Fins and Feathers

Hard to decide between chasing birds and fishing for outdoor sports enthusiasts this time of year, especially on those magical days when the sun shines. Small game hunters and anglers have overlapping seasons for the next few weeks as the leaves change color and the temperatures drop.

I prefer fishing to hunting and have never even shot a grouse before— mostly because I am too busy closing cabins, and partly because my only shotgun is a 12 gauge. Early season hunting seems like it could be tough with the heavy forage camouflaging the birds and creating less than ideal hiking conditions in the deep woods, and besides there are only a few weeks left to comfortably catch a walleye.

Walleyes become finicky while adjusting to the falling water temperatures, but eventually settle into a comfortable depth and turn on the feedbags to fatten up before the long winter ahead. They school tight in deep water and are sometimes hard to locate. “Depth-finder fishing” is crucial on big lakes where fish drop into 30 or 40 feet of water during the cold-water months.

Mid-lake rock piles the size of football fields might only hold fish on one little spot the size of a single-car garage. This would be the “spot on the spot” and takes a lot of time staring at a machine to learn. I have put my time in and have hundreds of waypoints saved on my GPS after 23 years of guiding on Saganaga Lake, and there are hundreds more to find.

Once the leaves are gone, and I find a smaller shotgun to use, it would be nice to start hiking the woods with my family and hunt grouse. Until then my free time will be spent staring at a machine in my boat.