It appears that my 2016 open water fishing season is coming to a close: it may even be over, although I hope to get in another quick trip or two. This year, like all other years, I have learned and relearned a good number of things related to fishing. Following are some of those things.

I truly believe that, for the most part, fishing continues to improve across the Midwest. I had fantastic fishing action on Clear Lake in north central Iowa this spring. When I was a young angler in the 70s, Clear Lake was a bullhead lake: walleyes were far and few between and muskies weren't a part of the ecosystem. Today, bullheads are rare, walleyes are abundant, and muskies are as common as muskies get. The lake itself has improved dramatically due to dredging and water quality improvement.

Clear Lake Walleye

In the 70's, walleyes from Clear Lake in north central were unheard of. Today, walleyes like this one that Kevan Paul caught in Clear Lake are everyday catches.​

My most recent trip to Kabetogama Lake in northern Minnesota was another reason for optimism. Mostly when I visit Kab, and I get there annually, we chase walleyes with outstanding success. Last year I was introduced to Kab's crappies, and that was a win. This year we decided to focus on smallmouth bass. That was nothing but the best. Big ones, little ones, and in-between ones. The future for Kab's smallmouth, and fishing in general, is tremendous.

That's not to say there aren't problems in some places. Over-harvest can and will goof up a good thing, and we need to be aware of that. In some places, panfish sizes are down due to anglers keeping too many big ones.

Same thing with northern pike: if we keep too many six and eight pounders, we're not going to see the fifteen to seventeen pounders.

And we certainly need to get things figured out on some lakes regarding the number of walleyes that can be harvested safely. We need to get our arms around what's best for fishing in the 21st century going forward and, being respectful to all involved, move on from bad past policies.

Fishing techniques continue to evolve and improve. Planer boards just a few years ago were tools primarily for salmon, trout, and walleyes. In just the past couple of years we've experienced outstanding results using boards for perch and crappies. Boards really will put more fish in the boat, and the folks at Off Shore Tackle recognize this. That's why they continually tweak their boards for specific applications. Just when we think boards are as good as they're going to get, Off Shore comes up with an improvement.

Improvements and tweaking apply to pretty much all of the equipment that we use. Rods that are of higher quality than rods just a few years ago are less expensive. Sonar continues to reveal more and better detail, and the mapping incorporated into today's sonar is incredibly helpful in catching fish and navigating. And there's more to come.

Lures and lines and boats also continue to improve, as does the clothing that keeps us warm and dry on the water.

So many equipment improvements and, in many places, so many fish. I'm already looking forward to open water fishing in 2017.

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