Wednesday, July 25, 2018

2018 Wilderness Report #8

Wow, what a storm! We finally received some much needed rain here in the Opasquia Provincial Park.   According to our rain gauge, around two inches of rain fell overnight last night (7/23), and it came down in buckets.  The rain on the metal roof, usually hypnotizing, was actually quite deafening.  The rain is continuing to fall as I write this blog.  Water levels should start to rise after this deluge.  Levels on most lakes were approaching lows I have never witnessed.  A cold north wind has tagged along with the rain and today's high is going to be a mild 50 degrees.  The welcomed rain will help the fire situation as conditions in the area were labeled as extremely high fire danger.

The planes are ready for a Saturday change over
This cold snap may cause the fish to dive into deeper waters. Yesterday, the surface temperature at Central was 70 degrees.  This morning it had already sunk to 66 degrees.  Smaller baits may be more effective as fish can be less aggressive after a cold front.   A short-lived guide trip this morning supports the previous statement.  We found walleye just tapping our baits, barely hanging on the ends of the jig tails.  However, some good schools were located in about 20 ft.  To combat the short strikes, I switched from a jig and twister to a 1/4 oz Kastmaster jigging spoon and was hooking up on more fish.  

The walleye bite before today was active and steady.  Fish are holding anywhere from 8-25' with the majority hanging in 12-16' range.  Vertical jigging 1/4 oz or 3/8 oz jigs with 3" Ripple Shad tail while slowly backtrolling is a favorite technique of mine.  Light colors produce on sunny days while darker colors on cloudy days are preferred.  Trolling crankbaits along windblown shorelines in 12-20' is a great alternative to jigging. 

A northern pike selfie. 
The northern bite continues to be most active along weeds in the late afternoon and early into the evening.  Bucktails, like musky killers and Mepps Agilas, have been outproducing the larger baits.  Bright blades and skirts seem to be the favorites.  Casting the heavy weeds still requires the old faithful, Johnson silver minnow.  The 3/4 oz or 1 1/4 oz is a must have spoon in everyone's tackle box for pike.  The top water bite will stall for a few days until the water begins to warm back up.  

West Lake topped the 40" mark for pike several times over the past couple days, while South Lake has a couple 28"+ walleye under their belts so far.  Southwest is catching lots of fish on any rock reefs in 12 ft of water.  Reefs just north of camp at Central Lake are holding quality walleye.  Big boy bay at Burnt Lake still holds the crown for top northern spot on the lake. The deep pools in the Sagawitchewan river on Cocos Lake are holding lots of fish. 

Good luck on the water everyone! 

Thursday, July 19, 2018

2018 Wilderness Report #7

We are about halfway through the 2018 fishing season here at Big Hook Camps.  It is hard to believe just two months ago I was being chased by a snowstorm on my way to open up the camp.  As I write this blog, the temperature outside is a sweltering 88 degrees with high humidity; so a snow flurry sounds kind of refreshing at the moment.  July has brought a rollercoaster of temperatures so far.  Just two days ago our high for the day was a chilly 48 degrees.  A 40 degree temperature swing in just under 36 hours sounds appropriate for NW Ontario.  I've always said, "In this neck of the woods, wait 12 hours and the season will change."

We are still in need of rain here in the north country.  Aside from a couple random showers throughout July, conditions remain incredibly dry. I urge everyone to use caution when having outdoor fires, please make sure the fire is completely extinguished.  Due to the lack of rain lake levels are down roughly 12-18" throughout the Opasquia Provincial Park.  Water temperatures on most lakes are still hovering in the high sixties and creeping into the seventies. Just about all the weed beds are now fully mature. 

40" caught jigging for walleye on Central
The up and down temperatures this week have had the walleye scattered throughout the water column.  Guests have reported best luck around the 12-16 ft range however, some are still be caught on the edges of weed beds.   Hot colors for walleye the past couple days have been pink, flouro orange and purple.  3" Ripple Shads are quickly replacing Gulp as my favorite jig tail. Vertical jigging while back trolling over structure has been the most effective technique for catching schooled up walleye.  Trolling 15' flats or shorelines with Reef Runners or Shad Raps are a great way to locate the schools.  Walleye should continue their descent through the water column as the summer progresses along. On a side note, guests at Central Lake are having excellent luck walking the rapids and fishing walleye in the slack pools.  Guess our walleye are behaving a bit like trout lately. 

A Central Lake 40" caught well after sunset.
Cloudy days or evenings are the best times for northern fishing lately.  Guests at Central have boated three fish over 40" with two of them being caught well after sunset.  The usual suspects Johnson Silver Minnows and orange-bladed black skirted bucktails have been hot lures.  If you want to run the risk of throwing a Bulldawg, they get to be hot baits as the summer marches on.  Trouble is those 24" northern love to bite the tail off of them, which is why I don't toss Bulldawgs as much anymore.  Don't forget to pack at least one topwater bait.  Whopper ploppers, top raiders, zara spooks and buzz baits are among my favorite.  Find your favorite weed bed or wind blown rocky point and start slinging, the pike will be sure to respond with some high flying antics.  Another side note, numerous pike have been caught in deeper water while fishing for walleye the past couple days.  It might be worth packing a rattle trap or jigging rap.

Most guests have been out fishing when I have visited the outposts this week so I don't have the most informative outpost report.  South Lake has reported steady action with walleye, however, the northern have been a bit on the slow side. Most walleye are holding on structure in 15 ft of water.  In a quick chat yesterday, West Lake said the fishing was very good.  Trolling crankbaits along shorelines was catching plenty of both species.  West Lake has also boated and released a pair of 41" northern.  Both fish were caught trolling large F18 husky jerks.  I have not seen Cocos, Burnt or SW lake yet this week.  I noticed many 35-38" northern written on the bragging board at Cocos this week.  The water at Cocos is really low. Guests are having no issues navigating the two sets of rapids into the Sagawitchewan River. However, lots of new rocks are present in the river, so please go slow the first time through. 

Good luck on the water everyone and remember to send pictures. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

2018 Wilderness Report #6

The beginning of July has brought lots of wind thus far.  20 mph warm westerly winds have dominated the last week of fishing, causing lots of wet feet for those who enjoy back trolling for walleye.  Daytime highs have been averaging in the high 70's, however, the nights have been dipping into the low 50's.  The cool nights and churning waters have dipped the water temperatures into the mid 60's.  Some rain has fallen the past couple days but the lake levels are still very low.  

The walleye bite has slowly improved the last couple days.  The week started rather slow due to the tail end of the mayfly hatch.  Walleyes were barely nudging the baits and most of the time you couldn't determine you had a fish on the hook.  As the week has progressed, however, the bite became more distinguishable as walleye have disgested last weeks mayfly hatch.  

Presently, walleye are scattered throughout the water column.  Fish are being caught anywhere from 3-25 feet of water but not in huge numbers.  Walleye are transitioning away from the mud flats to rocky points or 10-20 ft reefs.  The majority of fish are being caught with jigs and twisters or crawler harnesses.  The bite should vastly improve as we distance ourselves from the mayfly hatch.  Little to no mayfly carcasses have been spotted the last couple days.   

Northern pike are harboring along their typical summer patterns.  Deep weed edges or windblown rocky points hold the most fish.  Orange bladed and black skirted #6 bucktails, Johnson silver minnows tipped with a twister tail or any type of surface bait have been the most effective lures.  The weed beds are beginning to thicken up in most lakes, so a weedless lure or two is a must in your tackle box.  
A sunrise take off from Central Lake at 4:50 a.m.

Cocos Lake leads the pack lately with lots of the walleye in the 20-23" range along with several pike in the 38-40" range.  Water levels are low and guests are easily able to navigate the rapids.  The perch bite has improved for Burnt and a beauty of a 44" northern was boated and released last week.  In a change of pace, South Lake managed a 40.5" northern and many in the 30-35" range. Nice walleye were also caught along the Midlake reefs.  Southwest Lake boasted some impressive 20-24" fat walleye that were located in the northeast arm.  The hotspot on Central Lake has been near the north rapids.  Schools and schools of walleye have flocked to the shallow reefs in the area.  Most fish are holding in 3-5 ft of water, odd for this time of year.  The deep reefs east of the camp at West Lake are holding lots of nice walleye.  Horseshoe Bay has been a great hotspot for pike and as a bonus, it's sheltered from the strong winds of late.  

Good luck on the water everyone!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

2018 Wilderness Report #5

A nice pike from Husker Rock at Central
A Happy Canada Day to all! Today, July 1st, marks Canada's 151st year of independence. I tell you what, nothing screams Canada like a fly-in fishing trip, shore lunch, Labatt Blue, walleye....I could go on and on.  Here at Big Hook we try to get inventive with our festivities on this day.  Our activities include moose yodeling, waterskiing behind the plane, and playing tag the wolverine, only kidding. All joking aside, Canada Day usually involves a walleye fishing contest amongst the friends and family here at Central. Winner gets bragging rights (and maybe a beer or two after the day is over), while the losing parties get to fillet the fish and wash dishes.
New floater for Cocos Lake

 The weather was hot hot hot last week, with plenty of sunshine and minimal rain.  Conditions once again are super dry as we have only received 1 millimeter of rain in the past 17 days here at Central. I can only ask everyone to be super careful with outdoor fires.  Dad, Ryan and I took advantage of the warm weather and built a new (and bigger) floating dock at Cocos. However, today a cold front has descended upon NW Ontario and plummeted temperatures into the high 50's with heavy SW winds. It looks to remain cool for several days before once again heating up.

Another Husker rock beauty 
Fishing reports last week were superb.  The stable weather conditions made the fish quite predictable.  However, the fisherman's nemesis starting hatching last week Wednesday. That's right, the mayflies have begun.  Last Friday was a pretty intense hatch as mayflies littered the surface of Central, Cocos, and Burnt when I visited.  The hatch should only last a day or two more and conditions should return to normal. 

Walleye have started to move a little deeper, with the bulk of the schools holding in 10 feet of water.  Vertical jigging 1/4 oz jigs near weed edges, rock piles or windy shorelines boated the most fish. Trolling shad raps. flicker shad, or reefs runners along mud flats and weed edges was also effective.  I'll mention again the Berkley Ripple shad is outperforming the Gulp.  I think Gulp has changed their formula as the tails fall apart after maybe one or two fish. 

Northern were active last week.  The favorite baits were silver spoons and Johnson silver minnows tipped with a twister tail. Topwater action was great on calm days.  Lots of reports of 30-40" pike poured in from the outposts this week.  Casting windblown weeds or rocky points was effective for bigger fish. 

Good luck on the water everyone!