The vast majority of the 2019 fishing season is in the books. There is still about a month of open-water action ahead, but soon most anglers will be turning their thoughts to ice fishing. Each year around this time, I like to look back, reflect, and try to determine things that happened during a summer of guiding that might prove useful during future fishing seasons.

Here are some key fishing lessons from open-water 2019.

Fish move

I find myself using my GPS unit, at least referring to coordinates saved on past fishing trips, less and less each year.

Many of the same general areas I fished in the past still hold fish, but the precise coordinates are less important to me, as the fish are often found fairly close to, but not exactly on, those old spots.

Fish have the obvious ability to move. I don’t think they completely abandon a general area as much they simply re-position, probably adjusting to things like wind direction, time of day, etc.

Lately, I use the mapping feature on the GPS portion of my fish-finder more to navigate to a general “fishy” area, and then use the fish-finding sonar technologies to locate fish before trying to catch them. The new Raymarine Element sonar units I used this year do a great job of revealing fish-holding structure and the fish themselves and, they are easy to use as well.

This lesson isn’t one that is new to me this year, but rather one that has evolved and seems to make fishing trips more successful as clients and I spend more time fishing fish, rather than fishing spots.

Conditions are more important than the calendar

Many anglers, this one included, like to think back to past years’ successful fishing and try to duplicate those successful days on the water. Many times when we do that, we refer to the time of year that the good fishing happened previously.

Sometimes fishing the same areas with the same baits at the same time as last year works. More often, however, good fishing patterns occur, or re-occur, in subsequent years based more on things like water temperature, water clarity, and other factors rather than based on what the calendar says.

Don’t get me wrong. Walleyes, for example, hit jigs in the spring in the shallows every year. However, when that good spring bite peaks on a particular lake might be later one year than it usually is because of a prolonged cold spring and the resulting slower warming waters!

This past summer offered a good example. The good summer peak walleye bite on live bait rigs tipped with leeches or nightcrawlers that occurs on many lakes got started about 10 days later than “normal” this year, but also lasted well into July, later than “normal” too.

Fishing gets better!

This summer was one of the best for numbers of walleyes that came in my boat on guide trips. My buddies who bass fish a lot also reported catching bigger largemouth bass, on average, on lots of lakes.

Plus, smallmouth bass populations are expanding with more and more lakes holding good populations now of these scrappy fighters. Several lakes that I fish have smallies in good enough numbers now to where anglers are targeting them specifically rather than them being a “bonus” catch.

Simply put, the “good old days” of fishing might just be occurring now!

As always, good luck on the water and remember to include a youngster in your next outdoor adventure!

Mike Frisch hosts the popular Fishing the Midwest TV series. Visit Fishing the Midwest’s new website to learn more!