Fall walleye harvest falls - and pitfalls
The walleye harvest has fallen. No, not necessarily due to a lack of fish in the lakes after a busy summer season of anglers keeping a few dinners. It's not due to any misappropriation by the DNR. It's definitely not because of alien fish abduction and alligators have not been added to the list of aquatic invasive species (at least at time of press). There's only one definitive reason the walleye harvest has recently fallen; there are fewer anglers on the water.
True: The numbers of docks, boatlifts and watercraft that seasonally stretch beyond the shoreline have declined due to preparation for winter.
False: Nobody fishes after Labor Day.
The number of anglers continuing the open water season right up to the ice season is increasing. That doesn't mean fewer outdoor enthusiasts are participating in hunting, it's simply indicative of the number of people who are out on the lakes beyond Labor Day. These anglers often find a compromise between hunting and fishing. A search for grouse on the way to the public access or a morning of duck hunting with a few fishing rods brought along for an hour's worth of casts on the way in are scenarios that regularly take place throughout the area.
Whether you choose to hunt, fish or participate in both endeavors throughout the fall, a couple safety factors should be taken into consideration.
First, if traveling via boat to a duck hunting point, goose flyway or favorite fishing hole, lifejackets are imperative. With current water temperatures dipping into the lower 50-degree mark, a man-overboard can turn fatal quite quickly. Those small, flat bottomed jon boats and modified duck boats often lack the stability required in rough weather.
We all know that fall's fierce winds are volatile and a calm day can turn into a North Country hurricane in short order.
Waders are commonly used by both waterfowl hunters and anglers since walking in the water is often a daily occurrence. Setting decoys, stabilizing the watercraft or for fisherman, launching the boat at public accesses that no longer have docks available due to late fall retraction in preparation for winter or shore anglers looking to achieve a longer cast are all wader-worthy. If you stay dry, you'll stay warm.
However, waders can also place you in a dangerous situation if you stumble into deeper water or fall overboard. If any air gets into the waders before submersion, the waders will float, in turn causing a struggle for the "wearer" to keep their head above water.
Successfully treading water or swimming toward a shoreline is also difficult if submerged in waders. The significant pull slows down the power of each stroke. And each minute in the cold fall water negatively contributes to a safe rescue.
Finally, make sure you have a game plan for the day. Let someone know where you'll be going and approximately when you'll return. With so many lakes around, it would be hard to perform a search and rescue one lake at a time.