Fishing Lake Scugog 2016
Is Lake Scugog doomed? With all of the hype regarding the walleye closure and the aggressive nature of invasive aquatic plants carpeting the bottom of the lake – one would be led to believe this is the case. There is no doubt that the lake is experiencing challenges anglers may never have considered in the past. Add to this the record low water levels and many will be thinking the fishery is circling the drain. Let’s not be so hasty.
This shallow, eutrophic lake is proving it has some staying power and continues to produce some incredible fishing opportunities. Yes, the walleye concern is very real – but this is not a new problem. In fact, many residents can clearly detail the plethora of issues over the last decade which have brought us to the point of a necessary fishing closure. It’s no surprise that the unsustainable and unforgiving year-round fishing pressure and close proximity to the largest population in Canada has taken its toll. All finger pointing aside; this was for years the only Kawartha lake open to four seasons of fishing. What did we expect? Poor management, lack of enforcement budgets and immoral fishing practices are no doubt the leading reasons for the closure.
However, this spring proved to be on par with expectations of early season Crappie fishing. There were plenty of anglers and loads of fish caught. The weather took some twists and turns that threw a few locational curve balls at anglers but those willing and able to adapt experienced record catches. These feisty fish will readily hit artificial baits and make for some monumental bonding moments with children, friends and family alike.
Crappie tactics are relatively simple. They will stage on shallow flats in 4-6′, congregating around standing weeds and submergent vegetation. When the temperatures warm they move shallow and spawn. Look for them in those small bays that will be nearly dry in less than a month’s time. Add some overhanging cover like trees or wood and you, my friend, are going to have a good time! Later in the summer you can find these same fish scattered throughout the 4-8’ flats. Keep moving to find pockets of quality fish that are willing to bite.
Next to open on Scugog is the freshwater wolf – Esox masquinongy – the Musky. Those monitoring Musky spawning habitat on the lake this year can attest to a healthy population of these top predators. The lake is changing though and with invasive species like Chara and the newer Starry Stonewort carpeting areas that typically held healthy populations of Cabbage and Coontail weeds, which in turn held forage for Musky; anglers need to look elsewhere. These aquatic plants still exist but you need to find the locations. Cover water by trolling quickly or fan casting large in-line spinners and success is sure to follow. Remember, the fish are still there. It’s your job to find them. As the waters warm to summer temperatures please keep the handling of the magnificent fish to a minimum. Take a picture or two and get it back into the water immediately.
The same holds true for bass which is the last season to open each year. Many anglers recall years of super shallow water fishing, expanses of lily pads, undercut banks, docks and awesome shoreline mats. Again, a lot of this water still exists but much of it has been taken over by the same invasives impacting the other species in the lake. You have to look for water without the suffocating Chara and Starry Stonewort. Thankfully low lying docks, thick pads and the like will block the sun and can offer a welcome reprieve and a protected home for big largemouth minus the weed carpet. There is another option though.
Many savvy anglers have moved off the shorelines. Look for large bays where the fish will typically spawn then turn one hundred and eighty degrees around and head out to the first decent weedline adjacent to deeper water and there’s a good chance you’ll find numbers of the fish that you once targeted in much shallower haunts. Have they always been here in the deeper water? Yup. You just didn’t need to fish for them here and the visual game of fishing for shallow water bass is very addictive.
Lake Scugog also boasts a very healthy population of above average Smallmouth bass. You’re sure to stumble upon them while targeting fish along the deeper edges but this isn’t the only place you will find them. They often roam in shallower haunts in the early mornings and late afternoons. They are aggressive strikers and are most willing to oblige an epic battle between fish and angler. Try covering water with a topwater offering that allows you to move quickly and experience heart stopping hits. Hard baits that allow you to walk-the-dog, buzzbaits and prop baits will all produce aggressive strikes. Keep an eye on your bait though. Often times, the biggest fish will suck a bait under without a ripple. Those are fish that create legends.
Please do keep in mind that all of these fish are in warm water and are sensitive to over handling for photos and celebratory high fives. Don’t be afraid to keep a fish or two for the table but please respect the biggest fish and the fishery they are so critical to… release them to fight another day. Tell the tale, get a wall mount made of fibreglass from a quality picture if you wish but let’s make sure that the saga of the Lake Scugog Walleye doesn’t become the story of other species here on this wonderful lake of ours.
Chris Hockley, Director, Scugog Lake Stewards