Even though many of you reading this report south of the Canadian border have been experiencing severe summer heat, we have yet to see a day above 90 at the Wheel this year. This week in particular was beautiful with high temps in the mid to upper 70s and then cooling off at night.
Walleye fishing was good this week, despite the fact that there is still a very clear separation between different groups of walleyes utilizing starkly different types of structure and depth zones. It was not uncommon to hear reports of walleyes caught from 3 ft. and from 33 ft. in the same boat on the same day. There are still some walleyes shallow in the weeds and there also some that are out on main lake, deep water rock and sand. The rest are in between or suspended. In general, we did find more big fish trending deeper.
For the week, we caught and released 47 walleyes over 27 in., including 13 – 28s, 1 – 29, and 1 – 30. Volume varied greatly. Some days we averaged well above 40 over 18 in. per boat, but on days with flat calm afternoons, we dropped off to an average of 25.
With the walleyes so spread out, we relied on “the program” to hunt down each day’s best option for a successful bite. “The program” is to fish it all with a rapid series of experiments that apply a variety of presentations to target different groups of walleyes in an array of depth zones and habitats. It sounds like a hot mess on paper, but here is an example of how a day plan works….
Spot 1 – targeting big fish on deep water sand. Presentation – Pulling big gulp at speed. Scan the sand break, note the depth of arcs and bait fish – tie on ¾ oz jigs with Big Berkley Gulp plastics and make a first pass at 1.2 mph zig zagging between 20 and 30 ft.
Possible result: 1 walleye over 24” and 2 slots in 40 minutes – move on.
Other possible result: 5 walleyes with 2 slots, 1 – 22, 1 – 24, and 1 – 26 – do it again.
Spot 2 – check the weed bite. Dragging ¼ oz. jigs in front of the windblown weed beds in 10 – 14 ft. of water with minnows.
Possible result: 2 eaters, and 1 slot in – 30 minute pass – move on.
Other possible result: 4 small ones, 5 slots, 1 – 22, and 1 – 25 in 30 minutes – do it again.
Spot 3 – check for negative to neutral fish on mid depth rock. Scan with sonar. Locate arcs. Drop down ¼ oz jigs with minnow and see if those fish will rise up to check out baits.
Possible result: 2 – 3 walleyes rise up to check out baits and fade back down only to rise back up again. Option – down size to 1/8s and slow down.
Other possible result: catch 4 slots and 3 on the sheet in an hour and do it again.
Analyze results. Monitor weather changes. Wash, rinse, repeat.
The point is that as much as we would love to have a magic bullet or a secret bait, the real answer to the question on most days is hard work and a systematic, disciplined approach attached to time and results. It is tough and if you miss just one tiny detail, even the most seasoned guide can miss the hot bite. The great equalizer is shared information. Even when you have completed 15 different walleye experiments to perfection and failed to find a good result, you know that when you get back to the lodge and meet at the round table, several of your buddies will have figured it out and some will have had spectacular results. You take that information and move on, because tomorrow is another day and the board is wiped clean.
We did spend a bit of time chasing gators and the results were just O.K. For the week we found good volume, but only 4 over 37 with 1 – 38 and 1 – 40.
Years and years ago, I was a “Product Specialist” and Aquarium Biologist at the first big Cabela’s retail store in Sidney, NE. This was the day and time of the late night and fishing show ads for the “Banjo Minnow.” I would have to talk to 40 – 60 people each day and explain to guests that there is no secret lure, there is no magic bait, and there is no short cut. Consistent success is most often correlated to hard work, research, and disciplined experimentation.
That same message consistently resonates through our current nightly round table meetings, especially when the walleyes are dramatically dispersed.
Summer took a break this week. We experienced a 2-day torrential rain event with over 2 in. of rain, cool temps, and raging East to Northeast winds. It was a once a season extreme event and it sent the walleyes out of the shallow water and back into the mid depth zones. There were still a few near the weeds and some walleyes were on sand, but most moved to main lake rock.
For the week, we caught and released 34 walleyes over 27 in., including 7 – 28s, and 1 – 29. Guide sheets averaged 40 walleyes over 18 in. per day. There was a significant increase in the number of 24 – 26 in. walleyes caught after the cold front went through.
The key to success this week was having a fleet of guides on the water using an array of tactics to hunt down groups of walleyes on the move. We still struggle with suspended walleyes. We know how to troll cranks, but it just doesn’t fit in with the way our guests like to fish. The compromise tactic was backtrolling either lighter jigs with live bait at speed or on many occasions, trolling big jigs with Gulp plastics. Part of the formula is covering water, but I believe that using a variety of jig weights and speeds allows us to target the suspended or slightly suspended walleyes that we might normally miss with traditional vertical jigging presentations.
Reviewing the guide sheets for the week, I was still surprised to see how many walleyes were caught shallow early and how many were caught on a variety of different patterns deeper late in the week.
Overall, Pike fishing was good this week. The weeds are up, the groups that like to cast were in, and we spent the time chasing them. The volume of medium sized pike was down a bit, but we did catch and release 17 over 37 in., including 4 – 39s, 2 – 40s, and 3 over 42. Big spoons were top producers and Grinder spinnerbaits were a close second.
Weather. Weather. Weather. We talk about it in retrospect all the time. But, at the end of a challenging day, I ask the first year guides what we are going to do tomorrow….. and they have all learned to know and believe, “Fish it all… and we are going to smash them.”
The Take Away: Plan to win and then… Plan to experiment, adjust, and win.
It felt like summer on Lac Seul this past week, but the walleyes did not get the memo. Daytime highs were consistently in the 70s and 80s with bright sunshine. We had the occasional shower, but the weather was beautiful. Lake surface temps are up over 70 and the main lake weeds are almost all topped out. The surprise is that the heat and sunshine pushed most of the baitfish shallow and the walleyes vacated the deep, summertime locations in mass.
It is true that the odd late June cold snap pushed the walleyes into 20 – 30 ft. prematurely, but I was surprised how quickly they switched back. More than 90% of the walleyes caught this week came from water 15 ft. or shallower. There was a good weed bite for several days, but that also became hit and miss when the wind changed directions. I would take it one step further and say that 75% of the walleyes were caught in water 6 – 12 ft. deep.
Walleyes positioned on the deep edge of the weeds in 9 – 10 ft. of water are easy to catch. Walleyes located smack dab in the middle of a weed bed that is 8 ft. deep and 40 yds wide are a nightmare to target. We caught more of them on spoons casting for pike than we did trying to target them with light jigs. Between the pike bite offs and snagging weeds, it is just a matter of time before you get frustrated and move on.
For the week, we caught and released 29 walleyes over 27 in., including 6 – 28s, 4 – 29s, and 1 – 30. Guide sheets averaged 40 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day. The volume was good and the top end was good, but we were definitely light on the 24 – 26 in. fish compared to previous weeks.
The pike fishing was good but not great. I say that because even though there were some really nice pike caught this week, we saw just as many or more that followed baits but would not commit. For the week, we caught and released 9 over 37 in., including 4 – 38s, 1 – 39, 1 – 40, and Bill Marsden caught a 44.5 in. monster with a 20 in. girth. He told me before his trip that all he wanted was a really big pike and he got her.
Bass fishing is effectively over for the year. We caught 3 over 19 in. this past week.
The take away: One of my senior guides who loves to fish vertical and slow over deep water told the rest of the crew at round table – “MW has talked about this for years… bright sunshine and hot weather pushing All the walleyes shallow – in the past, I could always find other groups of fish deep and turn them – this week the deep water summer spots were barren…. Empty…. The graph was a white screen of death and it felt like every Lac Seul walleye went shallow.”
The antidote for a transition cold front scramble is stable warm sunshine and the onset of real summer conditions. That is definitely not what happened this past week. Instead, we continued to experience cool conditions, variable winds, and worst of all, nearly daily random rain showers. Not just rain showers, but successive days of rain for 20 minutes, then a break, then rain for another 30 minutes and then the lake went flat again. I have been guiding for almost 30 years, but I could have told you on year one that those conditions consistently yielded tough results. And they did again.
For the week, we caught and released 32 walleyes over 27 in., including 7 – 28s, and just 1 – 29. Volume was way down this week with guide sheets averaging 25 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day.
As one of the guides out on the lake this past week, I can tell you that like the other guides, I hunted hard. I caught walleyes in 3 ft. of water and I caught them in 33 ft. of water. I used speed and big plastics and caught some and then I hunted with sonar and caught a few with finesse presentations. I caught fish off of structure that we normally fish in August and I found fish in areas that we normally only use in spring. Despite all of the creative thinking, the bottom line is that the entire walleye population was dramatically dispersed this week. When you combine that dispersal with weather conditions that result in few fish biting, then you conclude with a difficult week of walleye fishing. I am just thankful that I was still on Lac Seul.
The weeds are up and nearly topped out even on the main lake, but the pike bite was also still a challenge. There were a few big ones caught at the very end of the week, but overall, it was still a rough one. For the week, we caught and released 8 over 37 in., including 1 – 40, 2 – 41s, and 1 – 42.
There was some effort spent chasing bass and the results were inconsistent. There were a couple of really good guide sheets, but there were also quite a few frustrated bass anglers. For the week, we caught and released 29 over 19 in., including 1 – 20.
At our nightly guide round table meeting, I shared my frustration with the week to our first-year guides. And then, I also reminded them, that all of the groups that are here fishing with us this week have seen the glory days and know that Lac Seul is different and special. They may be a little disappointed with the week’s results compared to previous years, but they are fisherman and they know that weather still matters.
Most years, the third week of June begins the transition to the stability of the summer season. Not this year. From nearly beginning to end, we experienced a major cold front, complete with rain, wind, showers, and very chilly temps. To say that there was a dramatic effect on the fish would be a massive understatement. The walleyes went deep. The pike scattered. And the Bass were all over. And the guides adjusted.
Based solely on stats, it was an awesome walleye fishing week. We caught and released 54 walleyes over 27 in., including 8 – 28s, 4 – 29s, and 1 – 31. Walleye volume was good with guide sheets averaging 30 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day.
The real story of the week was how those fish were caught. Most of the big walleyes were caught between 18 – 26 ft. from summer style locations. We still caught some nice fish shallower in some of the warm water transition areas, but the tactics changed dramatically between areas and days. The guides often used search patterns with big plastics on jigs at speed to target aggressive fish while searching for concentrations of neutral to negative walleyes to go back on with live bait. Depending on depth, we pulled big plastics on every jig size from 1/8 – ¾ oz. this week. Surprisingly, many of the big ones were caught down deep with aggressive plastic presentations even during the peak of the cold front conditions.
By the end of the week, the most significant observation was the vast difference in the types of areas that were all holding walleyes at the same time. Walleyes were caught out of back water bays on Mann’s Baby 1 minus cranks at the same time that luncher size walleyes were being caught out of 33 ft. of water on regular summer structure. The cold front scrambled walleye locations and in between the successful spots there were many, many “blanks.”
Professional guides aggressively searching and then sharing the information gathered is the only reason we did so well this week. Without a dozen guides on the hunt and pooling their intel, no one would have done well.
We had just one boat hunting big pike this week. Ed Rosenow did find one 39, but the big pike were very, very tough.
We only have one more day with the Kendal Hartley/Mark Bailey Texas group. They love to fish smallmouth, but it has been a very difficult hunt. The wind and weather have been a menace. For the week, we caught and released 26 bass over 19 in., including 3 – 20s. But It was a very tough week for bass and overall volume was very low. Wind was an issue. Dirty water was a problem. And the bass seemed to be on different schedules in different areas.
The Takeaway: When conditions are tough, information matters the most. I am fortunate to work with a bunch of hard core professional guides and they turned this week from a certain failure into a win.
June 10 – 16 is going to go down as one of the hottest big walleye bites that we have seen in some time. The key was steady wind stacking baitfish on wind-blown sandy shorelines. Last week’s warm temps resulted in significant weed growth which also helped concentrate fish. Almost every big walleye boated this week was caught in 8 – 12 ft. of water on sand to loose gravel shorelines, sand bars, or in front of newly emergent weed growth.
For the week, we caught and released 78 walleyes over 27 in., including 11 – 28s, 6 – 29s, and 1 over 30. Craig Marty has been fishing with us for more than 17 years. This week he caught a giant 30.5 in. walleye and a 29. His son, Christian also caught a 29 in. walleye. It was that kind of a week.
Big plastics played a pivotal role in production. As soon as they knew the bite was on, the guides switched up to more aggressive presentations to target big fish. At the peak of the bite, the difference was clear. Big Plastics definitely select for bigger walleyes when the feeding window is open. The stand out this week was the 6.5 in. Berkley Nemesis. White and Opening Night were the most productive colors and we fished them on 1/8, ¼, and 3/8 oz. jigs depending on speed. We still have some of the discontinued Berkley crazy legs Jerk shads and they were also very productive for big fish. There were times when you could go back over a fading bite and gear down with lighter jigs and minnows to pull a few more fish, but the majority of the really big ones were caught with plastics at speed.
Walleye volume was also excellent this week with guide sheets averaging over 45 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day.
There was some time spent targeting Pike this week and the results were nothing compared to the walleye bite. For the week, we caught and released 9 over 37 in., including 3 – 38s, and 1 – 39. It really isn’t fair to compare, because the guides were focused on big walleyes.
The same can be said for Bass. There were very few guests willing to leave a smashing walleye bite to go check on the Bass. A few did. And they are moving shallow, but still not yet in force. For the week, we released 3 over 19 in.
The Take Away: We know when a big walleye bite is on. The way to maximize production from it is speed and efficiency. Big Plastics were the absolute key to efficiency this week. The big ones wanted a meal. A 2.5 in. minnow didn’t catch their eye, but an almost 7 in. piece of rippling plastic was just about irresistible.
Most of my avid fishing report readers want to know about the recent weather patterns. They already know that Lac Seul is an awesome big fish fishery, but they know that their personal success hinges on what the weather will be like on the week of their trip. This week proves the rule. The weather was off the charts beautiful, sunny and warm, and we absolutely smashed them.
With the pace that we keep, I will be honest and tell you that many of the years blend together and we forget which week was cold or wet or tough for fishing. What I can tell you now is that when the sun shines and the winds are light and the pine pollen pools up on wind blown shorelines, the SWWL guide crew will locate and hammer active pods of big walleyes. They don’t always work, but so many of them do that we will try unproven areas if the pollen is pushed in on a shoreline.
For the week, we caught and released 47 walleyes over 27 in., including 6 – 28s, 3 – 29s, and one of our most tenured guests, Gary Harada, caught his personal best 31 in. walleye this week. The weather was right, and he also caught and released a 27 and a 27.5 in. walleye along with a ton of 22s on the same day.
Walleye volume was very good this week. Daily guide sheets averaged 35 walleyes over 18 in. per day. More than 90% of those fish were caught between 4 – 10 ft.
Pike fishing was also good with the consistent weather. For the week, we had 17 over 37, with 3 – 40s, and 1 – 41. Transition spots worked, but the guides also found some big ones way back in the shallows with the warm conditions.
The bass are moving in and so are we. It is not even close to a full blown, shallow water bass bite, but they are thinking about it. For the week, we released 8 bass over 19 in.
We got burned by weather last week and I had to write about it. We got blessed by weather this week and I have to write about it. Weather is a huge deal for us and always will be.
The difference in weeks comes down to how the guides respond. This week, they crushed it.
In the past 5 days, we have been through a Winter to Summer transition. The week began with a cold, wet, 3 day rain event. We are talking about highs in the low 40s, steady rain and showers, strong winds, long johns, toques, layers, and at the end of the day, hands barely able to tie a jig. Today was sunny, Hot, highs in the 80s, with not a breath of air on the lake, shorts, T-shirts, sandals, and sunscreen.
It was a shock for us and judging by the stats, it was confusing for the fish as well. Today, we caught walleyes way back in the skinniest hot water shallow bays, we caught them on standard spring spots, we caught them on transition areas, and we even caught them down deep on traditional summer spots. The problem was that there was no concentration anywhere.
Walleye volume was actually not that bad for the week. Daily guides sheets averaged 25 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day. The surprise was how few big fish were caught. For the week, there were only 14 walleyes over 27 in. with none over. That is a surprising stat that is directly related to the weather.
The pike fishing wasn’t as much of a challenge as long as we focused on transition zones. There were a few random big fish back in the shallow water, but the vast majority were caught on wind-blown transition areas. For the week, we had 9 0ver 37 in., including 3 – 40s, 1 – 41, and 1 – 44. Spoons and diving plugs caught most, but there were also quite a few incidental catches on jigs and minnows.
There were a few pre-spawn Bass caught in the warm shallows, but most were incidental catch while walleye fishing. For the week, we caught and released 8 over 19 in., including 2 – 20s.
I have been up North long enough to not really be that surprised by weather changes. You know the joke, “Don’t like the weather?…. Just wait 5 minutes.” With that in mind, this week was still truly a shocker.
Official ice out for the central basin of Lac Seul was May 8, but the south shore has been ice free since April 30. There was a stubborn chunk of thick white ice in the north central basins that took quite some time to thaw.
The difference in timing between ice out on the North shore vs. the South shore has made a difference. We still have some “main lake spawners” just finishing up on the reefs and rocky shorelines on the North shore. In contrast, many of the warm water areas on the South shore are already attracting and holding post spawn populations migrating back into the area.
The weather has been a little bit cooler than normal, but we are steadily progressing into the middle of what I would describe as a more normal spring season. The walleye fishing has been good with our first groups arriving on May 19.
For the week, we caught 24 walleyes over 27 in., including 7 – 28s, 1 – 29, and 1 – 30. Volume has been steadily improving as the lake temps have risen to close to 60 in some of the more protected areas. The main lake is around 50. Standard jig and minnow combos have been by far the top producers.
The big pike bite was good, but we never had the classic “day 3 of constant sunshine feeding frenzy.” It was a more gradual progression of pike into and out of the warmer shallow water bays. Many of our biggest fish were caught on the first structure outside of the spawning bays. For the week, we caught and released 22 pike over 37 in., including 5 – 40s, 1 – 41, 1 – 42, and 1 – 43.
We haven’t really begun to target Smallmouth Bass yet, but it seems that there are more and more around every year. To date, we have released 13 over 19 in., including 2 – 20s.
Lake levels are just about normal as well for this time of year.
Looking back at previous seasons, the headline or take away from the fishing report is often an extreme; fire ban, low water, late spring, super early ice out, etc… So far, this spring has been as close to “normal” as we have seen in many, many years.
This week we saw it all, weather-wise. The week started great, days were sunny and the nights stayed unusually warm. That was pleasant for fishing but our big pike hunters kept hoping for a chill to cool the lake down – most years our best fall pike fishing comes after lake surface temps drop below the 60 degree mark. Mid-week we saw the weather begin to change and we finished the week with our biggest cold front of the fall. The last few days of fishing saw rain, wind, and steadily dropping temperatures.
Our big walleye were coming from transition depths and locations through most of the week, though volume could still be found out in the deep ‘summer style’ water. There also was a recognizable difference in what the fish wanted in these locations. The walleye answered to slow, subtle presentations – 1/8th oz. jigs still fished – in the deep water, but a few good bites were found with a little bit of speed and movement in the transition depths/locations. This week we had 29 guided days that were spent pursing walleye and another 13 guided days that were devoted exclusively to big pike. Our walleye anglers caught and released 18 walleye over 27 inches, including 10 over 28 inches and a giant 29.5 incher.
Our ‘gator’ hunters spent the week moving back and forth between the fall rock patterns and checking the few remaining weed patches. Both showed us good fish, with our two biggest coming from weeds. The 13 guided days of pike fishing produced 16 northern over 37 inches with the three biggest at two 40’s and a 41 incher.
The 2016 fishing season has come to a close here at Silver Water Wheel Lodge. At the season’s end, we always look back over the summer and from a guide’s perspective there were some interesting trends through our fishing season.
Through our spring and transition seasons the walleye kept us jumping back and forth between deep and shallow water, and between fast, aggressive presentations and slower subtle styles – finding a good bite meant checking all the extremes, in presentations and locations.
It seemed to take longer than usual this year, but eventually the walleye did settle in to their summer locations. Once they did we found they regularly liked things subtle, but there were still times when good size was produced with speed. Figuring out what to do that day took constant checking on the alternatives. Success with walleye on Lac Seul has always meant being ready to switch things up but this year it seemed to be even more so.
We missed out on some of our favorite bites this season. A combination of ice out timing and early season warm weather meant the post ice out big pike bite was already finishing up by the time we got some guests on the water. A few of our guides’ favorite walleye hot spots also missed their window this year – just the result of wrong wind and weather at the wrong time. That made it ‘a must’ to go out and find some new water, and we added a few spots to our repertoire that turned into great producers of big walleye this season.
For a fishing guide, these changes that Lac Seul throws at us every day, every week, and every year are what makes each new season a different challenge. That challenge is what keeps me coming back to see what answers – what new tactics, presentations, or locations will produce great fish over the course of the season. I think that’s what makes fishing Lac Seul interesting and fun for anglers and guides every day, every week, and every year.
Hope to see you all at ‘The Wheel’ in 2017!
At Silver Water Wheel Lodge