It feels like summer. We had one big front with a giant rain event on Wednesday and some more storms and showers after that. The water is beginning to rise a bit, but it is still lower than normal for this time of year. The only thing that didn’t feel like summer was the lack of concentration of walleyes anywhere. Especially vacant was main lake sand. We start to live on the edges of the big sand flats this time of year, but for whatever reason, they are NOT producing walleyes. Main lake rock was good, but the hard part was a lack of a consistent depth. On a Tuesday, you could find them in 20, Wednesday in 26, and Thursday in 14 ft. Sometimes they moved in the same day.
It was a challenging week for the guide crew. I listened to round table reports where guides listed 8- 10 spots in a row that produced 1 or 2 fish each. I heard a report that was highlighted with 20 sheet fish in front of the weeds in 8 ft. smashing big Gulp, followed up by a report of dead sticking neutral to negative fish in 35 ft. with 2 sheet fish including a big one dead sticking 1/8ths and minnows. There were just a few patterns to be found each day and you had to shift through a dozen combinations of areas, depths, and speed to hopefully find one. At the same time, it is still Lac Seul and a tough day here still stomps a good day in most of the rest of North America.
Volume dropped off a bit this week with guide sheets averaging 25 – 30 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day. For the week, we caught and released 26 Walleye over 27 inches with 4 over 29 inches. Production was still split about 50/50 between live minnows and Gulp Nemesis. The 6.5 in Nemesis surprisingly turned some big fish with flat calm conditions that felt like they should be for dead sticking only. You can guess, but you don’t know. You have to do the experiments to solve for that day’s conditions.
There were some groups targeting big pike and they did OK. It was a good day followed by a slow day, but if you got the right fish to bite and you didn’t screw up, you could put a big one in the basket. For the week we caught and released 8 Pike over 37 inches with one 39 incher, and a giant 42.5 inch fish.
Targeted Bass fishing is finished for 2019.
The Take Away – I spent some time at check out talking with Julie and Steve Blake from Iowa. They talked for 20 minutes about how much they enjoyed just catching big 21 – 24 in. walleyes. I shared our conversation with the guide crew at round table to make the point that we all want to guide “photo” fish, but we make a huge mistake as guides when we forget that a 21 – 24 in. walleye is a hard fighting, fun big one, and catching 12 of them is just as good or better than guiding for one 27 for most groups.
The changes are happening fast on Lac Seul this week. Above the surface, we had lots of stable warm flat days with a little rain. Below the surface, it was a scramble. The bass finished their spawn and moved on. Mayflies hatched and disappeared. The weeds are almost topped out and some pike almost moved in. And the walleyes are spread out through the water column and the spectrum of their annual spring transition. That means that you can catch A mature walleye on deep summer sand structure, A walleye on a transition spot next to one suspended, and A walleye holding on to the last bit of early season spring spots. The hard part was finding a concentration of fish. The guide crew didn’t find many, but when they did, they ground them out to get as much production as they could.
Overall Walleye volume for the week was really good with guide sheets averaging 40 walleyes over 18 in. per day. The only surprise is that it was hard to find the big
mixed in with the volume. Usually, if you find a bite that gets you half way down the back of the page (about 40 fish over 18), then you are going to just trip into some of those 26 – 29 in. fish. There were guide sheets this week reporting 60 walleyes over 18, but topping out with just one or two over 25 in.
There were some big walleyes caught this week, but they were a bit more scattered and more difficult to predict than normal. For the week, we caught and released 44 over 27 in., including 10 – 28s, and 4 – 29s. Many of the big ones were caught with big jigs and 6 in. Berkley Nemesis. You don’t catch as many fish with the big plastics, but it feels like those baits select for bigger fish. There was no key depth for big fish this week and that was the issue. Big eyes were caught in 30 ft. on jigs and minnows and in 3 ft. on pike plugs. They were everywhere.
The cabbage weeds are just starting to top out and that is usually a key window for big pike on Lac Seul. There were a few groups targeting pike and their results were OK. For the week, we caught and released 7 over 37 in. with 3 – 40s.
The smallmouth bass bite feels like it happened a month ago. There were still a few nice fish caught, but most have moved into their transition out into the main lake. Totals for the week – 48 over 18, with 10 – 19s, and 1 – 20.
The Take Away – This time of year marks the fastest change of pace. The weather drives our system. When it is consistent and the wind blows, it is easy. When it doesn’t, it is not. Tonight, we are hoping that a wind change blows the super heavy smoke out of our area.
Discovery Channel has Shark Week, and Silver Water Wheel Lodge has Bass week. And this was It! Almost every group fished bass for part of their stay and the results were impressive. There were 242 bass over 18 in. released this week, including 59 – 19s, 10 – 20s, and the new lodge record at 21 in. was caught and released by John Ivie.
Plastics and tubes were the preferred presentation for smallmouth, but top waters and cranks also produced at times. The first mayfly hatches started showing up at the end of the week and that usually marks the beginning of the end of Bass season on Lac Seul. It was fun while it lasted.
It was another week of almost no wind. Even though there was less time spent walleye fishing than usual, the flat-water conditions did not help with the top end walleye numbers. For the week, we caught and released 37 walleyes over 27 in., including 11 – 28s, and 3 – 29s. Volume was actually pretty good with guide sheets averaging 35 walleyes over 18 in. per boat each day. Production was evenly split between Gulp and minnows. There were walleyes caught from 2 – 32 ft., but key depths were 8 – 15 ft.
There was little time spent pike fishing. We closed the week with 9 over 37 in., including 1 – 38, and 2 – 39s. The main lake weeds have not topped out yet, but they are on their way. The first groups of pike are just starting to show up in the new growth.
The Take Away: It feels like there are more and more bass on Lac Seul every year. There is a significant increase in the number of places that we now target for big bass. And this year the weather lined up perfect for the groups that planned to target them. But, overall, there are more and bigger smallmouth everywhere.
We are like Midwest farmers, pretty much every conversation eventually turns to the weather. This past week was warm, sunny, dry, and there was remarkably very little wind. That was great news for bass anglers, a marginal improvement for the pike guys, but not the best of conditions for walleye anglers. I take that back a bit. The walleye fishing was still good, it is just that this is the time of year when the right conditions can result in one of those phenomenal bites that every angler remembers forever. We did not experience one of those.
Guide sheets averaged 30 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day. For the week, we caught and released 47 walleyes over 27 in., including 9 – 28s, 2 – 29s., 2 – 30s, and 1 – 31. Even though the volume was just OK for this time of year, there were still some really big fish caught.
Gulp and 4 – 5 in. Power grubs pulled at speed were responsible for about ½ of the big fish caught this week. The other ½ were caught on some combination of 1/8 – ¼ oz. jig and minnow. The biggest variable from this past week’s weather was depth. Big walleyes were caught out of 2 ft. of water and 32ft. of water and every depth in between. Each day was a search for a key depth. Guides that found it quickly won, those that didn’t struggled.
The bass fishing has kicked into high gear. For the week, we caught and released 188 bass over 18 in., including 70 – 19s, and 7 – 20s. Tubes, plastics, topwaters, and cranks all worked at times. The results varied by day and weather conditions. I am expecting that the coming week will be the peak of the bass fishing season.
There was some effort put into chasing pike this week. Some days were tough, but there were also some good results. For the week, there were 11 over 37, with 2 – 38s, 1 – 39, 1 – 42, and on his day off, one of our guides, Kurtis Broad, caught a massive 44.
The Take Away: If you are reading this report for intel for your upcoming trip and the weather stays flat and calm, do not ignore the super shallow water bite for walleyes. We caught so many walleyes, including big ones, in less than 6 ft. of water this week. If the wind blows and the weather changes, then all bets are off. But the Lesson this week is that if you have multiple days of sunny and flat calm conditions this time of year and you are not finding the answer – go Shallow! Or go bass fishing!
This past week’s weather was pretty normal for the second week of June. There were a few warm, nice days, a rainy day, some showers, and a few cold fronts. Lake surface temps went up above the 60s even on the main lake in places and then crashed back down into the 50s again after a cold North wind. Production for walleyes was split just about in half between warm back water areas and main lake spring transition spots.
Even with the variable weather, the walleye production was excellent. Guide sheets averaged 35 walleyes over 18 in. per boat per day. For the week we caught and released 65 walleyes over 27 in., including 14 – 28s, 4 – 29s, and 2 – 30s.
Gulp and plastics were responsible for about 1/3 of the catch and minnows and light jigs made up for the rest. There were a few walleyes caught on the 6 in. Nemesis and some of them were big, but most of the bite came on 3 and 4 in. plastics pulled at speed (1 mph) with ¼ oz. jigs. Dragging minnows with long lines on 1/8ths is still hard to beat for results when the walleyes are spread out on the warm shallow flats.
The pike fishing was another story. There was nothing to concentrate them; no spawn, no weeds, and uniform temps throughout the water column. There were a few groups that spent time chasing them and the results were modest. For the week we caught and released 2 – 38s, 2 – 39s, and 2 – 40s.
The story was much the same for the bass. There were some fish that had moved shallow, but after every little cold front, they went right back down. We caught a few targeted, but just as many while walleye fishing. For the week, we caught 13 – 18s and 5 – 19s.
The Take Away:
Spring in the North is always variable. The walleyes responded more predictably to the weather changes than the bass and pike and then we focused hard on the walleyes.
This week’s weather was a slow and steady progression towards what feels like a more normal spring. I still feel like there is a residual effect from the cold start, but we are beginning to see more consistent volume and the first signs of population movements towards traditional transition areas.
Walleye fishing results were good with guide sheets averaging 25 – 30 over 18 in. per boat each day. The big fish bite also continues to improve with 32 over 27 in., including 4 – 29s, a 31.25, and another 32. Most walleyes were caught in warm, back water areas where surface temps ranged between 55 -60. By the end of the week, we did catch some fish on transition spots as they began to make their way to the main lake. Jigs (1/8 oz.) and minnows were by far the most productive pattern.
The pike are fully in transition mode and it was difficult to establish any kind of pattern to replicate. For every
decent fish raised or caught in the back water, there was another one encountered already on the main lake. Even though there wasn’t a great deal of time spent chasing Northerns’ this week, we only caught 6 over 37 in., including 2 – 39s and 1 – 41.
About ½ the Bass catch was incidental while fishing for walleyes. There were still quite a few targeted this past week. Cranks and spinnerbaits were the key to cover water quickly in search of feeding bass. For the week, we caught and released 36 over 18 in., including 11 – 19s, and 2 – 20s.
The Take Away: It is difficult to identify a trend as it is happening in real time. Even though the sample size is small, I never would have guessed that we would start the 2019 season with 3 – 32 in. walleyes.
32’s. That is plural!
Not just one, but two of them this past week. Steve Lang caught and released a 32 in. walleye and Rocky Darnell came within a ¼ in. of breaking the lodge record with a 32.25 in. monster walleye. It was super exciting to see 2 of the biggest walleyes that we have seen in the past 18 years both caught on the same week.
Even though there were some giant fish caught and the sun did shine for quite a bit of the week, we continue to see some of the affects of a cold spring. You could still find patches of snow and ice on a few of the shorelines and beaches. The main lake remains just barely above 50 and some of the back bays are approaching 60, but not many.
The walleyes are on the move, but not even close to the frantic pace that they bit last year at this same time. I made the mistake of not “managing my group’s expectations.” We were actually doing pretty well, but they were comparing our results to last year’s. The bite is improving, but no one ever says that they want to go back to a lodge and catch half as many fish that are almost as big. It is human nature to always want more.
Volume was directly related to weather, specifically wind. If it blew, then you caught more walleyes. When the lake went flat, it got slow. Guide sheets averaged 20 – 25 walleyes over 18 in. per day. For the week, we caught and released 26 over 27 in., including 2 – 29s, and 2 – 32s.
Most walleyes were caught with 1/8 oz. jigs and minnows. There was the occasional shallow water Husky Jerk bite. And there were a few nice fish caught on 4 in. Gulp Nemesis long lined on 1/8 ths. The majority of fish were found between 7 – 14 ft. of water. Warm water was the key. If you found water close to the mid 50s, then the fish were usually a bit more active.
The cool weather also kept the big pike bite in check. There were a few big ones caught, but it was a slow week for pike action. We caught and released 12 over 37 in., including 2 – 39s, 2 – 40s, and 2 – 42s. Standard pike gear was effective (pig plugs, spoons, etc…), but most of the nice fish were caught one level deeper than would have been expected for this time of year.
The bass are everywhere. There were a few targeted, but most were caught while fishing for walleyes or pike. For the week we had 34 over 18 in., including 2 – 19s and 1 – 20. The guests that targeted bass this week used presentations that cover water; cranks, spinnerbaits, and jigs and grubs. Even the back water bays are not yet approaching 60 and until the water gets warm, there won’t be many guides intentionally chasing bass.
The Take Away: After talking with many of my guests that live in Iowa, Illinois, and Nebraska, the point has been made that tough weather is also relative. For those areas that have seen inches upon inches of rain, flooding, and farmers that still can’t get their crops in, our little cool spring spell that slows down our volume by a factor seems fairly insignificant.
We are catching fish and it gets a little better every week, but this is a cool start to the season on Lac Seul. At the same time, it is Lac Seul and we caught and released 2 – 32 in. walleyes this week. Those fish are a marker for the relative strength of an exclusive trophy walleye fishery.
The official ice out on Lac Seul, was May 16 for 2019. Even though that was only 1 day later than 2018, the consecutive springs could not have been more different. The 2018 season opener was a Hot one with winter turning to summer over the course of 2 days. This spring was a slow, cold creeper. There was only one day above average since the day that I arrived at the lodge on April 26. Fortunately, the ice was not extremely thick or strong and most of it melted in place. To make the point of how different the years are, there are still dozens of shorelines that still have ice piled on them on the main lake. On top of that It was a cold and cloudy, rainy, dreary week of weather.
Walleye opener was May 18 and lake levels are just a bit above normal for this time of year. With decreased water temps, there are many areas where we are contacting walleyes that are in the middle of the spawn on main lake rock reefs. Some populations of river run walleyes have finished and we are seeing these travelers already begin to show up in the warmer water bays. As expected, the numbers are not as strong as last season’s blazing start. We caught some big ones but the volume was half of what we experienced in 2018.
Guide sheets reported a relatively low volume of 20 walleyes over 18 in. for an average day. For the week, we caught and released 20 walleyes over 27 in., including 5 – 28s, 3 – 29s, and 2 – 30s. Most of the big eyes were caught on 1/8 oz. jigs and minnows, but there were quite a few mid-size fish caught on Husky Jerks in size 14 and 6 in. Jakes and Grandmas while casting for pike.
The main lake remains in the low to mid 40s, but without a great deal of warm sunshine, the shallow isolated bays are warming much more slowly than previous years. We have yet to see the waves of pike enter the skinny water to spawn in force on the south- central basin. Most of the big pike caught this week were found on the first piece of structure or slightly deeper water just outside of the shallow water bays. Minnow baits and cranks worked with a slower retrieve were often hit on the pause. We have found some 50-degree water here and there, but 60 has been nearly nonexistent.
For the week, we caught and released 23 pike over 37 in., including 3 – 39s, 2 – 40s, 2 – 41s, and 1 – 42. Almost none of the big fish were caught in the super skinny water.
The Bass fishing on our end of the lake usually doesn’t start to become consistent until surface temps get above 60. Even though it is still very early, we did pick up some random nice bass while walleye fishing. Guide sheets recorded 26 over 17, including 5 – 19s and 1 – 20.
Opener is always a gamble. With a cold spring, the beginning of the 2019 season was on average lighter on volume for all species. Despite the cold start, we did see some big ones to kick the season off.
The take away: I have spent many years watching ice go off lakes and it is never the same. It always starts slow and speeds up at the end. But stop and think about how much solar energy is required to melt off a 560 sq. mile sheet of ice that is 3ft. thick. At the risk of stating the obvious, the power of the sun is astonishing. When it doesn’t shine in spring the fishing is very tough, but just one or two days of brilliant sunshine, dramatically changes results. We are waiting on the sun.
This is the final report of our 2018 fishing season here at the Wheel. We had just a few boats on the water last week, but came back up to our usual fall numbers for this final week and I’ve combined the two weeks into a final fishing report for our 2018 season.
The big weather story for us this week was the low temperatures. Air temps were low enough that lake surface temps dropped by 10 degrees over the last 10 days, and one memorable day the temperature difference between air and water was large enough we could see steam rising from the surface of the lake for most of the day. Really lets you see how much the surface temps are being affected.
Colder temps and some weather brought a big change in the walleye patterns from last week. Early in the week sand at both summer and transition depths held fish in good numbers, but the weather change moved them back to an aggressive bite and later in the week transition and even shallow rock structures held our best bites. Even with a more aggressive bite the walleye did not answer well to plastics and our guides kept their anglers working with light jigs and live bait most of the time. Guide sheet averages were back up to more than 25 fish over 18 inches a day, and a few great days stood out where anglers boated more than 75 fish over 18 inches. The great bites and most of our big fish came out of transition depths or even shallower, more than a few big fish were caught out of less than 10 feet this week.
Our guided days were about evenly split between hunting big pike and walleye fishing, a total of 35 guided days for the week. The fifteen days dedicated to walleye produced 14 fish over 27 inches with the biggest a 29. The northern hunting days boated 21 over 37 inches with five over 40 inches and two extremely heavy fish, a 40 and a 42 incher caught by one of our guests of long standing, Ed Rosenow.
The end of a season here at Silver Water Wheel Lodge always makes me look back at the year’s fishing and try to find trends and patterns that were different or made this year stand out from the others. I put that question to our guide staff at our last few nightly ‘round table’ meetings, and the first thing everyone brought up was the jump in big walleye this season. We haven’t finished compiling our statistics yet, but from our rough count we are up to 79 Walleye over 29 inches for the year, a significant increase from the last couple years. And of those big fish a greater proportion than usual were fish over 30 inches as well.
This central section of Lac Seul has two key ingredients that we think are responsible for the great summer fishing we see here. Wide open basins, and in the middle of those basins some huge sand structures that every year produce great fish for us. These big structures are ideal for pulling big plastics at speed and this is an effective and exciting way of catching walleye. Guides and guest often love it when we can target fish this way, and this worked well through early and mid summer and a lot of our best days in late June and July this year were ‘gulp on sand days’. As we progressed to late summer and fall the walleye moved to rock structures and stayed there. Lots of years there are weeks here and there when the walleye are on rock, but this year was exceptional. Our best bites in terms of both numbers and size were almost exclusively on rock structures for most of August and September.
The early and late season were both good northern pike times, with lots of big fish caught in our favorite spots and favorite ways. But there was a stretch in mid summer when the big pike left their usual patterns and did something different. For a few weeks, it was the exception rather than the rule to find a trophy fish in the main lake summertime weed beds that usually produce so many of our big pike. At the same time our guide staff were remarking on how rare it had become for us to catch big pike on jigs or following or T-boning a walleye. Every year there is a period where the big fish leave the weed beds, but we always find them deep while walleye fishing when they do. This year, in mid summer they weren’t shallow or deep. When the big northern weren’t answering to the usual patterns most of our anglers went after walleye instead, but occasionally during this stretch a boat with determined pike fisherman was able to succeed by focusing on mid-depth rock. I don’t think we produced this way often enough to be sure it was what the trophy pike were doing, but it is a new possible pattern we will be watching for in the future.
As a fishing guide with a few years behind me now, the 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 month, and every year.
Hope to see you all at ‘the Wheel’ next season!
Lots of weather changes and winds from all points of the compass this week, add in some major thunderstorms and the best we can say is the weather was changeable. There were also two days where we lost fishing time to those thunderstorms, and that kind of weather made walleye hard to pattern over the course of the week. A lot of our guides responded to the unpredictable conditions by encouraging their guests to switch things up and take advantage of this prime week for trophy northern.
We love to hunt for big pike this time of year and our guide staff took every opportunity the weather and our anglers gave them to chase northern. We found big fish mostly one stage deeper on rock during grey and windy days, and it took the right baits and knowledge of how to present them to consistently produce good fish off these structures. Our catch locations quickly moved to the remaining weed patches and the successful presentations shifted back to classic baits as soon as the weather settled into something steady. The pike shifted back and forth between rock and weeds a few times over the course of the week – and sometimes over the course of a day – as conditions changed, and production for big fish came when our boats were checking different kinds of structure all throughout each day.
As for the walleye, they were a struggle this week overall. The bright spots were an increase in sheet volume at end of week and quality walleye returning to the main lake sand structures that have produced so well for us over the years.
With a smaller staff this time of year we recorded only 49 guided days this week, and half of them had their main focus on trophy northern. For the week we caught and released 25 northern over 37 inches, with 6 over 40 inches, and topping out with a great looking 42.5 incher. Looking back at the nightly reports this week a couple of our senior guide staff noted the number of super-giants out there that were moved and seen but not hooked up.
Another interesting note was an increasing trend of big bass caught off deep rock piles. Numbers were few, but size was consistently good with 6 fish over 19 inches for the week. The bass made a nice alternative for those anglers not interested in pursuing pike.