Time is getting short for the open-water season. This may be the last weekend of half-way decent weather to be out in the boat. Water surface temps are in the low 40-degree range now and we are done with them warming back up during the day. When they get into the high 30-degree range, and that will probably be by the end of the weekend, or very early in the week, they can skim over with overnight lows in the teens with little to no wind.
If the forecast for the next week to 10 days holds up, many of the smaller and shallower lakes in the area could be skimmed over by the end of next weekend. Ponds are already skimming over with ice now, some open back up with the high winds we have had, and some have stayed locked up since Wednesday.
If you are hoping to get out for your last open-water outing these next few days, be aware that all the docks have been removed and prepare for more challenging launches. Hazard markers have also been removed from all the lakes. Waterproof boots are a must, as most accesses will require you to wade into the water a little bit. Dress in layers, and take more warm clothes than you think you need. Hats covering your ears and gloves are a must now (at least while you are traveling) with the current conditions.
A towel to dry your hands will be important if using minnows. Wet hands can have their heat leeched from them with even a slight breeze. Extra gloves are a good idea just in case you get your favorite fishing gloves wet.
Outer gear should be windproof. The wind is what makes late fall fishing a challenge. If it is 30 degrees with no wind, not a problem for almost everybody. But 40 degrees with a 15 mph wind can be brutal. I know you have heard it from me before, but it is always worth repeating: There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear and poor preparation. Good gear is worth the money.
If you are done with the open water, now is a good time to take stock and inventory of your ice fishing gear. It is amazing how gear, equipment and ice tackle disappear from where you know you put them. The fishing gremlins always mess with us, and mess up our great organizing job from stowing stuff late last spring.
It is a good time to re-spool new line onto the ice rods. Make sure drags are broken free on the reels and are in good working condition. It doesn’t hurt to oil up the reels for smother action in the cold weather. Make sure augers run before you load them up to head out on your first ice trip. Clean out fish houses and portables (I know you did last spring before putting them away, but trust me, there always seems to be a surprise).
Many of you will have to wait until you're all done with hunting before getting organized for your winter fishing. I don’t know how you do it! I don’t hunt, and I still have a hard time getting everything done in the “tweener time” between the open water and ice seasons. Sporting events, fall projects, winter readiness, kids, grandkids, relationship commitments and all the miscellaneous (life interfering with life activities) make it complicated at times to feed the need for getting the correct amount of fishing in (according to my wishes).
I am predicting now that we will have walkout ice almost a week before Thanksgiving this year. Just saying!