NOT LONG NOW
It’s spring, both by the calendar and by the weather here in Bozeman, MT. In fact, for most of the west it’s been spring for several weeks. Not so much for our anglers in the upper Midwest and the east where winter just keeps hanging on. But today, March 22, it’s in the 60s in Montana with a blazing sun that on your face feels like 80—a little elevation will do that. It’s a sensation that’s a perfect reminder of summer at Scott Lake. Its’ just around the corner. Flip a couple of pages of the calendar and we will all be packing our gear. While it is over a thousand miles north of Bozeman, our island in the middle of Scott Lake is getting some nice sun as well. It’s in the 20s at Stony Rapids, 50 miles south of Scott, with a forecast of above freezing for the next week. That may not sound impressive unless you have clear memories of being at Scott in March with temperatures of 40 degrees BELOW zero. Since our ice out depends almost entirely on the temperatures in May, there will be no break up predictions yet. But above freezing sure beats 40 below, like 70 degrees worth.
For all of the Scott Lake Lodge team (and I suspect more than a few Scott customers), the trip to Scott Lake is the emotional peak of the year—sort of the Christmas gift that you never got as a kid. For our staff the lake is home: Scott Lake Lodge employees are like loons (and that’s a good thing). They scatter to warm climates for the winter but return to their home lake every year—for the clean, clear water, the abundant fish and the serenity. We know the feathered loons will be back in June and it looks like nearly all of our staff will be returning as well. Our General Manager, Jason Hamilton, has done a tremendous job rounding up our crew and bringing back a highly motivated and experienced group. Despite rumors of early retirements, every guide on the island last summer will be back in their boats on June 10. And we even dug up an extra one: long time vet Greg Hamm is returning after spending a few years as an electrician, working in a potash mine west of Saskatoon. A customer and staff favorite, Greg will get a big welcome this summer. He will be trading electric lighting a mile underground for the 20 hours of daylight on the 60th parallel—a very good trade indeed.
GET IN LINE FOR 2016
Jason Hamilton hasn’t been the only Scott Lake Lodge employee busy over the winter. Between his ice fishing trips, Sales Manager Jon Wimpney has been systemically filling up the lodge for the 2015 season. And his work is almost done. There are only a few spots left, all in the last two groups of the season. It’s been a terrific booking year for the lodge, so good that a number of people are already lining up to get their fishing vacations for 2016. It’s always been lodge policy to offer our customers the right of first refusal—they can reserve their week, cabin and guide for the following season. We don’t book anyone a year ahead. Even though we get a very high percentage of guests who book at the lodge for the next season before they leave the island, we do get some openings as each week of the season passes. A trip to Scott has always been a hot ticket, but for 2016 those tickets will be red hot. If you want a trip to Scott for 2016, especially if you have your eye on a spot in June or July, give Jon Wimpney a call today at 306/209-7150. Some things are worth the wait: a trip to Scott Lake Lodge is one of those things.
SHOW OFF YOUR FISH! VIDEO CONTEST WINNERS
We are pleased to announce the winners of this year’s Scott Lake Lodge video contest. Contestants had to produce a two minute video about their trip to Scott. With titles and graphics right out of Star Wars, Texan Todd Lee captured the top prize—a free fly out for two to Ivanhoe Lake, one Scott’s premier pike lakes. With great scenes of shallow water sight fishing for pike, including some memorable takes, Doug Roche, Jr. grabbed second place and won a Simms full back logo guide shirt. The Guide’s Choice award was taken home by Samara Moulopoulos. She gets a collection of sure-fire pike lures. Take a look at the three videos in our video contest channel on Vimeo.
NEW DIGS IN SASKATOON
After reviewing the customer evaluations from the 2014 season, it was clear that our experiment with a downtown hotel (even a first class hotel) just didn’t pan out. Most of our guests wanted to be close to the airport on the night before their flight back to civilization. And guess what? A beautiful new hotel, a Courtyard Marriott, opened up this winter in Saskatoon within sight of the airport (about a mile). It’s the perfect fit for our customer’s needs. It will be a very quick ride to the airport in the morning. And it’s a great hotel with a sit down restaurant and many amenities. Just go to their website to get all the details.
The 2014 season ended as it began, with an absolutely perfect sunny day. There were differences of course. In June it was really hot but there were vast areas of ice. In September it was pleasantly cool with the sharp, crisp edge of fall and only ice in the evening cocktails. At these bookends of the season the same things happened: lots of fish were landed, great shore lunches were enjoyed and anglers told their tales over a splendid dinner. Let’s be clear though. Here on the 60th parallel it was fall, not late summer, when the final group of guests threw their last casts on September 3rd. There were many perfect days over the last two weeks (three groups) of the season and there were some real ugly days. It’s all part of the fall fishing experience.
There were of course the feisty, fat, fighting fish of fall. As suggested in the previous update, the last two weeks of the season did bring the big fish to the boat. Fall fish, especially the pike, have to be fought and held to really appreciate how much these fish bulk up for the relatively dormant winter season ahead. They are fat, plain and simple. Pike with girths of 15 to 20 inches were the norm not the exception at the tail end of the season. Some even looked a little ridiculous, like they were in desperate need of a Weight Watchers program. One such fish was a 47.5 inch pike landed by Todd Hogan with a measured 20 inch girth, one of the heaviest fish of the season. Take out a tape measure and create a circle at the 20 inch mark. Now imagine a fish within that circle– that is one fat fish. A lot of the trophy pike (pike of 40” or greater) caught between August 19th and the closing day of September 3rd had girths of 17 or 18 inches. And these fish didn’t allow their ample waistlines to slow them down. The fish of fall know how to put up a good fight. They have been out hunting down big prey, mostly whitefish and burbot, putting on some weight for the long winter ahead. They have a lot of energy. These fish do not do two or three head shakes and swim toward the net: these fish of fall take repeated runs with screaming drags and know all the tricks like running toward the boat and making desperation dives under the boat which is a tricky maneuver for the angler to counter. They fight to the finish. Some are landed. Some are not.
One fight that had a successful conclusion for the angler came at the end of Peter Myhre’s line. His spinner made a couple of turns and his rod buckled: he knew immediately that this was a big fish. There were many breathless moments and heart stopping twists and turns before his guide got the cradle (a type of landing net without the long handle) under a very big fish. It measured 48.5”, the biggest pike of the season caught in the afternoon of the final day of the season. Just like in the playbook: you can’t make stuff like that up. Fall fishing does deliver big fish. Angling thrills like Peter’s were not uncommon during the final 15 days of the 2014 season. The big pike were on the move and quite a few of these supersized hogs ended up hunting down spinners, plastic lures or flies instead of whitefish, cisco or burbot. Since August 19th fifteen supersized pike, a very impressive one per day, made it to the big screen at the dinner hour’s fish du jour show. Peter Myhre added a 46.5, a 45.5 and two 45 inch pike to his haul for his extended fall stay, an amazing run of big fish. In addition to the big 47 caught by Todd Hogan, two other 47s, one caught by Joe Novicik and one by Robert Sotak, were landed over the last 15 days. Lodge Office Manager, Jordan Fryia, had one fly out day this season and made the best of it, getting a 46 incher. Fishing partners Connie Schmidt and Cliff Smith had a memorable day when both got 45.5” pike. Fat 45s were taken by Nick Manship, Tom Olson, and Tosh Craig. It was quite a pike parade. Fishing in late August and early September is quite different from the fishing of June and July. It requires more patience. Unlike early season which involves sight fishing the shallow bays and hunting down big fish, the late season features more blind casting in deeper water, generally five to twenty feet. There are more cranks per fish. But the big fish are worth the wait. It is anticipatory fishing where the hits are like linebackers leveling a halfback, but you never see it coming. It’s addictive.
Big lake trout did not get cut out of the action at the season’s end. A lot of trophy trout were caught including a half dozen supersized (over 40”) lake trout. Steve Schiltz and Rob Spencer had 41” lakers. Bill Shuneman, Mark Demyen, Steve Yarborough and Joe Daugherty all had the thrill of hanging onto the burning runs of angry lake trout at the 40” mark. As any angler who has experienced getting big lake trout knows, there is no fresh water fish with more fighting stamina than lakers. The angler doesn’t see the showy take like that of the northern pike but they feel a jarring hit. Next is the fun part: three or four long, high speed runs to the bottom after the angler has worked hard to bring them up near the surface. The lake trout is the fastest fish by far of the northern waters. They simply run down their prey. They truly are like freshwater tuna. Many consider the lake trout the real king of the northern fishery.
Grayling do not do blistering runs but they are a beautiful fish that punches heavy for its size. There were not many grayling anglers at the end of the season this year but those who gave it a shot were rewarded with great light tackle fights and the satisfaction of getting in the small rivers that connect the lakes in this part of the world. It’s a one with the fish experience. Mary and Joe Daugherty had a couple of cracks at grayling fishing and loved the tranquility of this type of fishing. Mary Daugherty landed the biggest grayling of the season at 19” and had several more of 17 and 18. Joe Daugherty got an 18 and several 17s as did Joe Novicki. Judy Novicki on her first grayling try got a 17.5 inch grayling. Matt Spencer and Steve Yarborough both wet a line for the miniature sailfish of the north and both connected with many including 17 inchers. Fishing for grayling is a wonderful complement or counterpoint to the tackle busting fights of big lake trout or pike.
Numbers do tell part of the ending of Scott Lake Lodge’s 2014 season, but certainly not the whole story. No one tried to count the countless numbers of geese or loons that passed over Scott over the final two weeks. How could one put a number on the powerful experience of watching the northern lights? The annual fall light show came on a bit later in the evenings than in other years, but those willing to stay up until one in the morning were rewarded with several incredible displays. Even the unsettled weather added to the emotion of the season. Late August is a time of change in the north: it brings its own excitement. Storms, low clouds, fog are all elements of the drama along with the smoky gold of the tamarack trees and the yellow of the birch. It’s a wonderful time to experience the north country. Warning: Sales Pitch Coming. . . So, if this kind of trip sounds interesting and you’re willing to bring boots instead of sandals give our intrepid guide/sales manager Jon Wimpney a call at 306/209-7150 or email him at email@example.com Jon retreated back to Saskatoon on the last charter flight of the season to be near his phone again, ready to bring the Scott Lake Experience to willing adventurers. Now the post season starts with a major construction project (a new staff dorm) and all the normal shut the place down work which in our expanded fly-out lake network includes a lot of flying. And maybe just a little more fishing. Stay tuned.
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.
The Scott Lake Lodge fishing team has pushed the 2014 season just past the mid-field mark. The first half has featured incredible action on the field of play. In the eighteen years of current ownership there has never been a first half with so much scoring: there has been an abundance of big fish and naturally many happy anglers. It has been an exciting game since June 10th, the day the ball was put into play. When the first group of anglers looked down at the island in the middle of Scott Lake late on that afternoon they were greeted with an unusual sight for the opening of the lodge-nothing but white as far as they could see. The white was not whitecaps. It was ice. The breakup this spring was quite unusual. In late May it was proceeding well with lots of hot days and some heavy rains. Things were looking great for an early staff arrival. There was no thought or worries about opening on time. Around June first though the temps dropped to below freezing and the big melt came to a halt. The Scott Lake management team bet on the sun to return in time. It almost did. On opening day it was hot but Scott Lake was still 90% ice covered. But where there is a will there is always a way at Scott Lake Lodge. Fortunately most of Scott Lake Lodge’s dozen fly out lakes were open and ready for the June 10th kickoff. GQD, our classic 1959 De Havilland Beaver and its younger and bigger cousin, a 1962 Turbo Otter were quite busy for those first five days. And the intense subarctic sun had returned bringing temperatures into the low 90s. It was a classic fire and ice story and the fire was winning by the hour. Everyone went fishing every day during those first five days of the season. The pike could not have been happier to play the game. On the first day alone thirty-seven trophy pike were landed. And it just kept getting better on the fishing front and the ice gave up the ghost by the end of that first week. Scott Lake was open for business.
For twenty-five consecutive days the conditions were idyllic: the skies were blue, not a drop of rain fell, the wind was mild from the south and that big ball of fire just kept pushing the pike of Scott Lake and all the fly out lakes into the shallow silt filled bays. It was an unbelievably perfect scenario: the late ice out had kept the main lake temperatures very cool, in the 50s for most of June, while the heat wave warmed the shallows to the high 60s and low 70s temperatures. That dramatic temperature differential just drove the pike wild-it was perfect. They could not get enough of that warm shallow water where it’s relatively easy to find them. The heat wave produced the best pike fishing in the history of the lodge, driving the trophy counts to all time highs. Between June 10th and June 30th a total of 530 pike of trophy size (40″ or better) were tallied, a daily average of 26 per day. There were a lot of smiling faces on the nightly “fish du jour” show on the big screen at the lodge. So it went for the first five groups at the lodge, right into the first week of July. There was even one monster trout thrown into the mix, an extremely girthy 43.5″ laker landed by Steve Bandt less than a hundred yards off our island. The trout of Scott Lake also give Bill Calabresa an angling thrill, kicking out beauties of 40, 41 and 42 inches. But every bubble eventually bursts and so did this one. Our sixth group at the lodge on July 5th was greeted with a big north wind and much cooler temperatures. The fishing slowed down as the cold temps pushed the pike out of the shallows into the now warmer main lake where they were simply harder to find. Instead of flip flops, T-shirts and shorts, our anglers were wearing boots, down coats and rain bibs. They were in the penalty box (hockey metaphors are important in Canada). That vicious cold front lasted eight days and gave our customers that “I should have been here last week” feeling. But that’s fishing. It’s always been about weather and the luck of being in the right place at the right time. After those nasty eight days the heat returned and so did the fish. The game was on again: the fishing and the catching were, well, normal-a couple of sunny days (lots of fish) and then some clouds and rain (fewer fish). It was fishing. And it was pretty darn good again. The trophy numbers just kept rolling along though mid and late July.
At the fifty yard line the first half stats are just amazing. Through July 25th a total of 931 trophies have been recorded. In all of 2013, a very good season, the total trophy count reached 1,276. With 787 northern pike trophies we have already exceeded the 771 pike trophies of the entire 2013 season. With steady fishing continuing, the 2014 trophy production is clearly headed for an all time record. Numbers aren’t very exciting but the people and the emotion behind those numbers are quite exciting. Just talk to some of the people who have experienced this fishing frenzy. We have had some incredible days over the past six weeks. Epic pike fishing days like the one where long time Scott guests Mike Borden and Steve Bandt (aka “Big Dog”) brought in nineteen trophy pike between them. We’ve had lots of those big days: Keith and Peg Burns with ten pike trophies in a single day; Jim and Al Willimason with ten; Dan Myers and Mike Rogers with nine; Scott Nelson and Tony Winczweski with eleven; Joe Novicki and Bill Calabresa with nine (plus four grayling trophies); Conrad and Dave Paulus with nine; Frank McNally and Tom Kehoe with ten; Mark and Foster Graf with eleven; Kevin Denny with seven as a solo act, and Ken and Dave Thome with seven without moving the boat on Premier Lake, a lake connected to Scott Lake. There have been an extraordinary number of “super-sized” pike, a term we use for pike of 45″ or better, true fish of a lifetime. Dave Worth and his son Tim teamed up for a day to remember. Tim landed seven trophy pike but dad caught the TD pass when he boated his personal best pike-a monster of 48″. There have been many absolutely huge fish in the first half of the season. Jason Lukert landed a 48. Jeff Hamilton got a 47.5″; Whitney Meyers, a 47″. And just yesterday, Greg Frimel got his biggest pike ever, a fat 47 incher. Scott anglers have taken so many 45s and 46s that it would fill your computer screen many times over. The numbers of big fish just scream off the screen: 58 pike over 45″ and 31 over 46″, compared to 2013 full season totals of 62 for pike over 45″ and 31 over 46″. That’s a lot of huge fish.
These great numbers reflect an exciting first half of the season, one with the home team way ahead. It was not a stretch of time without some operational struggles: the walk-in refrigerator needed emergency repairs; the commercial oven in the kitchen required a trip from the repair guy who like the refrigerator guy lives 550 miles away; one changeover was delayed a day due to a violent storm, and the usual maintenance issues of keeping 40 outboard motors running well–all reminders of how challenging running a resort in a remote setting can be. Looking toward the second half of this game we are expecting a lot more playing time from the lake trout and grayling of our lakes and rivers. Trout season has been late in kicking off this year; the big trout are just starting to show up in their deep summer holes and the Scott guides are pulling out their play books to bring these freshwater tunas into the stats. And the arctic grayling will get in the game as well. This season started with very high and fast water in the rivers where the grayling live, making fishing for them difficult. There time is now at hand. Stay tuned for the second half of this wonderful game. There are lots of stories ahead.
Easy Winter at the Lodge
A crew of six recently spent a week at the lodge starting the process of getting the infrastructure ship shape for the coming season, now just a month away. They installed 96 new batteries (big batteries) for the photovoltaic power system. Even in the still weak early spring sunlight, the solar system fired right up and put a terrific charge in the batteries. The use of power tools to do some cabin improvements did not dent the battery bank’s charge level. We anticipate using far less diesel generator time this season.
No one had been on the island since September and all the buildings fortunately were untouched. The snow was the deepest in many years. Recently retired General Manager John Gariepy has made a winter trip to the island for ten straight years and had never seen as much snow. That bodes well for high water levels after ice out which should allow access to some previously unavailable bays. And it will give the guides a little better clearance over the legendary and nasty Scott Lake boulders. Unlike most winters there was scant little caribou sign this year. The big herds (they are unpredictable) were further east this winter. At least one big lake trout did winter right next to the lodge. New General Manager Jason Hamilton took enough time off of working to pull a fat 42” lake trout through the ice. That one quickly went back into the lake but a lot of smaller ones had a different fate—fish fries were part of the crew’s menu.
Jason also noted the abundance of wolf sign on the island. It looked like they really went to town on the island’s snowshoe hare population. With people on the island for four months in the summer there are no predators to keep the rabbit numbers in check. When the ice is firm the wolves come across to have a picnic.
Temperatures were in the low 60s last week, giving all of the Scott family hope that ice out will be normal this year. The goal is to get a crew in around June first to start the work of getting everything set for our June 10th opening. Keep watching this News page for details.
TIME TO VOTE
It’s time to vote for your favorite entry in the 2014 Show Off Your Fish! video contest. We have five short videos at our Vimeo site. Take a look and “Like” your favorite. You only have until May 31 to cast your vote. And like real elections we hope you keep to the one angler/one vote rule.
Keep your cell phone or camera handy this summer on your Scott Lake Lodge trip. This contest will be an annual event with a top prize of a fly out for two on your next Scott trip.
Cancellation Spots Still Available
There are still four spots available for the week of August 24th—29th. A corporate cancellation of 12 opened up that week and those spots are available at a discount. Give Jon Wimpney an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him (right now) at 306/209-7150. We also have a few spots scattered around the calendar. Just this week we had a four person cancellation for one of our most coveted weeks of the season—June 30-July 5. Historically that has been one of our top trophy producing weeks of the season. That trip is right in the middle of prime time so those spots will not sit around long. Call Jon—now.
Get on the List
Every season we do get some last minute cancellations. If you have a flexible schedule and just can’t get enough of Scott Lake Lodge give Jon an email (see above) to get on the list. Some late cancellations can turn into great values for you.