It’s a great time of the year for fishing; reports of panfish

Published 3:32 pm Saturday, August 17, 2013

Column: Woods and water, by Dick Herfindahl

I believe we couldn’t ask for better weather than we’ve been experiencing this past couple of weeks. But, on the other hand, I’ve already heard rumblings from some folks that it’s too early for fall. I’m actually a little biased in that area, because fall, after all, is my favorite time of year. August is almost the perfect month, because the temperatures still usually get into the 80s during the day but cool off nicely as the sun goes down. It’s hard to beat the refreshing feeling you get as the sun goes down and the temperatures cool as evening sets in on a clear August day. Even though I know what comes after the fall season, it is, to me, still the best time of year.

I’ve heard reports — although maybe not quite as big as earlier — that there are still plenty of panfish being caught in Fountain Lake. This is a great time to get out and enjoy some fishing, especially in the early morning or evening. Although the channel is usually a productive place to fish, I just can’t bring myself to do the elbow-to-elbow thing. For some reason, it takes away from the serene part of fishing for me. I’d rather sit on the bank in an out-of-the-way place and watch a bobber dance on the waves. Maybe that’s just me, but I’ve never judged a good day of fishing by how many fillets I could put in the freezer.

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When I’m up north, there is nothing more relaxing than being on the lake just as the sun starts to take that first peek over the tree tops. It’s exciting when the tranquility of the morning is disturbed only by the sound of a fish breaking the surface in search of breakfast. I can recall a few times when I’d actually get mad at myself for breaking the silence by dropping something as small as a split shot sinker on the floor of my old fishing boat. It wasn’t about scaring the fish, but it almost made me feel that I had broken that peaceful bond that existed between me and nature. I just can’t think of a more exhilarating feeling than being on the lake at the crack of dawn and making the first cast of the day with a light layer of fog painting the shoreline. Good stuff; and if the fish are biting, then it’s pretty much a time when you can say, “It just doesn’t get any better that this.”

I know a lot of folks are already shifting gears and anticipating the upcoming hunting seasons. This is great, but just remember there are still plenty of fish to be hunted before the water freezes. Each year when I head north to the cabin, I like to drive around and explore new lakes that I haven’t fished before. There are always some surprises when it comes to fishing, like catching walleye in a lake that is not known for them or catching that big pike while casting for bass.

It’s a fact that most trophy fish of many species are caught in the fall. The trick is finding them, because once a lake turns over they can become less predictable. The one thing that you can count on is that if you find the baitfish you will find bigger fish. Fish, especially in late fall, are filling their bellies for the winter months ahead. This is when you may encounter that one fish that memories are made of. For some reason, I have one such encounter that stuck with me. It was a cool, but sunny September day when I was fishing a bay on Spider Lake and had just cast a Suick jerk bait toward some lily pads. Just as the lure hit the water, it exploded and a northern came shooting out of the water like a missile and danced on its tail with the lure crosswise in its jaws. The fish was only about a 5-pounder, but the surprise element coupled with the picture of it dancing on its tail with that lure in its mouth has etched a picture in my mind forever. It was almost like pictures I had seen more than once in Sports Afield or Outdoor Life magazine. This is what fishing is all about to me: making good memories and enjoying the outdoor experience.

We still have the late summer patterns to explore, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves and venture too far into fall. With Labor Day just around the corner, I’m reminded of some good days of fishing on Tetonka Lake in Waterville where I have caught some dandy bluegills and sunnies along with nice sized perch and largemouth bass. I have always seemed to have pretty good luck on that lake in late August and into the fall months. There may even be a trip to Waterville in the works for one of the upcoming fall days. Once school starts, the vacation season is pretty much over, and the boat traffic is at a minimum so there is still plenty of fishing to be done, and you just might want to take a day trip and give that area a try.

Until next time, enjoy the outdoors, and maybe even take a little time to try out a new lake and make a few good memories.

Please remember to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers, because they are the reason we are able to enjoy all the freedoms that we have today.

Dick Herfindahl’s column appears in the Tribune each Sunday.