A new learning year for anglers

They call it fishing. They don’t call it catching.
No truer words were spoken than this past weekend at the ninth-annual Emo Walleye Classic.
On Friday morning, emcee Doug Cain told me every angler admitted to him that they had struggled to catch fish.
Standing by the boat launch in Emo, we were asking the anglers which way they were going—upstream towards Fort Frances or downstream to the Manitou Rapids.
Frank and Corey Curtis looked at us and together responded, “It makes no difference!” Doug McBride and Steve Ballan announced they were going south.
For all the teams in the Emo Walleye Classic, the two days of fishing were a struggle.
Often when I go fishing, I may target a species. Sometimes it is smallmouth bass, other times it is northern pike. And occasionally, I will target walleye.
And I have gone out fishing and returned with not even a single bite.
I always chock that up to my inexperience and lack of knowledge about fishing. I’m trying to remedy that by taking the Faculty of Fishing course on the Internet and, in fact, it already has provided me with some pointers.
However, if I go out and target a specific species and catch other species, I still consider it a successful fishing day. And so far this year, it has been a really successful season for me.
I’ve yet to catch a smallmouth bass, though I’ve tried on several occasions. But I have caught the biggest walleye of my life and one of the largest “northerns” that I’ve ever seen.
In my books, those were two really successful fishing days.
However, in tournament fishing, those fish would have been for nothing if I was fishing for bass.
This year may prove to be one of the more interesting tournament fishing seasons on record around the district. The early ice-out and the poor precipitation in the first five months of 2010 have resulted in greatly modified fishing patterns.
The lakes and rivers are low. The fish spawned early.
The bass were all on the beds in Rainy Lake almost two weeks before the full moon of May. With such an early bedding season, this could be a great year class for smallmouth on Rainy as this year’s hatch will have a much longer season to grow and thus be able to survive the next winter.
The water has warmed up to temperatures that were not seen until mid-August last year. The lakes and rivers are low, and traditional areas that held fish at this time of year seem empty.
I suspect it has the fish as confused as the fishermen.
When Doug Cain and I were in Birmingham, Ala. earlier this year, we saw an interesting demonstration that matched up shoreline with GPS settings. The company used a technique like “street view” on Google Maps to show the shoreline.
The lake had been drawn down six feet. Now that the lake had returned to its normal levels, anglers could use that information to fish more accurately on shorelines.
This may be the year that anglers on Rainy Lake should be taking their digital cameras out on the water and photographing prospective areas, then marking them with their GPS for future fishing opportunities.
The hidden structure might provide new fishing opportunities, and banks and shorelines that previously had never been fished might now produce fish.
It’s just a new learning year.

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