The philosophy that perception is reality is on target. 35 degrees on a November river is cold, bordering on brutal. The same temp in March is bordering on balmy–and 35 degrees sitting out on a bucket on the ice is almost tee shirt weather.
Spending a lifetime in the outdoors, I’ve experienced all of these temperature-based perceptions on an annual basis many, many times.
Water temperature on the Mississippi has dropped like a stone over the past couple of weeks. It is now hovering just below 40 degrees.
In late autumn walleyes really trap on the feedback when water temps drop to 48 degrees. Even monster cold fronts aren’t much of an issue as weeks pass and water temperatures slowly fall. They have a need to feed, taking on fuel for the coming winter. This urgency persists until temperatures drop to about 40.
When this occurs, walleye metabolism slows. They no longer have an urgency to feed, sliding into wintering areas where they can feed with less effort when an easy meal drops in front of their face–or strike reflexively when it bounces in front of their nose.
Finding walleyes between now and ice-up is pretty easy: start at the leading edge of wintering areas where electronics say they are hiding and go after ’em with blade baits, hair, plastic or slowly pulling 3 ways with a stickbait and a heavy jig.
Eelgrass coming down the River is a fact of life every fall on the Miss. It can really mess up your bait presentation–especially when trying to pull 3-ways. When weeds start coming in on every cast when you try pitching and dragging plastics the only effective way to fish is vertically with jigs and blades.
Treble hooks on blades and as jig stingers are weed magnets. The last ditch is going to a jig without a stinger hook. When this presentation loads up with weeds, the perception that 35 degrees on a November river is borderline brutal is an icy kiss on any exposed skin.
This is exactly the situation we’re in right now on Mississippi River pool 9.
Usually by the time water temps drop to below 40 the eelgrass situation abates. Not this year. Season change came on like gangbusters. We’re in it right now.
I’m hoping things stabilize by Thanksgiving. The past couple of years we’ve been able to fish into December. Back in 2015 winter showed up on Dec. 16.
As of right now there are no guide trips on the books for the rest of the year. I’m OK with that. Overall, its been a GREAT year and I want to thank all of you who shared the boat with me!
My fishing year started here on Feb. 17–just three days after returning from fishing across the American south. Last winter was the first time since high school that I didn’t get out ice fishing. Not once. I’m OK with that, too.
I go out to the freezer and see precious little meat–just some veggies, rhubarb and a couple of frozen pizzas. We eat three deer a year, so its time to crawl up in a tree for a week or so.
There are ZERO fish fillets in the freezer. No problem. When the Admiral says she wants fish, I go catch her some fish. there will almost certainly be this opportunity between now and the hard freeze.
Far as guiding goes, I’m still willing to work and take jobs on very short notice. If the meaty urologist says it’s gonna be in the 40’s with calm winds, call or email me–odds are I’ll be out there fishin’ anyway.
Meanwhile, I’ll be up in an oak waiting for does and counting what seem to be endless blessings. Unforeseen circumstances can change your life in a heartbeat.
As of right now, my wife and I are healthy. The kids are doing well. Nothing is broken around the house. The bills are paid. I have the freedom to hunt or fish every day, all day if I want to. Or not.
Right now I think I’ll have some pancakes. It’s 26 degrees outside. Looks like its gonna be a nice day. Light north wind. Think I’ll head out to the ridgetop stand about 3 p.m.
Thank God I’m a country boy!