Sunday, July 28, 2013

Staying cool

One of the top factors affecting a fishing trip is the almighty Mother Nature.  Here in the north country you can have sunshine and temperatures in the 70's one minute followed by 40's and rain the next.  As close as the Opasquia Provincial Park is to Hudson Bay (about 200 miles), weather can flip like a coin.  This summer has been no different and predicting the weather has been downright maddening.
25" wally (July25); notice the three layers
 of clothes

Overall, the 2013 summer has been cool and extremely dry; two uncommon elements together.  Generally, rain is associated when the temperatures dip. The past two weeks weather has brought winds from the north with days in the 60's and cool, almost frigid nights.  I cannot remember the last July where we encountered nights dipping into the 30's and 40's.  Water temperatures have dropped considerably; into the lower 60's.

Our days have been a mixture of sun and clouds with very little rain.  The lack of rain has most lakes sitting 2 to 3 feet below normal.  One positive from the low water is weed growth.  Cabbage beds this year are probably the healthiest I have witnessed in years.  The pike and perch are loving the dense weeds.


Walleye- Time to start the descent for walleye.  The bigger fish are now being found in 20' of water, so get ready to get your jig on. 3/8" oz black headed with pink, orange, or pumpkinseed tails have been hot.  Pick that windy shoreline and start bouncing bottom in search of  schools.  Reefs associated with open water have been holding nice fish.  This time of year a portable depth finder is your best friend.

To contradict everything I just wrote, don't forget to try weed edges from time to time.  Walleye love coming out of the deep waters to chase bait fish throughout the foliage. Trolling some shallow diving crankbaits along the weed edge can yield some big fish.  Don't forget to splice on at least a 30# mono or fluorocarbon leader to thwart the toothy pike from biting off your $8 crankbait.

Pike-Most of your efforts for pike should focus around cabbage weeds.  Try to find 6-8' weed beds associated with open water.  Small bays with shallow water this time of year will yield smaller fish.  Two of my favorite baits remain the Johnson silver minnow and the orange bladed #8 colorado blade with black skirt bucktail.  Navigating these through the thickest of weeds will produce great results.

Now what should you do when you hook a monster in the dense cabbage?  First, set the hook, HARD! A good hook set will ensure your trophy remains on the line.  Second, get ready to PULL...but not too hard.  The dense cabbage is going to become your biggest opponent; getting your monster out is going to require some finesse as they dart, roll and wrap your line every which way.  A gentle tug to uproot or slice the weeds while the fish is docile is necessary.  Finally, no slack EVER! Never let that fish wrap you through the weeds to where your line goes slack; that my friends, is game over should it happen.  Obeying these rules should help you land, smile, photo and release your trophy.

Notable catches and hot spots from last week:

Burnt- The Ridge was electric holding lots of walleye and pike.
Central- 41" pike off of Beaver Hut bay. Nice walleye holding near airplane island.
Cocos- North on the Sagawithcewan towards east lake held many 38"+ pike.
Favourable-42" pike near the dock.  Lemonade was hot on the windy shorelines.
South-Loads of 23-25" walleye and a monster topping at 30".
SW- Hoards of 18" walleye caught near the Twin Towers.
West- The rock next to the dock is the best overlooked spot on the lake. Two 38" fish in thirty minutes boated and released there.

Good luck on the water everyone.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Once In a Lifetime

Often there are instances during a vacation that are remembered for an entire lifetime.  This week at Central a father and 16 yr old son were on their first trip with Big Hook. To learn the waterways better and get better acquainted with fishing techniques, Steve (dad) was hired for a day trip. That day at about noon everyone in the boat encountered a moment that they will probably never forget. Steve and the guests were discussing how often moose are witnessed at Central Lake.  As if prompted by their conversation, a cow moose sauntered out of the woods in the distance and began rooting around for lilly pads.  Dad had everyone retrieve their lines and slowly motored the boat towards the cow. Cameras were snapping and popping like crazy as the boat crept up to the feeding cow.  Finally, when they had reached a distance of about 100 ft the moose started to pay attention. Rather than galloping back into the woods the cow calmly stood fast and analyzed the floating vessel.

After determining there was no real threat, the moose glanced into the woods and out meandered one calf.  Cameras continued to click and shutter as the guests couldn't believe what they were witnessing.  The calf walked up to the mom and after a quick nuzzle began to nurse.  Just then another calf came sprinting out of the woods and immediately began feeding alongside.  For two minutes or so Dad and the guests witnessed an event that would be straight out of the pages of National Geographic.  Attached to the right are a couple of the shots they managed to record.

The weather over the past week has been far from stable.  High pressures have quickly been followed by low pressures only to return to a high pressure the very next day.  Huge swings in the barometric pressure were common the past seven days.  We did finally received a couple good dousings of much needed rain the past two days.  Last Monday night was the storm of the summer providing winds of 45+ mph and enough lightening to see clearly at 3 am.  We lost 18 trees at Central Lake due to the winds.   The winds the past three days have been peppy out of the west and southwest at around 20 mph.

Our temperatures have been all across the board with the unstable weather.  Temperatures peaked this week at 88 degrees and today (July 19th) our high is supposed to reach 59 degrees.  The cooler weather has dropped the water temperatures about 4 degrees on the surface to around 68 degrees.


The huge swings in the barometric pressure have the fish biting light.  Numerous guests have commented the walleye are finicky and just tapping jigs.  Many times a fish were striking resulting in half twister tails. Over the years, a pattern I have found is stable pressure results in great fishing.

Walleye have begun to move deeper to around 12-17 ft of water.  Jigging is still the most effective way to reach these depths.  If schools are difficult to locate, try trolling a Shad Rap #7 along 12 ft of water.

Hot Lures for walleye: Shad Rap #7 Chartruese, 3/8 oz jig with pumkinseed Gulp tail, crawler harness with orange blade, Rapala Mag Rap Perch Colored (thats right a musky/pike bait was catching big walleye).

38" Central Pike
The pike have been present but also hesitant to slam baits.  Plenty of fish are being boated and released in the 32-36" range at all the outposts, but guests are having to work for strikes.  I guided twice this week and saw probably 4 or 5 fish in the 40" range but none would open their mouths.  The follows have been quite common the past several days and the fish have been lazily chasing the figure 8's next to the boat.  Sooner or later they will get hungry.

Hot lures: black bucktail, johnson silver minnow with white twister trailer, rattle trap blue/silver.

Most islands in the lower half of burnt were holding larger schools of walleye.  Locating 12 ft was key. Big Boy Bay still has plenty of trophy fish holding along the weeds.
The East portage has continued a hot streak for nice pike, which is really unusual, as the lake is known for better walleye fishing.  A 40" and 36" fish were caught back to back on the West portage.  Nice walleye have been boated around NE of the Big Island on the north end.  Husker Rock continues producing fish.
Surprisingly, Cocos had a secondary mayfly hatch this week, which is really uncommon.  That slowed walleye fishing down as most fish were packed full of larvae.  The rapids still held fish and are easily navigable.  6-8 ft weed beds throughout the lake were holding pike.  Several nice fish were located on Duckling Island.
Lemonade=good fishing.  The weather systems haven't affected that body of water. Favourable hotspots were Pike Alley, Three Sisters and the Mouth to the Severn River.  Several of the reefs in the Eastern half of the lake were holding nice walleye.
I haven't chatted with the guests at all from South this week as they have been out fishing on every visit.  My guess is the walleye are holding in the 12-16' range on various reefs throughout the lake.
Southwest has probably reported the best walleye fishing of all the lakes this week.  Guests have found numerous schools of 18-22 inch walleye.  Jigging the wind blown points on the north end of the lake was the most productive.  The low water has made traversing to the NE section of the lake difficult but still possible.  Guests just need to tilt the motor into shallow drive and navigate slowly.
Guests boated and released several 38"+ fish on the first night in the Horseshoe.  The narrows to the Fish Bowl are holding nice pike. The reefs on the north end of the lake are now holding some trophy walleye.

Good luck on the water everyone!

Friday, July 12, 2013

In search of rain

It has been hot, dry and windy the past several weeks here in the Opasquia Provincial Park.  I don't mean to jinx everyone's up and coming weeks but I have been performing the rain dance the past several days.  Temperatures have been climbing into the high eighties for quite a while now causing plenty of water from the lakes to evaporate.  Evaporation, coupled with plenty of water exiting through rapids and streams have caused the lakes water levels to drop substantially.

Central Lake has the lowest water of all the lakes, thus future guests need to be extra alert while navigating the waterways.  Rain has been often forecasted however, little to none has made it to the surface.  The lack of rain also means guests should be extra careful when having shore lunch or bonfires.  Please, please make sure the fire is completely extinguished before you leave it unattended.  The backcountry and woods is in an extremely dry state.  


Walleye are beginning to hold more on wind blown points and rock reefs.  Daytime water temperatures on mudflats are getting up to 75 degrees which is much too warm for walleye.  Most fish have been found in 8-16 ft of water. Jigging is still the most effective way to find large numbers of walleye.  A 3/8 oz jig with a pumkinseed Gulp was the hot lure at Central last week.  For crankbaits, we have been having excellent results with the firetiger Berkley Flicker Shad.

South Lake 38" pike. 
Pike are holding tight to weed beds and have begun striking top water action aggressively.  My favorite tactic to catch big pike is topwater action on calm evenings.  Zara Spooks and Dancing Raiders are my two favorite topwater lures.  I always get too excited when I see a fish blow up on the surface and set the hook before the fish latches on.  Bucktails and Johnson Silver Minnow are two other lures in my tackle box that I use when combatting thick weed beds.

The Ridge and Big Boy Bay are still two great spots for pike.  Walleye are still hold around weeds in the southern half of the lake.  Perch have been spotty, but can been found in the thickest part of weed beds with small jigs. The rock reef just in front of camp, literally 400 yards, produced many nice walleye.

The north narrows is the place to be for big pike right now.  Cast until your heart's content in that spot, the weeds are thick this year so plan on using Johnson Silver Minnows or Top water baits.  Hippo rock has held some great number of walleye and pike.

As usual, you can find plenty of fish holding around the rapids.  Both sets are easily navigable, just use caution when shooting the rapids for rock hazards.  The Sagawitchewan river has plenty of mature weed beds now to cast for pike.  Guests last week boasted an impressive 44" pike just north of camp on the rock pile before the rapids.

Guests last week poured all of their efforts into fishing Lemonade Lake, with great success.  Their motto was "Why leave when the fish are biting?"  Favourable's weed beds should be holding some nice toothy pike.  Pike Alley would be a great place to begin your quest for a trophy northern.

Start focusing your efforts just a bit deeper for the trophy walleye at South Lake.  The Three Sisters Reef was an excellent producer.  Also, trolling the southeast narrows held plenty of 27+" fish.  Pike have been on the slim side since walleye fisherman have dominated the past couple of weeks.  Hot lure was the firetiger Shad Rap #7.

Numbers, numbers and more numbers is what SW posted.  Fish were holding on just about every single rocky point with 10ft of water. Yellow jigs and tails were the key color.  Many moose were spotted on the east narrows, keep your camera at the ready when boating around this area.

The Horseshoe continues its dominance for producing big pike at West.  The reefs on the north end of the lake are starting to hold many 22+" walleye.  Also, the narrows to the Fish Bowl has been very good.  Casting the narrows with bucktails is one of my favorite techniques to finding trophy northern.

Good luck on the water everyone.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Winged creatures take flight

This time of year I begin to sound like a broken record. Over the past few seasons the first week of July has become the Mayfly ritual.  The past several days I have begun to see several stationed on the airplane as I complete my morning pre-flight checks at Central Lake.  After flying to the outpost camps this afternoon I have been informed from several guests that the hatch is growing by the day.

These short lived flies are like caviar to walleye. The fish will absolutely gorge themselves on mayflies.  For three or four days mayflies will begin their transition from the mudflats in larvae form up through the water column only to transform into winged flies fluttering dozens of feet in the air.  During this transition period when mayflies are in their larval stage fish are active and relentless feeders.  However, as the hatch progresses walleyes fill their bellies and become lethargic.

To truly combat the mayflies fisherman can arm themselves with several weapons. First, you can learn to fly fish.  Fly fisherman have reported many many successful weeks of fishing to me during the mayfly hatch.  A dry fly mimicking a mayfly on the surface will boat you many fish.  Second, go small! The mayfly larvae are small, between 1" and 2" long. So why use big 4" twister tails on 1/2 oz jigs? Employ 1/4 to 1/8 jigs and small small small tails.  Finally, if the above doesn't work; go pike fishing. You just have to let the walleyes digest for a day or two; they will get back to their old feeding habits before you know it.

The Outposts Report

 Burnt Lake- Guests last week found fish just about everywhere throughout the lake. 8 feet seemed to be the magical depth.  I have guided there the past two days and have great success despite the mayflies.  The Ridge was holding numerous big pike and lots of walleye.  Big Boy Bay also held several large pike.  Be careful traversing through the narrows to the upper half of Burnt, the water is low and you need to tilt the motor up!

Central- The north narrows and husker rock have heated up for both species.  Walleye are holding on a number of reefs throughout the lake.  The West portage has been great for sizable pike.

Cocos- Huge numbers were boated, over 2200 for four fisherman in seven days.  Lots of fish around the rapids.  The huge weed bed in front of the Sagawitchewan was holding big pike.

Favourable/Lemonade- Once again Lemonade is...well, Lemonade.  Fish are hitting everywhere throughout the lake.  Favourable was a bit on the slow side for walleye and pike.  As the weed beds mature I foresee Favourable getting hotter and hotter.  I like walleye point and pike alley this time of year.

South Lake- Lots of nice walleye have been boated and released.  Several 28" fish, a monster 31", and many many over 22".  Jigs were the weapons of choice.  Fish in 12-16" for the bigger trophy walleye.

SW- Lots of fish were boated everywhere.  Guests claimed it was some of the best numbers they had ever. Guests today found a giant school of perch and enjoyed a delicious perch lunch. The perch were found up near an incoming creek towards the outflow of rapids.

West- The Horse Shoe and the narrows have been the hot spots.  Top water in the Horseshoe in the evenings have produced numerous trophies. The reef east of camp towards the incoming falls has started to hold many 24" walleye.

Hot Lures- 

Walleye- Chartruese Shad Rap #5, Pumkinseed tail on a 1/4 oz jig, Rattle Trap.

Pike- Perch colored Rapala Giant Shad, Orange and black bucktail, Dancing Raider, Buzz Bait, Johnson Silver minnow.

Good luck on the water everyone.