When we hear the word turnover, especially in the fall, it usually means someone coughed up the ball.
Someone is happy, and someone is not.
However, to an angler, the term signifies a lake event and again, someone might be happy, and someone not.
If you understand what goes on when a lake “turns over” it might mean it is time to go somewhere else, if only for a couple of days, or it might be time to get back to business right where you are.
Let’s explore some more.
To not spend too much time on background, let’s all understand that freshwater lakes stratify into different temperature layers throughout the year. On almost every lake, the coldest, densest water is found on the bottom, with 39 degree Fahrenheit being the temperature that water is its densest, heaviest and most oxygen rich.
Therefore, as the sun and other factors warm the water, the warmest water will therefore be on the top. If you have ever treaded water on, or dove into a Montana lake, you have experienced this effect!
In the fall, as the upper layer of the lake cools, this water becomes heavier and wants to sink, or at least mix it up. Throw in some wind, especially toward shore, and the lake begins to mix heavily, mixing the 55 degree water with the 45 degree water and before you know it, voila! The heaviest, most oxygen rich water now is displaced from the comforts of the lake bottom, and everything in the lake changes.
On some lakes this may take days, while on others, it may only take hours.
Last week, we experienced record-breaking cold and wind here in the Flathead.
By the time you read this, another similar system will have moved through. Surface temperature as I write this is about 52 degrees on Flathead Lake, and even cooler on others. Turnover has most likely happened on some bodies of water, or will very soon.
So, how do you know if a lake has recently turned over?
There are several indicators, such as debris on the surface that has been mixed up from the bottom, an accompanying odor of decaying organic matter, murky or off colored water, moss on your fishing line, “noise” or static on your fish finder, baitfish that are spread out and not schooled up and uninterested fish.
If a few of these indicators are present, it might be a good idea to go fish another lake, and come back in a few days.
Fishing lakes that are pre- or post-turnover can really matter at this time of year, but you may have to change up your tactics to be successful.
Right now, there are several things in our favor to take advantage up. With temperatures dropping, and daylight fading more each day, fish know they need to bulk up.
Many bait fish are full grown now, and fish are looking for a bigger meal. Shadows are shorter at this time of year, and less likely to spook fish.
Lastly, you probably have less competition on the water as well. Get out there and take advantage of some great fall fishing!
October Highlights: Perch and other pan fish are very active now in local waters; try a piece of a crawler on a jig under a slip bobber as long as there is any chop on the water. Focus on weed edges and drop offs.
Trout are patrolling the shoreline in the low light hours, looking for the last of the bug hatches and schools of minnows.
Whitefish are moving up the Flathead River, fishing from the shore and the bridges will be hot by Halloween.
We can access many good holes via our jet boat if you want to give that a go!
Check out the Hunt, Fish and Taxidermy Expo this Saturday at Snappy’s from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
I’ll see you on the water!
— Howe is the owner/outfitter at Howe’s Fishing, A Able and Mo Fisch Charters. Call 406-257-5214 or at www.howesfishing.com