Outdoors column: Adapting to the changing times

Things change; that’s the way it is.

There usually isn’t much you can do about it either, except maybe adapt.

When it comes to walleye angling, there have been plenty of changes, including water that has been getting clearer and clearer.

Some of it has been good and due to more diligent efforts to clean up the environment, like restricting agricultural runoff and limiting drainage from leaching septic tanks, all of which can add to a lake’s fertility and produce more algae blooms and reduce visibility.

Ron Anlauf changed his plans to catch this beautiful walleye.Submitted photo
Ron Anlauf changed his plans to catch this beautiful walleye.Submitted photo

The bad has been the spread of invasive species like zebra mussels, which filter nutrients from water and can sterilize a system and limit the amount of forage available to plankton, which feeds minnows, immature perch, as well as young-of-the-year walleyes.

Even so, it’s the way it is, at least for now. Hopefully in the near future there will be an economical way to eradicate the zebra mussels and the other similar species that have been raising havoc with natural plankton production, water intakes, native species, etc. Until there is a fix, we will just have to adapt if we want to keep catching fish, and bottom-line, that’s what it is all about.

Humminbird professional angler Kevin McQuoid has seen his share of changes, even on his home lake, Mille Lacs Lake in East Central Minnesota.

McQuoid on the change: “In years past the fish would move shallow in late summer and early fall, but we haven’t had a good shallow bite in a number of years. Now the walleyes stay deep, out in the main lake basin. They can still be caught and the fishing is actually pretty darn good late in the summer and into October, it’s just that action isn’t where it used to be. Instead of slip-bobbering shallow rocky reefs in 4 to 8 feet of water with jigs and leeches, we’re trolling with crankbaits and leadcore in 30 to 35 feet of water. It’s hard to say what is the real culprit, but the water is definitely clearer now and the zebra mussels have to something to do with it. Another consideration is the proliferation of smallmouth bass, which have been increasing in number and rule the shallow water structure, which may be contributing to walleyes staying out deep late into the fall.”

  The clear water effect has been in full force on the Great Lakes for years and has been cycling. Ranger professional angler Mark Courts, of Harris, has seen lakes like Erie clear up and then darken after a big zebra mussel die off.

“It seems the mussels eat themselves out of house and home until there is a big die-off,” Courts said. “After it happens the water darkens up a bit until the mussels establish themselves again. I’ve even seen piles of dead zebra mussels on Mille Lacs and may be the start of the same type of Great Lakes cycle.”

See you on the water.

Ron Anlauf is a contributing writer to the Outdoors page.