Fish activity is also different
at this time of year. Largemouth bass begin to form larger schools and start
feeding voraciously. Northern pike move in from larger schools where they were
feeding in deep open-water locations, and actively cruise weed flats. And
walleyes shake off their summer lethargy and begin to enter shallower feeding
This sets the stage for all kinds
of fishing. These fish are in a process of transition also. These
conditions work together to create one of the year's peak fishing times. It's
as if the game fish suddenly realize the long winter is approaching and know
they have to chow down in preparation for the hard times ahead. The most
important aspect is that all of this will occur before the colors really form
on the trees.
This period is not identifiable
with a specific weather occurrence. This time of the year comes as the trees
start to show a sign of ending of the summer and just before the major frost
starts to blanket the ground. The dramatic changes are going on under water,
but on the land the clues are much more subtle.
The best example of how I
stumbled onto this was on a late October evening. Fishing had been poor for
about three weeks and it didn't seem this evening would be any different than
the previous ones. As I motored across the lake I noticed from my Lowrance
depth finder that the water temperature had fallen from the low 60's to the
mid 50's. I didn't give it much thought, but what I didn't realize is that
this was enough to start the fish on their fall transitional patterns. I
motored over to a small point where I had caught a few walleyes during the
summer months and I cast out my Lindy Rig tipped with a minnow
As the splash subsided I felt
that familiar tug on the line and I quickly set the hook. I reeled in a nice
two pound walleye. Since the fishing hadn't been fast and furious over the
last two weeks and the family was interested in eating a few fish before
winter set in I decided to keep this walleye. I unhooked the walleye and
put him in my livewell. I hooked up the minnow again, because it wasn't too
badly destroyed and cast to the exact same spot. Just like the first cast as
the splash subsided I hooked another walleye.
In the next fifteen minutes I
caught 10 walleyes in this exact same spot releasing all but four for dinner.
These fish were aggressive, if one walleye got off another latched onto the
bait and I used the same minnow two or three times. It really didn't seem to
matter what condition the minnow was in; they just kept hammering the jig and
minnow combination. The key here is I added bulk and live bait to my jig
The subtle difference was the
water temperature and the structure that they related to. The fish congregated
in this area to feed and fatten up for the beginning of the autumn season.
They came together to hunt in schools and possibly to move into deeper water
as the season started to progress.
Just because this time of year
offers excellent fishing, that doesn't mean you're going to succeed every
time. First of all you have to find the fish and an excellent tool for that is
the live bait rig.
The key to live-bait rigging is a
slow, meticulous presentation. Terminal tackle for a live bait rig usually
includes a walking sinker threaded onto the line on top of a barrel swivel.
Keep the sinker weight as light as possible, yet heavy enough to let you feel
the weight along the bottom. Usually 1/4 to 1/2-ounce sinkers should be
adequate for early-season fishing.
From the opposite end of the
swivel I run a 2 to 4 foot snell of 6 to 8 pound test monofilament. Adjust the
distance of your live-bait rig from the bottom according to water clarity. In
stained water the fish will be tight to the bottom so the rig should run
closer to the bottom. Just the opposite frequently holds true in clear water.
I prefer to use the Lindy Rig in
this case because it allows me the versatility of getting the live bait right
in the face of suspended walleyes. A plain VMC, hook or the colored hooks are
great, usually number 6 or number 8 finishes off the rig except for the bait.
Let the fish show you, which form
of live bait to use. A general rule is to use smaller minnows in the spring
and larger minnows in the fall, with leeches and nightcrawlers being most
productive in the warmer months of summer. However, I've found that walleyes
don't always adhere to the rules. I like to have a complete selection of bait
in the boat with me whenever I go fishing.
I've had plenty of experiences
that saw mid-summer walleyes attacking minnows and early spring walleyes
showing a preference to crawlers.
Walleyes often take minnows
lightly, and will sometimes nibble at the tail of the night crawler like a
small perch does. These slow biters have to be given time to get the bait into
their mouths so that the hook can do itís job.
That's the reason for the Lindy
slip sinker, it allows you to feed line to the fish. Most anglers use
open-face Shimano spinning reels for live bait rigging. They backtroll, with
the bail open and the line caught under the index finger of their rod hand.
When they feel a bite, they simultaneously point the rod tip back toward the
fish and straighten their finger, allowing line to run freely off the spool.
After anywhere from 3 to 30 seconds depending on how aggressive the fish are,
reel up the slack line quickly until they feel the weight of the fish. They
then snap the rod back with authority and hoist another walleye into the boat.
This is the time of the year
walleyes are feeding up for the winter months. All you have to do is be on the
water when they decide to feed and you will get some trophy walleyes.