Things are happening, but they are taking place deeper than most people would like them to, and perhaps a little less consistently as well. The consistency thing is par for the course in early fall fishing, but the depth part of things is very much unique to this season. As I mentioned in the last report, the lake warmed up incredibly quickly, and very far down in the water column, forcing the cold-water smelt - Sak's main forage base - to retreat to the depths and the walleyes to follow when they are in feeding mode.
We have been in a situation for quite some time where the water temperature is pretty much the same all the way from the surface down to the thermocline, which is set up around 75 or 80 feet of water. As a result, most of the smelt are hanging out in 70 to 80 feet. It's not uncommon to see a lot of the bait in 50 feet by now most years, but I don't remember having to look in 70 or 80 very often. And the crazy part is, unless you are near the river channel, much of the basin in the Van Hook area is 85 to 90 feet, so basically a lot of the activity is happening about as close to the bottom as it can be.
Typically when you find a pack of feeding walleyes, they are pushing smelt up shallower somewhere, so in a normal early-fall year they might push them from 50 foot up to 30 or 40, and this year they are pushing them up from 70 to 50 or 60. That said, since the water temperature is consistent everywhere, often you can mark walleyes in a variety of shallower depths, but unless they are chasing perch or shiners or some other bait fish, they are pretty much just hanging out there and rather tough to entice a bite. Thus, your most successful fishing currently remains in the 50 to 60 foot range. Yes, you can find other bites if you work hard and get a little lucky, but that's the main bite now.
We have still had an amazing year of fishing, and the fish are extremely healthy, but much of the season was front-loaded. June is always good, but it was insanely good this year, and every following month was kind of like fishing a month ahead. July was like August, August was like September, etc. And then September was like no other month I've really experienced because we usually don't fish that deep.
At any rate, fishing is decent right now if you chase them deep (and get the right weather) but should get better as the water cools. Current surface temps are around 65 degrees, pretty insane for early October, but we do have cold weather this week which should help. I still expect a strong fall bite by month's end, and we should have a lot of big fish to chase as we've been blessed with plenty of 19-21 inch fish this year as well as a very solid amount of 25-30's. So, Mother Nature (if you're listening), bring on the cold...but not too cold so we can still fish!