No smarter than a woodchuck

Mike Bleech Outdoors Columnist

So far there have been no natural signs that my prediction of an early, sloppy winter might be anywhere near correct. That should be no surprise. My weather predictions have been no more right than the woodchuck, Punxsutawney Phil.

Did I tell you that I watched that woodchuck bite a guy? He had been cautioned. Fortunately, he was a great guy and accepted it as his own fault and a matter of frivolity. Regardless of the nasty bite, it was funny.

But I stray again. And I shall once more.

How many of you have hunted doves or Canada geese this fall?

How many of you trappers are concerned that furs might not be prime when trapping season opens?

Did you know that the temperature last Tuesday was about 35-degrees above normal?

Sounds like this could be leading to global warming, but no. This is much more important. This is about fishing and hunting.

We are in October. Walleye, smallmouth bass, trout, musky and northern pike should be hitting very well in the Allegheny River. Steelhead fishing should be getting into fall swing in the Lake Erie tributaries. But do you know what else should be? The water temperature should be in the 50’s. We should be getting much more rain. But none of that has happened.

Instead, the water temperature in the Allegheny River is in the high 60’s. The Lake Erie tribs are trickling. A few steelheads have been caught in the lower pools of several creeks, but nothing like a run. Most of those steelhead are into and out of the creeks at night. More might be caught by casting from the beaches near creek mouths, so if you are looking for something to do, try this.

How excited are you about the opening of the bow hunting season?

If you cut up your own deer, you might want to wait until daytime temperatures get no higher than about 50-degrees. I get the skin right off my deer, spread open the chest cavity, hose out and dry the inside of the body cavity, then let the deer age about 5 days before cutting it up. Aging will tenderize the meat and improve the flavor.

The only alternative when the outside temperature is too warm is to age the venison in a refrigerator. This means cleaning out and rearranging the refrigerator, boning and trimming the meat, then spreading it out in a single layer on wax paper. Many of us whose lives revolve around outdoors pursuits have an extra refrigerator in the basement of the garage for bait and pop. Pop can be removed while the meat is aging.

Now as I write this, the weather forecast appears to be a bit more fall-like. There is rain in the forecast, and a night in the 30s. It will take more such temperatures to get the river water temperature down into the 50s. But the weather change should be enough to get steelhead moving up the Lake Erie tributaries if there is adequate rain. Hunters and anglers should be ready to act quickly when the right things happen

You want to be on a Lake Erie trib the day it is raining enough to raise the water flow and give it some color. Wait too long with hard rain and the creeks will be blown out, which will not stop the steelhead but it makes fishing nearly impossible.

Fly fishing will be terribly challenging once the water becomes colored. Stick with bait fishing. Try in this order; lively minnows, nightcrawler halves, and egg skein or sacks. If you use eggs, pinch, and egg or two to add steelhead, and brown trout, attracting aroma.

Steelhead does not shut down as much as most river fish while the water temperature is in the 60s. So for a while, go with steelhead rather than walleye.

Once that river water temperature gets into the 50s, it is walleye time. And musky time, and smallmouth bass time, and pike time and trout time.

Now here is what makes these fall fishing patterns so great. To a great extent, they will transition into good winter patterns, then great spring patterns kick in starting with late ice. We have a lot of good fishing coming over the next several months. Hopefully, the thought of this will help you get through the unusually warm start to October.


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