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Fall turnover in area lakes can mean tough fishing

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Brad Laabs Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Online
(218) 847-9409 customer support
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

We have reached the time of year now that has "turned over" all of our area lakes. The fall turnover is when the cooled surface temperatures start to sink to the bottom and the poor oxygen based water below the thermocline comes to the surface to be re-oxygenated. This happens every year when the surface temperatures get to about 50 degrees. High winds aid the process of turnover and we have sure had enough of that over the last couple weeks.

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Not all lakes turnover and those that do turnover don't all "roll" at the same time. Shallow lakes that don't create a thermocline never process through the fall turnover period. Lakes in our area like Rock, Tamarac, Shell, Height-of-Land, Wolf, and Big Toad are examples of lakes that don't experience a turnover.

High winds can roll and turn those lakes all year long and keep consistent oxygen levels at all depths. Mille Lacs, Lake of the Woods, and Red Lake are classic examples of this type of lake. Most of these types of lakes will be under 40ft of maximum depth.

Some of our lakes turned over a couple weeks ago and the rest have finished themselves up this last week. You can tell a lake is in the middle of this process as the water will lose clarity, soapy type bubbling will appear on windswept shorelines, the lake may stink for a day or two like rotten eggs, and dead fish may get washed up on shorelines. You can tell when the process is complete as the lake will be very clear. You will no longer be able to see the thermocline on your fish locator. Examples of these types of lakes in our area include Big Detroit, Sallie, Mellissa, Cormorant, Pine, Lida, White Earth, and Ottertail. Leech, Gull, and Cass Lakes would be the classic examples of these types of lakes. Most of these lakes may have multiple basin areas with depths 50 to 100 feet or more.          

What does all this have to do with fishing? Well, during the turnover process you may have difficulty catching fish, as they seem to just shut down for a few days. When the process is completed, the fish can be anywhere in the system they want to be, as the whole lake is consistently oxygenated.

Walleye and crappie fishermen may find active biting fish in deep water basin areas that were like the "dead sea" the weeks before. It is not uncommon to find crappies in the 30-40 ft. water and walleyes can range in deeps from 30-50 ft. in lakes like Cormorant, Pine, Lida, White Earth, and Ottertail (even as deep as 70 ft. in Ottertail!).

Fish can also be in extremely shallow water or anywhere in-between. The fish will start to school more tightly again and the process of beefing up for winter again will start to occur.

The big key is locating a school of fish. Look for areas that have sharp breaks to deep water, large flats that extend well out into main lake areas and have sharp breaks to basin areas, and long extending points into main lake areas. Fish this time of year will start to eat bigger offerings. Crappies may take larger than you think minnows; walleye will eat minnows from 3-7 inches, and just ask the musky fisherman about the size of their baits this time of year! Many of the musky anglers are fishing the live suckers that range from 17-20 inches. Fall can be a great time for your chance to catch a trophy fish, but only if you get out and try.

(Laabs runs Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)

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