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Warm lake water can be tough on fish

Toby Kvalevog releases the 51½-inch muskie he caught on Leech Lake. (Photo courtesy of Toby Kvalevog)1 / 2
Fishing Columnist Brad Laabs2 / 2

Water temperatures have finally started to come down from the 80-degree range. Some of the shallow water areas close to shore were getting to the mid 80-degree range and felt like bath water!

The rain, mild cold fronts of the past week, cooler nights, and the shortening daylight hours are all helping bring water temps down. With the extremely warm water, some of the lakes with tullibees will have some die off. They will not go to waste, as the eagles, osprey, and gulls will all make meals of any dead kill on the lakes.

It is important to release fish quickly so they can return to cooler depths when the water temperatures stay in the upper-70 degree range. This is the time of the season that musky can be vulnerable for effective release with the extremely warm water.

Warm water does not hold as much oxygen, and can make recovery after a hard fight difficult for bigger fish. That also applies to walleyes and northern pike. Make sure that released fish are held upright and held gently until they revive and can swim away on their own.

Just throwing the fish back in the lake can be traumatizing for them. They may land upside down, and that can disorient them and slow the recovery for efficient release. The longer they linger in warm, low oxygen water, the higher the risk for fish mortality after release they become. It can help to fish the early morning, when the water temps are cooler for catch and release practices.

For fish kept in your live well, and for bait in baitwells, it may help to turn your aerators off and put your recirculating pump on when going into shallow water. Water that recirculates from the main or mid-lake areas will be cooler than the shallow water.

As I mentioned some weeks ago in an article, this can be a time when adding a block of ice or frozen water bottles or milk jug to the live well and bait well can help keep fish and/or bait fresh. Cooling the fish before cleaning or putting fresh fillets into cool or cold water right after cleaning them will keep your catch for the table fresh.

Be careful transferring minnows into lake water that is so warm. It is easy to shock and kill them. Temper the airbag or your well water bucket to prevent losing valuable ... and these days, expensive, minnows. If you have one of the new bait bubbler buckets or coolers, keeping them aerated and fresh in cool water is easy.

When you put them on the hook, you will need to get them deep quickly so they stay used to the cool or cold water or they will shock and die. If they linger on the warm surface water, they will die. If you bring them from deep water to the surface multiple times, you can kill them. Dead minnows don't usually fish as well as lively minnow on a hook or jig.

With August coming, we are sure to have another heat wave again before the water temperatures will start to drop consistently. Once water gets to 70 degrees and below, fish do much better for release. Remember to practice both selective harvest, and catch and release.

(Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes)

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