Fishing the Weather Windows
The Fall Bite Continues
Ya just gotta be ready this time of year. The "weather windows" can be few and far between in the late autumn in Door County. Fishing weather windows, where the winds, precipitation and temperatures are in a range that allows you to get your boat on the water, can come and go in a matter of hours. Early last week I was coming home from a meeting late one morning. The forecast had been for building southerly winds that usually make the lakeside pretty rough and often unfishable. This time of year wind-chill becomes a factor as well. I was not anticipating getting out on the lake this day. As I rounded the corner on Highway 57 and Baileys Harbor came into view, it was surprisingly calm. Some light chop, but nothing I couldn’t handle. I had a couple of hours to kill, what the heck, let's go fishing.
I have the advantage of having the Pamela Ann waiting in my garage sitting on the trailer, gassed up and batteries charged. My rods are already in the boat with the appropriate tackle boxes arranged on the floor along with planer boards or riggers. Sometimes I have to make some quick switches depending on my target species, but usually it's just a matter of backing the truck up, attaching the hitch and I am on my way to the landing. That was the case this day. Within fifteen minutes the boat was poised at the dock in the Baileys Harbor Marina ready to probe the shoreline south of town for browns, pike or whatever the waters would offer up.
The disadvantage of late fall fishing is pretty obvious; it can be damn cold! There are a myriad of wonderful advantages as well. First off, you won't have to wait in line at the boat landing. There are few anglers stupid intrepid enough to venture out on the frigid waters this time of year. Usually the only competition you have is the duck hunters. They seem to love lousy weather. Also, it really does not make a big difference what time of the day you go out. You don't have to wait for those usual "low light" periods near dawn or sunset for the fish to become active. With the sun angle so low as winter approaches it is low light pretty much all day, particularly with overcast skies. Also, since the daylight hours are a lot fewer (less than nine hours near the winter solstice as compared to over fifteen hours in the summer), the fish do not have the luxury of waiting to eat during the prime times. When the food is there, they better eat. Finally, another big advantage of fishing this time of year, particularly after the change from Daylight Savings Time, is that you can fish until dark and still get home in plenty of time for supper, maybe even a nap.
Oh, and did I mention that the fish are still biting now? Sure, they might not be quite as active and you will have to change your presentations, but there are fish out there. I did not do so well on my impromptu trip out on BH. In fact I did not get a hit in two hours. That's fishing, eh? However, later in the week Paul and I took advantage of a weather window to try the northern pike bite on one of the lakeside bays. There was overcast with a moderate north-northwest wind. The water temperatures were a chilly 45-47°F. We started a drift in about 12FOW casting with our usual Rapalas and jigs. I got a smallish (23") pike right away then lost a couple. Paul boated a nice fish on a jig. The fish were not tremendously active, but they were around. From the many shotgun reports we were hearing in the area, it was obvious the duck hunters were doing better than we were. As we approached our last half hour of fishing (I was getting cold and the wind was picking up), we moved to another part of the bay and we had a flurry. Avid anglers know what I mean when I say " a flurry". It is a magic moment in time when you are in the midst of feeding fish. Through luck, experience, or shrewd planning you find yourself in the right place and time. In this case, it was mostly luck. Over a twenty-minute period we boated four nice pike, two near 30 inches, lost a couple other fish and had several hits. We would have done even better but I had one "break off" while battling a nice fish (Tip #1: always check your line) and then my line got wrapped around the trolling motor (Tip #2: turn off your tolling motor when you have loose line in the water) resulting in the loss of two of my most effective lures. Well, after a while my hands were getting pretty cold and stiff from handling wet, slimy pike and the wind was starting to whip up. We decided to call it a day. Paul put closure on the outing by boating a fat 31" pike.
I'll be out there again as soon as we get another weather window. Maybe this afternoon...
Tight Lines, Bruce
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