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Fishing in 2023

As a new year enters, I find myself looking back, but also looking forward. Looking back helps me see what the future might look like, and often, what I look back at are things related to fishing. Sometimes, maybe too much of the time, we focus on things that aren’t so good. That’s okay. If we identify the things that need to be changed, we can start working on making those changes. But we also need to recognize the things that are good, and in many ways, we have lots of reasons for optimism regarding fishing.

I’ve had the good fortune to fish in a lot of different places, mostly in the Midwest but also in several southern states and Canada over the past 50 years. I’ve also had the good fortune to fish with a lot of very successful anglers in those 50 years. One of the reasons why many of us are catching more fish today is because we’ve learned more about fishing and what it takes to be successful at fishing. Equipment has certainly played a large part in recent fishing successes. The boats today allow us to safely get to and from offshore areas that were inaccessible just a few years ago. We’ve learned that during certain times of the year, those offshore areas were home to schools of larger than average walleyes.

Wally Marshall is one of the fishing world’s authorities on crappies. In a recent conversation with him he told me that in some parts of crappie country regulations have significantly impacted the size of crappies. In areas where a 10 inch crappie was a rare catch a few years ago, today a 10-incher is common. Additionally, technology has enabled anglers to find fish easier, and lures developed for specific situations enable us to show the fish exactly what they want to eat. There is a bait in Wally’s line-up of Mr. Crappie baits that will appeal to a crappie in any situation.

This past June, Mike Frisch, Scott Soderquist and I got together for a few hours of smallmouth bass catching. We spent our time on a lake that we’ve fished numerous times in the past couple of decades. When we started fishing this lake many years ago, it was a good multi-specie lake. We would catch mostly largemouth bass, but also some walleyes and a few smallmouth bass. In the past several years the smallmouth population on this lake has exploded. On our most recent trip, we caught dozens of smallmouth and a couple of largemouth and walleye. We targeted smallmouth, and that certainly explains why we caught mostly smallmouth, but we targeted smallmouth because recent experience has taught us that this particular lake has evolved into an outstanding body of water for smallmouth bass.

We’ve had a similar experience on Kabetogama Lake in northern Minnesota. I’ve visited Kab annually for many, many years because it was and continues to be an outstanding walleye fishery for big ones and for eaters. About 5 years ago, fishing guide Tim Snyder mentioned that Kab had developed into a “pretty good” smallmouth fishery. We spent an afternoon chasing those smallmouth. Most anglers who target brown bass would describe the smallmouth fishery on Kab as better than “pretty good” for numbers and for truly big ones. It’s world-class!

In many places fisheries are improving because of regulations. In other regions, fisheries are improving due to the body of water evolving from one primary species to another. The last reason: We’ve got better equipment to fish with, and the knowledge for using that equipment is better also. I’m optimistic about the future of fishing and am looking forward to getting back on soft water in 2023. But until then, I’m going to enjoy fishing through a hole in the ice.

– Bob Jensen of fishingthemidwest.com

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