Tuesday, January 31st, 2023
Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

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Don’t fear the dark

One of the best locations is where deeper water comes close to the shoreline. It matters not if it is in a lake, river, stream or pond – because the bigger fish will usually use this deeper area as a way of traveling from one point to another. (Photo by Freddie McKnight)

By Freddie McKnight

Southcentral Correspondent


As the amount of daylight wanes and the temperatures start to fall, many anglers put away their gear for the year. That is a mistake on their part as fall fishing can provide some of the fastest action of the year, and on big fish to boot! 


The fish are feeding heavily as they prepare for cold water and will eagerly hit baits and lures that resemble what they are naturally seeing in their waters.


Those who are fishing know how good the action can be, but many of those anglers, too, miss out on some of the best action of the year because it occurs after dark. That’s right, the fall night bite is not something that many anglers seek out. 


It must be a mentality thing, as summer fishing after the sun sets is nothing out of the ordinary, but when the temperatures start to fall, anglers seem to forget that feeding fish simply do not stop because of the lack of sunlight.


Anglers who know about this night bite will confirm that it is usually a shallow water deal. It may last almost until freeze up and is particularly good following a sunny afternoon. The shallow water areas will heat up under the sun and, depending upon the bottom composition, may hold warmer water than that of other portions of the area you are fishing for hours after the sun is gone. 


 This warmer water often attracts bait to the shallows, and following the bait will be the predator fish. Everything from crappies and catfish to bass and walleyes will be foraging for feed, and anglers who are prepared to face what elements are thrown at them can have some amazing nights on the water.


As with any other sort of fishing, there are key things to look for. One of the best locations is where deeper water comes close to the shoreline. It matters not if it is in a lake, river, stream, or pond – because the bigger fish will usually use this deeper area as a way of traveling from one point to another. 


They can use it to their advantage to suddenly slip out of the deep and into the pods of bait along the shore.


Look for clear water areas to be better than stained as the predators are relying on sight more than any other sense to secure their meals. Even in the gin clear water, predator fish will often be found in shallows of only a foot or 2 deep at most, and very near the shorelines. 


Stealth is a must when fishing in these areas, so keep your shoreline or boat sound to a minimum to avoid spooking the fish.


Current breaks offer a great location in streams and rivers, particularly those shoreline eddies. The predator fish will often stage at the upper or lower ends of a deeper pool and feed on baitfish washed by them in the current. 


They will also cruise the seam in the water looking for bait that is hanging in the area. Fan casting lures or jigging the entire length of the seam is necessary to connect with feeding fish.


Lights can be an attractant in the fall, and a couple of locations stand out. One is below the breast of a dam where lighting is necessary. Another is boat-mooring areas on lakes where fish will still use the docks as cover. 


City and state parks may also have lighting along shoreline trails. Regardless of the situation, the light can attract the baitfish to the shallows and the game fish will follow. 


One rule of thumb here is to try and fish so that your shadow does not continually cross the water. This movement can be picked up on by nearby fish and you may find yourself only getting bites from areas that require long casts.


Your presentation, lure size, color and retrieve speed may need to be varied from day to day as the water temperature changes. Depending upon the baitfish present, various species may use the shoreline at different times through the fall necessitating this variance in your offerings. 


Also the predator fishes’ metabolism will be changing, meaning that they may not be as aggressive this week and they were last. If your bait is not getting bit, try switching up lures if you can pinpoint what the fish want that particular night.


Dress for the weather, go rigged with enough rods to be able to switch up quickly and have an ample selection of baits and lures to offer fish what they want, and you, too, can share in on this after-dark action.

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