The Transition

For most of the two decades here at Scott Lake Lodge the transition from summer to fall has been a gradual, almost imperceptible process, sliding smoothly from the hot, sunny days of summer to the cool, stormy days of fall. This year that transition required all of one day. It happened on August 17th. After the previous day had been one of those ripe, blissful, almost perfect summer days with high clouds, lots of sun, a soft south breeze and temperatures in the high 70s/low 80s, the 17th was a violent slap in the face, a wakeup call that the weather was going to get serious. Greeting our guests on that morning was a violent west wind strong enough to pick hats right off of heads, really. All day it kept building and moving north. The multitude of Canada geese, spending their summers in the subarctic ponds to the north, loved it. Of course, they had down coats and an urgent need to get south. Who would not pick up a free ride south? The sky was alive all day with the sights and sounds of migrating honkers, the first big push of the year. Boats on the lake did not get an easy ride. It was a rough day with many anglers returning early. Floatplane riders had quite a ride too. Going north took a lot longer than normal and was a bit bumpy. Our single turbo Otter normally flies at around 130 mph. On the afternoon of the 17th it was clocking a ground speed of about 80 mph. Quick math there gives one an idea of just how fierce those gusts were. But going south was a real kick in the pants. Our Beaver, not known as a speed demon, typically chugs along at 90-95 mph. On a return from a northern fly out, GQD or Old Yellow as some call her, was pretending to be a fighter jet, ripping the skies at 130 mph. That big north wind put the temperatures in the 50s. Our guests looked like arctic explorers not summer anglers.

The fish didn’t care much for the radical temperature drop either. It was a slow day on the water, but our fish will get used to the change in a day or two-they always do. It was time for “the change”. All the signs around our lake pointed to fall: the birch trees were showing a few yellow leaves at their tops; the ground cover plants especially the blueberries, bearberries, cranberries and the wonderfully named bastard toadflax (it’s real-look it up) all were starting their turn to crimson. Even some of the mosses were taking on a rich, reddish hue. But it’s our loons that always herald the start of fall. For a couple of weeks groups of loons have been gathering on Scott Lake and some of our fly out lakes, groups of a dozen or more. These are unmated loons without family bonds that start their staging early on northern lakes, preparing for the long flight south, mainly to the Gulf coast between Florida and Texas. They were a noisy, boisterous crowd with lots of wild calling. The mated loons have been much more sedate. They are still taking care of their young. We have been watching a pair since just days after ice out. They have spent the entire summer in the protected area around the islands just south and east of the Lodge: courting, nesting, feeding (small lake ciscoes mainly) and taking care of their chicks which now are nearly half the size of their parents. The night before the big blow they were right in front of the main dock, apparently enjoying the last evening of warm, calm conditions. It will be at least another month before the young birds will be flying and thinking about their own trip south (the parents leave individually without their young-it’s a tough world out there in loondom). In the meantime they fish, as do the guests at Scott Lake Lodge. Like the loons, our guests enjoy their fish, but well-cooked at shore lunches. Like loons, they can’t spend enough time on the water.

Their time on the water has been extraordinarily productive this season. What started as a record breaking season for big fish has continued to cough up huge pike and now finally some huge lake trout. Over the 24 days since the last Scott Lake Lodge update (The Season at Midfield) we have tallied another 330 trophy fish, mainly pike. And some really big pike: lucky (or skilled) anglers put another 15 “supersized” pike, trophy fish of 45″ or better in the books.  Ben Derrico added a 48 incher to the season’s total. Just behind in the big pike parade were Ken Truman and Alan Barrison with 47″ fish. Three anglers-Ian Tune, Scott Almoney and Chuck Dannewitz-had trophy fish of 46″ and a big crowd hit the 45″ mark: Harley Weiss, Greg Frimel, Alex Richards, Jeff LeBenger, Conner Dannewitz, Norm Shaprio, Harold Trusky and Joel Tune. That’s a pile of big pike. Many, many more enjoyed the company of ordinary trophies, those in the 40-44″ range, all fish of a lifetime if your lifetime has been spent in the pike waters of the upper Midwest where many of our anglers call home. This was the season of fat fish. All of our guides, some with twenty years on Scott, have commented on the huge girths of this year’s fish. Maybe the warmer water of Scott Lake (the lake trout are spawning 10 to 15 days later now than a decade ago) is building bigger fish or maybe it’s just a random thing but this year’s trophy fish had definite waistline issues, the kind that anglers love.

At last the big trout have been showing up on the TV screen after dinner when the fish du jour make their pictorial appearance. While the pike fishing has been over the top this season, the lake trout fishing has been surprisingly slow. Perhaps with the hot pike fishing guides spent less time on the trout but several of our trout specialists noted that the numbers were solid but that the big gals were scarce. Until recently. Over the past 24 days a dozen supersized trout (fatties over 40″) were taken. Blake McGhee, Suzanne Noble, Ian Tune, Karl Spork and Mike Sauser stopped shaking long enough to watch the tape hit that 40″ mark. Joel Tune, Suzanne Noble (yes, again) and Jake McLaughlin saw their guide’s thumb at 41″. Mark Graf and Tim Svonevek were thrilled to see 42″ and Stu Sauser inched up to 43″. All magnificent fish and very happy anglers.

For most of our 18 years at Scott we have seen the biggest fish caught in the final two weeks of the season. We’ll see if the cooler weather of fall brings out the prowling instincts of our big fish. But whatever size ends up in the boat we know that our anglers have had a great time: our rebooking rate this season has been excellent. This is one of those once in a lifetime experiences that must be repeated every year because in fishing one lifetime just isn’t enough.