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Just a theory

31 posts in this topic

We are enduring a bite slower then normal that does not match the current estimates of the fishery population and health. Now we can blame many things and take shots in the dark at the DNR, angler pressure, even the weather but I feel a chain of events starting back early last fall my have been the author that wrote this winters chapter.

Let’s step back to last fall during the open water season. We had a few factors that had slipped well past the state of normal. First was the low water levels teamed up with zero run off or tributary discharge into the eastern end of Upper Red Lake. This affected a few things; one is water temp. Without the steady discharge of the Tamarac River, ditch grades, small creeks and hundreds of lake bottom springs pushing a steady supply of bog cooled water into Upper Red lake we slowly began to raise the water temps throughout the column. Many have also noticed a side affect of minimal run off, the crystal clear water this winter. Now we not only had a lack of super cool water coming in the lake we also had low water levels. Just as a glass of water sitting in the sun, the less water the faster it will heat up. Now we have a lake that is not receiving cool water and getting baked by the high temps and sun beating down on the bottom. Things heated up then the winds came beating the shallow water over the nearly exposed sandbars.

With the low water, heat and the heavy amount of silt in the water we basically had a warm bowl of soup the fish struggled to live in. Just as any creature that roams this earth above or below the waters surface, a good portion of the fish went where the living is easy. Fish do it, caribou do it and even humans do it. Why struggle when you can travel to easy living?

Now a good portion of the fish population has left town for easy living in deeper water and a few stayed back of course. These fish that remained then faced another new challenge presented to their underwater world. The heavy snow cover that came early in the year along with Upper Red Lake’s ability to produce ice quickly and efficiently I believe actually was the final blow in deciding the wintering grounds of the fish. When ice forms over any lake it reduces photosynthesis and accelerates the decay of any vegetation thus depleting oxygen levels, Red lake with its solid fast growing ice deeply covered with snow undoubtedly kept the sun on the wrong side of the ice. So now we have fish stressed from hot temps, vanishing bait fish and now the oxygen levels are creating hardships.

As the most currents and maps and information conclude we do have the deep water or nor do we have the calm side of the lake. We have the shallow wind swept end of the lake. A majority of the fish left for the cooler deeper water and not just the crappie. This explaining the good fishing early ice and a steady decline in action since. These fish have no reason to return to the shallow side of the lake, the food and oxygen levels are not present as of yet.

Now as we enter late season we have the one thing occurring that will drive most species into a battle for existence, a driven need to reproduce. As spring closes in these fish can not control the imbedded drive towards the spawning grounds. Walleyes, crappies, perch and even the shiners instinctively know they need to be on the Eastern shore of Upper Red lake come ice out. Take salmon for example, they are going to die but they rush headlong into the rivers in the attempt to sustain the species. So even if conditions are not perfect these fish will head east as they have done since water was new.

I feel this is why we are seeing more activity on the western front and ever so slowly crawling to the east.

As I said this is just a theory and I may be way off base as I’m sure some will go to great lengths to point out but if I am right or even close to it we will see late February and March continually getting better and better as the shiners return to spawn, followed by heavy numbers of walleye returning to spawn and even our infamous crappies as they head for the creeks and canals to spawn this spring.

Either way I am not going sit back on shore and give up on it, I would much rather be sitting in my portable as the schools begin to come home.

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Wow!! If you think about it,it makes good sence to me!

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I agree ith that 95% (5 percent undeciced..it is an election year). The early deep snow makes an impact on a soup bowl that is as shallow as URL. The 1/2 of the URL amazingly small this year when it comes to the slabs. We pick up one here and there but nothing like it was.

Rewind a few years

we began making lengthy drive 5-7 years ago to search out the elusive (not so elusive at the time) slabs or URL. It always ended up being Mid-Feb to early Mar by the time the local fishing was done. We would fish from the south end and find slabs almost every night. The difference was we had to move each night to stay on top of the fish. Fast forward to 3 years ago. We were struggling out of the south end so we strapped on the tires chains and started driving north. We drove north until we thought, "this is a good start." Ended up we were not far enough north and or west so we moved and have nothing but luck ever since.

The difference has been how the bottom of the lake has looked or the ability to see it. the snowfall each year has been sporadic at best. This year this snow is like it was 5 years ago where chains are necessary for off road travel. Take away the 1000's of crappies that have been harvested, the target for these fish has went from the size of Texas to the size of Ohio. Each year the target gets smaller so enviromental changes affect this ever weakening target for crappies.

This year there were many factors that have figured into the slow bite. All of which Johhy P has touched on.

Man, i can't wait until march.......

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Or maybe this theory gives hope to lots of potential clients to take the drive to Red and still spend money on your houses this year. I'm only referring the the bunches of people who whine, "what happened to all the Crappies?" as for me, I'd think it wiser to just roll with it and say, " Wow look at all the walleyes!"

But, as we all know, when walleye season closes, you have to lure up the still crappie hopefuls to keep the business going strong, smart theory when you look at it that way.

I'd like to just wait until they are here during open water and I know they are more tightly concentrated and willing to bite. Turning the throttle on my motor and casting a crappie rod is easier than drilling two hundred holes and working up a sweat in -20 degree heat.

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When does the walleye season close on red??

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Huh. Is the bit that bad right now? Most post I have read on this site, or others, sound some-what promising. I will make one trip this year but I am having a hard time deciding wether to wait or make it up before walleye season closes. I would rather hammer some slabs but if walleyes are the only thing I am going to catch I would like to go home with something. Betting on the crappies to pick up later in the season is starting to sound like a bigger and bigger gamble to me.

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 Originally Posted By: late night
Huh. Is the bit that bad right now? Most post I have read on this site, or others, sound some-what promising. I will make one trip this year but I am having a hard time deciding wether to wait or make it up before walleye season closes. I would rather hammer some slabs but if walleyes are the only thing I am going to catch I would like to go home with something. Betting on the crappies to pick up later in the season is starting to sound like a bigger and bigger gamble to me.

Had the same problem as you, only it was last year. Went up on March 5th and fished for 3 days. Caught some walleye's and one large crappie. Not making the mistake this year, We're going up on Sunday the 17th and staying until wednesday the 20th. Figure we know that the walleyes will bite, and nothing sucks worse then catching fish and having to put them all back and not eating any. Last year we were a week late and walleye season was closed. We never got to eat any fish since the waldos had to go back in the drink. Just praying that we get into the walleye fishing like we did back on Dec. 19th when we went out of Chad Benson's. I kid you not we caught about 60 waldos a day. Rattle wheels actually drove us nuts, and we left them up after 3am the second night.

So long story short, it is a craps shoot. You might as well go up earlier and hit the end of waldo season. At least that way you know you'll eat some fish.

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 Originally Posted By: ImissReeds
Or maybe this theory gives hope to lots of potential clients to take the drive to Red and still spend money on your houses this year.

Yes I am going to double book everything and I would like to field 60 calls a day verses the normal 30, business is completed and done off the forums. I simply thought it would be interesting to share my thoughts on the bite with the people of Fishing Minnesota, maybe get some feedback maybe get some good ideas.

Of course just as I predicted and stated to those I call friends “somebody is going try to bust my jelly beans from behind a keyboard just because they can”. Glad you got that of your chest, hope you feel better.

Now as for the rest of us I was wondering what some of you thought as to the logistics of it, does it make sense or is their something I am not seeing.

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Jon, why wouldn't it make sense??? If you had the means to do so, wouldn't you go for easier living? I sure would. Down here in the SW corner of the state most of the lakes are similar, kinda, to your western shore of URL. They are shallow dishpans. The big difference is the fish don't have deeper, easier waters to turn to when the going gets tough. Fish caught in the summer time have the texture of oatmeal. Drought, heat, and wind are all huge factors in the survival, or lack of, in our lakes. Interesting how the deeper lakes (By deeper I mean 13 feet and not 7) have better natural production of fish, therefore better fishing. When the wind kicks up, or should I say on a normal day on the prairie, take a look at the lake water. It's a stirred up mess of terrible cloudy water with a whole lot of silt mixed in. If I were a fish, and could go deep to avoid that ickyness, I surely would.

Most of the lakes in Murray county have airatiors installed in the winter or the fish will die. RIght now we have 30+ inches of ice. In a lake that is only 7 feet deep, with 2 1/2 feet of ice on top, that doesn't leave much room for the fish to swim.

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Thanks for the interesting post Jon. Every year it is different for crappie fishing and that is half the fun - trying to figure out the pattern and what is happening on the lake. I haven't been up for three weeks but now will be up every weekend until ice out. It will be fun to see how the body language of the lake has changed in my absence and try to figure out a way to outsmart the slabs and get off the road somewhere.

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Maybe since the State of MN and all the people who purchase licenses in the state were good enough to restock the lake with Walleyes so there can be commercial fishing again. Is it time to let non band members a taste of what is in the rest of the lakes?

Just my 2 cents.

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I agree with ya jon, everything you say makes sense and you have the knowledge of the lake to back it up. The thing i don't get is were people get off thinking that catching 10-15 walleyes a night is a bad bite. yea, so you can only eat two per day 2 16 inch walleyes are plenty for any man i'm sure. i live a half an hour from mille lacs and to be honest right now i would rather drive to url because i've always caught fish there. this weekend on mille lacs 3 houses 1 night 2 pout, what a day. you guys have an awesome fishery up there either way you look at it. i know i will continue to go up there even if there weren't any fish cause i just plain old like it up there. just my 2 cents.

tengauge

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I believe that you touched on a number of very good points that help explain why slow fishing occurs on every lake in this state. I also suspect that you are pretty accurate as to what is likely happening at URL. In general, I believe that to improve your success in tough conditions you need to be versatile and may need to change your tactics from your normal routine.

In my experience, there are usually willing biters on any body of water, but depending on an infinite number of factors you need to be flexible with your plan of attack-including everything from day of the week, time of day, area and presentation.

As with almost everything in life, our efforts are generally the biggest factor that will ultimately determine our success. The good news is that it will always be just fishing. Relatively speaking, a slow day on Red is usually not a bad thing....

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i wouldn't say that is much of a theory, thats pretty much common knowledge, nothing new or mindblowing there. everything you just said i learned reading my first couple ice fishing articles.

sounds like the fish are doing normal fish movements. the guides don't have it so easy this year and the results are showing in the fish reports, the same old tactics you became accustomed to aren't working out.

that kind of sucks that you guys are limited to only a portion of the lake, especially a portion of the lake that isn't a traditional mid ice location. if you had free range you could search out them deep holes where the fish go when mid ice conditions are in full swing.

if thats your theory wouldn't you think you'd want your shacks as far west as you can go? hoping to get onto the first action of fish that will be heading back to the east as we move into late ice, then slowly moving your location back east with the fish as they move in to spawn and follow the food chain?

i doubt that the fish numbers are down it's just they are where your not aloud to fish right now, the crappie numbers might not be what they used to be but thats gonna be normal now that the walleyes are thriving. there's still plenty to be had but the days everyone was spoiled are probably gone.

i do agree that late ice on url is gonna get way better, as the snow cover and ice melts along with the sunny warm days the oxygen will come back in the shallow water, the baitfish will show up, the panfish will be following the baitfish, the walleye and pike will be following the panfish. it will be a chain reaction and you throw spawning in the mix and it's on.

time to adjust tactics, hopefully some useful info and knowledge comes out of this season for future seasons that have low water levels without fresh cool water coming in with early heavy snow cover that deplete oxygen levels and force fish to move deep.

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Could it be as simple as the fisheries guy explained at the meeting the other night. "The walleyes are there and in good shape. They are fat. The lake is full of forage right now. Forage has good years and not so good. The bite will be better when the food is less." You can still have good walleye fishing just takes more time. 6-10' early and late.

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Holeseeker,

Problem with moving far enough west is the small issue of that imaginary (not so imaginary if you cross it) line where we are allowed to fish.

Just becasue the theory that Johhny P layed out was obvious to you doesn't mean that it was not a good learning experience for other contributors to the site. I'm just sayin.

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Jonny-P. I think the video you posted disproved any theory about a bad bite!

Anyway. The theory sound pretty accurate. Lots of snow = no sun penetration. Low water levels in the summer means you didnt get the good flush of oxygenated water during the open water months and the fish run for deeper water. However, I dont understand all the head scratching. Mid winter is never the best time to fish on any lake. Excpesially when you get a winter with lots of snow.

Are the rental services up there starting to get alot of complaints about bad fishing? I just read one post were a guy was less then happy with his rental weekend. But, if people go to Upper Red with visions of buckets full of slabs and 16 inch walleyes and top it off with the 40 inch pike then they are only fooling themselves. It might happen but probably not. In my mind a good rental house consist of; warm and comfortable, somewhat fresh spot and hopefully a few fish between the beers!

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roughneck,

i'm aware of the imaginary line thats why i said it sucks they are limited to only a portion of the lake and if they had free range they could search out and find where a good number of the fish move.

jonny was on the money and it is a useful info, i'm just saying it isn't much of a theory it's common fish moving knowledge and naturally what fish do in them circumstances.

people are not much of true fisherman if they don't understand fish and what they do. if your a die hard you should know enough useful info to be able to catch fish on any body of water by just knowing where the fish are, what they are doing, and why they are there.

the people that want everything handed to them on a silver platter with high expectations are the one's with the bad reports. if your holes freeze go outside for 20 seconds and kick some snow on the banking quick, scoop some ice out with your minnow scoop, boil some hot water and dump it in your holes like they recommend. it's all pretty basic.

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 Originally Posted By: late night
. In my mind a good rental house consist of; warm and comfortable, somewhat fresh spot and hopefully a few fish between the beers!

Amen, brother... If you want the relaxing mode, thats where its at. If you want a pail of fish, get out and do some searching on your own. I personally don't believe what anyone tells me, and that even includes "guides" (and I use that term very loosely) that I pay for their house to stay in. They like to tell you it has been hot for the last few days and it must be burnt out now...

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i was just up there this weekend and pretty dissappointed with the bite. even the eye's were slow, 3 of the them, 2 in the slot at 10:30pm, 11:00pm and 2:10 am. what happened to our evening bite. we hardly ever caught walleye's at 2am, but we used to always say no matter how many holes you drilled or what you were doing during the day you better have a line down at 4:00 pm and wait for your vex to light up. that is when we would catch 85% of our crappies and 70% of our eye's even when we couldn't keep them. saturday i didn't even mark a fish the entire evening and didn't catch one until 10 o'clock at night. while i wasn't as mobile as i would have liked to have been, i was still shocked at how poor the walleye bite was. i only fished sat. night and sunday morning and then spent the rest of sunday trying to get our house of 8 " of standing water which was about over the floor. so my day wasn't going very well anyways, so maybe i was just in a bad mood. but something is definitely different from the last 7 yrs i have been going up there.

one of my buddies did make reference to the commercial fishing thing but i don't think one year on 200,000 ac of water you could do that much damage. we will have to wait a few years for that to take full affect. so most of Jonny P reasoning makes sense to me. hopefully next week will bring more luck, bring a portable this time can be a lot more mobile and lot easier to move if a pressure ridge gives way and decides to flood you out.

i have never rented one of his houses, but i always take the info he gives on this forum seriously when i head up to the url. so i wouldn't say that his reasoning was a giant excuse list, i didn't get that out of it at all. i think he definitly brings up some good points.

i will say also me and a buddy tried open water fishing on url first of sept. and caught one walleye in 12 hours an the water definitely looked like pea soup so i would definitly back that part of the theory.

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The commercial fishery has only processed as much fish as we take on a busy week! It's been slow since mid-summer. They'll be back... I agree with Jon and Kelly, it would help to put 20" of water back in the lake!

Good Luck!

Ken

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Johnny P,great theory,and thanks for having the guts to put your ideas on a public forum so others can bash you.Thanks for all the reports throughout the winter.

As for the commercial fishing, I talked to truck driver in fargo 2 weeks ago.His idea of commercial fishing was a 150 ft. net below the ice and check it in a day or two. He said they usually CATCH 100 to 200 walleye each time. Not a bad days wage @1.75/lb. He and his buddies have been doing this throughout the winter. Just wondering if anybody else have heard these reports.This was done on the other side of the imaginary line to the west.

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Johnny P.

Just a postive note...Thanks for all the hard work. I know that guiding is your business, but the information you share on a continual basis on this forum is above and beyond. I for one appreciate it very much. It is sickening why some feel the need to bash someone else. Whatever happened to "If you can't say something nice or constructive -- SHUT UP.

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One of the first things you learn guiding is somebody is always gonna try to shoot you down once your add "guide" to your title. It really doesn't bother me anymore. I know at the end of the day I did everything I could to put anglers on a good bite or perfomed what ever chores it may have taken to ensure clients had a good time. As many know when working with customers/clients you are always going to have one or two that you just can not make happy.

I simply had a thought or theory I decided that I would post it and see what you guys and gals thought of it. I figured some one would use it to beat me with but o'well, not the first time somebody got on my case about fish or fishing. Sharing the info and getting some ideas in return is still worth it in my mind.

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"Are the rental services up there starting to get alot of complaints about bad fishing?"

No "late night" I do not see that happening. We've had many bummed out groups but only two very unhappy groups. (that i know of \:\( ) Most people are just accepting it as "that's fishing". As I've posted other years when the bite is known to be slow it seems like the people out on the lake are friendlier. The past 4 weekends have all involved bad weather and a lot of plowing to get people back off the lake. In my 30+ years of plowing out there I have never seen as many friendly waves and people pulling off to the side of the road to give the plows room to work. Yesterday I was parked alongside of the main road waiting to meet some customers and every vehicle that went by waved. EVERY vehicle! cool.gif Some stopped to see if I needed help, some stopped to talk, and I'm sure some stopped to see if that old guy sleeping in the truck was O.K.. grin.gif

All in all not many complaints. Many will not be rebooking next year but that is part of life.

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