Fall Fishing Bonanza

August 25, 2010 by  

By Doug Leier

It comes as no surprise that when August begins losing to September, for many North Dakota residents hunting starts to win out over fishing in the competition for free-time activities.

But I’d also suggest, if you’ve bagged plenty of days pounding the North Dakota prairie, without experiencing the thrill of fall fishing, you might be missing out on one of North Dakota’s best kept secrets. Not that anglers don’t know about the potential that fall fishing offers. It’s just that when hunting geese, grouse, ducks and then pheasants becomes an option, people who fish and hunt must make choices.

Those who do make time for fall fishing benefit from that array of choices because of reduced competition and congestion. Boats that once share a landing with you are sitting in garages and driveways, while other anglers have abandoned their favorite shoreline hangouts to chase pheasants, ducks and geese.

In the summer we often associate fishing congestion with a hot bite. In the fall just because the banks are empty doesn’t mean you won’t find a hungry walleye, pike or bass waiting to bend the rod a bit.

Greg Power, North Dakota Game and Fish Department fisheries division chief, explains some fish behavior to better help anglers searching for a fresh fish dinner, and provide some insight as to why your late summer fishing may have been a bit slower than you’d prefer. “Typically, fishing does slow up in August because warm water temperatures cause species such as northern pike and trout to become lethargic and somewhat stressed and show little interest in feeding,” Power says.

But as fall arrives, the weather cools, water cools and conditions change. “The fish respond by going into fall feeding mode,” Power continued. “Northern pike, for example, become much more active in fall in pursuit of forage, and become accessible to shore anglers again. Various species of fish that hatched in spring are now big enough to interest pike and walleye in an easy meal.”

When you sit down and pencil out the seasons and priorities this fall, I completely understand why hunting often trumps fishing. But even when a hunting trip takes top priority, it’s still relatively easy to allow for a possible fishing diversion.

Fishing rods, reels and bait are more portable and effective than ever. A collapsible pole along with a small box of artificial bait takes up very little space in a vehicle, but can add another level of enjoyment to a hunting trip if an opportunity for a few casts presents itself.

Even if nothing is biting, absorbing a simmering fall sun while in a boat or sitting on the bank of a favorite fishing hole is an excellent way to steal some more time outdoors before winter changes the landscape. After all, its fall and your outside!

Leier is a biologist with the Game and Fish Department. He can be reached by email: [email protected]


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