“Winter is Coming” – House Stark from the Game of Thrones.
That is what kept going through my head all week. It wasn’t just a nice little hint of Fall, with a cool morning this week. It was full on, time to think about closing up camp weather. The entire week was cold; lows in the 40s and highs almost in the 60s, but not always. It rained, the wind blew, and then the rain turned cold, and then it turned really cold and windy. The coldest morning was 45.
Brett McCallum, my most senior guide and Lodge manager has been on Lac Seul for well over 20 years and even he was beside himself…. “I have never seen the entire first week of August so like mid-September …” And if the weather shocked the guides, then it did the same to the walleyes. The most significant change was the disappearance of the big fish. Areas that had been routinely producing consistently big walleyes, now only turn slots. Main lake deep water sand structures produced many small fish but very few bigs. We still managed to turn some nice fish, but it was much more difficult to find walleyes over 26 in.
For the week we caught and released 42 walleyes over 27 in., including 6 – 28s, and 3 – 29s. Volume was down. Daily guide sheets averaged 30 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day.
I was stubborn and still pulled Big gulp on jigs at speed just to see. I turned a few fish including a 26.5 today, but overall it was a “dead sticking light jig bite.” After guides fished 15 spots 5 different ways, they resorted to gearing down and slowing down over groups of marked fish. When the bite gets tough, the lightest jigs fished the slowest turn the most. The tough part is picking your spot to fight the slow fight. Pick the wrong one and you just burned an hour of daylight. Find the right one and whatever you do, don’t leave! The method this week was “find them and Grind them.” It wasn’t pretty or flashy or warm, but we still caught good fish.
The best point made this week was by Tyler, one of my second year guides. He complained with us, but as the new stats guy, he then pointed out that our new “not so good week” for 27s was twice as good as our good week for 27s on a nice week in 2008. My comment: Exactly… These are the beginning of the best of the “good ‘ole days” in fisheries terms, but the weather trumps all fisheries trends and humbles guides every time.
I go to sleep looking at the weather, I wake up looking at the weather, as I plan my fishing day, I stare at my map, then look out at the lake and then think about the weather. This week, the stats took a hit because of the weather. What surprised me is that guests at checkout were happy with production and not that concerned about the cool conditions. Several told me that they were happier that it wasn’t 90. Me, my stats, and my mildly arthritic knuckles quietly disagreed and looked forward to a warmer forecast for next week.
Fall like weather conditions continued on Lac Seul this week. Instead of a line of summer thunder storms, we had multiple days with dozens of smaller showers. Temperatures were cool and lake surface temps dropped down into the low 60s. High west and northwest winds were prevalent throughout the week.
Walleyes continued to move onto main lake summer structure this past week. Large numbers of small walleyes followed the first waves of bigger fish onto both main lake sand and rock. Volume was high most days with reports averaging 35 – 40 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day. There were a few post frontal days when the big ones were hard to find. For the week we still caught and released 53 walleyes over 27 in., including 5 – 28s, and 3 – 29s.
The Gulp Alive bite took a back seat to ¼ oz jigs and minnows. Most of the big fish were caught deeper than 30 ft.
There was a small amount of effort spent chasing pike this week and the results were modest. For the week we caught 7 – 37s, 1 – 38, and 1 – 39.
It felt like Fall this week on Lac Seul. Temperatures dropped, the wind blew, the rain was cold, and then the wind blew again. This morning it was 48 and the high temp never made it out of the low 60s. It was definitely an unstable weather week and the fish responded the way we expected them to. Many walleyes pushed deep out onto main lake sand and rock structure. There were still some relatively shallow bites, but most of those were related to sustained high winds blowing on to a shallower sand flat. Most of the big walleyes this week were caught from 20 to 35 ft. of water. With the variable weather, live bait and lighter jigs (1/4 – 3/8) definitely produced better than the big jigs and Gulp Alive plastics.
There was a dramatic movement of walleyes onto main lake sand structure this week. These summer spots were vacant last week. I wouldn’t call them loaded yet, but they were good.
Overall, both production and big fish numbers were off their pace this week due to rough weather. For the week, we caught and released 68 walleyes over 27 in., including 12 – 28s, and 1 – 29. Average walleye volume dropped a little to about 35 over 18 in. per boat per day. Going through the weekly stats, it was interesting to note that there were 102 – 26 in. and 129 -25 in. walleyes caught and released this week. The walleye fishing future looks good!
There was almost no effort chasing pike this week. There was a beautiful 44” northern caught while walleye fishing.
It was a week of variable weather with constantly shifting winds that ended with a sharp cold front. The forecast for tonight is for lows of 48 degrees with brisk winds. The week began with some quiet periods with flat calm conditions. During the middle of the week, we had a different wind direction every day, so there never was a consistent pattern for locations.
We keep expecting to see the walleyes make the move to deeper water, but this week consistent action and big fish were caught in 14 – 18 ft. of water. There were a few fish found deeper than 20 ft., but the main lake sand structures have been dead. Main lake rock and windblown rock/sand transition were definitely key to this week’s success.
Production was once again split just about evenly between ¼ oz. jigs and minnows and Big jigs with Gulp Alive Plastics. The guides have been backtrolling plastics between 1 – 1.5 mph.
It was another great week for big walleyes. We caught and released 83 over 27 in., including 17 – 28s, 3 – 29s, and 2 – 30s. Walleye volume was also very good with daily guide sheets averaging 40 walleyes over 18 in. The slower periods during flat calm conditions were balanced out by some fast bites when the wind blew.
Very few guests were interested in spending time casting for pike this week. Despite the limited amount of effort applied to chasing big pike, we caught and released 5 – 37s, 2 – 38s, 1 – 43, and 1 – 44. As we studied the numbers, one of the senior guides tonight made the comment that the southern basins of Lac Seul have a disproportionate number of giant pike. It is the Fall phenomenon. Unlike many of the far north fisheries, we don’t have the normal pyramid population catch rate of 200 – 30s, 50 – 32s, 6 – 36s, 2 – 38s, 1 – 40, and every now and then a 42. In the southern basin of Lac Seul, you are just as likely to catch a 38 as you are to catch a 42 – 44 in the summer and fall. If we didn’t have so many big walleyes to chase, I am certain that our summer big pike numbers would be much stronger.
I am working very hard to coach both guides and guests to keep an even keel and a balanced perspective. We are not catching more walleyes than we have in the past. Good bite days are still great and slow bite days are still a chore, but the percentage of large walleyes has increased dramatically over one year. I have had many anglers ask me if I think this is based on a late ice out, and my firm opinion is that this is a population issue. The big walleyes are Just Bigger! Period!
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.
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