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Brad Laabs: Fishing is a challenge when a lake turns over

But for now, the lakes are not busy, the bite is good, and we have several weeks left of this open water season.

Itasca Fall Fishing.PNG

With the below-freezing overnight temperatures and the more seasonably normal daytime highs in the in the 40-degree range, water surface temps have finally started to drop to the 50-degree range. They will continue to drop consistently now with the cold nights, cool days and shorter daylight hours.

Fishing in the lakes area has been good, but like all fall conditions, some days can be better than others. With the 50-degree water temps and high wind situations we have had this last week, lakes can transition into fall turnover. When lakes are in turnover, fishing can be tough until the lake settles back out. Fishing can be difficult on lakes in turnover for several days to a week. Fish can go very deep after turnover as oxygen levels are consistent throughout the water column. Some of the signs of turnover will be foam on shorelines created by minerals from weed die off, and a sulfur odor or stink from the water for a few days is also common. The clear lakes will be a little cloudy when the surface water switches with the deep water, and then return to being “gin clear” as it settles back out.

Most shallow-basin lakes never experience the turnover effect that the deep clear-water lakes go through. The wind action on shallow lakes of 35 feet or less are constantly turned over by the wind effect on the lake. Those shallow lakes will experience the weed die off and the foam issue from the weed decay. Fish in the shallow lakes will continue to relate to weed areas that still have some healthy green weeds. They will not hold in areas with brown, dead and dying weeds.

The green weed areas hold more oxygen and baitfish use these areas to feed on plankton as well as using the weeds for cover and security. Gamefish will always be close to their food source. If you find minnows and small young of the year perch, sunfish, or crappies -- you will find gamefish close by. On the deeper basin lakes, some of the baitfish will move to soft bottom areas to feed on bugs in the mud, and the gamefish will follow.

In the fall you don’t need to worry about getting out early in the morning to take advantage of low light conditions like we do in the spring and summer. It helps to let the water warm ( and the air temperature) as the baitfish will get more active, that also stimulates gamefish to get more active.


The daytime bite is better in the fall during the mid-day, as light levels are also lower with the sun angle lower in the sky. It is the one time of year that you can say the evening bite is best, as the fish activity usually picks up for an active bite window just before dark until about dark 30. The lakes are not busy, the bite is good, and we have several weeks left of this open water season.

(Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes)

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