The open water season came to a close this past week. As many Minnesotans sat on the deer stand, last-minute, die-hard anglers experienced success fishing for walleyes and crappies. By mid-week, small lakes and ponds froze completely; larger bodies of water followed. Ice fishing is already starting on lower Red Lake, with four inches of ice in some areas close to shore.
Here is what I know about fall fishing: Weather is miserable and unpredictable at times. Rain and fall winds have plagued anglers. Breezy conditions and the drop in water temperatures caused a mixing of temperatures and oxygen. Fish species now have the whole lake water column to exist; baitfish scatter. Finding walleyes after turnover is like finding a needle in the haystack. Post-turnover water clarity increases, so on bright days, fish will go deep.
Don't stop fishing at dark. The night action on area lakes might be better than you've seen all day. Putting aside the romance of fishing sundown and after, it's a known fact that fishing tends to be better once the sun goes down any time of the year. Walleyes feed better under a cover of darkness. Action is better due to prime walleye forage. Bait fish move shallow; walleyes lurk in the dark to ambush them.
The Hubbard County Environmental Services Department provides a free service: watercraft decontamination. Anyone concerned about the potential of carrying aquatic invasive species (AIS) on their watercraft — boats, motors, trailers, anchors and ropes — can use this service. The station is located at 812 Henrietta Ave. S, between the Detail Shop and transfer station. BillDonCarlos, Hubbard County AIS Program Coordinator, encourages it use. "We had over 100 use the station in 2016 and are on track to the same in 2017. We would like to do more," he said.
Northern Bait of Park Rapids has a long history of supplying bait and tackle for fishermen. Harold Condiff built the current building and started Northern Bait in 1946. Bob Franzmeier purchased the business from Condiff, then sold it to Jim and Dave May in 1992. Greg May, a Park Rapids High School graduate, became a partner in 1998. The late Tony Dean, nationally known radio and TV fishing host had this to say: "Northern Bait, Park Rapids, Minnesota, one of the best bait outlets in America."
The best college bass anglers from across the country competed on Lake Bemidji for the 2017 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship presented by Bass Pro. Competitive bass fishing has joined the curriculums of a number of colleges and high schools nationwide. Not without raising some question to the impact these events might impose on the resource and lake regions. Will Weaver, a well known Bemidji lakes area resident raised a number of questions in his opinion letter to a Bemidji newspaper. Weaver asked me for my thoughts.
Richard L. Gilbert sums it up this way in the March issue of Wyoming Wildlife. "The way we act when in the field or forest, on lakes or beside streams speaks either eloquently or disparagingly about our character"
Fishing for walleyes and northern pike started this morning at 12:01 a.m. What to expect? Like most openers, shiners are available, but not plentiful. Leeches and nightcrawlers are easy to find. We're seeing warmer water temperatures since the lakes opened a dozen days or so earlier this year. Walleyes are done spawning, widely dispersed and hungry. It's a far cry from when Gov. Dayton visited the Park Rapids area for his opener. Dayton found lakes choked with ice.
Rewinding to a column I wrote a few weeks ago, "Spring Crappie: Time to Sow and a Time to Harvest," spurred a lot of comments. Here are just a few of those comments. Pat Neu, executive director of the National Professional Anglers Association, said, "A concern exists for the future of the resource when targeting vulnerable fish." One angler wrote, "A closed season during the spawn might be the next step to preserving vulnerable spawning pan fish." However, resource professionals that I come in contact with frown on a closed spring season on pan fish.
An electronic fish finder makes it possible to locate fish while eliminating the guesswork. Anglers can benefit from using an electronic fish finder's capability to locate the best fishing locations. Modern sonar provides more information than older units and allows a fisherman to check depth, structure, speed and temperature readings pertaining each fishing application. Additionally, using a GPS-enabled fish finder can make your outings safer by marking waypoints, tracking productive trolling passes and launch spots for safe return.