Tuesday, January 20, 2015

What makes a perfect day for fishing?

This kind of weather doesn't "reflect" so well on fishing. Vic Fazekas photos

Vic Fazekas with nice fall-caught walleye. Note the chop on the water.
The old saying is: "even a bad day at fishing beats a good day at work."
When it comes to catching, however, the weather conditions are better some days than others.
Clear, windless days are great for suntanning, for swimming, for photography, for seeing deep into the water and for "just feeling great." They are also the worst for catching fish. The very best conditions are when there is a chop on the water (small waves), is overcast or is partially overcast.
I would like to coin a new saying: "The wind is your friend." It is often the factor between a spectacular fishing day and a dead or mediocre one.
Ironically, though, if you listen to many anglers talk back at camp, wind is the enemy. It prevents them from fishing the way they wanted. That's the key -- fishing THE WAY they wanted.
There is a skill to using the wind to your advantage and it starts by recognizing that there are times where you will need to change your method just because of the wind. For example, if you like to anchor and fish vertically, this is going to be out of the question on very windy days because your anchor will drag. If you have a very good anchor, such as a Danforth, that will dig in and hold you in high winds, then you are also going to need to let out four times the rope as the lake is deep. In other words, if you are fishing in 30 feet of water, a common depth when fishing Red Lake in the fall, you will need to let out 120 feet of rope for the anchor to work. You have so much line out that your boat will swing drastically from side to side, so much that you will seldom be over the spot you wanted to fish. A better decision would be to change locations where it isn't so windy or to cast or troll for northern pike until the wind drops.
Larry Pons with hefty walleye caught on overcast, choppy day.
Except for the fall, walleye fishing on Red Lake is almost always best on the windy shoreline. Why? We really haven't a clue but some possibilities are because the waves make the light dance beneath the surface and acts as camouflage for the fish as they tear into baitfish schools, or the muddied-up shoreline provides feed for schools of minnows which attracts the fish, or the minnows themselves get blown against the bank, or the wind blows all the warm water against the bank, or who knows?
Whatever the reason, you can just look at the wind direction and figure out where the walleyes will be biting the best: on the windy shore. It usually works the best to troll, usually backwards to slow you down but sometimes it is just too windy for this and you must front troll.
Something that more and more of our guests are bringing with them are drift anchors. These canvas or nylon cones are fastened to the boat and thrown overboard and significantly slow down a boat's motion. Using these it is possible to drift and jig in walleye hotspots on windy days, and also just to slow down the boat's trolling speed.
There are some days where it is just too windy to fish the windy shores. In these cases the best places to fish are usually on the protected side of islands and points. Treat the big waves like you would the current in a river; you want to fish the sides and eddies of the current. Anchor in the calm water and pitch a jig into the current (waves).
Windy days are excellent for front-trolling artificials, like Rapala's Shallow Shad Rap. You can keep adjusting your speed with the throttle handle as the wind gusts and wanes. Lots of times the fish are extremely shallow in these conditions -- even just six feet of water -- so work closely to shore.
Northern pike like windy and cloudy days too but unlike walleyes, are as apt to be on the lee side of the bays as they are on the windy side. That's why it is usually a better bet to fish for pike when it is extremely windy. You can do so in protected waters and don't have to deal with the wind so much.
As always, casting is probably the best bet although you will do well front-trolling too. Pike love the weeds and it is usually easier to cast in these spots than to troll.

A good tactic is to fish the big bays when there isn't much wind because there is more chance of a chop. Jason Pons photos.
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