A Smorgasbord of Fall Fishing

October 6, 2014 by  

By Bob Jensen

My recent fishing trips have reminded me of how productive fall fishing can be, and they have also reminded me of how active so many species of fish are at this time of year.  In the spring, some fish get active early, shortly after ice-out, while others don’t start eating until the water warms up quite a bit.  Right now and until ice-up, almost every predator fish that swims in fresh water is willing to eat, but there are things you should keep in mind if you want to catch fish.

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When fishing in the fall, you can expect to see wildlife, waterfowl, vivid colors on the shoreline, few other anglers, and lots of fish. Take advantage of this opportunity now.

First thing:  In some lakes, the walleyes, perch and crappies will be in deep water, often thirty to fifty feet if those depths are available.  If you’re a catch and release angler, you need to leave those fish alone.  When you hook a fish in deep water and bring it to the surface quickly, the pressure change has a negative effect on the fish’s innards, especially the small ones.  You’ll often see a bladder sticking out of the fish’s mouth.  Those fish can’t usually be successfully released.  Either catch and keep your limit and leave, or just leave them alone.  It’s not ethical to keep catching small ones and releasing them in hopes of catching larger ones.  Please don’t sit on a bunch of these little guys catching and releasing them:  Most of them are going to die.

Nice weather in the fall is good for fishing, and it’s great to be out in, but sometimes conditions that are a little nasty are also pretty good.  I’ve had some memorable fishing adventures casting jerkbaits and bucktails over shallow rockpiles for northern pike and muskies on cloudy days with moderate wind.  I’ve also experienced some outstanding night-fishing for walleyes, both trolling and fishing from the shore, when the wind was blowing pretty hard.  The best wind when you’re fishing from shore is a wind that you’re looking into, so that can get a bit uncomfortable.  But when the walleyes are in, they’re going to bite.  Show them a #5 Salmo Hornet and they will eat it: They can’t help themselves.  A little nasty can be good, but a lot nasty is too much effort this time of year.

Remember this:  Big baits, big fish.  Little baits, lots of fish.  A Fire-Ball jig with a three inch fathead minnow does not stand a chance in a school of fourteen to seventeen inch walleyes.  A live-bait rig with a six inch red-tail or sucker is a snack for a walleye or smallmouth that is of even moderate size. Back in my musky guiding days in northern Minnesota, the number of walleyes we took on twelve inch jerkbaits was surprising the first couple of years.  After those first couple of years though, we expected to catch a couple of large walleyes every day on these extra-big baits.

Autumn truly is a wonderful time to be on the water, and to a certain extent, you can decide what size of fish you’re going to catch.  For the most part, put the proper bait in front of the fish you want to catch and your chances of getting bit will be very good.  There is still time left for you to discover, or re-discover, this for yourself.


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