and the walleyes slipped down the break and fell into a pseudo sulk.
If I was writing this report on Wednesday it would have been a full on chest thumping brag about how great the fishing had been. But instead, I am writing it on Friday after I have been blown around, rained on, with aching hands, and struggling to find fish close to the lodge because it has been too tough to run up North for the last two days. I am going to try my best to follow my own advice to my guide crew and search for “The Balance.” Overall, It was a Bang up week. We smashed big fish and lots of them, but we ended on a bit of a wimper.
It was a big week for big walleyes but we also racked up some big stats for huge pike. We caught big walleyes on the north shore, but we also found trophies down south near the lodge as well. For the week we caught and released 33 walleyes over 27 in., including 10 – 28s, 4 – 29s, and 1 – 31. Volume improved, but the average guide sheet reported just over 15 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day. Early in the week, jigs and twister tails or Husky jerks turned some big walleyes shallow. Most of the really big walleyes were caught dragging big minnows on light jigs in areas with relatively warm water. This week, 45 was tough, 53 was OK, but if you could find 58 degrees F surface temps, you were a happy guide.
The hunt for really big pike was a bit different this spring. The usual spots still held volume and a few big ones, but the guides that found most of the Huge pike relied on wind direction, surface temps, and scouting to find unexploited areas for numbers of big fish. Most of the really big pike this week were caught from spots that don’t even earn Grade C- ratings from most of the senior guide staff. With most fish in 2 – 6 ft. of water, shallow presentations were the key. We have relied heavily on Husky Jerks in the past, but Medium to large spoons were clearly the best choice this week. Multiple guide boats returned with the same story – “All the big pike were caught on spoons.”
For the week, we had 37 Pike over 37 in., including 6 – 40s, 1 – 41, 1 – 42, 1 – 43, and 1 – 44. I will do my best to make sure that the guides remember that we began the season with a blast. The third day of bright sunshine on the shallows was the key. Without the warm weather and sunshine, it would have been a bust.
Smallies are just beginning to show up as incidental catch, but it won’t be long before we are fishing them hard.
As always, weather is the key. If it hadn’t gone bad, then there is a good chance that this would have gone down as THE big fish week of the year. As it was, it was still great and we sent many guests home with master angler pins. We just didn’t hand out many on Thursday or Friday.
For those that have been patiently waiting for a new round of SWWL fishing reports to begin, I do apologize, but it has been a rough start. I just reread my first fishing report from 2012 and compared to this year, it reads like “Bizarro World.” The easiest way to begin to describe how dramatically different two years can be:
Ice out 2012 – April 15
Ice out 2013 – May 21
You can still find 4 -5 ft. piles of ice on main lake islands right now. I had to hire a D7 bulldozer to plow snow to get into the lodge on April 27. The 7 ft. pile of snow and 4 -5 ft. snow drifts took weeks to melt. And all of those terrestrial details don’t even begin to do justice to how different the fishing has been between the two openers.
I cancelled my first week groups this year because of ice. The Wooge group of 4 arrived on May 19 and suffered through some of the worst possible fishing conditions you can imagine. The ice went off the lake earlier than it could have with a massive cold front, packing sustained 30 – 40 mph winds and rain. Nothing says lock jaw more than a post cold front ice out.
We did catch a bit of a break when weather conditions improved dramatically as the lodge almost filled up on May 22. Main lake temps were 40 and the back bays struggled to get to the low 50s, but that was enough for us to begin to scrape together some patterns.
As usual, when faced with difficult conditions, the guides pooled their resources and came up with some creative solutions. Some walleye bites were very temporary and most were based on exceptionally shallow presentations associated with barriers and warm water.
Despite the few guests in camp and just ½ a week of sheets, we did manage to put together a surprising number of big walleyes. For the week we had 32 over 27 in., including 6 – 28s, and 3 – 29s. Despite the strong top end numbers, it is hard to describe how few areas produced walleyes, let alone big ones. It was feast or famine and even when we were doing well for big fish, it was often hard to find small fish to eat for lunch. One of the known patterns that we deal with on an early, early spring is that the big female river spawners disperse first. When they leave, they move to warm water and that is one thing that we find in relatively very short supply this spring. The result is that volume has been relatively very weak, yet we have seen some big fish.
Pike fishing has been good, but not quite what you would expect it to be on a Late ice out spring. For the week we had 10 over 37 in., with 2 – 40s, 1 – 41, and 2 – 43s. As you would guess, most were pre spawn, very shallow, and very uninterested in eating.
Weather patterns have been warm and consistent over the last 4 days and the run up to a more normal spring season should accelerate.
Fishing conditions have been challenging, but I did just check out a group that I had tried to cancel. I had been concerned that the bite would be tough to find, but they reminded me that sometimes I tend to err too far on the side of caution. They experienced their best big fish week in years with 18 walleyes over 27 inches for 6 guys over 3 days. Shorelunch fish may have been tough to find, but some of our groups smashed the big ones this week.