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?