Several months ago, unseasonably hot weather had me pondering if this summer would be like the scorcher we experienced back in ‘88.

This conjecture was based on conditions in our natural world like extremely low water levels and walleyes spawning on the Rock River two weeks earlier than the April 1 norm.

Approaching the “dog days” of August, this summer was—for the most part—pretty nice. Water levels in the Wisconsin River are near the summer norm. But on the Rock and over on the Mississippi, water is still flowing at near historic low levels.

The autumnal equinox, which heralds the official arrival of autumn, is still over six weeks away. But multiple changes in the natural world goad me into speculate an early arrival of honest autumn weather.

This conjecture extends beyond the near-perfect weather we’ve experienced for the past several days.

Canada geese are fully fletched out and noisily stretching their wings. This usually doesn’t happen in southern Wisconsin until almost Sept. 1.

Blackbirds are already swirling around in flocks of substantial number.

Eelgrass is dying off and floating down the rivers. Emergent aquatic vegetation in lake is still verdant but will likely start dying back in another week.

“Fiddler” channel catfish are more active now than mature forktails. This doesn’t usually happen until mid-September.

Sumac is starting to turn color in some areas. A few maple trees are turning, too.

But this is probably due to an exceptionally dry summer.

Water temperature has already dropped into the 70’s.

Fishing success is already at “Slumptember” levels.

The “Slumptember” observation might be a little subjective. But fishin’ has been tough around here—and that’s a fact.

There are at least two solid reasons for generally tough fishing that can be used as plausible excuses: There is more forage in the water right now than at any other time of year, and with low water levels it’s easier for predator fishes to ambush prey.

Most fishers follow their natural biorhythms of casting by day and sleeping at night. Days are getting shorter.

But the active feeding window for many predator species is from dusk to serious dark.

Navigation and accurate bait presentation are tougher at night. Bugs can be awful. But nighttime is the right time if you want to hook up for the next several weeks.

Don a headlamp. Tape a flashlight to the handle of your landing net. Make sure navigation lights are functioning before you leave the boat ramp.

There is considerable joy in having your pick of parking spots at Babcock Park on Waubesa or at the Tenney Park launch.

Ted Peck, a certified merchant marine captain, is an outdoors columnist for The Gazette. Email him at


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