Some people have no luck at all. Some had a little luck. And then there are always those who have all the luck. That’s the way it usually goes with most things in life, including fishing and getting great weather on fishing trips. Looking back on the 2015 fishing season at Scott Lake Lodge, we saw the luck game, at least the luck concerning nice weather, play out by the rules of conventional wisdom. While all 16 of the groups attending our “fishing university” this season experienced great fishing and, judging by our re-bookings and by our online evaluations, had a wonderful time, a few groups had, let’s be honest, lousy weather to cope with. Some had a day or two of at least partially sunny weather. A few had three of four nice days. But only one group, our very last one, had all the luck: five consecutive days of brilliant sunshine with soft warm breezes—absolutely perfect conditions for both fishing AND catching. Those lucky stiffs had it all for a perfect fishing holiday: the sunshine for sight fishing, a totally bug-free environment, opportunities to see fantastic northern lights, the sights and sounds of thousands of migrating geese and loons, after dinner bonfires under a clear sky and, rather importantly, incredible fishing. Both the fishing action and the big fish activity were as good as it gets. We apparently did save the best for last. One guest with over ten trips to Scott (mostly in June) had his single best day of fishing ever, anywhere at Ivanhoe Lake, one of Scott’s most popular fly out destinations. Dave Wanderer wasn’t shy about his praise about the fishing: “It was awesome, an absolute orgy of fish— a profusion trout and pike.” He added that the northern lights experience was “the cherry on the sundae”.
As we have experienced year after year, we see the big pike really come alive during August. Some magnificent fish were brought to the boats during those final five sublime days of the 2015 season. On the afternoon of the final day of the season, Sam Bajalia landed probably the last trophy of the season. It was a dandy. You could not find a more perfectly marked or superbly healthy looking 47 and a half inch pike anywhere in the world. It was just a beautiful fish. Long time guest Mike Manship got another monster that week, his personal best pike, a very girthy 47 incher. Kay Myhre “supersized” with both pike and trout that week getting a 46”pike and a 41.5” lake trout. Peter Myhre and John Sober both added 45” pike to the parade of big fish, but Chris Rowland brought in a real heavyweight, an extraordinarily fat 42” trout.
A BIG FISH BONANZA
While the perfect weather for the last group (August 24-29) caught everyone’s attention, the fishing was equally good for the two earlier groups (August 15-19 and August 19-24). There were a total of 187 trophy pike landed during the last fifteen days of the season. That’s not an outrageous number compared to many of the June and July weeks, but inside those numbers were some real hogs. The late season feeding frenzy by big pike is a fact. During these two weeks so many modest sized fish (both trout and pike) were crashed at boatside by huge pike, or “T-boned” as the guides like to phase it, that it was hardly a topic of conversation. It happened multiple times every day. These were aggressive fish, ready for a fight. And a fight many of them got. Some successfully won their battles by getting off, but quite a few ended up posing for pictures. Of the 23 pike of 47 inches or better landed during the 2015 season, 12 were caught over the last fifteen days. That’s 53% of the giants in just 17% of the season. In addition to the big fish described from the final five days, there were boatloads of big pike netted in the previous ten days. On the screen after dinner during the “fish du jour” presentations, there were supersized trout, pike or grayling every night (trout of 40” or better, pike of 45” or better and grayling of 18” or better). Big pike showing up on screen included 45 inchers landed by Scott Bixby, Richard Spork, Allen Clark, Sonya Boone, Laura Velas and Joe Daugherty; 46 inchers by Alex Spork, Patrick Spork, Ned Bixby, Ross Purpura and Sonya Bonne (Sonya wasn’t happy with just a 45); 47 inchers by Kay Myhre, Peter Myhre and Laura Velas (her personal best); and a pair of 48 inchers by Bill Langford and Doug Vorhees. That’s a lot of jumbo pike in just ten days. There were some huge trout as well: 40 inchers by Kay Myhre and Joe Velas. Lonnie Thompson picked a pair of huge trout, a 40” and a 42”. Late summer is the best time for big grayling and these sailfish of the north did not disappoint those anglers who flew to the connecting rivers between Scott’s expansive network of seventeen fly out destinations. Supersized “ling” of eighteen inches were taken, mostly on dry flies, by Barbie Purpura, Taylor Lajoie, Joe Daugherty, Mary Daugherty, and Peter Myhre. Paul Rowland took top honors for the week and the season with a beautiful twenty inch grayling.
Getting a trophy grayling is a requirement for earning the Triple Trophy hat, earned by catching a trophy of all three Scott species. With the lower water levels of late summer and some warm temperatures, the fishing for grayling was terrific over the last two weeks of the season. Lots of our anglers left wearing their hats. It’s a long and impressive list for just fifteen days: Robert Patterson, Foster Graf, Mark Graf, Dave Forman, Alex Spork, Patrick Spork, Kay Myhre, Peter Myhre, Taylor Lajoie, Doug Lajoie, Barbie Purpura, Ross Purpura, Mary Daugherty, Todd Rosenberg, Simon Rosenberg, Paul Rowland and Chris Rowland (we almost ran out of hats). Many of these anglers upgraded to the 100+Club by having the total length of their three biggest trophies in each species reach or exceed 100 inches. Those lucky and skilled anglers (it’s not all luck) will get a customized logo jacket with the length of their big fish embroidered over outlines of the three Scott Lake game fish. She didn’t get there until the last afternoon of the last day but Kay Myhre jumped to the top of the 100+Club leaderboard with a 41.5” laker. During her stay she landed a pike of 47, the trout of 41.5 and a grayling of 17.5. That’s a great fishing trip. Her total of 106 inches was top for the season, inching out the 105 inches totaled by Chase Larson way back in June (Kay was sorry to steal the title from 14 year old Chase but we deal in facts here and he has a lot of fishing years ahead of him). Chris Rowland and Alex Spork tied for the third spot with 104 inches. Other 100+ members from the last fifteen days included Foster Graf, Mark Graf, Dave Forman, Patrick Spork, Joe Daugherty, Peter Myhre, Taylor Lajoie and Paul Rowland. There was real surge in 100+Club membership in late August. For the entire season only nineteen of our guests achieved that lofty goal and twelve of those (an amazing 63%) did it over the final fifteen days of an 85 day season.
Those twelve anglers, along with everyone else at the lodge for the late August slot, all have wonderful stories to tell: tales of the big fish landed (and usually the bigger fish lost), the laughter and jubilation in the boat, the quiet interludes when the infinite silence of this vast sub-arctic wilderness soaks into the psyche. Those stories will keep the fishing fires burning over the fall and winter, to be replaced by new stories from the 2016 season. Most of those stories will include tall tales of the northern lights. Starting in mid-August we had regular late night light shows. For some staying up until midnight was just not an option. Fishing for ten hours a day was all they could handle. But for many sitting up at the bonfire by the main lodge was a nightly rite. We had some incredible northern lights this fall. And we had for a bonus the Perseid meteor shower which lasted several days. It was perfect this year. The new moon was August 14, creating a very dark sky (the nearest source of light pollution is Saskatoon, 550 miles south), providing the ideal contrast for watching the northern lights and the meteor shower. We had a couple nights where the fiery meteors streaked right through the northern lights, a remarkable sight. For some at the lodge it was the highlight (pun definitely intended) of their trip, exceeding the satisfaction of landing big fish. It was memorable and making memories is what a Scott Lake trip or any Canadian fishing adventure is all about. It’s an experience that changes people in very positive ways. One guest, Dolores Bandow, expressed it beautifully and with a zing of humor: “Scott Lake is my new favorite place. I arrived as a virgin and became a downright skilled hooker.” She had been a bit apprehensive about coming to a fishing camp, probably thinking of thick cigar smoke, cafeteria quality food, lukewarm showers and gruff guides who hated to see a woman in their boat. What she discovered at Scott was very different: “I was surprised how attractive Scott Lake Lodge was to be as a woman—the staff was so gracious and accommodating. Our guide was amazing. I felt completely welcomed.” That’s a good feeling, one shared by most if not all of the 2015 Scott Lake Lodge guests. Our customer service team always finds ways to make everyone feel at home, part of the extended Scott Lake Lodge family. The Scott Lake team thanks all the season’s anglers for helping to make 2015 a memorable season, even if we did miss our breaking our trophy pike season record (it was so close, just 14 less than last year’s record number of 1,184). And our thanks to all the fish who offered to dance at our party. Except for the shore lunch volunteers, they will all be around for the 2016 party.
POST SEASON WRAP UP
There were not a lot of fishing stories from the post season. It was about work. It’s no small job to shut down an island with 28 buildings–draining water, staining some cabins, winterizing plumbing, boarding up every building, placing nail studded bear boards around cabin entrances, closing seventeen fly out lakes, winterizing the fleet of sixteen lodge boats, taking apart the floating dock and on and on and on. This fall a crew led by guides and ace carpenters Paul Hamilton and Cory Craig banged out a sizeable storage building in just over a week. Now there are 29 buildings on the island. The new one will keep our lumber, tools and machines out of the weather over the long winter. There was some time for fishing and for a few days some warm and sunny weather. The favorite target of our crew this fall was the whitefish. Generally a deep water fish, many of our whitefish head to the Northwest River, not surprisingly located in the northwest corner of Scott Lake, to spawn. There is no greater kick for many of our guides than hooking these hard fighting fish on light fly rods with tiny trout nymphs. Up to seven or eight pounds whitefish are also the best eating fish in the lake. There were quite a few smoked whitefish on the after-season menu. So, Scott Lake Lodge is shut down for the season. Soon some wolves and bears will be swimming to the island to check things out. Until next June the island belongs to winter, that great stretch of silence interrupted only by the calls of the ravens or a howl of a wolf.
While it seems a long way away now, the 2016 season is filling up quickly. Over half of our customers come back to Scott year after year. Some weeks are already full. If a Scott Lake Adventure is on your bucket list, now is the time to lock in your dates. Our guide/Sales Manager Jon Wimpney is ready to take your phone calls or emails to answer any questions or to just talk fishing. Jon can be reached at 306/209-7150 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. If your experience with Scott Lake Lodge has been all virtual (reading these e-newsletters and following the Tundra Times on our website) it’s time to trade the virtual for the real thing. Stop thinking about the trip to Scott and book in for 2016. Call Jon today. He is never far from his phone, even when he is fishing.
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.