October is here, with changes happening fast in the woods and on the lakes. Fall has arrived, with the leaves on the trees changing colors and temperatures cooling down with the first frost of the season.
Fall fishing is usually weather dependant. The nice sunny days with light winds are ideal, both for the comfort of the anglers and also for making fish active and in a biting mood.
Many anglers wait for the right weather to go fishing, with the afternoon and evening bite during the peak temperatures of the day often the best time to be on the water.
All fish species want to stay close to their food during the fall. With the cooling water temperatures, the fish don’t want to travel long distances between their feeding locations and their resting locations.
Most fish want everything they need in close proximity during the fall and later during the cold water period.
Complex structures with direct access to deep water are often key locations for the fish, especially if they offer ample amounts of food and good cover all in one general location.
Walleyes like several options for food including minnows, baitfish, crayfish and insect larvae, chick are all possible menu items for walleyes.
Fall is the time when fish load up on food to put on weight and go through the biggest growth spurt of the year. Mature fish also begin to form eggs and spawn for next spring.
Anglers can usually find some fish willing to cooperate if they fish in the right locations. The use of electronics is critical, since most presentations need to be slowed down and presented to the fish more vertically than at other times of the year.
Anglers can still troll or cast for fish, but baits still have to be slowed down and presented to the fish at the right depths. This usually means lead core line, downriggers or snap weights with crankbaits for walleyes unless anglers are fishing at night and have walleyes feeding in a shallow pattern.
Northern pike, muskies, trout and salmon are often more aggressive than most species, so faster presentations used to cover water can still be effective on those species.
Everything in the lakes becomes more concentrated as the water cools. This means there will be some areas that are loaded with fish, while many other areas in the lakes may seem nearly void of life.
Muskie anglers love fishing in the fall because many of the big fish that have been following tullibees around the basin during the summer will follow the tullibees into shore as the tullibees get ready to spawn.
Tullibees and whitefish are two fall spawning species that live in many of the local lakes. Both species use many of the same locations to spawn that were used by walleyes and suckers to spawn in the spring.
Tullibees and smaller whitefish are favorite forage species of big fish, which can include muskies, northern pike, walleyes and bass. Finding the areas holding prespawn tullibees is often the key to finding many of the larger predator fish in the lakes.
Muskie anglers often alternate between casting and trolling in the fall, to allow their hands to get a break from getting cold and wet.
Side imaging on many high end sonar allow anglers to troll along structure and watch for muskies and big pike they can mark and come back to later, to cast to the fish they saw trolling.
Jerk baits, glide baits and crankbaits that imitate tullibees are often a good choice for muskies and big pike.
Changing lures, judging the reactions of the fish and playing hunches is always an important part of muskie fishing, to see what lures match the natural forage fish best.
One successful pattern for big pike on lakes without muskies is using smaller muskie baits, so the fish haven’t seen many big baits.
Large sucker minnows are another option if anglers can find a concentration of tullibees, which can concentrate the predator fish into a smaller area.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. Guided fishing trips for 2020 and the rest of 2019 can be booked by phone or text at 218-760-7751 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.