GazetteXtra | Print
Print URL:

Ted Peck: Seasons changing, but focus still on fishing

By Ted Peck
September 14, 2014

Bow season opened yesterday. Five stands are still under ice-fishing gear in the back corner of the pole barn. Four more are out in the woods in need of movement and cutting new shooting lanes. My bow hasn't seen an arrow since December.

The first cold front of autumn, which blew through the stateline a few weeks ago, was a wake-up call on several levels for all creatures that thrive in the outdoors—humans included.

Endurance training will begin today—right after I get off the water. Bowhunting can be strenuous. Anybody who began his or her bowhunting career with a recurve bow because there were no other options needs to get in shape before he or she even thinks about hunting.

This training includes shooting six arrows per day until it's time to crawl up in the tree and hunt. Shooting just six arrows sharpens concentration and focus.

Right now, focus is still on fishing. The chain of events set in motion by that cold front is more significant for cold-blooded creatures than for those who would like to turn them into a sandwich.

Our near-perfect summer weather had an impact on finny critters beyond our comprehension. In many waters, temperatures didn't reach 80 degrees all summer. This is good news if you are a cold-water species like trout. It is tolerable if you're a cool-water species like walleye. But it's probably not so good if your folks were channel catfish.

Channel cats don't typically spawn until water temperatures reach 78 degrees. Most adult channel cats probably compensated for low water temperatures, but only time will tell.

Most Wisconsin fishers target other species, anyway. Colder summer water temperatures are about to impact walleyes, bass and muskies, too.

Water temperatures, which were in the low 70s just one week ago, are now tickling the 60s at night in southern Wisconsin waters. These temperatures are nearly ideal for many game and sport fish species.

Seventy degrees is a threshold water temperature—more subtle than 32 or 212 degrees, but a threshold temperature just the same.

From this point forward, water temperatures will drop more quickly, likely hitting 52 degrees at least two weeks earlier than we typically see in a “normal” autumn.

Fifty-two degrees—give or take a couple—is the temperature at which lakes start experiencing turnover. Cool water is denser than warm water, and at about 52 degrees, surface water begins to sink in the water column, mixing with the thermocline layer most fish find comfortable in typical stratified Wisconsin lakes.

Fishing is generally tough for about a week when a lake goes through turnover. Fortunately, Wisconsin has more than 15,000 lakes. Because they have a wide range of habitat parameters, lakes don't turn over at the same time. Fishing is crazy good just before and for about two weeks after a lake turns over.

A major timing key for arrival of this hot action is the second serious cold front of fall.

This weather event can happen any time now. Three days after it passes, you might try throwing No. 5 purple Mepps giant killer bucktail near weed edges out from Goodland Park on Lake Waubesa.

Muskies that live there—and at a hundred other similar locations across the state—will be ready to charge up and rock your world. Many tasks must be completed before this second cold front arrives. Foremost is digging the deer stands out from under the ice fishing tents in the back of the pole barn.

A lawn mower stands between me and the stands. Fortunately, it has wheels and can be pushed out of the way. Lawn mowing is something you do in the summer. This is autumn.

The calendar says autumn doesn't arrive until Sept. 23. Creatures which thrive in the outdoors—including humans—know that summer's page blew off the outdoors calendar last Wednesday and settled halfway down Illinois by Thursday morning.

Ted Peck, a certified Merchant Marine captain, is an outdoors columnist for The Gazette. Email him at [email protected].