Our title is taken from a quote by French philosopher Jean Paul Sarte (1905-1980) who essentially changed a pronoun from Roman Stoic Seneca the Younger’s (4 BC- AD 65) quote, “You are your choices.” Stoicism, by the way, is a philosophy of personal ethics based on a system of logic and its views on the natural world.
We know for some this brings to mind a smattering of dreadfully boring moments spent in varying classes listening to philosophical mumbo-jumbo when our thoughts were in the realm of hard plucking walleye bites, ducks sweeping decoys or the snap and crackle of a whitetail edging a tag alder swamp. In later life, of course, through trial and error choices, we understand those words to be as our Declaration of Independence declared in 1776, “self-evident,” as in, “We hold these truths to be self-evident.”
Nevertheless, many of us of the outdoor ilk probably learn more through “choice” quotes from those who speak our language, like comedian Buddy Hackett who said of his family choices about food while growing, “As a child, my family’s menu consisted of two choices: take it or leave it.” Another source would be the indubitable and regularly quoted baseball Hall of Famer Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra, who, even though he was one of the greatest catchers of all time, is perhaps better known for his “Yogi-isms” than his baseball prowess or many World Series titles. Regarding choices, Yogi once said, “When you get to the fork in the road, take it!”
On the more serious side, in his song “Rise,” Eddie Vedder, from the soundtrack to the 2007 movie “Into the Wild,” sang, “Such is the way of the world, you can never know just where to put all your faith and how it will grow.” These powerful words deal with heartfelt life stuff.
In the outdoor world, the same could be true for fishing, but obviously on a much less significant scale. And, speaking of fishing, how we choose to fish can often make all the difference between “catching” and “fishing.” If we want to “catch,” we need to consider not only where we choose to chase fish, but how we strategize. Then, we need to factor in where we currently are, weather-wise, as just over a month ago we enjoyed our longest day of the year and the days are now getting shorter.
Hopefully, the near future weather patterns will feature pleasant warm days, not those menacingly oppressive heavy humidity days when just blinking our eyes made us sweat. As air temps have warmed, so obviously have our water temps, with most lakes currently a bathwater-like mid-70s and up. Correspondingly, as July comes to an end, many walleyes have slid deeper because the shallow water has become uncomfortable for them, especially during high sun and no wind days. In overcast conditions with wind, however, cabbage patch weeds will house fish, most notably in those lakes that undergo algae-bloom transformations to the pea soup green mode.
Even though warm water is for sure more than welcome for those who swim, tube, water ski or leisurely cruise our lakes, we fishing people have a different take on the hot stuff scenarios. Sure, we will relax from the frenzy of the opening weeks and casually roam mid-lake structures, which house active walleyes looking for forage that has moved away from the shorelines, but to catch most species we have to go a touch beyond.
Moreover, again, don’t assume fish bite less in warmer water. They actually feed more. A good case in point is if you have caught and cleaned fish lately you will have noticed they are just plumb full of small perch and rusty crawfish (“crawdads” to our Southern friends who enjoy them immensely in “boils”).
You will still need some luck, however, as there is no better expertise than being there when the fish dinner bell goes off. In this realm, have you ever noticed when you hear about a hot bite (think Facebook intel) that almost always seems to be a sure thing, until it often turns into a “You shoulda been here yesterday”? Think about it. After hearing about a great bite, you head to the “bite-on” lake. When you get there, however, the bite is “gonzo.” Thankfully, fish bite when they want because if they bit all the time there wouldn’t be any left. Simply put, dead fish don’t bite. The more we harvest, the fewer there are to take.
In that catching vein, to get enough fish to catch and release or fry, however, you can make your own luck by paying close attention to your electronics and staying on the move to locate pods of baitfish and fish. Since fish can’t feed all the time, if you happen to mark fish on the sonar and they won’t bite, keep that spot in mind. As the day progresses and new spots fizzle, go back and finish where you started. Similarly, remember, as tempting as it is, don’t be a “boat chaser.” Even if there are no other boats there, trust your electronics.
When walleyes transition, again remember not all of them move to the mid-lake humps, bumps and bars, some stay and will always be in and around the weeds and on shorelines connected by sand flats. They could range from the 10’-12’ depths or to the first deep breakline of 20’-22’ or deeper. Cloudy or windy days are best for the shallow bite.
As knowledgeable fishing locals always maintain, the key to catching fish is first finding them and then figuring out what they want. Their success is predicated on this simple but highly effective principle.
When the water warms and walleyes and other fish have a ton of food forage, local fishermen pull crankbaits or spinners on shallow weed lines and flats. This has put numerous fish in the boat for them during warming waters and tough bites. In these conditions, tip your spinners with chub minnows, half crawlers or even leeches as they stay on better and are less susceptible to the pesky, but always hungry, mini-perch nipping. Just don’t use these baits at the same time, as this would make fishing pretty expensive. Vary your cranks and spinner colors as well and then go with what works. When fishing deep water with a spinner rig, use a heavy (one-two ounce) bottom bouncer to get into the “biting zone.”
We will leave you with another classic “Yogi-ism,” “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else!” Please remember in life as well as fishing, how we choose can make all the difference.
Nik and Rod Dimich are on the pro staffs of Mercury Marine and Ray’s Sport & Marine in Grand Rapids, Minn. Rod is also a pro-staffer for L&M Supply. To contact Dimich Outdoors, please email: email@example.com. Kristin Dimich contributes to this column.