Bad-weather walleye

How a massive cold front can actually heat up the fishing action

It is often said about fishing that the day you stop learning is the day you start falling behind in your game, and last Saturday was a lesson for the ages. 

I fished the CWT Walleye Tournament on Falcon Lake, Manitoba, with my grandson, Liam, and as typically happens in fishing events, Murphy—you know, as in Murphy's Law—got into the act. 

After a two-week-long string of gloriously hot, sunny, stable weather conditions, a massive cold front swept across the prairies the day before the competition, bringing with it grey skies, a huge drop in air and water temperatures, wind gusts up to 40 kph and cold, torrential rain. 

That was enough to throw the walleye action upside down? Wrong! It fact, it did the very opposite. 

I caught a nice fish on my second and third casts of the morning, and it stayed like that throughout much of the day. As a matter of fact, Liam and I had trouble catching walleye small enough to weigh in, what with the protected slot limit between 45 centimetres (17.7 inches) and 70 centimetres (27 inches).  

Our biggest fish of the day was a beautiful 25-incher, followed by several 23- and 24-inch opal 'eyes. But the killers were a trio of walleye that were so close to the lower limit of the slot that only a tiny portion of the white on the lower lobe of their tails slid over the line. I even flipped the fish over and measured them on both sides—try that sometime and you'll see that you often get a different reading—but no matter how much we wished the fish would shrink, they were ever so slightly over and we had to release them. 

Now, what was so amazing is that the fishing during the days leading up to the event was downright dismal. Despite the ideal water and weather conditions—you couldn't have asked for better conditions—the fish were in the funk. And then the supposedly dreaded cold front struck. But instead of making things worse, it actually made them much better, and for one key reason. 

By Canadian standards Falcon is a modest-sized lake, stretching about 15 kilometres (nine miles) from east to west. And it is that east-to-west layout that was so critically important on the weekend. 

With the wind howling from east to west, it piled the warm surface water into the shallow western end of the lake, and the walleye responded appropriately. At one point on Saturday, Liam and I kicked the Kingfisher into high gear and scooted to a spot on the eastern end and I thought the temperature gauge on the Helix 12 was malfunctioning. It read 44°F where, just 24 hours earlier, it had been near 70°F. That is a 25-degree drop in surface water temperature almost overnight.

If you're having trouble imagining what happened, picture yourself lying in the bath tub with the water up to your chin. When it starts to cool down, you turn on the hot water tap with your toes. Notice how it puddles up at one end of the tub so your feet are hot but your neck and back are cold.  

The wind played the same trick on the weekend, stacking the warm water into the western end of the lake, lighting a fire under the walleye. That's something to think about the next time strong ,gusty winds pay you a visit while walleye fishing.

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