2015 Season Recap - July | Best Ontario Fishing

2015 Season Recap – July

Hands down, July is my favorite time of year. There is so much going on in July. Water temps are peaking at all time highs, bugs are minimal, weather is predictable, the days are long and, July’s most important trait–the walleye fishing–is RED HOT!

2015 was no different. We had a tremendous stabilization in the weather that afforded us days upon days of nothing but blue bird skies, above-average temps. and fishing that, as usual, was second to none. Especially the walleye fishing.

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Take the Famous Walleye Dream Trip for example. Annually, July marks the inaugural voyage of the season. Once midsummer settles in, Lake Nipigion walleyes head to their feeding sanctuaries, schooling up in mind-boggling herds that endlessly gorge themselves day and night. And with water levels a touch below average, the gates at the Ogoki Reservoir were continually diverting water to the basin of lake. In other words, we had uninterrupted access to walleye fishing bliss. Add to that Gus, the 2015 Pasha Lake expert guide, and you have a recipe for memories to be captured for eternity. And in true Gus fashion, he threw in some unexpected trophy pike fishing that delivered in a BIG TIME way.  Countless guests were treated to pike that far exceeded the 40” mark. One guest in particular, Tom Peterson, boated a 45” behemoth of a pike, coming within centimeters of my personal best. I guess 30 years of fishing Nipigon affords Gus a bit of an advantage few of us will experience in this life time.

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Also, remember back to May when I had a little snafu with my arm, forcing an unexpected surgery. That meant light duty for most of the summer. Light duty in July equals time out on the water for this guy! I picked one lake to focus on in my down time, and it paid off handsomely. Just ask my 4 year old daughter Carmyn. On one of our outings together, she hooked, fought, and landed a 29” walleye.  (Just this past weekend she reminded me once again of her achievement.) Quite the experience for a little girl! But what I loved about this lake exploration wasn’t the trophy potential, although it was obviously there. I much more enjoyed the remoteness, and abundant (average) walleye population that produced time and time again. It was a bugger to get to but well worth the efforts. Over the years, I’ve found exploration to be just as rewarding, if not more so, than actually boating the fish.

But I wasn’t the only one having July fishing success. In fact, what I am about to write is somewhat painful, but you’ll understand why I included it in a second. Onaman Lake, as sad as it seems, can experience a slowing midsummer bite. (Qualification: when compared to fishing in the lower 48, I’d take a slow bite on Onaman any day of the week). But this year, I can count on one hand the days guests came back and said they struggled on this walleye fishing factory. One hand, folks! That’s less than 5 fingers!  If there are 180 days of open water fishing on Onaman, that’s less than 3%. I’d hedge that bet anytime! 

2015 Season Recap - July | Best Ontario Fishing

A couple of groups come to mind when talking midsummer Onaman fishing. I’m reminded of the “Larrys”. They visited us during the 4th week in July, a time that traditionally can cause some anxiety with the active bite. But day after day, the boated record numbers of big walleyes like it was post spawn feeding time. In fact, they were so excited about the bite, they fished Onaman almost every day of their visit. We even had groups test the night bite. The Ojanen camping crew from Clouquet, MN, opted to stay out until 3am. Crazy as it sounds, they landed big numbers up until dark, and then things suddenly shut off. Making sure their theory wasn’t a fluke, they tried again later in the week with the same results. I guess the Onaman walleyes have to stop feeding at some point!

Want in a little known NW Ontario secret? The lake trout fishing in mid-July is often the best of the season. Water temps have maxed out which forces lakes to stratify. I’m no hydrologist, but fortunately I don’t have to be to know that when lakes layer, lakers will be concentrated around that 50 degree water mark. On some lakes, that could be 30ft down, on others 60ft. Regardless, if you can get your lure in that prime feeding zone, they’ll hit it like a lion taking down a gazelle. Long time guests Jonny Fickert and his dad know this all too well. That’s why they opt for a mid July trip year in and year out.

2015 Season Recap - July | Best Ontario Fishing

As sad as it is for this guy, July too must come to an end. When that happens, there is one thing I look forward to about as much as July fishing. My Christmas come early if you will? August, here we come!

Remember to always give more than you take, and until next time… 

2015 Season Recap - June - Best Ontario Fishing

2015 Season Recap – June

Recalling early June, I remember cool May rains bleeding well into the first weeks of the month. In a typical year, we welcome longer days and warmer weather, but this year was super slow to change. It was a stark contradiction to how May started. In one sense, it was great because it kept the bug hatch in check. Unfortunately, though, it also made for some, let’s say, chilly fishing conditions for those with opposite hopes. 

2015 Season Recap - June - Best Ontario Fishing

One lake in particular posed a big challenge. Historically it’s been a good early walleye bite. Its massive size and deep structures have always been a personal favorite of mine. And you never know what you’re setting the hook on–be it a walleye, laker, perch or patrolling northern pike. Big lakes also produce big fish, so there’s always that lingering possibility.

But this year, early June guests struggled on this usually go-to heavy hitter. Recalling my theory from late May, I think the fast warming then cooling water temps kept the fish from their usual post spawn feeding routine. In fact, and not unusual, guests were catching walleyes still milting from the spawn. However the same size males caught in different locations had been dry for awhile, evidenced by their healed underside. Now that was unusual.

Our regulars, however, knew it was just a matter of time. In the past, I’ve described it as the “light switch” scenario. When it seems like the bite will never pick up and weather is doomed to eternal sourness, BOOM! It happens. The skies clear and what might’ve been a dismal bite 24 hours ago instantly turns into fishing ecstasy. Walleyes go from motionless, lock-jaw vegans to furious, blood thirsty, carnivore-eating beasts. No matter what you throw or where you fish (within reason of course), the post-spawn feeding frenzy comes alive. It’s cool, and if timed right, will be some of the best walleye fishing of the season.

2015 Season Recap - June - Best Ontario Fishing

Year after year, that fact is echoed in the famous Onaman Lake. On some level, you’d think I’d build up a tolerance to this prolific body of water, but it has yet to happen. For me, Christmas come early is June 1st, when this astounding walleye factory opens to angling. And true to form, this year was one for the record books. Time and time again, angler after unsuspecting angler came back with what I now call “the look” – they’ve been Onaman’ed! It’s a term I’ve coined to explain the look on someone’s face after spending the day there. It’s a cross between permagrin and sheer terror sprinkled with genuine amazement. Think of someone finding out they won the 10 million dollar Powerball while sitting in Sunday mass. It’s reserved, but an unmistakable look of pure elation. 

Speaking of Onaman, I am thoroughly convinced this body of water is the PREMIERE walleye destination of Ontario, if not Canada. It’s simply a factory for producing big, ferocious, fighting walleyes. Man I love that lake!

Another neat phenomenon that occurred this year involved aggressively feeding brook trout that was, in a sense, timeless. On a typical year I encourage trout anglers to plan their trips from May to the first week in June. It’s a time when the trout are shallow and with increasing water temps, they feed heavily.  A nice bonus to the early bite is where you find one, more are sure to follow. While true to form for 2015, the opportunity to fish these magnificent specimens ended up lasting all summer. That’s pretty surprising and very uncommon. I know of one guest that fishes Nipigon every weekend. He too was surprised by the all-season bite and took full advantage of it. He boated some impressive midsummer specks, a feat not historically achievable. 

2015 Season Recap - June - Best Ontario Fishing

Did somebody say trophy Canadian pike? Michelle orders 2 dozen Pasha Lake Trophy Club Hats every year. For those of you not familiar with the club, we give a free hat to anglers who catch, photograph and release trophy fish. By late June, I had Michelle place an emergency hat order with our supplier. People had boated so many big pike, we were down to our last 2 hats. 

Evidently the lingering cool water, while frustrating for some walleye anglers, kept the big pike catchable as ever. Customarily, June water makes conditions uncomfortable for shallow pike. This year, they were able to hang out a bit longer, affording our guests paparazzi opportunities typically reserved for “A list” movie stars.

2015 Season Recap - June - Best Ontario Fishing

But every good June must come to end. For me, that means my favorite time of year was just around the corner….

(Introducing my new and improved sign off) – Always be sure to give more than you take. Until next time…