It's time to start planning our fall fishing trips: Where we'll go, what we'll fish for, and how we'll present our baits. Fall fishing in northern Minnesota, northern Wisconsin, and North Dakota might be kicking in now. In southern Minnesota, South Dakota, north Iowa, and southern Wisconsin, it will start in two or three weeks, and in Illinois and Missouri it will be a month or six weeks before it's considered to be the fall fishing season. However, wherever you're fishing, there are some consistent things you can do to catch more fish. Following are some of those things.

As with fishing any time of the year, you've got to be where the fish are. The predator fish will be near the forage fish or whatever else they might be eating. Find their food and you'll find the walleyes and bass and muskies and crappies and whatever else.

Fall Fishing North Dakota

Fishing guide Dave Schaefer knows how to catch Lake Vermillion walleyes in the fall. This one hit a big minnow.​

It's very helpful, and it will put fish in the boat, to understand some of the quirks of fall fishing. Back in the early 80's when I fished and guided on Leech Lake in north central Minnesota, I discovered this. Leech Lake is a very large, very productive body of water(It's even better now than it was then). Walker Bay is a deep section of the lake: The rest of the lake is fairly shallow. Walker Bay has a good population of tullibee. Tullibee are an oily baitfish and they spawn in the fall. Walleyes like to eat tullibee, and it's usually the larger walleyes that eat them. I can't remember exactly what time of year it was, but it was somewhere in the late September/early October range. The tullibee were spawning at night in shallow water that was bordered by deep water, shallow being six to eight feet and deep being down to a hundred feet. We pulled big crankbaits, eight to ten inchers, across the shallows, and we caught big walleyes. Not lots, but big ones: Twenty two inchers were about the smallest, and we took them up to almost thirty inches. This pattern wouldn't work in many lakes because most lakes don't have tullibee. This is why it's important to understand the quirks of the season and the water you're on.

However, shallow night fishing can be good in a lot of areas for a lot of reasons. I've had memorable night success for walleyes below the dam on Lake Oahe in South Dakota and on Clear Lake in north central Iowa, another lake that is so much better for fishing now than it used to be. In Lake Oahe the walleyes were eating smelt below the dam whenever water was running, in Clear Lake they were eating frogs that were entering the lake from a marsh across the street. Find the food, find the fish.

Use the biggest bait the fish will eat. If they're willing to hit a jig with a three inch plastic tail, try a jig with a four inch plastic tail. If they eat that, go larger again. Try a bulky tail. Use the biggest bait they'll hit and you'll usually catch bigger fish.

In some lakes the fish will go deep in the fall. Sometimes it's ok to catch those fish, sometimes it's not. If you're catching mostly small ones and their bladder is in their mouth when you bring them in, it's best to find shallower fish. Much of the time those small fish won't survive when you put them back, and much of the time they're too small to keep. Be considerate of the resource.

Autumn is a wonderful time to go fishing for many reasons. If you keep the things we just talked about in mind, you'll be on your way to discovering those reasons.

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