Fall Turnover - What it is and how to fish it.

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"As The Lake Turns"
Understanding The Fall Turnover
by Jim Hudson

The fall season, one of the most beautiful seasons in the northern reaches of our country, is starting to show it's tell tale signs. Decreasing amount of daylight, cooler temperatures, and the drastic color changes to leaves have started, reminding us that fall has arrived. Along with these signs, another fall phenomena, will be here shortly. One that brings a change to the many lakes in our region, The Fall Turnover.

This phenomena, known as turnover will occur in a lake system twice a year, once during the fall, which we will discuss here, and again in the spring. To understand the turnover period in relation to catching fish, one must first know what is happening to a lake during this time. And with that, the most important word to remember from this article is, Oxygen! In simplest terms, turnover can be simply described as the time when a lake's water mixes, allowing oxygen to be replenished throughout the lake's system. Mixing will occur when a lake's surface water cools to 50 degrees, a temperature that makes the surface water more dense then water deeper in the water column. This dense, oxygen rich, surface water sinks to the bottom which in turns pushes oxygen depleted water from the bottom to the surface. This circulation of water, which is greatly enhanced by wind, allows the water that was once on the bottom to become re-oxygenated.

So you ask, what does all this scientific mumbo-jumbo mean to us anglers? Because a lake has oxygen throughout the entire water column after turnover, fish can be found anywhere and everywhere. And as an angler this is good information to know, because prior to fall turnover, you caught fish in their summer haunts. Fish holding on their summer haunts were related to these areas for a multitude of reasons, but optimum oxygen levels is one of the biggest reasons that fish were in a certain area. So now, as turnover has come to your favorite lake, and other water depths have become oxygenated, these same fish will not be limited in where they can roam and find prey. And with this great process, comes a time where finding fish can become difficult.

This process we call turnover is a great time of year for a lake, but in the minds of some anglers it becomes frustrating in regards to catching fish. This process can occur quickly, and an angler may see his or her hot spot become void of fish in the matter of a day. Turnover will be a time fish will spread out throughout the lake and a pattern can be hard to come by for any species of fish. So to catch fish on your favorite lake during this unique time, an angler must be willing to move from spot to spot, checking both shallow and deep water, and use lures that cover water quickly. A run and gun approach as some would put it. Crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and all other forms of search lures should be used during turnover, allowing an angler to cover water quickly to find these spread out fish. Trolling, where allowed, is another technique that one can use to cover water quickly and efficiently. After catching a fish in an area, it could pay to slow down your approach, seeing if you can connect with a few more fish. This period is short lived, and a few days after turnover has happened, the lake will begin to stabilize and fish can be caught using typical fall patterns.

Another way to capitalize on the turnover period is to search out lakes that have not turned yet or have turned and already stabilized. Because each lake is unique in its own right, some will turn earlier, some later, and some not at all. A basic rule of thumb to follow is: smaller shallower lakes will turn over first, large deep lakes will turn over last, and the smallest and shallowest lakes may not turn at all because wind constantly keeps the water circulating throughout the year. So by knowing area lakes and how they turnover, an angler can hop lake to lake throughout the fall and be void of the turnover phenomena. Another bit of information that is good to know, when it comes to larger lakes, lakes characterized by having many basins (Vermillion, Leech Lake, Lake of the Woods, etc), it is a rarity that the whole lake will turnover at once. So, on lakes like these, a person could use the lake hopping method and apply it to different sections of the lake as these separate basins can turnover separately.

So this year, instead of grumbling at the signs of turnover, use this information and make turnover another reason to enjoy another beautiful fall day on your favorite lake.

Jim Hudson
Hudson's On The Spot Guide Service

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