Fall weather makes for good fishing
The sure signs of fall are upon us as we celebrate the autumnal equinox this week. Fall has arrived whether we are ready or not.
Another fantasy football season, shorter days, cooler temperatures and the changing colors are all sure signs of fall. This is arguably the best time of the year if you are a fisherman.
Fish can sense the changing season in the cooling water temperatures. For many fish, the annual spawning ritual is beginning. Others feed voraciously knowing that a harsh winter could be ahead of them.
The cooler day and night temperatures are cooling the waters so that fish can once again become more active for spawning and feeding. In lakes the fish will move into the shallows, making them a much easier target for shore fishermen. The fish that had once sought the cooler waters in the deeper regions of the lake during the warm summer are now returning to the shallows to begin actively feeding.
In rivers, it is the same story. Cooler water makes it much more comfortable for fish to access the entire river. The cooler water supports higher oxygen levels that are reduced when the water temperatures exceeds 64 degrees. Fish seek out the comfort of springs, deeper pools or highly oxygenated pockets of water during the summer.
Backcountry fish are also quite aware of the seasonal changes. They will begin to act much more aggressively due to spawning and finding it necessary to feed to make it through the winter months.
While this is a great time for the angler, I always like to caution them not to fish over spawning fish. I think fish that are on their redds (nests) should not be targeted. You can almost always catch these spawning fish by making them strike in anger. Let the fish spawn rather than risk tiring them out and having the possibility of the fish dying.
We are talking about making the fishing as good or better for future generations. One only has to look in retrospect to see how things have changed. As the population has increased we have experienced more pressure on our fisheries, and if it were not for the practice of catch-and-release, future generations would have a bleak outlook.
It is an ethical choice. While there is nothing that says that you cannot fish over spawning fish, making the choice not too just makes more sense.
Please consider this as you are out on the water during the fall fishing your favorite stream. A fish that spawns increases the chance for you to have better fishing in the future.
While this holds true for stream-spawning fish, many lake-spawning species are quite prolific. Fish such as the brook trout and lake trout fall into this category and can have a tendency to overpopulate, particularly the brook trout. As a result people are encouraged to keep more of these fish to help maintain a healthy population rather than a population full of stunted fish.
Anglers should have a great time this fall, but be aware that some things we do can have an impact on the long-term health of our sport. Have fun, but make good choices!
Bruce Ajari is a Truckee resident and regular fishing columnist for the Sierra Sun and other area newspapers.