Outdoors column: Fall Fishing Tactics

by Steve Carney
Contributing Columnist

This is quite a departure for this writer to expound on Fall fishing as I am normally busy bowhunting, upland and waterfowl hunting but because my success in those areas has been above par, I have devoted much more time to Fall fishing this season.

Fall fishing means consistant action from late October well into ice up in December. Photo submitted

Finally, after weeks and weeks of warm water temperatures and abnormal conditions the fishing has taken off in a big way. Here are some thoughts as we hit the hottest bite of the year, now.

Water Temperatures
We have been suffering through abnormal Fall water temperatures for over 10 years. No longer does the bite turn on around Labor Day. The new trend has been temperatures in the low 60’s and 50’s throughout the Fall and then the temperatures plummet come late October. The last couple of weeks have featured temps in the 40’s triggering the fall bite.
Yes, the great Fall bite has started. The beauty of the Fall bite is that this action will be non-stop until ice up meaning there will be no dead periods but rather a continuous pattern of action.

Think Spring Spots
I have always found that a good spring or opening day spot is a good fall spot. I have been re-visiting my Spring spots recently and have found walleyes and smallmouth bass in exactly the same spots. I recommend spending a lot of time working shoreline related structure featuring rocks and sand and more importantly access to deep water in the area. You will often stumble upon areas that still have some green weeds which can be a good thing. Brown or rough looking weeds are normally a waste of time.
If you can find the three-way combination of green weeds, sand and rocks you are in a tremendous Fall area.

Spring spots normally are shallow spots meaning you will typically fish 8-to-15 feet of water. Same with the Fall patterns.

I have found gamefish relating to 9 to 14 feet exclusively this fall no matter what lake I am on.

Keep in mind the fishing pressure of the summer has waned and the pleasure boaters are done for the year keeping these fish shallow and undisturbed.

Nothing beats a large fathead minnow and a small, 1/16th ounce jig.

I use this rig to backtroll along sharp shoreline breaks all the time getting a feel for the bottom by the jig telegraphing the bottom content. This is a slow process just presenting a tantalizing jig ‘n minnow slowly dragged along the bottom. Always have a blaze orange marker available with you. When you hit that first fish, throw that marker out for a visual marker.

In the fall there is no such thing as one walleye or one smallmouth on a spot. You find the first one, get it marked and work that area for more. Fall gamefish can be grouped in some amazing schools and at this time of the Fall they are active and very competitive.

If I find myself on a lake I do not know very well, I will employ a smallish, 4-inch minnow bait and troll shorelines while all the time reading the breaks and depths and hopefully pop a fish or two in the process. It’s a good way to learn a strange lake and yet find a fish or two. Once I have found an area with the crankbaits, I will back off and employ the slow jig ‘n minnow tactic –the trick is to find that first fish.

Steve Carney is a contributing writer to the Outdoors page.

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