Jim Braaten

Jim Braaten lives near Kenyon, Minn., and has been an avid outdoorsman for more than 35 years. He lives on the family farm that was first settled by his ancestors 152 years ago. He has been an outdoors writer and photographer, and he owns a business producing and marketing calendars.

Posts about Fishing Techniques

How wind influences nearly all outdoor activities

Posted by: Jim Braaten Updated: July 22, 2009 - 8:34 AM

One of the true marks showing when a nature artist has finally mastered their craft is when they can artistically incorporate the wind into their drawings or paintings.   Much the same statement can be slightly rephrased for the sportsman.   In fact, the sportsman who can master their understanding of the wind while recreating outdoors will usually be at the top of their game when it comes to fishing, hunting and trapping.

Let’s face it, the wind can sometimes be difficult to read or even appreciate for the beginning outdoor enthusiast.   It’s virtually invisible, except for the affects it has on trees, water and other natural objects.   At other times it can be almost imperceptible to the senses, yet even the most gentle of breezes can sometimes have devastating consequences to your sporting pursuits.   The key is not only to understand the importance of wind, but also to appreciate how it could influence the plans you have while enjoying the outdoors.

Take, for instance, the deer hunter.   When the savvy deer hunter prepares for the morning hunt many factors must quickly be assessed before choosing which hunting stand is ideal for that day’s experience.   It just so happens prevailing wind direction is one of those key determining factors.

Yet, for the deer hunter especially, there’s another phenomena of wind movement that also needs to be completely understood — thermal air currents.   Essentially, wind is also naturally occurring caused by fluctuating air temperatures over the landscape.   As a general rule, localized breezes tend to blow up a hillside during the early morning hours (when warm air rises) with the opposite effect blowing air current back down into a low valley during the later afternoon hours (when temperatures cool as the sun goes down).

Fishermen must also closely monitor the wind.   Obviously, strong windy conditions on the lake can make for certain safety hazards that must always be considered.   Whether its a mild “walleye chop,” referring to rolling surface waves that reduces sunlight transmission into the water while stirring up natural food sources, or perhaps gusting winds tending to concentrate fish forage on one side of the lake, the influence of the wind should never be dismissed while planning your fishing strategy.

There are many commercially available gadgets some sportsmen use to detect the wind.   One of the most sophisticated is the Kestrel wind meter for when precise wind information is crucial.   Other useful wind indicators include clip on devices, pocket puffers, dental floss or even a small piece of sewing thread tied to a branch or your equipment.   Some sportsmen will even collect milkweed pods in the fall and remove the fluffy seeds (stored in Ziplock bags).   A single seed sent airborne will act much like a helium balloon drifting up and away by the prevailing winds.

The underlying point to all this is detecting the presence of wind is usually only half the battle.   For many outdoor activities you need to comprehend just how the wind plays a vital role in determining your success afield or on the waters.   This critical knowledge can be attained by further readings on the topic.

My best suggestion for beginners; go fly a kite!   Seriously, if you want to learn and experience first-hand how wind and thermal air currents occur…do so holding a kite string in-hand.   Even though the wind may be invisible…how it naturally occurs in our environment doesn’t need to remain a mystery.   Instead, discover how best to incorporate the presence of wind to your advantage when spending precious time outdoors.

Avoid these common opening day mistakes

Posted by: Jim Braaten Updated: May 3, 2009 - 10:35 AM

Are you tired of experiencing the opening day walleye fishing doldrums often caused by not having a good plan?   Is 2009 the year you finally vow to change your luck on the lake?   In most cases, avoiding some simple, yet important behavior often made by anglers can vastly improve the mood in your boat.

Remember that fishing, like any other sport, requires a good game plan to be successful.   You don’t become a player on a championship football team without some basic skills and a carefully thought out strategy to implement those talents.   Likewise, if you head to the lake expecting things will automatically happen, well my friend, you are quite possibly in for a disappointing time.

Consider avoiding these missteps when formulating your angling game plan this weekend:

  • Getting on the water too late.   Take advantage of the pre-dawn bite and avoid the congestion at the public landing.   Start your day early.
  • Failing to study your lake map.   By interpreting the lake’s structure you should have a minimum of 10 pre-determined fishing spots on the lake worth trying.   Befuddled by what the lake map should be telling you?   Now is the time to ask someone for their opinion rather than stressing about it come Saturday.
  • Don’t fish based entirely on what happened last year.   It’s an age-old problem for anglers that can lead to disappointment.   Conditions and circumstances are different from year to year so the angler who is not prepared to adapt can needlessly waste precious time.
  • Assuming all lakes will fish the same.   A big part of what makes walleye fishing fun is the technique that works in one lake may not work exactly the same in the next lake.   Approach each lake with a unique plan of action.
  • Joining a large group of boats.   It’s human nature we all want to be where the action is.   Problem is, unless you actually witness boats regularly landing fish, a large gathering of boats might better indicate where the walleye action once was perhaps an hour ago.   This is particularly true in shallow water where a large gathering of anglers can easily spook fish from the area.
  • Don’t become lazy.   Be willing to change up your technique often until you find the right combination that appeals to the fish.   This could mean your favorite way of walleye fishing may not be best suited for how the walleye are willing to bite on a particular day.
  • Disregarding the weather conditions.   Springtime weather in Minnesota can be highly variable.   The water surface can be glass-smooth at dawn and later turn into rolling whitecaps by lunchtime.   Your strategy must also adapt as the conditions fluctuate.
  • Limiting your fishing to certain depths.   Sure, it’s commonly understood that opening day walleye will generally tend to bite in shallower depths, but if they aren’t…go deeper.   Depending on the lake and the fishing pressure, hungry fish can often be found at depths outside the expected range.
  • Staying on only one lake.   Indeed, it can be a big hassle, but when all else fails trailer your boat and check out a different lake.   Sometimes this can prove to be the best strategy for the day.

So, now it’s your turn.   What information are you willing to share with fellow anglers to increase their odds for success on opening weekend?   Please leave your helpful comments below.



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