Anticipating and successfully fishing during autumn lake turnover season [video]
Anglers on lakes across the northern United States will experience the turnover phenomenon in coming days and weeks.
Lake turnover is the process of a water body’s content turning over from top to bottom. During the summer, lakes (depending on structure) stratify with a warm surface layer and a colder bottom layer. Limnologists (lake scientists) refer to the top layer as the epilimnion and the bottom as the hypolimnion, and the thermocline is the border between the two. Since the sun doesn’t reach the bottom layer, it’s noticeably colder during the summer.
Eventually, autumn air temperatures and wind cool the top layer until it’s cooler than the bottom, and when that happens, the two layers flip.
In my experience, when surface water temperatures hit 55 to 57 degrees, that top layer above the thermocline becomes heavier and it sinks to the bottom and mixes up.
Fish and other organisms in the lake obviously are somewhat discombobulated for a period after this occurs. That period varies by lake construction and weather but it seems like the turnover period lasts four to five days.
Some guys say don’t fish this period, that you’ll encounter poor fishing. I say … untrue.
You can have good fishing turnover, but sure, the bite may be off a bit, sort of like fishing a cold front. Fish can be discombobulated because their world just flipped over on them.
The locations are different post-turnover but we can catch all species during and after turnover. I’ve caught big bass during turnover timeframes.
And if you do not want to fish a newly turned-over lake, you can find one that flipped a week ago, or won’t flip for another week. We can identify a lake’s turnover situation by surface temperature, dead debris floating on the surface, slimy moss buildup on lines, and a general sense that a lake has undergone a strong algae bloom.
Those conditions exist because when that bottom layer surfaces, it turns up dead and decaying matter on the bottom. So when casting, you may see a moss buildup on your lures.
I often fish in turnover timeframes, but I always mark fish first on my electronics before wetting a line because they likely will not be in their traditional locations. Use finesse tactics immediately after turnover, be patient, and practice versatility.
Check out my video above for on-the-water tips on tackling turnover. Good luck!