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Fall is for Fishing
Long summer days spent out on the water casting a line until the sun sets can be good fun and most anglers wouldn’t give up their summer days of fishing for anything. Those same anglers dread the first sign of leaves falling and the cool winds that gust in to replace the once humid September air. But what if the fun didn’t have to end short before autumn strikes your favorite lake or pond? What if you didn’t have to pack up the rods for the winter and you could keep you boat out for an extra month and a few weeks? Most of those anglers who pack up the fishing goods after summer don’t realize there is plenty more fishing to be done.
Whether it be the cold air or just the shear discouragement of not being able to find fish some anglers just choose not to wet a line during the fall months. Unfortunately these anglers are missing out on one of the most exciting times to catch fish. Most North American game species ranging from Muskie to Crappie can be caught in large numbers while fishing cold autumn months by following a few basics principles that will help you become a better fall angler.
One fall fishing tip to keep in mind before launching your boat or packing up the car full of rods is to never be afraid of cold water. Most anglers shy away from cool water temps because they think the fish won’t be active. This is in fact the opposite in some cases. Try to think about cold water from the fish’s perspective. The water temperature usually doesn’t change dramatically over the course of the summer months, but once fall rolls around it marks the first sign of a consistent cooling of lake. Water temperatures in the summer months are stratified, meaning there are different temperatures ranging at different depths. In other words the hotter water will be located at the near surface of a body of water while the colder water will be located in the deeper parts ranging from 10-20ft making some game fish species difficult to catch.
The stratified water temps are eliminated when fall winds and cool temps roll around and trigger something that most anglers call turn over. Turn over basically stirs up all the cold and warm water in a lake and creates one consistent temperature at a multitude of depths. This means the fish will be more active in a range of depths and will be more easily accessible. Fish like Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Muskie, and Pike can be found in shallow water during fall, especially if the water is clear.
There are many misconceptions about fall fishing, another one being that fish will not feed in cold water. This is the exact opposite in most cases. Fish tend to feed more heavily right before the freeze and during the transition period between summer and fall. This is because most fish need to find food while it’s still accessible and before the water temperature turns too cold. Fish need to maintain a balanced metabolism over the winter and the only way for the fish to maintain this metabolism is by feeding heavily on baitfish, insects, and crustaceans. In order to take advantage of this feeding period try using reactions baits such as crank baits, spinner baits, blade baits, and anything with an erratic action that will entice an aggressive game fish. This doesn’t mean you won’t land fish on slow moving plastic tactics but reactions baits can be the key to success if you’re lost on a new lake during the fall season.
Being able to locate fish in the fall can be just as easy as choosing the right lure for the right species. Most game fish tend to either move up on shallow flats or stage near the edges of main lake humps. Some species that fall into the panfish family will move out of there deep summer holes into shallow water to intercept moving baitfish schools and the best way to targets this behavioral pattern is to find areas with a consistent depth. Look for long stretches of water depths that range anywhere from 4ft to 10ft or search for fish between the point of drop off on ledge. If you’re fishing during the early fall months when the water temp has yet to reach lower then low 60 degrees Fahrenheit, lean more towards a shallow water fishing approach. This is because the fish will just be beginning into the heavy feeding stage before winter. If it is late fall and the water temps are high 50 degrees Fahrenheit or lower the fish should be about 3-5ft deeper from where you originally located them. Sometimes they will still be in the same areas you caught them a month ago but they won’t be feeding as heavily and have already begun to reside into their winter holes.
This fall experiment and put yourself to the test out on the water, you may be surprised at to how much you enjoy fishing in the mild autumn weather. Whether you’re a laid back crappie angler or an intense Muskie hunter you will land fish and you will have a good time as long as you follow these simple steps to becoming a more well-rounded fall fisherman.