Good Day Pasha Go’ers! My Neanderthal brain is telling me it’s time to officially wrap up the 2018 open water season. The short version – the fishing this year was epic, truly special. In a decade and a half of doing this, we’ve never experienced the quality of fishing we had in 2018. Both Lake Nipigon, and the inland lakes gave our guests some impressive bragging rights. My hope in the coming blog posts is to capture how truly special it was. (Get ready for the long version.)
Tensions ran high in May, courtesy of a lingering winter that left us anxious about probable ice-out. As is typical, the phone started ringing in April – many wondering my thoughts on break up. Not that I’d compare myself to famed quarterback Aaron Rogers, but my reoccurring thought was to tell people to R-E-L-A-X… we’ll be fine. (Maybe someday I’ll be referred to as the Aaron Rogers of NW Ontario fishing… I kind of like the ring to that) Ice Out May 2018
Okay, I admit – come May 10th or so, I started to raise an eyebrow while looking at the sheets of ice on area lakes. Even the beautiful palisade waterfalls of Lake Nipigon were decorated with the stalagmite ice forms of breathtaking beauty. But then, just as fast, the weather turned from a cold, arctic polar misery to a blissful warm summer pattern, almost overnight. So much so, Pasha Lake was ice free a day earlier than in 2017 (May 13th), followed by Lake Nipigon a little less than a week later.
Bring on the fishing!
Ian, our full time guide started fishing Pasha a day or two before the lake was completely ice free. He trolled ice edges, boating pike and some impressive lake trout. Meanwhile, the first guests of the season started to slowly settle into their cabins. They were anxious to hit the water as Ian and I trapped bait and made final preps on boats and motors.
Shortly after ice out, water temps, recently in the high 30’s, literally baked in the sun and an onslaught of warm air. Temperatures quickly rose to the 50’s which triggered an avalanche of fish activity. I’m always amazed on how fast the water increases in the spring, opposed to the fall, spring water temps can increase exponentially in short periods of time.
Walleye, Northerns and Brook Trout
Pike fishing was exceptional, notably on inland lakes. One of my favorite things to do is sight-fish big females post-spawn. The lay in the warming shallows and are often mistaken for submerged logs. Although they’re active for small fragments of time, when it happens, it’s special. Several groups experienced those feeding frenzies and were rewarded handsomely. And as June approached, the proof was in the photographs as we handed out over 12 trophy club hats, all but one for Northern Pike over 40 inches.
Dare I say it, but walleye fishing in May is kind of a no-brainer. Find flow, a small inlet, or water temps in stark contrast to the majority of a lake or river and it’s a safe bet the walleyes will be there. That was no truer than this spring. One lake in particular (it’ll remain nameless to protect the innocent) was a huge producer for Pasha Lake guests.
Not only did groups find holed up walleyes in the 100’s, they were also impressive in average size. And that pattern was repeated on several area lakes into June.
I love all walleye fishing, but near the top of my list, is fishing riptide near inflows. Placing a lure in the sweet spot between current and slack water is like dangling donuts in front of a black bear. It’s not a matter of if, just a matter of when.
One interesting recollection from May was Lake Nipigon. Our first trips pursuing trophy brook trout (specks) were productive as usual. In fact, the ice-out bite was turning out to be one of the best we’ve had in years. But a strange thing happened given the fast warming water I mentioned earlier– there was a SIGNIFICANT smelt die off. For all intensive purposes – that completely shut down the brook trout. Sure you could find them, but that wasn’t the issue. Gaggles of dying smelt polluted the surface which attracted advantageous trout.
They simply hung below and gorged at will. If you were lucky enough to catch one, it was likely so full of smelt it was bursting at the fins. The die off and subsequent slow bite really forced us to rethink our May game plan. So…..
The only thing to do when fishing tosses you a lake full of dying smelt? Go fish for trophy pike! Instead of hitting our usual milk runs of brook trout infested waters, we focused strictly on pike. Guests found much more action as the pike were reluctant to leave their comfy spring haunts. That made them easy pick’ins and much more predictable in terms of action. The quantity and quality of the fishing being was remarkable.
In fact, I don’t recall the pike fishing on Lake Nipigon every being so good! Bold statement but oh so true! The post-spawn bite and crazy numbers of fish where historic. Time and time again, trip after trip our guests hoisted 40” pike for a paparazzi barrage that’d make Kim Kardashian jealous. Even famed outdoor show In-Depth Outdoors got in on the action. You’ll see the fruit of their labor on their TV show due to air this spring.
Mikes Trophy Northern Pike
Have doubts? Just ask Mr. Mike McFarland of Colorado. On his fly rod no less, Mike caught the trophy of all trophies, a true 49” Lake Nipigon Northern Pike. Not only was that fish a fish of a lifetime, but it was a fish of several life times. In true Pasha Lake spirit, Mike gleefully put the fish back, I’m sure after he was collected himself from the involuntary convulsions of excitement. My guess? – his monstrosity of a fish will remain as Pasha Lake’s Northern Pike record for many years to come.
Black Bear Hunting
And let’s not forget the Spring Bear Hunt. With all that action packed fishing, one might easily over look the spring bear season. Although the bears arrived late out of their dens, once on scene, the bears were active and looking for food.
Early May brought inconsistent and somewhat frustrating bait activity. The bears would devastate a bait, only to leave it untouched for the next 3 days. An educated guess leads me to believe their stomach had yet to catch up with their brains as they adjusted from the long winter’s siesta. So when every hunter either harvested a bear or had a shot at one, I was relieved as we wrapped up the spring hunt.
One of my favorite bear stories from this spring involves the boys from Pennsylvania, Darrel and Gary. Both had their crack at a bruin, but Darrel’s eluded him for almost 7 days. True hunters to the word, both hunted hard, fighting the elements and the ups and downs that come with hunting big game. In addition to the pre-baited blinds, Darrel put out several test baits. One in particular scored with a record spring boar. The bear frequented the bait, but always one step ahead of Darrel until the last night of the hunt. In true trophy bear fashion, the bear came in right before dark, leaving the archery hunter with a small window of opportunity. He made a split second shot that found it’s mark, but the recovery never happened.
Of course no one likes to see a harvest un-found, but what’s neat about Darrel’s story is his perseverance and no quit attitude toward the hunt. These guys were impressive, and their attitudes and desire to get after it was inspiring. It’s a great take away for any hunter who takes to the field.
Pasha Lake Cabins and Lake Nipigon
So there you have it. Great May fishing sprinkled with some impressive Spring bear hunting. May lived up to all expectations – dead bears, big fish, lot’s of fish, a record fish, and smiles that lasted several days if not months.
Queue June, hold on to your fishing rod!