The new normal
Canadians are renowned for how much they talk about the weather, but you can double that for Canadian anglers, since not much affects our fishing success more than the daily conditions. This year, however, the long, hot, dry, calm conditions have thrown a monkey wrench into the equation. So much so, we’re learning things that are almost hard to believe.
Take the walleye action as a good case in point. Across much of the country, it has been on fire since mid-June and the fish show no signs of slowing down anytime soon. But here’s the strange thing: the walleye have been biting like crazy in the middle of the day, during the hottest, sunniest, most humid, dead calm conditions. It is the antithesis of almost everything we have learned about the fish. Which brings us to Friday, when Manitoba-based buddy Tom Van Leeuwen joined me for a day of trophy walleye fishing. Given the fantastic fishing, we decided to put away the jigs and rigs—famous for catching tons of walleye—pick up the big sticks loaded with 1/2- to 1-ounce jigs and five- and six-inch swimbaits and spend the day hunting for hawgs.
It took Tom about two hours to drive over from Winnipeg in the morning and when we met at the launch ramp, he said it was overcast, raining and the wind was blowing moderately when he left the city. After almost two months of incessant heat, humidity and mirror-like conditions, some relief was finally in sight. It didn’t hurt our spirits either that the arrival of perfect weather conditions suggested the walleye would go into an even more frenetic feeding frenzy. Yet, strangely, we discovered the opposite.
Oh, we still enjoyed a stellar day on the water, landing more than two dozen gorgeous walleyes in the 24- to 27-inch, 5- to 7-pound range. The biggest of the bunch, by the way, was a gorgeous, brilliantly coloured, yellow and black, 28-inch brute that tipped the scales at over 8-pounds.
But, we had to work for the fish and it wasn’t nearly as easy as the “perfect” weather conditions had predicted. Stranger still, the walleye that have been swimming a foot or two off the bottom and biting aggressively under the flat, calm, hot, mid-day conditions were now glued to the bottom, with their mouths half closed under the gray skies and blustery wind.
Hadn’t they read the rule book?
Tom and I spent a considerable amount of time speculating about why the fish were behaving this way and I can only conclude that they have spent so much time this summer adjusting to the same sunny, hot, humid, flat calm weather conditions that the rest of us have, that they’ve totally accommodated the otherwise adverse conditions.
So much so, in fact, that when otherwise ideal conditions finally arrive, the hitherto perfect conditions throw the fish off their “stable weather” game plan. And it’s not just the walleye that have been behaving this way.
The day before Tom and I fished for walleye, I headed out for some smallmouth action, and found it to be stellar as well under the flat, calm, hot weather conditions. But I confess I stumbled upon the way to catch them when I got hung up and used the electric motor to go up on top of the shoal to pop the lure free.
As I was retying my knot and drifting back out toward the edge of the structure, however, I looked down at the Simrad unit on the front deck and spotted the tell-tale bean shaped arcs of bass. But, they were in skinny, in 6 to 8 feet of water, up on top of the reef, and there were almost too many of them.
Still, I may have been born at night, but it wasn’t last night, so I pitched out the first rod I could grab, a drop-shot rig, and proceeded to catch one smallmouth after the other, right below the boat.
So much for finding the sharp breakline, fishing the shade and being stealthy!
Just for fun, I retraced my steps and headed right back to a spot I’d fished an hour or so earlier with minimal success. Only this time I headed right up on top of the rocks into 6 to 8 feet of water, dropped the Slammer over the side and proceeded to load the boat.
Again, it was mid- to late afternoon, the sun was beating down like the Sahara desert, the humidex was close to 95 degrees F and the surface of the water was as flat as a pancake. And just like the walleye, the smallmouth had forgotten to read the rule book.
I can only conclude that the fish this summer have totally adjusted their routines to accommodate the new normal weather conditions. So to catch them, we need to start thinking outside the box and making the same kinds of adjustments.