There are probably a few more fishing trips to come for my boat and me in the next couple of weeks, but a look at the weather forecast and a quick walk outside reminded me that the open water fishing season in many parts of the Midwest is nearing an end.

Snow has already fallen in some places and the temperatures are dropping. About this time every year I like to look back and see, from a perspective of fishing, what's new and what isn't. Here we go.

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More and more I'm made aware of the fact that walleyes are frequently shallower than we would expect them to be, and, more and more, I'm learning that those walleyes will bite. There were a couple of memorable shallow water walleye bites that I got in on this past year. One was on Green Bay, the other on Leech Lake. Both took place under bright skies in the middle of the day.

On Green Bay the walleyes were on a rock pile that the wind had been blowing into for several days and had the water muddied, on Leech they were in the weeds. Light penetration was decreased by the weeds in Leech and the roiled water on Green Bay. The reduced light penetration encouraged the walleyes to be shallow Keep that thought in mind when you hit the water next year.

Jigs and plastic baits are becoming a bigger part of my walleye and panfish arsenal every year. We've used plastic baits for bass for years, but some folks have been slow to accept the fact that plastics on jigs or spinners rigs can be just as effective for other species of fish.

A plastic bait on a jig below a bobber slightly twitched, or sometimes left motionless, can put panfish on the table, and three and four inch plastics on a jig, or a plastic crawler on a spinner rig, will fool walleyes regularly. Plastics come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, so you can refine your presentation to exactly match the condition.

In many parts of the Midwest, fishing continues to get better and better and better. There are some trouble-spots, but in many areas we're catching more and bigger fish now than when I guided almost 30 years ago in northern Minnesota.Voluntary catch and release has certainly helped with some species, and mandated catch and release has helped with others. Our equipment gets better all the time and there is more fishing information out there also. Some of that info is helpful, some of it isn't. Nonetheless, most of us are catching more fish than ever.

I just got an e-mail regarding a northern pike trip we've been planning. We were waiting for water temps to drop a little, and now they've done so. We're going pike fishing in the next few days, then there's that trip to the Mississippi River for walleyes, and hopefully a walleye trip to South Dakota.

I guess there is still quite a bit of open water fishing left to do, but that doesn't change the fact that we're still learning a lot about fishing, and there are still a lot of fish to be caught.

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