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Woods, water & worse/Jim Junttila

Out on a limn

October 23, 2009
By Jim Junttila

That's not a typo. For you alert proofreaders, it's a play on words; like going off on a tangent or rant, but in a good way.

It's also a theory, of which I have many. This one tries to answer the age-old rhetorical fishing question "Why does the late fall bite get hotter as the water gets colder?"

Going out on a limn is like going out on a limb except even more of a metaphorical force. Bear with me while I try to 'splain it and milk it for a column.

Limnology is the scientific study of lakes and other bodies of fresh water, including their physical and biological features. Then there's the root word, limn, which means to describe something in words, which may not call for a limnologist, but someone willing to go out on a limb, or a limn, on a whim, with my cold water/hot bite theory.

Fish don't get to be big fish by falling for everything that comes down the pike. They've probably been feeding actively all summer long, but were doing it under the radar, eluding our electronics, fish finders and our best efforts to feed them. We're talking 5-pound smallmouth, 10-pound splake, 12-pound walleye, 15-pound lakers and 20-pound northerns here.

I don't know much about real-world limnology but I know people who do, who can wax limnetic. As WWW literary correspondent Vern Acular advises, "Let those scientists wax limnetic all they want to, Jim, you just keep whacking away at it."

When I want real-world fish science to reel me back to reality, I call on Tom Rozich, retired MDNR fisheries biologist turned bartender down at the Copper Island Beach Club on the Hancock waterfront.

He knows what makes lakes turn over and fish go on feeding frenzies. Local luremaker Ron Wiitanen just happened to have one of his prototypes there and added to my enlightenment.

Being more into marketing hype than the scientific type, I'm more interested in what something does than what it is. As lakes turn over and cool down, what's left of the forage scatters and thins out, and decent meals get fewer and farther between. Predator fish have eaten all the food that's come to them, and now have to go looking for it. Sensing the onset of winter and ice-over, the urge to feed becomes more and more urgent and the bigger the bait the better theory kicks in.

How graphic do you wanna get? "If you're hunting big northern or muskie, chuck a frog, mouse or chippy out there," said WWW live bait specialist Ed Wetelainen. "Don't be bashful, get the fattest chubs and suckers you can find and let 'em swim around freespool while you cast your biggest bucktail spinners, spoons or buzzbaits off the other side of the boat. And don't forget scent," he added.

The bigger the better also applies to crankbaits, "Size matters" said Wiitanen, from Houghton, who's making a name for himself among trophy muskie hunters with his outsized 5- to 11-inch Esox minnows designed to appeal to big fish appetites.

"When you're targeting trophy fish maurading for big meals before ice-over, you want to offer them a mouthful," he said. To see these happy meals for wallhangers first hand, visit rjlures.com, or call 370-0945 for a showroom appointment.

While snow and temps in the 30s with raw winds to match, what Yoopers call breezy, blew even the most diehard fishermen off the water this week, it was just a temporary deterrent. The colder it gets the hotter the bite. From now until deer camp or first ice, it's prime time for hunting trophy fish in the Keweenaw. No matter what time you get there, chances are you'll be the only boat, especially if it's snowing.

Whether your tastes run to scrappy splake on Copper Harbor, rambunctious redfins on Buffalo Reef, or trophy walleye, smallmouth, northern and muskie prowling the weedlines, drop-offs and humps of Torch, Portage, Gratiot, Rice Lake and Lac la Belle, it's worth zipping up your snowmobile suit, tugging down your Stormy Kromer and scraping off the boat landing for the chance of hooking up with the kinda fish that pull your planer boards down and sponsor all-you-can-eat gala mojakka at deer camp.

It was another educational research night at the CIBC and well worth going out on a limn. Not only did I learn a little limnology and luremaking, but there was an inherent spelling lesson in the bargain: "i before e, except in Budweiser."

Jim can be reached 24/7/365 at jjunttila@chartermi.net.

 
 

 

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