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.
It’s getting pretty warm in the north. The last few days of April will see temperatures into the 60s with rain forecast in early May. That’s quite a contrast to the below freezing temperatures of last May. It is looking good for an early ice out. Scott Lake Lodge, with its collection of 28 buildings, is also looking good. A crew led by Jason Hamilton, Scott’s General Manager, returned recently from an inspection trip. There were very few snowmobile tracks in the area (the caribou that lure snowmobiling hunters north stayed much further north this winter, leaving the lodge untouched). Everything was exactly as we left it last September. The final loads of lumber and supplies were flown in with a single Otter on skis to complete the new staff dorm that was started last fall. A small group, including guides Paul Hamilton, Jan Phoenix and Cody Mychalyshyn, will be flown in by helicopter (the skis come off the planes very soon) in mid-May to finish that job and get the island ready for the June 10 opener.
SOME NEW/MANY FAMILIAR FACES
The entire guide team will back for the season. Steve Yanish and Shaun Ledoux will be splitting the season with Shaun on deck for the first half and Steve for the second. And we are very pleased that long time Scott guide Greg Hamm is returning after a few years in civilization, if you can call working in potash mine civilized. All of our guys will be ready, willing and eager to show their anglers a fantastic trip this summer. There are some new faces in the Shore Staff group, arriving from all compass points except north—Ontario, British Columbia and Saskatchewan. We have a new massage therapist, Sydney Raeburn. Returning veteran Dani Grunberg will be the Hospitality Manager this season. She will be bringing into the fold three new servers—Brenna Savery, Mary Reid and Jackie Tourand. Head Chef Jeff Walker has all of his team back except for Sefan Beattie. Those shoes will be filled this year by Nigel Rivera. Agnes Ramos, our Hospitality Manager for several years, will be heading to the lodge office to take over as Office Manager. She will be utilizing her organizational expertise to keep track of the hundreds, maybe thousands, of logistical details and dilemmas that get passed off to that position. Everyone at Scott appreciates the hard work and big smile that Agnes always brings to her work.
WELCOME RON SPORK, NEW SHAREHOLDER
After 19 years of going solo as owners, Tom and Pat Klein are delighted to share the risks and rewards (yes, we do have secret, private water) of ownership with Ron Spork. Ron owns and operates Consolidated Fabrication and Contractors, Inc., a Gary, Indiana company specializing in building custom petroleum storage tanks and other equipment for the gas and oil industry. Ron has been a Scott “regular” for several years and shares with Tom and Pat a tremendous love and appreciation for Scott’s pristine lake environment. And he does love to fish as well: lake trout are at the top of Ron’s favorite fish list. Ron’s stated goal for joining the shareholder group is to “make sure that the unique culture at Scott doesn’t change”. It will not. And with his sons he will be doing some Scott Lake fishing for many years to come when his busy travel schedule allows. The management structure at Scott will not change at all: Tom Klein will continue to do what he’s always done over the past 19 years—interact with customers and fish. Jason Hamilton will run the place. It’s a great system—for Tom.
SASKATOON TRAVEL: GET YOUR TICKETS EARLY
For any angler traveling to northern Saskatchewan, Saskatoon is the jumping off point. It is a very busy summer city. With the recent pull out of United Airlines, commercial air travel to Saskatoon has become a bit more difficult. The only non-stop from the United States is now the Delta flight from Minneapolis. There are connecting flights from Canadian cites to Saskatoon. Air Canada flights from Winnipeg and Edmonton do synch up nicely with the Scott Lake charter flight. Check with the Scott Lake Customer Service Office before you book your flight to Saskatoon or play it safe and do what many Scott customers are doing– arriving the day before their charter flight to the lodge or stay with the daily Delta flight leaving Minneapolis at 1:05 PM. The Scott Customer Service Office number from the US is 888/830-9525 (from Canada use 715/362-7031).
STAY IN THE LOOP
Stay tuned to all lodge developments including ice conditions, the spring work schedule and some great pictures by regularly checking out our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/scottlakelodge). And check out the News from the 60th section of our website (www.scottlakelodge.com). If you can’t make the trip this summer, it’s the next best thing.
JOIN THE FUN BUT DO IT NOW
But a digital, vicarious trip is nothing like the real thing. We have very few openings left for 2015. There are have fewer than normal cancellations this year but we do have a few. We now have openings for two anglers July 10-14; July 20-25 and July 30-August 4. And we have room for up to six for August 19-24. That’s it! Call Jon Wimpney, the Scott Sales Manager, today at 306/209-7150 for details.
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.