Friday, February 3rd, 2023
Friday, February 3rd, 2023

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Open water 2022: a season in review

By Al Lindner

Angling Buzz

Another open water season will be ending soon. Say goodbye to the warm days on the water. Our open water paradise will soon be covered in a thick blanket of snow and ice. With every season that passes there’s a number of things that test us as anglers. Every year has its lessons, every year has its themes – and this one was no different. 

I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to fish in the Upper Midwest for many decades. I’ve had great years on the water, and some I’d classify as sub-par. This season had its highlights, but as a whole, it was one of the more challenging seasons I’ve experienced. There were a variety of factors that played a part in the below-average performance. On a positive note, these experiences force us to learn, adapt, and improve. 

If I could only pick one aspect that affected fishing this season, there’s no question I would say the wind. In all my years of fishing, I can’t recall a time that I’ve ever seen so much wind. It wasn’t just windy this year, it was consistently windy. Windy days are expected, but they aren’t expected as often as they occurred this season. Wind makes things difficult, not only for filming, but for fishing in general. It was without a doubt the most significant limiting factor for where we could go and how we could fish. 

In addition to the wind, the weed patterns were abnormal as well. Drastic changes occurred in weed growth across many of the areas I fish. Locations that historically housed premium weed beds were just dotted with sparse weed cover, while other areas were choked with weeds to the surface. I also noticed a big change in weed types throughout a variety of these locations. Cabbage beds seem to be on the decline, while patches of milfoil and coontail seem to be expanding. As lakes are becoming increasingly clearer, weeds are growing deeper than ever before. 

In terms of actual fishing, this year provided some mixed results. Overall, it was a season of quality versus quantity. I was fortunate enough to land some larger fish of many different species, but I didn’t find near the numbers I normally see. On the bass and crappie front, fishing was good as usual, but walleye fishing was definitely below average – especially during the summer months. In fact, I would say it was the toughest season I’ve ever experienced for the ways I like to walleye fish. 

I’ve always challenged myself to catch walleyes without live bait – relying primarily on reactionary and trigger baits to put most fish in the boat. Live bait, however, played a large role in catching walleyes this year. On most bodies of water I fish, the reaction bites were much slower than normal.

There were many situations where we knew we were fishing walleyes but getting them to actually bite was not an easy task. In my opinion, the weather and environmental conditions – like wind and weed growth – were likely the root cause. Both factors had a large effect on where we could fish, as well as how we could fish. In order to catch fish we were forced to adapt to our surroundings – whether that meant a change in tactics or a new location altogether. 

The biggest lesson learned for this season is that things change – and to be honest, they are changing faster than ever before. Weather conditions, environmental factors, fishing pressure, and new technology are all affecting our fisheries – in both positive and negative ways. Traditional techniques and spots that work well now won’t necessarily work well in the coming years. 

It’s impossible to say how things will be in the coming years, but one thing’s for sure: They likely are going to change. If you want to continue to catch fish, be willing to keep an open mind and to swing with the punches.

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