The first whisper of winter arrived overnite in a howling northwest wind, bringing plummeting temperatures–pretty much right on schedule.
River levels continue to drop slowly and steadily. Seasonal changes in Spring and Fall bring considerable turmoil. We’ve been working through the Fall change for a couple of months now.
The high water which brought drastic change simply moved the presentation baseline do a different set of attack parameters–like starting a little later in the morning and playing closer attention to the barometer.
With high water receding as temperatures fall, current seams and similar ambush points take on greater importance–especially for bass and pike.
Walleyes show up when the food is there, too. But when high water started coming down the River, the marble-eyes were already beginning to stage on the “steppes” like they do every spring and fall.
Depth is a major key during these times of transition. At ice out, walleyes are holding in deep water wintering holes. As waters begin to warm just a couple of degrees, they start moving shallower and shallower–22 then 18 then 8 then SPAWN. River flow and the barometer are major factors, but the predator/prey relationship is even more critical. Movement of food, flow and the barometer may push the fish a little deeper before they move shallower again.
The migration on the “steppes” is reverse in the fall. Before the high water came, walleyes were active on the wingdams and closing dams on the main channel. In the backwaters you could find them pitching and dragging–or even vertical jigging–hair and plastic along the 11-13 foot contours.
With water still high, these contours will be a good starting place when I hit the water tomorrow–unless a mudline or current seam causes an audible at the line on the way to where I thought would be a good place to start fishin’.
The biggest key to consistent fishing success on the Miss–or anywhere else–comes from listening to the water. After all, this is what the fish do, and when you go after ’em you’re just another link in the food chain.
No matter how close you listen, there may be subtle things you aren’t aware of–or can’t be aware of. Because of this “X” factor it is even more important to stay attuned to all other clues and queues.
For example, on a trip a few days ago I knew walleyes were gonna be tough–with more aggressive species like bass and pike just a little less tough.
The River was well into the ‘action’ stage. The barometer was spiked well over 30.
But the forecast called for a slowly falling barometer after about 11 a.m. Told my clients action would likely pick up considerably about that time. Between 9-11 we only had one fish and several short hits and follows–even though we were in a spot that I knew fish were holding. Moved to a different spot and the guys suddenly had double doubles. time? 10:55. When we went back and tried the first spot an hour later they hooked up with 4 different species in 5 minutes.
Sometimes the fish make it look like you know what you’re doing. But they get a vote, too. Sometimes this vote is “no” because of something you’re doing–or not doing–even though you’re on the fish. Sometimes they vote “no” because of that “X” factor.
Jesus is the only guide who can call the shot correctly every time, just like he did in Matthew 17:27.
All we can do as mortal fishermen is spend as much time on the water as possible, with all senses trying to tune into the River. There are few absolute truths in fishing. But here’s one which comes pretty close: you can’t catch any fish if your line is not in the water!