The Heat of Summer
Summer is flying by here in northwestern Ontario. Its been a wild ride weather wise - right now we're in the middle of a heatwave, but just 10 days ago we were battling high wind, rain and cool temps. One day the high didn't even reach 60F.
Despite the wild weather, the fishing has remained good. Of course some days are better than others, but that's fishing. Summertime walleye spots like humps, prominent points and deep flats produce steady action. The best depths can range from 15-30 feet, depending on the day. One thing I've noticed is that the stronger the wind, the shallower the big walleye will position themselves on structure.
It's hard to beat jigging with live bait for catching walleye. I use Lindy Jigs and my top colors are glow, chartreuse, pink, orange and red. There's something about feeling the classic 'walleye tap' then setting the hook that I'll never get tired of.
Targeting pike is a great way to spend an afternoon on Lac Seul. There's a lot more action than muskie fishing and we run into some great pike out here.
The muskie chase is never easy, but as I say it's a lot of work for a lot of reward.
I caught these 2 muskies on the same night on my new favorite color PDeez bucktail - Italian Stallion. Click the link to visit the website and check out that hot color.
This next fish was an awesome boat side top-water strike for my guest Mark. Good times!
Check out the lead page for my latest Ontario OUT OF DOORS feature article. All the photos in this article are by my friend Suzie Hughdie, who did a great job. The article is about jigging for summertime lake trout. It's a great way to catch lakers in the summer without the hassle or cost of downriggers.
Just this past week we put this technique to the test. Here's my guest Mike with a nice summertime laker.
There's still plenty of summer left, but fall - the best time of the year - is within sight. Stay tuned!
Transition Time - Multi Species Action
June absolutely few by! It was a strange month weather wise with a lot of wet and cool weather. After heat at the end of May, early June saw the water temperatures plummet back into the 50's. Currently temps have rebounded to low 60's on the main lake and high 60's in the shallow bays.
All this extreme weather has definitely affected the fishing. We're still catching high volumes of fish - 200 walleye days aren't uncommon - but the fish are very scattered. On any given day walleye can be caught in a few feet of water or 30+ feet of water. They are showing up on the main lake basin (Summer spots) but still hanging on in the shallows as well. The mayfly hatch hasn't happened yet and the shallow fish are still gorging on mayfly nymphs. Main lake basin fish are spitting up smelt and ciscos. So there's a lot happening all at once and depending on the conditions of the day the walleye can really be anywhere.
I expect the walleye will begin to show up in great numbers on main lake basin structure very shortly. Summertime walleye fishing is just around the corner.
With the rise in the water temperatures last week it made for prime conditions for shallow water bass fishing. Top-water in fact. What a blast these guys are on top-water baits.
Another fun fish to target this time of year are lake trout. They are moving out to deeper water as well. We got into some nice fish on a windy day last week jigging heavy tube jigs and vibrating blade baits.
Muskie season also arrived and although I haven't had a chance to chase them yet I'm super excited talk about a new product I'm going to be using. PDEEZ Muskie Inlines are the new standard in double bladed tinsel muskie bucktails. They are durable and well made but what sets them apart is the no jam flash (Tinsel won't tangle with hooks) and how easy they pull in the water. They are perfectly balanced and tuned. I got really tired of other double-bladed bucktails who's blades wouldn't engage right away. PDEEZ are the solution. Made in Ontario and built tough for the big muskies we have all over this province. Be sure to look em up and check out some of the awesome color combinations.
It's hard to believe it's already August! The summer is flying by as usual. July was busy, with a lot of days on the water and a lot of nice fish in the boat. Big pike, walleye, muskie and lakers have dominated my time.
Predictably, the walleye are on the humps and other structure in and around the main lake basins. Right now we're catching lots of fish in 25- to- 32 feet of water. For all the fish caught though, one that I won't forget was a monster walleye that broke my guest off before I could net it. It was, by far, the biggest walleye I've ever seen.
Of course, some nice fish have managed to hit the Beckman net. Here's just a few.
It's nice to shift gears every once and a while and do something a little bit different. Jigging for lake trout in the summertime is a really fun way to catch them vs. downrigging. We use 4-inch tube jigs with 1 oz lead heads and are able to fish as deep as 100-feet of water. We got on some today in 74-feet on a deep hump. It's a blast to battle lakers from the depths on spinning gear.
I love catching all kinds of different fish, but deep down I'm an Esox junkie! Big pike and especially big muskie really get my heart pumping.
I've put some really nice fish in the net lately.
Big pike are amazing creatures, but their size and appeal is shadowed by the other Esox that inhabits Lac Seul - Muskie! They're never easy to catch but the rewards are huge.
Tom's first muskie ever came on the figure-8.
Dave has caught a lot of muskies, but we both still got a trill from watching this one eat on the figure 8 as well.
Last week an old friend of mine came up with his dad to chase muskies. I've never seen July weather like we had - cold, wet and windy. Highs were in the low 50's - and this is usually the warmest week of the year in Northwestern Ontario. We battled the elements and were rewarded for our efforts with some nice fish.
The icing on the cake was this fat 50-incher that Todd's Dad, Ben, caught on a bulldawg.
They are already talking about another trip next summer to collect some of the other big ones that we saw but didn't catch.
I'll wrap this update up with a beautiful Lac Seul sunset shot that Todd took. Anyone that fishes muskies would want to be on the water at this time of day, with a sky like this.
Open Water Kick-off
After one of the latest ice-outs that I can remember on Lac Seul, the 2013 open water season is underway. Late ice out years are typically great for catching big walleye. This year didn't disappoint.
The ice went out the night before opener, leaving us with clear sailing to my favourite early season area on Lac Seul.
Jigs tipped with minnows or soft-plastics are all it takes to catch big walleye
Other than walleye fishing in the spring I also love to chase pike and lake trout. Check out this big pike my buddy Ian caught last week.
This big spawned-out female was sitting in 2-feet of water in the back of a large bay
My good buddy Mike and I took a shot at lakers on Minnitaki this past week. We went with the quality over quantity approach and that's exactly what we got.
Both fish hit a blue jointed minnow bait 125-feet behind the planer board
June is one of the best months for fishing in northwestern Ontario. Big walleye, pike and bass are on the menu and muskie opener is also coming up quick. Stay tuned for another report in a couple of weeks.
The weather this week couldn't be any more different from a year ago. Last march break we were in T-shirts on the ice while this year it's been 20 below. As I type this the snow continues to fall outside, adding to the foot we've already got in the last 24-hours.
It sure doesn't seem like spring is just around the corner. If it wasn't for the longer days, the fish would think it's still mid-winter.
Big fish continue to find their way onto the ice. With dedication, patience and effort come rewards.
My wife Kelly joined me recently, and of course she caught the big one. Kelly can jig walleye with the best of them, whether it's through the ice or in the boat. Check out this big, beautiful, dark walleye.
Another one that couldn't resist the Lindy Rattlin' Flyer Spoon
My pursuit of big winter lake trout continues. For me, these fish are the best substitute for muskie fishing. The drag peeling, rod bending runs of a wintertime laker fill the adrenaline void created by the closed muskie season. In other words, they're the biggest bang for your buck on the ice.
I've been fortunate to catch some really nice lakers lately.
I also wanted to share a product that has made a huge improvement to my ice fishing program.
The Digger Auger Carrier by Digger Anchor makes carrying your auger so easy and convenient. It makes me so much more portable and efficient on the ice now that I don't have to load and unload my auger from the sleigh every time I move.
Even though we've still got a few weeks of ice fishing left here in Northwestern Ontario, spring really is just around the corner. Check out the current issue (April 2013) of Ontario OUT OF DOORS for an article I wrote about using strutter decoys as a part of your spring turkey hunting strategy.
Also, click HERE for an on-line article I did for Ontario OUT OF DOORS called 'The ABC's of Backtrolling'.
Before open water and turkey hunting, however, the year's best ice fishing is still to come. Stay tuned for one more ice report.
It's hard to believe that we're mid way through the winter season already. With February half over that means the warmer spring fishing in March is just around the corner.
Mid-winter means cold, and we've had our share of 40 below already. We also have a ton of snow. From the fishes perspective, it's a dark and cold world under the ice. They move pretty slow at this time of year so downsizing and slowing down presentations definitely helps.
We've been getting our share of nice walleye. Lindy jigging spoons like the Frostee and Rattlin' Flyer Spoon have been producing, and so has a jig and minnow.
Jigging Raps are always a staple through the ice.
Lake trout get a lot of my attention during the winter and I've landed some really nice ones.
Using a tip-up with deadbait on a quick strike has proven to be a big fish magnet. Along with the previous lake trout, this monster pike was caught on a quick strike rig by my good buddy Mike.
There is still a lot of ice fishing season left here in northwestern Ontario. I've got some dates available in March for ice trips so get in touch with me if you're interested in booking a trip.
Making It Work
The first ice adventure of 2013 is in the books. My good buddy Graham came up to visit and do some ice fishing. Graham is no stranger to the area, having lived in Sioux Lookout for a winter in 2009. We checked out some of our old favourite spots and did some new stuff too.
We put our time into chasing lake trout, walleye and whitefish. We fished 4 different lakes and caught fish everywhere we went. Overall the bite was a bit tough and we had to work for every fish we caught. Some areas that were excellent this time last year just weren't holding fish.
The first thing we did was camp out for an afternoon on a Lac Seul walleye spot that's known for kicking out big fish. We didn't catch many walleye, but Graham did ice this big fat Lac Seul 'eye.
Over the course of the trip it seemed that walleye wanted smaller and simpler presentations. It was hard to beat a 1/8 oz jig and minnow, but I did manage to catch a handful on a Lindy Rattlin' Flyer Spoon.
On a day we decided to target lake trout and whitefish, that same Rattlin' Flyer Spoon was on fire for the whities! We put a hurting on some big-big whitefish. They'd hit it sitting still, they'd chase it and hit it while moving - I even had one intercept it on the free-fall.
Take a look at these monster 'humpback' whitefish!
After having fun with the whitefish we switched gears and targeted lake trout. When it comes to winter lakers, I love fishing soft plastics. It wasn't 5-minutes after putting on a white tube jig that this big laker inhaled it only 15-feet under the ice.
I marked this fish on my Humminbird ICE55 flasher - without that tool I never would have known this big laker was flying high in the water column.
What a great fish to break in my new 36" St. Croix Premier ice rod with.
Another day we made the trek into a backcountry lake trout lake that's about an hour south of Sioux Lookout. We broke trail into the lake no problem, but getting out was another story. Big hills, unpacked trails, sugary light snow and heavy sleighs meant everyone was getting stuck. After 2 hours of sweating, swearing and back-breaking pushing/pulling/lifting we were back at the trucks.
It's a good thing the fishing was on and everyone took home a nice limit of 3-to 4-pound lakers for the table.
It's a long winter here in northwestern Ontario so look for more ice fishing reports to come soon.
Let The Good Times Roll
My spring fishing update is a bit overdue as things have been really busy around here since getting back from turkey hunting. My guiding work is in full swing and the days are flying by.
Overall fishing has been excellent, despite the non-typical weather patterns we've had this year. The ice went out really early and since then we've had everything from seasonal weather to the extremes of heat and cold. It snowed in Sioux Lookout on May 29th and now less than a week later it feels like summer.
If I could generalize the effect on the fishing, I would say the fish are more scattered than usual. Recently, I've caught walleye as deep as 34-feet and as shallow as 4-feet, and everywhere in between. Everyday is different and most patterns don't last very long.
Despite this, the catching has been very good. Most of my walleye are being caught out of 15-feet of water, give or take. The bigger fish, however, seem to be in 15-plus feet. Another pattern that is producing is the may-fly larva pattern. During sunny afternoons when the shallow water heats up, the walleye move into shallow bays to gorge on may-fly larva. It's one of my favourite patterns of the year - catching lots of walleye, and big ones too, out of 4-8 feet-of-water.
Here's one of my guests, Bob, with a typical Lac-Seul over slot walleye.
Bob and Mike toughed it out through some of the worst conditions - cold, wet and wind - but we caught a lot of fish!
Not long after they left, the weather got warm (sorry guys!) and the fish kept biting. Here's a nice one that I caught out of 18-feet on a Lindy jig tipped with a minnow.
The pike fishing has been kind of hit-or-miss lately but I have to show off this P-I-G I caught earlier in the season.
I also had a chance to spend 3 days in my boat with my good buddy Mike Battistoni hunting for big lakers on Minnitaki Lake. Minnitaki is known for trophy lake trout, but it's not a 'numbers' lake by any means. We were hoping for a couple of big-bigs but it didn't happen on this trip. The laker bite was tough and we only boated 1 fish. We covered a lot of water trolling with planer boards, dipsey divers and long-lines. We also jigged deeper areas but couldn't get on a big laker.
Here's Mike with our one-and-only lake trout.
Since I didn't get to 'scratch my lake trout itch' I hit up Big Vermilion for some jig fishing recently. The action was much better and we boated a lot of lakers jigging with white tube jigs. We caught fish from 35-feet down to 70-feet. Here's one of the better fish from the day.
Since I got home from turkey hunting I put together this video. Check it out - I think it turned out pretty well.
Coming up - a lot more fishing! I'm really looking forward to muskie opener on June 16th.
Also, the Johnson Outdoors santa arrived and I can't wait to rig my boat up with a Minn Kota Terrova with I-Pilot and Humminbird 898CX Side Imaging combo, plus a 788 HD combo on the bow.
Ice Out Lakers and a Cover Shot
One of my favourite things about spring is chasing lake trout once the ice goes off. It's a great time of year for getting lakers in relatively shallow water. Trolling with planer boards, Dipsy Divers and even long-line trolling is all it takes to catch big lakers. Covering water is the name of the game for finding spring lake trout. Minnowbaits, spoons and small in-line spinners all have their place in the spring trout trollers arsenal.
Here's a nice one from the weekend on my annual G.bay trip with good pal JP Bushey. This fish hit a jointed Rapala, 110-feet behind a planer board.
In other news, I am happy to share the May cover of Ontario OUT OF DOORS. It's an honour for me to grace the cover of this magazine. Thanks to James Smedley for snapping the photo. Inside this issue I have an article on post-spawn walleye fishing. Check it out.
Coming up next, gobble-gobble, it's turkey time. My favourite hunt of the year.
Good Friends, Good Fishing
One of the great things about living in NW Ontario is that friends like to come up for a visit and get out fishing. Winter is no exception, and this year I've had some awesome trips with friends of mine.
A couple weeks back Trent and his GF Jessica made the long trip from southern Ontario to Sioux Lookout for some ice fishing. We had a great time and the weather cooperated too. We put in some quality time on the ice and came up with some really nice fish for our efforts.
Jessica got us started with a really nice lake trout. Having grown up on Lake Simcoe, she's no stranger to pulling fish up through the ice.
In fact, she landed the biggest fish of the trip - check out this awesome pike!
Lucky for Trent and I she let us get a few that were worthy of the camera.
Trent lives on the Bay of Quinte in SE Ontario so he's used to pulling big walleye through the ice. He showed us how to get it done in NW Ontario with the big jigging spoon.
Trent's big lake trout was the first fish we caught on one of the days. Great way to start a day!
I used my home field advantage to land a few nice fish myself.
Next up, my friend Dave was driving out west from southern Ontario and made a pit-stop in Sioux Lookout for some hard water action. We landed some nice fish, but the highlight of the trip was this big pike Dave caught.
Dave really wanted to catch a big lake trout as well - so first I had to show him how it's done.
Then Dave got his lake trout too - his first one in 15 years.
It's a great feeling to be able to take friends out fishing and share memories that will last a lifetime.
In other news, the long range forecast is showing unseasonably warm weather here in NW Ontario. Looks like ice fishing season will be cut short this year. We've still got a couple weeks at least to fish so stay tuned for my late ice wrap-up report.
Looking ahead - spring means two things: ice-out lake trout fishing and turkey hunting.
Until next time, good fishing.
Ben Beattie is a fishing guide and outdoor writer living in Sioux Lookout, in northwestern Ontario.