The ice fishing season is here. We are at early ice, so proceed with caution if venturing onto the ice — it very seldom freezes uniformly. You should have 4 inches of good clear ice to be on the ice (foot traffic only). Because there may be 4 inches in one location close to shore, does not mean that it is the same all over. Check with an ice chisel or spud as you move out on the ice to the edge of break lines.
We went from a cold fall to winter overnight. Sunday Nov. 3 was pleasant fishing on the open water, and by Monday we got cold. The cold, snow, and biting wind of Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday confirm that winter is here.
In the middle of August, I made a prediction based on the signs of nature that indicated we were going to have a cold fall and an early winter. I figured by Labor Day we would be into our transition to fall weather.
Water temps in the area have dropped to the 40-45 degree range and will continue to slowly drop. Docks have been removed and water levels are low, so make plans to adjust to the challenges that can create. I have already visited with several people that had difficulty getting boats and pontoons off of lifts. Water levels will probably continue to drop, so if you still have your boat/pontoon on a lift, you may want to address this risk sooner than later. You can get your rig on a trailer and still launch and load at the accesses if you continue to fish.
This coming Wednesday, Oct. 24, will most likely be the last open water full moon of the 2018 open water season. Both musky and walleye anglers usually find success with night fishing during the full moon period. It is also not uncommon for trophy size fish to get caught during this time, as the fish are putting the "feedbag" on right before the cold water season we call ice fishing starts.
Walleyes and musky are the primary fish of pursuit right now and will be until ice up. A few anglers will chase bass, particularly the smallmouth that become very aggressive in the fall, and pan fish anglers look forward to an improved crappie bite in the late open water season. Finding fish in the fall is the biggest challenge. Once you have located fish, you will find them more tightly schooled, with the opportunity for multiple fish to get caught out of the school.
The lakes have been busy with activity, but not from fishing. The docks and lifts have started to get removed, and the boats/pontoons/jet skis have started to come off the lakes for the season. Some anglers are out, but there is plenty of room on the lake for the fall fisherman. The fall bite has been good and there are many days left to get out and enjoy the lakes.
We are into a fall bite pattern for all gamefish species now. Water temps have dropped to the high 50s and topping out during the daytime at 60 degrees. Water temps will continue to drop with cold evenings, lower daytime temperatures, shortened daylight hours, and the cold fronts that are typical for this time of year. The jets stream will set up to keep driving colder temps our way. Dress for the weather, as wind sweeping across cooler water makes it feel much cooler on the water than on shore.
Over the last several months, I have received a number of phone calls from local anglers wanting to discuss concerns about walleye numbers and changes in catch rates on two lakes in particular in our area. These anglers have been long-time Pelican Lake and/or Big Detroit Lake anglers, and believe that walleye catch rates are lower now than ever before.
As we move further into fall we will continue to be riddled with fronts on top of fronts. September is typically a month of instability, inconsistency, and transition for fish. You can have some great days on the water with fish activity, and the next day swear there is not a fish in the lake. Guiding, I can be a hero one day, and a "goat" the next (no ... not "Greatest Of All Time") more the scapegoat-type goat!