The days are starting to shorten.
It’s a grim reminder that another dark, dreary winter is coming; but there is still more work to do. You throw a thick hoodie over your head that matches your jeans and hiking boots, then grab a face shield – no – not a ‘Rona mask – something that will protect you from the wind.
While it’s not the end of the world, in some ways it certainly feels like it.
While conditions heading into fall and winter are traditionally stable, the water is definitely cooling. Much like our warming trend in spring, except the pendulum is swinging back in the opposite direction.
In reservoirs that are part of a flood management system, the water levels are declining to what is called “winter pool”. Winter pool is when the water level is lowered. This can reduce ice damage to dams and shoreline structures, and allow for additional flood storage which will be necessary during the upcoming spring rains. Water fluctuations also discourage beavers and muskrats from creating shoreline habitat.
Before the water reaches it’s lowest point, shad will start to migrate to the backs of coves. If the water actually starts to rise, it can push bass further back into these coves as well – or scatter them. Many anglers turn to topwater this time of year, and suggest that flipping a jig becomes less effective.
Make sure you also spend some time working with jerkbaits, spinnerbaits and swimbaits.
Slowly falling water won’t cause a dramatic change, but quick drops can move fish out onto flats, to the outer edges of weedbeds, or the ends of laydowns. They can even suspend out over deep water. If this is the case and the fish have moved out, fish the same presentations – but deeper.
Even though the water temps are on a downward trend, most anglers would agree that this decline in water temperature has little effect on patterns or presentations.
Watch for extreme changes though – from 5°F to 10°F – or harsh weather conditions that can turn the fish off. Like we said before – slow down, downsize, and try finesse if the baits they were chewing on previously stop working.
What baits do you have confidence in?
This time of year the fish will be feeding up getting ready for winter. Clearer water conditions mean turning to more natural colors and shad-imitating presentations.
If inclement weather causes the water to muddy up, turn back to shallow cover and more obnoxious options. Try baits that are loud, brightly colored, or that kick off a lot of vibration. Fish tight to cover and if you don’t get bit, consider whether you are able to leave the area and find clearer water elsewhere on the lake.
In some cases, moving will be your best option.
A quick look online proves most of your angling buddies are hanging it up for the season. They’re saying things like “well it was fun while it lasted!”, and “come on spring!” – or worse… “it’s a shame that it’s cooling off and the fish stopped biting…”
Some are trading their time on the water for time in a tree stand. Some are prepping snowmobiles. Others… they’ve just had enough of the wind and the cold and the rain that seem to pierce layers of clothing like a hot knife thru butter.
But you know better.
Fewer anglers means less pressure, more freedom to fish where you want when you want, and most importantly… peace. Many days you find yourself on the water alone.
Alone with your thoughts. Your goals. Your Creator.
Perhaps this time of year isn’t so much an end as it is a beginning?