As far as the ice fishing goes, those aspirations have had mixed reviews for this first part of the ice fishing season. The East side of the bay remains in tact with decent ice, but the West side has recently suffered a set back with SSW winds opening up a new wide crack off Linwood road and then North past Ericson road. And the fishing success on both side of the bay to start the ice season off has been reported mixed to bad so far. There seems to be a lot of small walleyes biting along with lots small perch this year on both the bay and in all the rivers and cuts. The dink walleyes of course have to go back and you’ll have to do a lot of sorting if you like perch over 7 inches long. Most of the bigger walleyes are either getting their fill of the millions of shad still being seen in drilled holes both on the bay and in the rivers, or they are still in deeper waters perfectly content to forage and stay there. Whatever your thoughts on the matter, fishing has started out pretty slow.
Always wondering what influences and how they effect our fisheries on the Bay, I E-mailed my DNRE biologist friend about the huge shad populations we’re seeing this year. For all of your same wondering’s, below is my question and his answer to that question. Be safe, fish smart and tight lines.
Walleye Express Charters
Question: I know you mentioned that you observed a lot more baitfish in the trawls this past fall. But the gizzard shad we’re seeing in both the bay and the river this year is off the charts, and more then we’ve ever witnessed before. The shad are 5 to 5 1/2 inches long, and being seen in water depth from 12 to 19 foot on the bay as well as hundreds swimming through your ice fishing holes while fishing in the river. And even though we noticed some dying with first ice, they seem to be heartier and surviving under the ice this year better then ever. The ice fishing for walleyes up until now has also been very poor. Lots of little dinks biting but the bigger fish are either not seen or ignore anything you offer. Any observations about this? Dan.
Gizzard shad do well in spurts as we have seen in the past. This is obviously a good year for them. We are at the northern limits of their range so they don’t do well with our winter temperatures. Usually we loose like 98% of them to over winter mortality. Those that survive usually do so by finding some thermal refuge like a warm water effluent from a power plant or something similar. The few who do survive the winter, grow enormously fast their second year and can get to be the size of a dinner plate. We see them in our survey nets. By that time they are not much good to anything in the way of food, but the juveniles you see there in the summer and early winter make good forage for all predators. Walleyes will eat them.
Its not always clear as to what makes for a good year for shad (why some years we have lots of them, other years not so many). Their abundance used to cycle in opposite sync with alewives (they are closely related; both clupeids). After alewives disappeared from the Bay and Lake Huron, we expected to see lots of gizzard shad but that didn’t happen for most years. More recently they have come on strong. Gizzard shad eat periphyton and zooplankton. There has been some evidence to suggest that the food web has stepped up some in the lake this past year.
There are also more smelt in system then in a long time. Alewives however remain scarce. I honestly don’t know where all the bigger walleyes are. The word on the street is that they moved out into the open water and that’s most likely true, but I think some additional things may be at work too. I haven’t got it all figured out yet, but I am not worried really. Not at this point. I think the population is making adjustments to its new higher density and I am heartened by the strong on-going reproduction/recruitment. We’ll know more soon. We have the new walleye telemetry study under way. We will be implanting transmitters in walleyes this coming spring to monitor their movement. We have placed many hydrophones on the bottom of the bay to monitor their movement, especially their outmigration so we can learn more about that.