Outdoors column: Fishing fall transition

by Steve Carney
Contributing Columnist

Whew… what a wacky and weird fishing season we had in 2012.

Fall transition means bigger fish and more of them.
Fall transition means bigger fish and more of them.

The funny thing is it isn’t over yet. We are now sliding into the fall transition period which normally signals the beginning of the red hot fishing period which begins in the fall and ends around ice up.

The unpredictability of the season so far means forecasting the fall bite might be rather tough, but I am going to take a run at it.

Any way it shakes out, the fall transition bite can be potentially the best fishing of the open water season. Here goes…

Official start of period?

Decades ago the fall transition always started on Labor Day weekend. This was gospel for decades until about 10 years ago when the summers began to heat up later and we often had temperatures in the mid 80s during September and October.

The trend now is the fall transition can start anywhere from late September until early October – well beyond what used to be normal.

Cool nights in the 40s can help a lot. We have lost about six degrees in water temperatures here in central Minnesota recently, but so far it isn’t quite enough to jumpstart the fall bite as yet.

Think spring spots

Gamefish always have a pattern of repeating their movements in the fall that mirror their movement in the spring. In a nutshell, a good spring spot is almost always a good fall spot.

Once again these gamefish are in the shallows fattening up on what’s left of the baitfish population and in many cases they are hard up for a meal after a summer of predation on the local food sources.

Couple this dearth of food with the need to pack on some fat for winter and you have roving and active gamefish almost 24/7 during the fall transition period.

This drive to feed is almost nonstop until ice up and often you can find excellent fishing right during midday just like the fishing you experience in May.

Keep in mind this period can be short-lived especially if things remain warm into October.

Bait presentations

This is the time to cover water and make things happen.

Forget the bobber fishing and anchoring on spots. Now you want to break out the crankbaits and start casting the edges of flats, breaklines and shoreline connected weedlines and start probing for active fish. I start casting and moving quickly until I make contact.

Once I pop an active fish on a crankbait, I will back off and flip a jig N minnow into the same area and glean a few more.

The jig N minnow is once again a prime bait for fall just like it excels in the spring. Leeches and crawlers are now yesterday’s news and the minnow is now king of the fall bite.

Keep the faith

I tell a lot of my cohorts to keep the faith! After a tough summer of heat and humidity the best fishing is just around the corner.

Be patient because when the fall transitional bite starts you’ll be back in the groove and enjoying the best action of the year and forgetting all about the heat of summer.

Steve Carney is a contributing writer to the Outdoors page.

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