Not every lake suffers a dramatic turnover every fall but when it does happen, it creates huge dead zones that send fish elsewhere. It should repel observant anglers as well.
A turnover happens when upper layers of water, warmed by the beaming sun all summer long, finally cool under the longer nights, shorter days, and the occasional cool spells that signal the onset of autumn.
As surface layers cool and sink, they are replaced by water that has been below the thermocline and has little-to-no usable oxygen. Fish flee or die as this unsuitable water rises to the top.
Things will return to normal but until they do, look elsewhere for fall fishing fun.
Following are 3 tips to keep in mind when dealing with a turnover on your lake:
First off, kayaks are made for shallow exploration into areas that larger craft can’t get to. While your bass boating buddies are locked out of some great backwaters, you can have a blast with bass that have followed the entire food chain to escape the brown death spreading across the main lake.
Water doesn’t flip in two-foot depths the way it does in 20-plus feet of water. The shallows remain more constant in autumn, in contrast to the winter days ahead when deeper environs will remain unchanged even as cold fronts chill the skinny water on flats and along the shoreline.
Another huge key is to find grass which filters water, acting as a barrier to the encroachment of oxygen-poor water from offshore and generally growing in shallower water to start with. Where the water gets too deep for sunlight penetration to feed grass, there’s increased chance of a massive turnover event.
As long there’s grass in it. Water almost can’t be too shallow to hold fish.
Fun thing is, a wide variety baits work well in the shallows even if they are less efficient in the depths. Topwaters are never the wrong answer. Power fishing is in play. That’s good, because fall fishing success often comes down to staying on the move until you find the bait that the bass are following.
Fish moving water.
Current has a moderating effect, mixing water from throughout the column into a homogeneous sameness – the opposite effect from the stratification that leads to a turnover in the first place.
Whether this moving water is found below the tail race of a TVA lake, in the upriver section of an impoundment, or by packing up and heading to a different body of water such as a natural river or tidal fishery, current is perhaps the best cure for the fall turnover.
Crankbaits, anyone? Jigs are a great choice in moving water too. Cast one upstream and maintain just enough line tension to keep in contact with your lure.
Safety considerations – wear you PFD!
Don’t anchor in fast waters. The nose or side of your kayak can easily dip toward the rope and take on enough water fill or flip it instantly. Make repeated drifts if you want to saturate a hot spot with repeated casts. If there are safe areas to get out and bank fish, this is a good time to do so when fun fishing or if tournament rules allow.
Also: STAY WELL BACK FROM LOW HEAD DAMS. For those fishing rivers that have them, search for videos on the subject if you don’t already know. Jeff Little has a great video on his YouTube channel about it.
Avoid off-color, brown, or green water.
Kind of a no-brainer but turned-over water will carry all of the rot and detritus from the bottom of the lake where it can be seen and smelled on the surface.
Kayakers don’t have the horsepower to crank up and make long runs as do power boaters, so keep an eye out before launching and drive to another ramp if need be until you find clean, oxygenated water. Keep in touch with fishing buddies too. A network of anglers can help one another and save each other some time searching for clean water.