The fall walleye action can really heat up when water temps cool off, especially when it comes to rivers.
Fish that had been spread out all summer and most of the fall start to pile into deeper holes and pockets where they are easy to find and easy to catch. And best of all, the top technique is jigging and that’s as good as it gets.
Rivers like the St. Croix, Rainy, Rum and Snake are top picks for a late fall run, and the later the better.
In fact, I’ve been on the St. Croix when the deeper slower moving water was freezing up while the main river was still open and I had to run my boat up on the ice to break out enough so I could fish. After I cleared out a fishable area, I anchored up on the edge of the current and caught fish after fish while working a jig and minnow along the bottom.
You can get away with using a lighter jig, like a one-eighth of an ounce Northland Fireball, tipped with a fathead in the slower current areas. Lighter is usually better but you have to stay in contact with the bottom, so heavy up if you need to. When you figure out where most of the biters are holding, you can even get right over the top of them and work the jig straight up and down with short lifts and drops and even hover the jig just off the bottom. When a fish does take the bait, you may or may not feel it. But if something doesn’t feel right you should probably set the hook.
If you’re missing fish try letting them have a little more time to take it in better before sticking it to them.
You can also add a trailer hook, which can make a big difference, but you will also pick up a lot of debris like leaves, etc. and you might be spending too much time with a bait that’s fouled up.
Winter clothes are the rule when you’re on the water late in the season and that means gloves as well which can reduce your feel. A pair of neoprene gloves can provide some warmth and keep your hands dry even when you’re rebaiting and handling fish. A small heater like you’d use in a portable fish house is another good idea to have along and can keep you more comfortable and on the water longer, which means more pole bending and that is what fall fishing is all about.
See you on the water.
Ron Anlauf is a contributing writer to the Outdoors page.