This past week has opened a few eyes with temperatures going from a high in the 70’s to the 50’s as a high this past Sunday. Night time temperatures have fallen into the upper 20’s with frost most evenings and early mornings. Most of the garden is done for the year except for some of the hardier crops like kale, spinach, and Brussels sprouts which are still flourishing. But, the good thing about the cooler weather is that there is still plenty of time to fish with some of the season’s best fishing coming up plus some of the year’s largest fish are often caught in the fall.
For many outdoors people this is the best time of the year because most hunting and fishing seasons are open or will open soon with the exception of the deer gun season which opens November 17th. This past weekend was the Youth Deer Hunt and I registered deer at the Wilderness Fish and Game store in Sauk City, Wisconsin. I expected to see a few more young hunters out with their parents, guardians, and or mentors. I saw and registered some nice deer, but I thought that there would be more youngsters out hunting in this early season. Maybe the colder weather kept some of the kid’s home, but I expected a few more kids trying to harvest their first deer. Since the cooler weather arrived, most crops have been harvested and the sudden falling of leaves have all contributed to better vision and more deer being seen by hunters in the field. Wisconsin still has a deer population over one million deer, so we still have many deer.
Wisconsin and most of the Midwest has seen an outbreak and increase in the Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD). This is a virus that is transmitted to deer from an insect called a midge. Deer usually die within a week when this disease infects a deer. This is a relatively common disease that affected Wisconsin back in 2002 and now has been found in many parts of southern Wisconsin and the Midwest this summer and fall. Michigan has been hit particularly hard with thousands of deer dying from the disease. The hard frost we have been having should kill the midges and stop the infestation of any more deer. The meat and deer are safe to humans and for consumption.
Another factor is starting in northern Wisconsin with the annual fall turnover which greatly affects the fishing on lakes that are currently experiencing this phenomenon. Water temperature has much to do with turnover and when water temperatures gets into the low and mid 50’s turnover occurs on most lakes. Water is most dense and heaviest at 39 degrees F. and as the temperatures increase or decrease from 39 degrees; it becomes less dense and lighter. In both the summer and winter, most lakes are maintained by climate in what we call a stratified condition. The less dense water is at the surface of lakes and the denser water is at or near the bottom.
Soon in the fall, air temperatures cool the surface water causing its density to increase. The heavier and denser water sinks, allowing and forcing the lighter and less dense water to the lake’s surface. This process continues until the water temperature at all depths reaches approximately 39 degrees F. Now, there is very little difference in density at this stage, allowing the waters to be easily “mixed” by the wind. This sinking action and mixing of the waters by the wind results in the exchange of the surface and bottom waters resulting in what we call “turnover”.
The signs that a lake is experiencing turnover are; clear lakes turning cloudy or “muddy looking” and there is often an odor from decaying vegetation that was on the lake’s bottom and is now coming to the surface. Lakes that are going through turnover have consistent oxygen at all depths and this allows fish to scatter throughout the lake because it’s comfortable at all depths. This can make most fishing difficult because it’s difficult to find fish. But, fishing patterns remain the same, so find the forage fish and right structure and you’ll find fish of all species.
Also, not all lakes turnover at the same time and some shallow lakes like Lake Winnebago don’t turnover. When fishing, look for lakes that have already turned or lakes that haven’t turned over yet. Post-turnover is a great time for big baits and big fish!
Don’t let the EHD virus scare you away from hunting deer because its damage has been done and the midges are dead with the cold. Keep fishing and look for lakes that haven’t turned or turned weeks before you fish its waters. Fish have remained active on the Madison Lakes, the Wisconsin River, Lake Wisconsin, and most southern waters. Next week, the weather will warm up into the 60’s. Try to get out and do some more fishing and hunting. Whether you fish muskies, walleyes, bass, or panfish, you can find any of these species now and through out the fall and into November. Remember that the muskie season in southern Wisconsin is open till December 31st.
I like to use live bait (minnows) or plastics this time of year for walleyes. Muskies like most crankbaits, bucktails casted over the dying weeds and on the shallow flats, large plastics, and always have a nice sucker on a quick set rig near the boat for follows.
If you fish and hunt, this is the prime time of the year for being on the water or in the fields and woods. Be safe and have fun!