The great angling bite of fall
The leaves have transitioned into their fall colors providing landscapes that epitomize the definition of raw beauty. The crimson, amber, and blaze orange terrain also signals the beginning of fall fishing patterns and that means changing tactics, expectations, and the potential for some incredible catches.
The water temperatures in the shallower regions of the lakes and reservoirs we fish will drop along with the night temperatures, and this will create conditions that move fish from their deep water haunts to lesser depths where the forage is present in higher numbers and easier to ambush.
October is prime time for muskie anglers. In a conversation I had with muskie addict Kolt Ringer he once said, “Muskies hang out in the deep cold water all summer, and they move up into the shallow vegetation in short bursts to feed at times. But in the fall, when the water temperatures drop, they stay in the shallows and feed a lot longer. This is the time to be after muskies.”
Ringer’s favorite fall muskie tactic is jerking shallow-diving baits over the top of big beds of cabbage, milfoil, and coontail. “Anywhere there are big stands of cover, there will be muskies roaming, looking for something to eat,” Ringer said. “You get a lot more bites then follows this time of year.”
Walleyes anglers will appreciate the night bite, according to Mr. Walleye, Gary Roach. “It’s a fall tactic that has been used to catch huge walleyes forever,” Roach said. “You troll crankbaits over the shallow rocks or on the edge of some deep vegetation after the sun goes down.”
Use lures that stay close to the bottom, Roach instructs. “Keep your trolling speed slow, use a lure that gets down near the bottom, and make sure it has good wobble at your speed,” he said. “On lakes with a decent population of walleyes, that fall night bite can produce a lot of big fish.”
My favorite fall fishing is the topwater largemouth bass bite. My favorite fishing buddy to fall topwater fish with was Stacy Barbour, who has passed on, but there were many mornings when the mist was floating above the water that we would cast top water chuggers and weedless frogs to docks and pads. “We have to get out early.” Barbour would say to me when he’d call to set up the outing. “I’ll pick you up right when the sun comes up.” And he would be there two minutes early chomping at the bit because he knew those bass were already feeding around those docks and pads.
Barbour was correct in his penchant for getting out early. We would get into the bite almost as soon as we began casting and for an hour, maybe two, the action would be steady. Then, like someone threw a switch, it was over. The topwater lures came off, the spinnerbaits went on, and it was out to the weediness to fish for pike.
The biggest fish I have caught over the years have been hooked in the fall. I have some great memories of spring, summer and winter, but the stories I tell of my fall exploits outnumber those of the other months. It pays to be on the water when the leaves tell you it’s time.