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June 3, 2023

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I have been guiding in Canada since 1989 and I have never seen a Spring like we are experiencing this year.  In 2023, Spring lasted for a day or two and pretty much instantly turned into summer.  Even though the ice just went out 2.5 weeks ago, it looks and feels like July in NW Ontario.  We have had high temps in the 80s for more than a week and the lake surface temperatures are close to 70 degrees even on the main lake.  Conditions have been so warm and dry that we are now on Fire Ban.

Guiding and finding fish was a little tricky this week.  I mentioned last week that some of the traditional spring spots were not holding as many walleyes.  With the rapid transition to Summer, that trend just got stronger.  One of the principles that we teach in early guide training is that post spawn walleyes often travel great distances in search of food.  Those fish seek out areas of the lake that warm more quickly than others and attract more baitfish.  This year the main lake heated up so quickly the motivation was not that great for walleyes to seek out the more isolated and protected areas of the lake.  Not only did the walleyes bypass some of their traditional early season locations, but they moved right onto some of the main lake structures that we fish in the middle of summer.

Guiding walleyes was a challenge in that some were still back in the warm shallows, some were already set up on summer spots, and the rest were in between.  On the same day, we caught walleyes from 3 ft. of water in a backwater boggy area and we caught walleyes out of 33 ft. of water on main lake summer sand structure.  If you were not open minded and ready to adapt quickly, you would struggle.  The shared information at our nightly guide’s round table meeting was absolutely the key to success this week.

And it was a big week for walleye volume and size.  We caught and released 45 walleyes over 27 in., including 9 – 28s, 2 – 29s, 1 – 30, and 1 – 32.  Guides averaged over 30 walleyes over 18 in. per boat each day.  Several boats filled the back of their sheets (over 60 walleyes.)  There were a few pitch bites where jigs and plastics were used to target active walleyes in very shallow water, but most of the week’s production hinged on some version of the jig and minnow.  Guides long lined 1/8 oz. jigs and minnows at a moderate speed (.5 – 1 mph) to locate fish in shallower water or they used electronics to find walleyes on main lake summer structure and used 1/8 oz. jigs and minnows with a vertical presentation.  The most consistently successful guides bounced back and forth between the spectrums of speed, depth, and region and changed gears multiple times per day.

I expected the big pike bite was going to slow down with the spawn over and fish moving to transition spots.  There were a couple of big pike caught on jigs while walleye fishing, but many guests were able to capitalize on pike that were still on or near traditional spawning areas.  There weren’t too many big ones caught from the super skinny water, but many were caught on or near the first break just outside of spawning areas.  Jakes, spoons, and Husky Jerks (HJ14s) were all productive at times.  There was a definite change of preference between different days.  The best strategy was to fish a mix of baits until you found out was working for the day.  For the week, we caught and released 33 pike over 37 in., including 7 – 38s, 5 – 39s, 4 – 40s, and 3 – 42s.  There were several high-volume days with guides reporting 20 or more pike over 30 in.

The big surprise of the week was the early arrival of smallmouth bass fishing.  We often catch random bass early, mixed in with the walleyes but this week marked the beginning of the pre-spawn for bass.  They were not set up on or building beds just yet, but they are definitely hanging around the spawning areas.  Small cranks and jigs with plastics fished quickly were the most productive choices to target bass.  For the week we caught and released 7 Smallmouth over 19 in.  In the next few weeks, bass fishing production for both size and numbers should increase dramatically.

The Take Away – If you are planning a return fishing trip to SWWL or Lac Seul in general in the next week or so, Do Not expect to find fish where you used to catch them.  This weather pattern is a shocking outlier from normal and the fish have responded accordingly.  I do hope we get enough rain soon to end the fire ban.

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Additional Photos for June 3, 2023