Several times during the past several weeks, people have mentioned concerns about the lake that they live alongside. Comments will be something like, “There are globs of green stuff on the surface,” or “Our lake looks like pea soup.” The reason is that many of the lakes in northern Wisconsin are in the process of turning over.
The description for turnover is quite simple. During the summer, the water in many of our lakes forms layers. When this happens, we say that the lakes stratify. The upper layer of the water during the summer will be the warmest and the cooler water will be deeper. Also, as the layers of water get deeper, the water lacks oxygen; thus, many species of game fish are unable to go deeper than the thermocline. The thermocline is that place in the water column below which there is very limited oxygen. On a quality depth finder, the thermocline will appear as a line.
In the fall, as the temperature of the air begins to drop and the water gets colder, near 62 degrees Fahrenheit, the water gets heavier. Once the top layer of water gets near that 62-degree level and it gets heavier, it sinks. When the top water sinks, the green water comes to the top and lakes take on the look of pea soup. Following this inversion of water, the oxygen level from top to bottom is the same and fish can live throughout the water column. If you stop at a boat landing and the water has that green appearance, you may want to go to a different lake. Not all lakes turn over at the same time. Normally, the green coloration will be gone after several days.
One recent day, Judy and I were riding on some logging roads. We had speculated that this year the color would not be as vibrant as it is as a result of the dry conditions. Obviously, we were wrong. As we turned down a seldom- driven trail, Judy pointed at something in the middle of the two-rut lane. We agreed that the object in front of us was a grouse. Judy got out of the pick-up with a camera in her hands. I watched, fully expecting the grouse to flush. She continued to walk toward the grouse that was not making any movement.
She moved more quickly toward the grouse, which remained motionless. I joined her beside the grouse, which was obviously not alive. Closer observation revealed that it did not have a head but was stiff and standing in the trail. Several questions came to us, such as what killed the bird, how did it get there and where was the head? We moved the bird off the trail and one day later it was gone.
One morning last week, I joined Duane Frey in an attempt to fool a few walleyes. The morning was mild with no wind blowing. Duane suggested that we use sucker minnows that were about three inches long. He went on further and suggested that we should use the lightest jig that we had. I used a one-sixteenth ounce jig that was painted orange. When the minnow was hooked lightly in the lips, it was able to swim around beside the boat.
After fishing for perhaps five minutes, Duane set the hook and his ultra light spinning rod bent double. Duane had a great fight and I slipped the net under a 21-inch small mouth bass. We fished for several hours and caught smallies almost every place we stopped. The walleyes seemed to be on strike.
Apparently, the grouse population is healthy. One area hunter said that he and his dog have shot a dozen grouse. I sure miss our dog.
Longtime Northwoods outdoors personality Roger Sabota writes a bi-monthly column appearing in the Star Journal.