Summer arrived at Scott Lake Lodge, on the border of Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories, about a month late. It was worth the wait. Since our last report (July 25th), our guests have seen blue skies and felt the power of the intense sub-arctic sunshine almost every day. Our anglers have enjoyed mainly warm southerly or westerly winds and found little use for their rain gear. Only an occasional isolated shower passed through this part of the world, insuring that the past three weeks were a time for sandals, T-shirt and shorts. In our lodge shop, sales of sun block far outpaced sales of stocking caps (known here in Canada, of course, as toques). We had some very windy days but it was never cold. Not even cool. It was wonderful.
Good Weather, Good Fishing
We focus a lot on weather in these reports for one simple reason: good weather and good fishing are two sides of the same coin. When the air temperature is warm, the water temperature is warm and the pike fishing is good. It’s that simple. Any week of our season could be the best or the worst depending almost entirely on temperatures and sunshine. So, if we could predict the weather, we could predict the fishing. But here on the 60th parallel predicting the weather, even for the short term, is a fool’s game. We just fish in whatever weather gets thrown at us. Over the past twenty days the good stuff was thrown at us and the fish responded. The fishing was actually more than good during this pleasant stretch of warm weather. Pike treat sunshine like candy-they just eat it up. They were also eating up spinners, plastics, flies and spoons. With sunshine pike get active and go hunting. It doesn’t seem to make a difference if they are holed up in bays, hanging off of drop-offs or seeking prey in the tangles of aquatic vegetation-those precious lily pads, coon-tail plants, eel grass or in the gold standard of aquatic vegetation-pond weed, also know in fishing circles as “cabbage”. Wherever they are, pike respond to sun and warmth. Like any cold blooded critters, they get active when they are warm. We have seen a lot of active pike over the past twenty days. Of the 352 trophy fish landed in this period, 244 were pike (trophy size is 40″ or better).
And some of those trophies were monsters. As in every other season over the past two decades, the big pike start “going on their feed” in August. When the calendar page flips from July to August, we are into fall fishing patterns. The total numbers of fish caught are often lower, but the big gals (all the really big pike are female) start feeding heavily, knowing or just feeling that the long winter months of near dormancy lie ahead. These are the pike of fall that hit much harder and fight much harder than the fish of June or July. These are the pike with substantial girths, often too big for the guide to get his hand around. These can be bruisers and we have seen some of late. Three pike of 47 inches or better have been landed by lucky and skilled (it takes both elements) anglers: Bob Rennebohn and Bill Buckholz got 47 and a half inch beauties and Ronnie Williams landed a 47 inch pike with a massive head, making that fish look even meaner and more prehistoric than the typical monster pike. There were four anglers who got pike of 46 or 46 and a half inches: Dave O’Donnell, Stan Carter, Rob Borden and Dave Forman. Six more got pike of 45 or 45 and a half inches: Chris Ellerbroek, Casey Myers (he got two 45.5″ pike), Bob Forner, Bill Forner, Bob Chadwell and Frank Arey. That’s a lot of big pike. Our season’s total of trophy pike is now 983, getting very close to the all time record of 1,184 set just last season. But records are meant to be broken. Let’s see if our anglers will topple that mark over the final 15 days of the 2015 season.
Our Big Fat Lake Trout
We have been catching more than pike. Our 352 trophies over this period represented a nice mix of pike, lake trout and arctic grayling. Big lakers made the cover of the Tundra Times (our modest on island daily newspaper) quite a few times. There have been some real hogs. Mike Scheidt, a die-hard trout fisherman and long time Scott regular, put a particularly fat lake trout in his guide’s cradle. It measured in at 41.5 inches by the tape but by Mike’s smile it was a mile long. A trout of 41 inches was taken by Steve Bandt, aka “Big Dog” who has been at Scott for 17 consecutive seasons; he always seems to get a big trout or two. Foster Graf who at only 14 has caught quite a big trout already in his fishing career also landed a 41 incher, a fatty with a measured girth of just under 25 inches, a very impressive fish. Foster’s dad, Mark Graf, kept things even in the family by landing his own 41 incher on the same day. Other super-sized trout (the lodge’s name for trout of 40″ or better) were taken by Chip Webster, Larry Carter, Bob Forner and Don Beasley, who got his big one in the last hour of the last afternoon of his trip. There was a lot of trout action in what we term “jigging holes”, deep water trout habitat that hold lots of trout but rarely big trout. Small to medium size trout (28-32″) were just fine for a lot of anglers who love action. The vertical jigging technique used provides the same jolting strike as casting and does require concentration and close attention. Trolling for the big trout does require a firm grip on the rod and a strong hook set but it does free up one hand for a can of beer.
Acrobatic Arctic Grayling
While the arctic grayling can’t compete with pike and lake trout in size, they hold their own with attitude. No 50# test Power Pro or stiff rods with grayling. Just ultralight spinning gear or 4 weight fly rods. Size the gear to the fish and every species can be challenging and exciting. Grayling definitely meet that test. They are strong and delicate at the same time. Wonderfully acrobatic, they are a delight on light tackle. We have a number of guests who love the grayling experience: flying to a remote river that connects the many Scott Lake Lodge fly out lakes; getting into waders and stepping right into the river; carefully placing either dry flies, nymphs or tiny spinners into the pools and runs; and lightly lifting the rod to set the hook when one of the sailfish of the north takes the bait-it’s a ritual, a very satisfying one. Grayling fishing always gets better as the season progresses. It’s been excellent. Like pike, grayling love sunshine. It brings out the aquatic insects that comprise the bulk of a grayling’s daily diet. Fishing dry flies is the purest form of grayling, requiring a bit more skill and finesse. Lots of grayling were taken on dries over the past few weeks. Several guests have super-sized their grayling with fish of 18 inches or better. Jim Borden, Dave Lenz, Dave Forman, Casey Myers, Chris McKenzie, Andrew Hansen, Michael Smith Sr. and Jeff Monsein all landed grayling at this upper edge of grayling size in this part of Canada. Getting a grayling trophy (minimum of 15″) puts anglers in the running for a Trophy Triple Hat, earned by getting a trophy sized grayling, lake trout and northern pike. A number of angers pulled the hat trick lately: John Durant, Jeff Siebert, Dave O’Donnell, Priscilla O’Donnell, John Borden, Jim Borden, Casey Myers, Tom Fridel, Andrew Hansen, Oscar Rytting, Jackie Scott, John Pachuta, Bob Patterson and Charlotte Jannach. One angler, Casey Meyers, broke the 100″ barrier, getting three trophies collectively measuring 100 inches or more, and earned the 100+Club membership. He will get a fancy logoed jacket this Christmas with the images of the fish and their respective sizes embroidered on the front. Hitting that 100″ mark is not easy but it is challenging and fun.
Better and Better
Everything seems to be better with beautiful weather. In this sunny period, people really enjoyed the traditional Canadian shore lunches which up here are anything but traditional. The guides love showing off their outdoor cooking skills by preparing tasty and memorable lakeside meals of baked, blackened, stir-fried or just good ole deep fried fresh fish. They turn out some amazing meals, making this mid-day break a high point of the trip for many guests. As a bonus over the past few weeks, guests have enjoyed some incredible northern lights. The “show” on August 12th was nothing short of breathtaking. It was also the night of the Perseid meteor showers. We had shooting stars falling through a fast moving northern lights display. The entire sky was alive that night and every guest at Scott Lake Lodge watched with awe and deep appreciation. As we like to say, Scott Lake Lodge offers “World Class Fishing and More”. We certainly had the More over the past three weeks. In addition to the great fishing guests had some exciting wildlife sightings: several bears, some moose, a couple of wolves and even a close encounter with a musk ox on Smalltree Lake, the first sighting there of a musk ox which typically are found much further north. Many guests took advantage of the canoes, kayaks and stand up paddleboards and had some quiet evening paddles. Camp fires were a big thing as well. When it gets dark (something that doesn’t happen here in June or July), what is more soul satisfying than staring into a late night fire? It’s a primal feeling. We’ve had many late night campfires over past three weeks. Our chain saws have had a workout keeping up with the demand. So the More in “World Class Fishing and More” really blossomed in the first half of August. With 15 more days ahead who knows what more things our guests will enjoy. It just keeps getting better.
On the 60th parallel, July is the heart of summer—THE MONTH, the month of high, intense sun; endless blue skies; ripening blueberries and bearberries; countless wildflowers in full bloom, and smiling anglers. It would be wonderful to describe the last twenty days in that vein. But that would be writing about last season or maybe next season, but not this season. The 2015 season is batting a measly .200 (one for five) on the above criteria. Apparently the weather gods in this neck of the woods didn’t get the memo about all that sunshine we are supposed to be having in July. It’s been one of the cloudiest and wettest of the past two decades.
But it’s also been one of the fishiest. Neither rain, wind, clouds nor cold have kept our guests and guides off the wilderness of water of Scott Lake and the dozen fly out lakes scattered through distant reaches of the Northwest Territories. They have been fishing (and some cases even singing) right through the frequent showers. When nature gives you lemons, stir in the rain and make some tasty lemonade; that’s been the attitude around the lodge this summer: our anglers have kept their focus on the mission at hand—catching fish and enjoying the shore lunches, fine dining and the luxurious amenities of the lodge (the sauna has had a lot more use than in other years). It’s been inspiring to watch our crew face some tough conditions. But they have been rewarded with lots of fish and lots of big fish. No one complains about clouds and rain when they are at the other end of a savage pike or a bulldog lake trout. We have a tough group around here. They keep going and going and going and fishing and fishing and fishing, running on the EverReady batteries of the fishing world—the twin hopes that the last cast didn’t get quite close enough to the monster below but that the next cast will.
The past three weeks have afforded anglers great action along with a lot of trophy fish. In just twenty days 347 trophies were tallied: 246 pike, 70 lake trout and 31 arctic grayling. The pike total is getting very impressive. We are now at 739 trophy pike, a number that exceeds the entire 2012 season, is only 32 short of the 2013 season and is closing in on the all time record season of 2104 which saw 1,184 pike of 40” or better end up in the guide’s hands. That’s nothing short of sensational pike fishing, especially since on average our anglers catch about fifty smaller pike for every trophy landed. That’s a lot of fishing thrills. The trophy pike of the past three weeks have not been just a bunch of barely over the 40” mark either: we have seen some real hogs. Of the 246 trophy pike 17 have been in the “supersized” category of pike over 45”, a real fish of a lifetime. Six anglers landed 45s: Liz Shively, Derek Henderson, Bryce Wallace, Tim Smith, Bill Hendershot and Todd Lee. Another lucky six pack of guests added an extra inch to their supersized pike, landing 46s: Dave Wallace, who caught three 46s in a single day, Sydney Hasselkorn, who at twelve years old has the determination and skill of anglers many times her age, Ken Williamson Sr, Bill Williamson, Jason Loughran and Walter Keller. Then there were two anglers who really went deep into supersizing. On her first pike fishing trip Emma Shapiro brought a 48 incher to the boat and Dave Pepe landed his biggest pike ever, a 49” monster that was lurking on the edge of a rocky drop off and just could not resist the little plastic turbo pike at the end of Dave’s line. Both were fat, heavy pike.
We are in the middle of lake trout season now and the big ones have been turning up in the guide’s landing nets or cradles. In June and early July the cool surface water of our lakes allow lakers to spread around. They could be suspended at shallow depths over two hundred feet of water or in pike bays. They can be anywhere which often translates to nowhere. But when the surface water temps increase the trout head down where they can be more predictably targeted. Our electronics can find the trout but they can’t make them eat. Fortunately the Scott guide team has some tricks up their sleeves. Those arcs on the graphic displays of fish finders have been metamorphosing into fat lake trout posing for pictures along with some lucky anglers. People like Sydney (yes, that twelve year old again) Hasselkorn who had a trip of her young life: with no help from anyone she brought up a fat 40” lake trout, not an easy task for anyone. Others joining 40 inchers for photographs were Liz Shively, Jeff Keller, Dave Huntley, Evan Hendershot and Peter Amanatidis. Jack Potts and Jim Lande posed with 41 inchers and Al Williamson, a long time Scott Lake trout hunter, smiled along with a very girthy 42 incher.
There is still one other gamefish on the Scott Lake fishing agenda—the arctic grayling. Found in river segments between fly out lakes, the arctic grayling is easy to overlook. They have an image problem: they are small fish. When you only weigh a few pounds it’s tough to compete with bruisers like 49” northern pike. But for some of our guests grayling are just the right size. There are few fish that are as acrobatic and cooperative as grayling. It’s an understatement to say that they are not finicky: they love tiny spinners or almost any fly that either floats or sinks. Wading in a fast moving stream and casting to grayling is a satisfying experience for many of our guests. It’s quite similar to fishing streams in Montana, Idaho or Wyoming with one big exception: you will catch a lot more grayling here than trout there. Our supersize for grayling is 18” and we’ve had a few recently: Jim Williamson, Ken Williamson and Jason Loughran pulled in 18s and Jim Lande landed a 19” “sailfish of the north”, a descriptive tribute to the outlandish dorsal fin of the arctic grayling.
Getting a trophy grayling is one of the accomplishments needed to earn the Trophy Triple Hat or the 100+Club jacket. By getting a trophy in all three of our species, Al Ritter, Steve Ritter, Dave Huntley, Mark Jansen and Peter Amanatidis earned their hats. Ken Williamson, Al Williamson, Ken Williamson Jr got the hat plus the custom 100+Club jacket by catching trophies in all three species whose collective lengths reached or exceeded 100 inches, not an easy goal. For the season 14 year old Chase Larson still holds the top spot with 105 total inches. Al Williamson is at 103.5 and Joe Novicki is at 103. But the season is still young with 35 fishing days to go. Often our biggest fish of the year show up in August. Maybe this year August will be THE MONTH for both sunshine and big fish. Our angles will be waiting and watching. Stay tuned.
A big story in Canadian media and a smaller story in the US media has been the fires in Saskatchewan. It’s all over the news. Many of our guests have contacted the lodge wondering what things are like here, even wondering if we’re still open. I guess we’re living in a fool’s paradise here because we have fewer fires around Scott Lake this season than any in recent memory. Except for a relatively small fire near the Stony Rapids airport in late June, we have been fire free. After the drenching rains of July 4 and July 6, some of the heaviest we have ever seen here, we don’t expect any fires beyond those that cook your fish at shore lunch. There have been substantial forest fires to the south, especially around La Ronge, about 350 miles southeast of Scott Lake, but nothing close to us. Fortunately, favorable winds have kept nearly all of the smoke from the southern fires away from us. Even Saskatoon, the largest Saskatchewan city, has been heavily smoked in over the past few weeks. Most guests arrive at our dock expecting the smoke that we just don’t have. It has been very cloudy and cool with lots of rain, but the air is clear. Instead of battling fires, we are battling big fish.
While the conditions for catching big fish have not been in any way optimal (too cool and cloudy for effective sight fishing and for creating those pike feeding frenzies), our guides have found a way to find fish, especially northern pike. Fishing hasn’t been as hot as last year which set all time records for trophy pike, but it has been solid and is on track for an excellent trophy year. As in most years there are always a lot of fish caught, but big fish can be illusive (that’s why we call pike over 40” trophies). But our experienced guide team, thirteen guides with over 150 seasons on Scott, has been up to the challenge. So far this season (through July 5th) they have helped clients land a total of 493 trophy pike. That’s well ahead of the pace of the 2012 season (627 for the full season) or 2013 (771 for the season). Only an outrageous optimist would have expected to equal last year’s record total of 1,184 trophy pike for the season. But we still have 55 fishing days left and we haven’t yet had our big shot of hot weather–pike and sunshine go together like eggs and bacon. So just maybe that record isn’t so safe. The same trend is apparent in our “super-sized” pike, those over 45”. We have 25 of those in the books already, on pace to better 2012 and 2013 and even challenge 2014.
So who’s been catching all these huge pike? Since our last update (June 16th), twenty-nine anglers have watched the guide’s tape stretch out to 45” or better. Patrick Lynch watched the tape hit 45” twice; Steve “Big Dog” Bandt was seeing double as well with a 45 and a 45.5 incher; Glen Milner watched twice too but his pike were each 46”; Joe Daugherty split the difference—he landed a 45 and a 46. A number of other angles broke the 46” barrier: Ryan Luke who paired his with a 40” trout, Rory Wright, Craig Mataczynski and Scott Loeppert. A lot more got 45s: David Green, Mark Graf who also paired his pike with a 40” trout, Sam Sapien, Len Dorr, Joe Novicki, Conrad Paulus, Bill Rini, Bruce Kozlowski and Gerry O’Brien.
But the real fish story in this young season was delivered by an angler who was born in the 21st century: Chase Larson is only 14 years old and he took everyone else on the island (some who have had over 30 trips to Scott Lake) to fishing school. He had the fishing trip that anglers five times his age have only fantasized about. He started with a massive 48 inch pike, the biggest of the season. Then he added a fat 42” lake trout, also the biggest of the season. To put the icing on his cake and earn the first 100+Club of the season, he finished of with a trophy grayling for a total of 105 trophy inches, a number that just may hold the top spot all season. Joe Novicki isn’t far behind with his 100+Club total of 103. Congrats to both. We have had a number of Trophy Triple winners as well. If an angler gets a trophy in all three species (pike, lake trout and grayling) they get some bragging rights and a neat hat. The winners: Bridget Manuel, Josh O’Brien, Tim Van Den Heuvel, Bill Calabresa, Joe Novicki, Gord Kluzak, Glen Kluzak and Chase Larson.
Big fish are exciting to catch and talk about, but they are only a part of the Scott Lake experience. In the first 25 days of this young season, thousands of smaller pike, lake trout and grayling have bent our St. Croix fishing rods, giving anglers the shot of adrenaline they crave. There have been hundreds of fish just under our arbitrary trophy measures (40” for pike/35” for trout/15” for grayling). There have been pictures of 39” pike shown at the nightly “fish du jour” show that had incredibly large girths and would have weighed more than a lot of 40” pike, our trophy standard. Forty is just a number. A trophy fish is any fish that gives an angler a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction. The trophy numbers are tallied and biggest fish celebrated because the other parts of the fishing experience are so tough to quantify. Just try to put a number on seeing a black bear or moose on a wilderness island, or seeing an eagle cut an arc through a blue sky. Or even attempt to quantify the pleasure of getting your first hard fighting pike on a fly rod, tasting that first bite of a shore lunch fish that was swimming less than an hour before or hearing a common loon echo its haunting call around a quiet bay. There is sublime pleasure in simply pausing a cast to look at the pristine landscape. There is a lot more to a fishing trip than fishing. There are the conversations with your fishing partner in the boat, with new friends over an elegant dinner at the lodge and with your guide at boat side as you unwind the day or prepare for the next one. There are permanent memories created and friendships deepened. And all that in five days on the water at Scott Lake Lodge.
So, it’s been a great start to the 2015 season. Way beyond all the numbers: a lot of smiles and laughs. Who could ask for more?
The first week of the 2015 season at Scott Lake Lodge is in the books. For the Scott Lake Lodge staff is seemed like June 10 would never arrive. The planning and anticipation hit a crescendo at the traditional pre-season employee meeting on June 9th. There were many, toasts to the season ahead. The Scott crew was eager for the season to begin. Thanks to the relatively early ice out, our twelve acre island in the far north was ship shape and ready for prime time when the first anglers stepped off the float planes on the evening of June 10. It was a highly enthusiastic group. They were all primed to be the first to throw flies or lures into the inviting waters of Scott Lake and the lodge’s 14 fly out destinations. For the first time ever all but one of those fly outs were open and ready to go for the first group. Only Smalltree Lake, about 85 miles further north, still had ice. The ice was dark and broken up. Smalltree, one of our very best pike lakes, will be ready for our second group of guests. All of our guides were thinking, actually hoping, that this year would be a carbon copy of last season when the first group had the luxury of fishing in 80 degree weather with virtually no winds. That didn’t happen.
THERE WILL BE PIKE
It’s a good thing our guests were eager and hardy because it was overall a very cold and windy week; definitely not shorts and T-shirt weather. For the fly fisherman in the group, the wind was at times overwhelming. Despite the challenges of the weather, our inaugural group brought in some great fish. In the five days of fishing a total of 110 trophies were tallied, mainly pike, but also some beautiful lake trout and even a few grayling which are more active later in the summer. Things started off with a bang on the first day when Scott Smet brought a 46” pike to his guide’s cradle. With our pike trophy standard at 40”, neither Scott nor his guide had to wonder if that fish made the trophy mark: it was a beast of a fish. Over ninety more trophy pike followed that fish. One of the staff’s favorite guests, long time regular Doug Roche, was just under the leader with a very fat and healthy looking pike of 45.5”, the same tape length that Tim Van Den Heuvel saw when his guide pulled the tape on another beauty. Danny Martindale was right behind with a 45” heavyweight. Six anglers had the fight of their trip with 44 inchers: Bob Weyers, Dave Wanderer, Jim Kasier, Peter Leonivitz, Jeff Weyers and Harry Moulopoulus who picked up a pair of 44s. There were lots and lots of 42s and 43s. The fish wealth was spread around nicely. Everyone at Scott for the first week got a trophy pin for pike, lake trout or grayling and 23 of the 24 anglers got their pike pin.
During the early season lake trout, the stars of mid-season are difficult to target. They are feeding close to the surface but that surface could be two feet above the bottom or 200 feet. At this time of year with still very cold surface temperatures, they cruise the entire lake. At Scott that’s a lot of surface area, making big trout illusive critters in June. But this year we had our best ever opening week trout fishing with quite a few big trout making an appearance. Many of the really big ones found themselves at the end of Ray Johnson’s line. He was Mr. Trout of Week 1, landing lakers of 41, 40, 38.5 and 36 inches. All were caught close to the surface. Mike Roche got into the big trout game casting to a 39” fatty. One of the most exciting fly fishing experiences of the week was owned by hardcore fly guys, Bart Davies and George Virtue. They were fishing below the Kimiwan rapids and got into a bunch of hard fighting lake trout. In just over an hour they landed over twenty trout including a 36 incher. In that fast water their drags were singing and they were singing the praises of Scott Lake. Actually all the departing guests were singing the praises of both the fishing along with the great shore lunches, fine dining and the extraordinary service provided by 30 hard working men and women who have but one focus for 90 days—making every guest’s trip memorable, big fish or no big fish. They did a hell of a job to kick off the 2015 season. Fifteen more groups to go. . . who knows what will be caught. Stay tuned.
It’s been hot, incredibly hot for May, on Scott Lake. In our twenty years of operations we have never had the lake open in May. But it just could be this year. The lake is just one windy day away from breaking up. What a contrast to last May when the temperatures were hovering just above freezing for most of the month. Our island in the north has been basking in temperatures in the high 60s, even 70s for a couple of weeks now. An intrepid crew including guides Paul Hamilton, Cody Mychalyshyn and Jan Phoenix flew in by helicopter on May 12th to start the process of getting camp ready for the 2015 season. Instead of wearing down coats as our early-in crew last year did this year the appropriate apparel has been flip-flops, shorts and T-shirts. You can follow their exploits, including an interesting version of a “northern bath” by checking out our Face book site (www.facebook.com/scottlakelodge). At least we have a season when we will have a leisurely and enjoyable opening. After the drama of 2014 we’ll take it and enjoy it.
The crew has a lot to do yet before we are fully ready for our June 10th opener. The gang is putting the finishing touches on a new quadplex staff dorm. We have been increasing our staff numbers over the past few years and now have a lot more elbow room in Guideland. Also on the agenda are the many routine but time consuming tasks we do every season: take down all the plywood boards on all the cabins; connect all the water lines and install the large submersible water pump; unload thousands of gallons of Jet fuel for the Otter, AvGas for the Beaver, unleaded gas for the boats and diesel fuel for the two generators. This year we are also setting up four new 18’guide boats for Scott and four new 16’ boats for the fly out lakes. Of course there are the fourteen fly out lakes to set up as well. We have nearly forty outboards motors to check out and service. And a few hundred spruce trees to cut down, haul to the island, run through the municipal-sized wood chipper and then spread over the quarter mile of island trails. And unload and store several tons of food and supplies. And inspect, clean and maintain the 28 buildings around the island. And the list goes on and on and on. This season all those “ands” will require about 2000 hours of what can only be called what it is—hard labor. But ask any of the Scott Lake crew: it is a labor of love. And the early birds love every minute of their work, especially with warm temperatures making everything just a bit more pleasant.
One guy not working very hard is our Sales Manager, Jon Wimpney. His work is essentially done. We have had very few cancellations this year (a tangible sign that the economy really is back to pre-2008 levels) and he has only a handful, a small handful, of open spots to fill. Call him at 306/209-7150 if you have the itch. If the dates work he can scratch it.