The subject line of my buddy Dave Lehman’s email read, “It pays to be patient,” a message that summed up the events of his past couple of days on the water.
Dave had been going through a rough patch on his favorite venue — Conneaut Lake, our state’s largest natural lake. Conneaut plays host to a variety of impressively sized gamefish, though it’s the lake’s smallmouth and largemouth bass that garner his attention.
The action had been slow throughout the summer. Oh, there had been the occasional good day, one in which a dozen or so bass had been boated. But most outings produced only a few bass, along with some northern pike.
Conneaut Lake is another in the long list of waters to be impacted by the invasive zebra mussel. In a couple short years their extent went from “newly discovered” to expansive. Zebra mussels feed on plankton, essentially filtering the water. Conneaut was a fairly clear lake before the infestation; now it’s become bath-water clear. Lehman blames the tough fishing, in part, on the ultra-clear water.
Lehman was anxious for fall to come around, a time that’s been quite kind to him, big bass-wise. He and Chad Templin, a regular fishing partner of his, concede that they don’t often catch high numbers of bass when the water temperatures drop, but they are often rewarded with some big ones. But fall arrived, and despite his repeated forays to the lake, the big bass bite did not. Not until late last week.
I’d climbed back into my truck, following the first leg of an all-day grouse hunt. Seeing the message light blinking on my phone, I opened up the text message image. It was of a beaming Dave, holding a 4-pound-plus smallmouth bass. “Atta boy,” I replied.
Fast-forward a couple hours. It’s now noon and my hunting buddy Art and I are sitting on the tailgate, munching sandwiches after a slow morning of bird hunting. I rechecked my messages — another one of Dave, this time holding a 46-inch muskie that had sucked in his jig. Only two bites that day, but they accounted for over 26 pounds of fish.
Now some people, those unfortunates that don’t fish, consider the activity to be one that requires lots of patience. I suspect they visualize Andy and Opie, lounging around the shaped edge of a pool, waiting for the bobber to disappear. In reality the best anglers tend to be fairly impatient, bringing the game to the fish. But as Dave showed, there’s a time to be patient. When you know what a lake contains, and how it has produced in the past, it’s worth giving it an honest chance to do so.
So that’s what Dave did the following day, this time boating a 6-pound, 3-ounce largemouth (as well as a smaller largemouth) before the wind blew him off the water.
Fall fishing: You don’t always get a lot of bites, but the ones you get are often worth it … if you have the patience to keep after ’em.