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Fall colors or not, fish still on their summer bite

All the signs point to fall except the water temperatures. The trees are turning and it looks like an early peak to our fall colors. Coots, loons, and geese are gathering in large groups. Area football teams are well into their season and the Vikings have even won a football game already! This should mean fall fishing, but with the unseasonably warm weather after such a cool August, water temps remain in the mid 60s and have even gotten back up to 70 degrees this last week during the day.

Looking like fall, smelling like fall, and even feeling like fall at times, don't make for fall fishing right now. The transition to fall fishing is triggered by water temperature drops that keep falling, as well as the diminishing daylight hours that cause the cooling process.

When we start to hit the 60 degree surface temperatures, the fish start to get triggered into their fall season and prep for the upcoming cold water period. Many times the "leech bite" for walleyes is done or close to it by mid-September (with the exception of a few lakes like Mille Lacs), and an obvious transition to bigger minnows occurs. Not yet this year, with the warmer water. Leeches (if you can get them) are still working and the night crawlers will continue to be effective for at least a couple more weeks for walleyes and smallmouth bass.

Those that have been on the water this past week have noticed a significant bug hatch out of the transition areas from hard to soft bottom on area lakes during this hot weather with the bright sunshine.

These huge hatches are easy to see on the locators. Most of the hatch has been visible in the 17- to 25-foot water, depending on the lake. Some lakes even have this hatch occurring on the deep humps that top out between 25 and 32 feet. This last week has been Ma Nature's last chance to hatch all these gnats that are buzzing us at night, splattering your windshield, and swarming around the lights. They have been so thick you can hear them buzzing!

That hatch has keep several fish species full, and us competing for their attention with our offerings. This hatch is also why the leech and night crawler has continued to be so effective. Many of the walleyes and northern pike this last week or 10 days have had larva in their mouth when caught.

When the water temperature drops and the true transition to fall occurs, walleye fisherman, crappie chasers, bass addicts (especially the smallmouth addicts), and musky hunters, all get excited with the improving bite. The chances improve with every outing right up until we ice over.

With the goofy weather, it is hard to guess when that will be this year. The last two years, we have made it until December before we have made our ice. The norm is more to have walk-out ice by Thanksgiving weekend. We will see. What I do know? Is some of the best fishing of the season still coming over the next five, six, seven (or more) weeks?

I hope you are out there to enjoy it. I know I will be.

(Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes)

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