The Tundra Swans say Winter is Nigh

The Tundra Swans say Winter is Nigh

Water temperatures on pool 9 have dropped to 35 degrees, with skim ice forming on quiet backwaters. Large flocks of tundra swans are starting to push through the area–a sure indicator that winter is right around the corner.

Thousands of tundras stop over on pool 8 just south of Brownsville in later autumn every fall, to feast on “duck potatoes” before continuing with their migration. Unlike most other waterfowl who just keep following the River south, these tundras make a hard left when they decide to leave here, wintering in the southeast US.

These big white birds are a truly reliable indicator of winter’s approach. Over the years I’ve noticed ice shows up on the River in earnest 48-72 hours after the tundras bug out. The fact that they showed up in big numbers on pool 9 means winter is definitely on the way–but it won’t get here until the swans vector east.

Meanwhile, catching walleyes for the next few weeks means a change in both mindset and presentation.

With the surface temp now 35 the hot fall bite has gone cold. Walleye metabolism has slowed, pushing fish into wintering areas, where they can congregate in incredible numbers.

On the main channel these wintering holes can be over 30 feet deep, in running sloughs the deeper holes which attract ‘eyes in cold water are 23-32 feet.

Finding fish is no problem with good electronics. The trick is getting them to bite something with a hook. With water running pretty much at normal pool and very clear, dark colors like purple, Kelly green and black flash work well using hair jigs.

With blade baits, I’ve downsized the tail on my Teddy Cat to two-inchers, and have a #5 chrome/blue jigging Rap and a 1/4 oz. Northland Buckshot Rattle spoon both ready to go.

For the past two Novembers we’ve enjoyed generally mild conditions. Both years we could still get out in boats in December. My fishing diary says the water temp was 39 degrees on 12/10/15. This year its already down to 35 a full month earlier.

With any luck it may be a couple weeks before ice clogs the boat launches. Until then, we’ll be essentially ice fishing in open water.

The tundra swans will let us know when its time to break out the short rods again. Ain’t it something that a critter with the brain the size of a walnut which migrates east instead of south knows more about winter’s arrival than a highly educated meaty urologist with extensive computer software?

Truth is, we humans aren’t as smart as we think we are. A 3K trolling motor holds us directly over walleyes which a 1K fish finder says are there but there are times when these critters just hunker down and laugh at you and that $400 fishin’ rod….and a walleye’s brain is even smaller than a tundra swan’s!

This evening I met John, the new federal game warden working this neck of the woods. had an interesting conversation In which the insidious government plot to confiscate our guns was revealed.

John said a lot of violators come clean when he tells them that lying to federal law enforcement is a felony. Felons are not allowed to possess firearms. It is a known fact that fishermen aren’t born liars–but we learn quicker than most folks.

fortunately, when it comes to fishin’ I always tell the truth as I see it. If you adopt this philosophy and always put the resource first there shouldn’t be a problem.

Comments are closed.