We have been getting September this August and the September forecast is looking like September, so those that like a longer fall are getting their wish. Most of us, however, were wishing that it would extend into November and December and not start earlier.
This last week has dropped water temperatures even more. They are starting out in the mid 60 degree range now and not getting much over 70 anymore. The temps will continue to trend down with the cool nights, shorter daylight, lower sun angle and cooler days. Some of the best fishing of the season is still to come.
Many fish will start moving back to shoreline breaks and some shallower water now as surface temps become more comfortable for them. The cooler water temps hold more parts per million of oxygen also which can keep fish shallower longer. As the temperatures continue to drop, baitfish and fish will slide out to deeper water (especially after “fall turnover” ) as oxygen levels become consistent throughout the entire water column.
Turnover is when the surface water cools and sinks and the cooler deeper water comes to the surface. This lake turnover typically will occur when water temps get to about 50 degrees. High winds can also make this transition occur earlier, especially when combined with some extremely cold nights even when water temps have been hovering in the mid 50-degree range. Some years it can even be delayed until water temps get closer to 40 degrees (water is most dense at 39.2 degrees). This is more rare and happens in stable weather with slow water temp drops and minimal wind ... that doesn’t happen here!
Look for the fish that have been shallow as the lakes cool to start moving back deeper as the water temps get to the mid 50-degree range, and you also notice the significant die off of vegetation. We are probably at least a few weeks away from those water temps getting to the 50s yet. If the weeds are healthy, they give off the much needed oxygen (especially for walleyes)to be up shallow and feeding, if they are dying, they won’t hold baitfish for the gamefish or give off the oxygen needed. Remember that high wind blowing across shallow water also oxygenates that water. Locating fish is always a matter of figuring out their food and comfort.
As we also transition into a fall pattern, the need for the early morning start is not as critical. Many days, especially after a very cold night, it helps to let the water warm some and the baitfish to become more active before the fish start getting into primary and secondary feeding times. Light levels are also diminished as we get later in the year due to the lower angle of the sun. Most days in the fall, the best bite time, especially for walleyes, is just before sunset and up through “dark 30” (a half hour after the sunset and into dark conditions).
As of now I am guessing we will still have 10 weeks of open water fishing in our area. Get out and enjoy the bug free weather!
Columnist Brad Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.