Wednesday, February 1st, 2023
Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

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Highly productive fall fishing situations

Fall weather fronts can signal fast-action fishing opportunities, which can keep kids engaged on the river. (Photo by Jeremiah Haas)

By Jeremiah Haas

Contributing Writer


While most of the outdoor world is thinking about deer season after a nine-month hiatus, there are a multitude of seasonal opportunities that you should try not to miss, including fall fishing.


When the water temperatures start to drop, fish begin to move from their summer feeding grounds and look to “put the feedbag on” and fatten up prior to winter. This is a great time as fish can be caught all day long, but particularly well in the afternoon as water temperatures rise that degree or two with a sunny sky. Those couple of degrees can really change their mood. Just like a cold snap can shutdown all activity in the summer, both weather swings can trigger massive feeding binges. Here are two examples of it happening on the Mississippi River and how to attack it.


Several years ago, the Mississippi River had dropped to the mid-50s Fahrenheit by the first of October.  Then a heatwave hit, skyrocketing the water temperatures back up to near 70 degrees.  Prior to that week long stretch, the largemouth had started to move to winter transition areas, but were pushed back into a massive feeding frenzy for 3 or 4 days as those temperatures rose.  Anglers hitting transition areas were catching hundreds (not a typo) of 2- to 4-pound bass in a day. The guy I was fishing with had a 400+ fish day with his partner, prior to me taking a day off of work to enjoy the experience. My record for the day was 16 consecutive casts and about 150 fish, even though a cold front had hit overnight.  We were actually changing out crankbaits during the day because the hooks were becoming dull. We hit Pool 13 in the morning, grabbed some lunch and caught our breath, followed by a Pool 14 run that afternoon. Knowing what we were going to encounter, we actually kept a box of Band-Aids in the glove box because our thumbs were raw. Finally, we got smart and used gloves, but days like this are available when conditions are right, and you do not want to miss them.  


Now, the Mississippi River is a large system and it takes massive air temperature swings to change water temperatures that quickly.  However, if you are a smaller river or creek fisherman, you can find these situations on a much larger frequency. The example I gave is for largemouth bass, but every other species of fish was doing the same thing.


If you get a massive cold front, my advice is hurry to your favorite treestand for the next 24-36 hours, and think about how good the fishing is going to be when you head out to the river.  


During the initial front, fish can be caught, but it can be tough. By waiting 24-36 hours, you give the fish a chance to stabilize and they will begin in a significant feed. A three- or four-degree drop will get everything in a feeding mood. This is actually one of my favorite times to fish wingdams for walleyes on the Mississippi. The fish will be actively feeding on the dam faces, allowing you to run and gun from dam to dam, catching a lot of fish.  


If there is a lot of pressure, or you are fishing a tournament, then you can anchor on one spot all day with confidence that active fish will show up throughout the day.  


This time of year, I fish walleye with 17-pound fluorocarbon on a 7-foot medium heavy, fast action baitcasting setup.  This is not the time to bring out the medium light spinning rod with 6-pound test.  


These fish want to eat and they can be competitive with one another.  


Many times when the walleyes hit, you think they are hybrid striped bass because of the viscousness of the bites. These are times when Dubuque rigs are popular, to get two baits down at once. Chaos is defined as two 25-inch walleyes fighting each other and you while you beg for divine intervention to get those fish to the boat.  


I once had a 5-pound hybrid striped bass and a 28-inch walleye on at the same time, so believe me, you need 17-pound fluorocarbon this time of year.


Weather fronts in summer can be frustrating, but in the fall, they get the fish moving.  Knowing how to use the weather in your favor can create fishing opportunities of a lifetime.


And one last tip: if you do learn to use these tactics, bring your camera because you will need it!



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