Join the crew as they talk about a different year, COVID, ice out fishing and the construction projects underway.
Listen at your favourite podcast locations:
Join the crew as they talk about a different year, COVID, ice out fishing and the construction projects underway.
Listen at your favourite podcast locations:
LIGHTS OUT: THE WEEK 17 UPDATE
Sometimes being last is OK. At least that’s the way it turned out for our final group of the season. They had a “lights out” trip, literally. Many of our guests had expressed interest in seeing the northern lights. Well, the lights were out and, for those willing to stay up late, they got a great show. Of their five nights on this island smack on the 60th parallel, four featured northern lights; two nights were average and two were, to borrow a phrase from the 60s, out of sight. One doesn’t need to understand the northern lights to enjoy them. It’s just a light show on a very big stage. While the lights seem to hover pretty close, they are actually quite far out. They do their thing in a range of 50-300 miles above the earth, the result of a giant electrical discharge created by a cosmic generator using the earth’s magnetic field and the solar wind which interacts with the oxygen and nitrogen molecules in the atmosphere. And that’s just the beginning of the science, none of which is nearly as poetic as the experience of just watching. Watch our group did, often right on the deck of the main lodge. It was indeed a highlight of the trip for many.
There were many other highlights. People do come here to fish and not just enjoy the many amenities of the lodge life. Fish they did. With the small to medium sized lake trout now up and shallow, the numbers were impressive. Of the several thousand fish landed in five days, 124 met our trophy standards, not a record week but a very good week. Jim Kusar had his own version of a lights out trip. He had a day any pike angler would dream about. How about six trophy pike in one day that included lifetime trophies like a 46 and a 48 incher? Just to rub it in, he added a 45-inch pike a couple of days later. That’s a trip. He wasn’t alone in watching huge pike slide into a guide’s big net. Joan Schackmuth, Adam Strobel, Gerry O’Shaughnessy and John O’Shaughnessy all had pike of 45 inches or better. For some it was a much smaller fish that made their trip. Grayling were back in the news this week. We have found a real grayling mecca. Mark and Rebecca Graf were there and pulled sixteen trophy grayling out of the rapids with both landing 18 inchers. Dave Dalvey, Debbie Blue and Grant Mitchell also put 18s in their guide’s grayling-sized net.
The lake trout were on the move. In late August and early September, thousands (maybe tens of thousands) lake trout move from the deep water to stage near their spawning grounds on shallow, rocky reefs. One of our 22 fly out lakes is smaller than others and has a history of an early trout spawn. Paul and Tess Rowland were there to meet them. The deeper edges of the spawning reefs were alive with trout. They caught dozens upon dozens. These weren’t the monster trout that we get trolling in deep water, but they were fighting fools of 25 to 35 inches. Pound for pound these far north lake trout can hold their own in fighting speed and stamina with any of the more storied freshwater fish like peacock bass, tiger fish or golden dorado. You just need to meet them on their own terms—cold, shallow water. Of their many trout, one was quite memorable; it was the disappearing trout. Paul brought a beautiful trout painted in vivid fall colors to his guides waiting net. The guide expertly removed the hook. The fish was calmly swimming in the huge net as he reached for the measuring tape, but when he put his hands in the net, he found not a heavy trout in his net but a hole at the bottom of the net. Always a good sport, Paul just admired a new quality in his guide—the magician who can make a trout disappear. In truth, measured and photographed, it would have been just another trophy trout. This way it’s a story. Many other nets had no holes and dandy trout were actually measured. Mark Graf, in over 30 trips to Scott Lake Lodge, has caught some huge trout, one of our biggest ever in fact, but he never landed a trout that looked as ancient as the 42 incher that came out of one of our newer fly out lakes—the picture says it all. Other big lakers made the trip for Grant Mitchell (a 40.5” lake trout that was in six feet of water and landed on spinning gear), Ron Juergens (a 39.5-inch beauty) and Liz Snyder (a deep water 39 incher). Patrick O’Shaughnessy had a four-trophy trout day topping out at 38 inches.
The group had four wonderful fall days until the fifth day when a cold wind sent many of our guests back to the lodge and the warmth of their cozy rooms. They had all caught plenty of fish and had their own stories and memories. Long time guest Dave Dalvey just had to go to one of his favorite fly out lakes. He got the last trophy fish of the season, just a regular nice 41-inch pike, but it was special to the lodge. It was trophy number 2,674 for the 2019 season, blowing away last year’s record total of 2,221. Yes, it was a good year, a very good year.
What makes a great fall fishing trip? There isn’t an app for that, but there is an old school checklist. A fishing trip with no annoying bugs? Check! Some wildlife sightings? Check! Northern lights? Check! An after-dinner campfire? Check! Pleasant conversation over fine dinners? Check! Great guides who actually help you catch fish? Check! How about some big fish? Double check!! It was clearly fall for our second last group of the season. While there were cool nights (make that some cold nights) and lots of cloud cover, those conditions didn’t seem to bother these fish of fall. Right off the bat on the first day, Zak Skolnick had a wonderful six pack day—six trophy pike. Bob Nettune and Mike Menedeo, long time fishing partners, had a mirror image day on their first day: each landing three trophy pike with both getting 46 inchers—that’s friendly fishing. Unlike early season pike, fall pike are just plain piggy. A typical 40-inch trophy caught in late August or early September is about 20% heavier than the same fish was in June: they spend all summer eating, but chow down especially heavily in August. All week on the nightly “fish du jour” presentation we were seeing exceptionally fat pike, some with girths hitting 20 inches. There were two very heavy 45s caught this group, one by Zac Skolnick who had a fantastic trip and one by Frank Saraka who we saw on the big screen more than once. Carl Fernyak had a big day with seven trophies—two lakers topping out at 37.5 inches and five pike with the biggest 44 inches. That’s a nice mixed bag.
Like the previous week, grayling were in the news. Of the group’s 158 trophy fish, 62 were pike and 81 were arctic grayling. And there were some dandy grayling. Annamarie Fernyak, who earned the Trophy Triple hat in a single day of angling, the “Done in One”, and Scott Sheldon each landed 19.5-inch miniature sailfish in the fast water of one of our most northerly fly outs. Grayling of 18.5 inches were taken by Carl Fernyuak, Shane Benson and Bill Russell who used that big grayling to join the 100+Club. (Their big grayling also helped Carl Fernyak and Suzanne Billing join the exclusive club.) Still a huge grayling, 18 inchers were landed by Zac Skolnick and Gina Cabrera-Benson. When grayling are on, they are really on. Scott Sheldon landed 17 over our trophy size of 15 inches. Annamarie and Carl Fernyak ended up with 18 trophies on their grayling stop which is typically just an hour or two during a full day fishing for pike and lake trout; Suzanne Billing and Zak Skolnick had 18; Shane Benson and Gina Cabrera-Benson got an even dozen. Everyone who went out for this compact but beautiful fish got them in bunches.
The lake trout didn’t come in bunches this week. With a lot of cool weather some of the big trout were shallow, some were mid-depth, and some were still deep, making catching them a bit more challenging. Bill Russell was up for the challenge, landing a massive 43.5-inch laker on the first day of his trip. Mike Minedeo and Keli Wall almost hit our 40-inch super-sized mark with 39-inch beauties. There were another dozen trout trophies in the books as well.
So did this group fall for fall fishing. We can’t read minds, but we can read our rebooking results. Of the 26 anglers, 20 booked the same room, guide and week for the 2020 season. That says it all. It was a great fall experience.
AN ARCTIC GRAYLING FEST
The artic grayling (Thymallus arcticus) just doesn’t get enough respect! While it’s in the illustrious salmon family with many famous relatives like the Atlantic, King and Coho salmon, grayling don’t get much press; they are severely underappreciated. With a bluish/silver coloration and a dash of pink iridescence combined with the dramatic dorsal fin, the grayling is a feast for any angler’s eyes. Behind the beauty though is the heart of a fighter. For its size (the grayling in this corner of the north top out at just over 20 inches), the arctic grayling is a fighting machine with acrobatic grace. So, finally at Week 15 of these fishing reports, we have given grayling the top billing it deserves. For a good reason: instead of spending a few minutes landing a trophy grayling to qualify for the Triple Trophy hat or the 100+Club, many of our Week 15 guests spent a few hours catching and admiring these impressive, if diminutive, gamefish. No one dove into the world of these fast water- loving fish deeper than Mary and Joe Daugherty who, at a new fly out grayling hotspot, landed an astonishing 44 grayling over our trophy size of 15 inches. Some were way over that trophy mark. Joe had eight over 18 inches with a top fish of 19.5 inches. Mary probably set a lodge grayling record getting 13 over 18 inches with her top fish at 20 inches, about as big as you can handle big grayling in fast water with an ultralight spinning rod or four-weight fly rod. And these fish were fat, with a shape closer to a walleye than the typical slender grayling shape. Four more anglers (Darrell Massie, Cheryl Massie, Bill Sandbrook and Sonya Boone) all landed multiple graylings over 18 inches. It was an arctic grayling fest for five days here. Since August is our prime time for grayling, it wasn’t a surprise. We were just waiting for anglers to appreciate this great fish.
There were plenty of pike and lake trout featured on the front page of the daily Tundra Times too. These are fish with teeth (lots of teeth) which are favored by most of our anglers. There were some pike with plenty of teeth like the 45 and 46 inch pike landed by Peter Myhre who ended his run of 25 days (in three separate sessions) at Scott this week. His trophy count for the season was over the top. Joe Daugherty got a 46 as well and fifteen-year-old Jackson Wanderer had a taste of huge fish when he brought in a 45.5-inch beauty. For all anglers the pike numbers were impressive, but the number of trophy fish was down slightly due to some nasty weather that often spreads the big pike out in deeper water. Our anglers did land 81 trophy pike in the week with a total of 185 trophy fish, aided heavily by 86 trophy grayling. If you do the math, that leaves 18 more trophies. They were lake trout, including some supersized dandies. Darrell Massie had the top fish with a massively thick 42 incher. Mike Schulte had a 41. Marty Newton and Mary Daugherty landed lakers of 40 inches. The 100+Club added three new members—Darrell Massie, Bill Sandbrook and Mary Daugherty. They all went beyond the hat trick of getting all three gamefish in trophy size by having those three fish hit or exceed 100 total inches, not an easy task. Joe Daugherty was already a member from an earlier trip this season, but he added to an already hefty total by hitting 108.5 inches, putting Joe in a tie with Foster Graf for third place in the annual rankings. With just two groups left, the lodge record total of 111 inches accumulated by Amy Towers a few weeks ago seems unassailable. But there are still 52 anglers swinging for the fences. We’ll wait and see.
As with all our sessions, fishing is the focus but not the only reason guests come to Scott Lake Lodge. There were many memorable shore lunches, some fine dining at the lodge and a vibrant after dinner bar scene. People come to Scott Lake Lodge for one reason—to have fun.
That is accomplished with or without huge grayling, lake trout or pike. Just ask anyone who’s been to the lodge.
THE ATTACK OF THE GIANT TROUT
Some groups this season have enjoyed blue skies, warm breezes and gentle, lapping waves. This group wasn’t one of them. There were a few decent days but we had a couple that were total wash outs with fierce north winds. Generally, the sun was MIA. Fortunately, we had on the island a bunch of hardy Midwesterners who are used to tough weather and proud to handle it. We had groups from Wisconsin, Nebraska, Minnesota and Oklahoma who just rolled with the weather punches and coped well. And even a few (but not all) of the Texans here this week kept going out in the worst of it.
But the last two days were tough duty. Our trophy count showed it. Over the first three days with OK weather our anglers tallied 78 trophy fish (a very nice average), but the last two coughed up only 9. Without any sunshine to get the big pike moving, the onslaught of huge pike that started a couple of weeks ago slowed down. There were 45 inchers landed by Paula Lee and our Chef Ross Kennedy and a couple of 46ers taken by Peter Myhre and Eric Carter, but none of the 47s, 48s or 49s showed up this time. Paula and Todd Lee gave the pike trophy totals a big boost when they teamed up for 10 trophies on a damp but productive day. Grayling were part of the news this week. At a premier new grayling destination, Ken Wollin used his light fly rod to battle some grayling with the build of a walleye, getting a season’s high 20 incher along with two 18s and a 19. Ross Kennedy paired his nice pike with a 19.5” grayling. In the fast water of grayling rivers, these smallest of our gamefish show a lot of game.
What made the week sing for many of our guests though were lake trout—big lake trout. It was by far the best trout week of the season. There were some giants, none bigger than a very fat 44 incher landed, after an extended fight, by Jacob Kippenhan not far from the lodge. The Keppenhan clan (six strong) had a memorable day on a fly out lake. (Remember a trophy trout is 35 inches.) They got plenty of those but specialized in the “super-sized” (40 inches or better) variety. Nick and Tim almost made that threshold with 39.5” lakers, but Greg and Mike made the cut with 40.5” beauties. Noah blew right though the 40”mark, getting a 43” monster along with two 40s. The Newland’s got into big trout as well. On her first day at Scott, April Newland landed a 42” laker and husband Bryon got a 40 and a 42.5 incher, all within sight of the lodge. Bryon got another 42.5” trout on a fly out. Bill Hallinan had a big day with lakers too, landing a 42” and a 43” giant. That’s a lot of giant trout for a five-day period. Seeing those big fish come up to the surface in these clear northern waters is a thrill an angler will never forget. With cooling surface temperatures, the smaller lake trout are moving up now. Many were caught while anglers were casting for pike.
They didn’t get a monster trout this trip, but Jon Wheat and Eric Jahde had a monster wildlife sighting. Seeing a wolf is a treat anywhere, but seeing a white wolf is a lifetime memory. They didn’t have time for pictures but the picture of an elusive animal like that will burn in their minds for a long time. As we get into the second half of August, we get the annual build up of migrating loons that are already heading south from more distant summer homes. Scott Lake is a frequent resting stop on their journey. This week one of our guides saw a group of 19 common loons on the lake. We’re not sure just what our resident loons think of this, but it’s a big lake and there are a lot of lake cisco to feed a big crowd.
Our own crowd was well fed too with some delectable dinners. No one plans on losing any weight on their Scott Lake vacation and probably no one did.
THE OLD MEN AND THE FRESHWATER SEA
OK, Scott Lake is not quite a freshwater sea, but it is big. And, a lot of people might resent being called “old”. Can’t be too careful these days, but we’re hoping that the Fearsome Foursome who attacked the waters of Scott Lake Lodge on Week 13 will not mind a bit. They will be proud. Because when it was cold, windy and rainy, this group hung in there and fished while many of the younger folk retreated to the warmth of the lodge and the promise of a hot meal. Eager anglers all–Dick Emens, Don Hunt, Dick Hutson and Joel Tune–came to fish, as they have all done for many years. In fact, the four have 86 trips to Scott Lake Lodge under their collective belts. Using that experience, they show the younger crowd how catching big fish is done. Leading the parade, Dick Emens, the elder statesman of the group, but only by a few years, caught not only a 45” and 47” pike but he added a monster 44” lake trout and a 19” arctic grayling, about as big as they get around here. With those top trophies out of the many that he caught, he hit an incredible 110 inches for his 100+Club total, the second highest in lodge history. Joel Tune, the younger, by a lot, of the “old guys”, also joined the Club with 102”. Dick and Don missed the 100” mark but had some huge fish: Dick a pair of 45” pike and Don also with a 45” pike. Experience counts!
They weren’t the only anglers who landed big fish. As last week’s report suggested, the fish of fall are bigger and more aggressive. In addition to Dick Emen’s 47” pike, there were two more 47s—landed by Dan Lafferty and Carol Van Brunschot. Outfishing her husband badly, Tina Walker landed just a hog of a pike. This 45.5 incher had a massive girth, measured at 20”. Not many pike are that well fed.
This week the lake trout made our Tundra Times headlines. It’s been an odd season for this majestic freshwater fish. While typically the big trout are on our fishing menu by mid-July, this season they were late to show. They sure are now. Dave Van Belleghem and Tom Simons combined for ten trophies in one day; Joel Tune and Dick Emens had nine together for their big day. We’re not talking just over the line trout either. Dave landed a 44.5” laker and fishing partner Tom got a 42.5” that day. Dick Emens had a 43.5” and his 44” to make their nine- trophy day very special. Joel and Dick had the same kind of day with grayling, combining for twenty with both getting grayling over 18”.
It was a week of extremes: some picture-perfect days where swimming at shore-lunch felt just right mixed with some ugly, cold ones where the smart thing to do was to head for the wood-fired Finnish sauna and the big hot tub on the lodge deck. Both were popular spots over a week, but the real star attraction was way up in the sky. Our guests enjoyed the first high-powered northern lights display of the year. For many it was the highlight of their trip. As the days get shorter, those displays will start earlier and last longer. Seeing the lights or seeing some musk ox as a few of the guests did are bonus gifts from the 60th parallel. The cooler days did bring a lot of smaller lake trout within casting range, another sure sign of fall. The big ones may stay deep for a few more weeks.
The important criteria for any week at the fishing lodge is simple: did people have a good time? The answer was a big time yes, helped by a healthy consumption of wine and spirits.