Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Is May too cold? August too hot? September?
These are common questions for people who are planning a fishing trip to Northern Ontario. The facts, however, might surprise you.
Let's start with May. The photo above shows long-time Bow Narrows anglers Suzie and Darrel Palmer and their friend Dave Myers using the dead-bait system for catching northern pike during May, 2010. This is an ideal pike fishing time.
I was just telling someone that May is usually nicer than June! That's been my observation anyway. I decided to dig up some facts on the subject and went to the historical data for Red Lake at the Weather Network.
It would be misleading to look at the average temperature for May because we aren't open until May 21. So let's look at the data from then to the first of June.
It got as warm as 27.9 C during those 10 days last season. That's 82 F!
The coldest it got was 4.7 C or 40 F.
What about precipitation?
Total precipitation was only 3 mm or 0.12 inch.
In other words, May was warm and sunny! And there are no bugs!
How about August then? Since we're open the whole month we can look at the Weather Network's figures for all of August. The warmest daytime high, as recorded at the Red Lake airport in the first week of August in 2010 was 29.5 C or 85 F. The second week it was 31.8 or 89 F. The third week it was 28.8 C or 84 F. The final week it was 31 C or 88 F. When you consider most people think 80 F to be an ideal temperature in the summer, our August highs last year were only slightly warmer than the ideal.
Also, those temperatures were taken at the Red Lake airport which is located inland and gets reflected heat from the runway. The temperatures at camp would have been considerably lower, probably by 5-10 degrees, since it is surrounded by cool lake water and forests and is refreshed by summer breezes off the water. And we just don't get the humidity up here.
Finally, those were the hottest temperatures in those weeks. They may only have existed for an hour or two.
The average daytime high was way, way less.
When you look at the historical average high for August in Red Lake, Ontario, it is just 20 C or 68 F! However, that historical average has been altered due to climate change in recent years. I would say the average daytime high for August in the last decade has been more like 78 F, still pretty close to the ideal and again, may have only existed briefly. It virtually always cools off at night, perfect for sleeping. Remember, this is Canada. Even our warmest weather isn't hot.
But do warm temperatures hurt the fishing? No way, not in our lake anyway. The depth in Red Lake varies from bays of over 100 feet deep to very shallow bays. The water temperature in the deep bays never gets above 46 F. That's great for lake trout but too cold for comfort for walleye and northern pike. When the weather gets warm we just fish near those areas where the water always stays cold but where the air temperature has warmed the cold lake water into ideal fish temperatures in the 60-75 F range. The fish will be there. August is one of our best fishing months.
What about September then?
September is a month of transition, going from summer to fall. It is virtually the reverse of May which starts off cool and gets warmer. September usually starts off warm and gets cooler. Usually. In 2009 September was the warmest month of the summer with daytime highs of 80 F the whole month. But that was certainly an exception.
Let's look at what happened last year and let's divide the month in half.
In the first two weeks the hottest temperature was 24.7 C or 76 F. The coldest was -2 C or 28 F. In the second half of the month the hottest temperature was 18.8 C or 66 F. The coldest was -2.9 C or 27 F.
So, as you can see the month does cool off as it goes along.
Historically, the average daytime high in September is 11.6 C or 53 F. But again, historical figures aren't of much use any more because our atmosphere is heating up. I would put the average daytime high for the first half of the month at about 65 F and about 50 F the last two weeks.
As the surface temperature of water cools off, the walleye move into deeper water and cluster at the entrances to narrows, around points and islands. We catch them readily there in 20-30 feet of water. Northern pike will still largely be in their summer haunts, just on the deep side of the weeds in probably 6-12 feet of water.
Summer here is too short for the fish to waste any of it.
So September is also a good time to fish and it has other advantages too. One of the biggest is the absolute solitude to the place. Most people are not able to come fishing once school has resumed. Either they have children or grandchildren in school or are teachers themselves.
September is also the most beautiful time of year to come. Leaves will begin to change color about Sept. 20 and will all have fallen by mid-October.
It is also the best time of year to see moose and bear which get more active with the end to summer. Throughout September there will also be great flocks of sandhill cranes and snow geese and Canada geese streaming overhead.
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