-By Bob Jensen
During my fishing career I’ve shared a boat with a lot of anglers in a lot of places. I’ve learned how fish react in different places to a variety of factors. Some of those things that I’ve learned are unique to the autumn months. Following are some of those things.
I lived in north central Minnesota in the early 80’s. I had heard that walleyes would bite at night. Through much research, meaning going fishing at night for walleyes, I learned that they would. Really well at times. I also learned that they could be very predictable. Most of this fishing was done while wearing waders near the shoreline. During the day I’d check out various areas to see if minnows were present. If they were, a friend or two and I would return a bit before sundown. We would tie on shallow running crankbaits and start casting. Most of the time the walleyes would start biting shortly after sundown. We would return almost every night. We discovered that the walleyes would also return at almost the same time every night. They would bite for maybe a half hour, then action would slow or stop. We’d move down the shoreline, casting as we walked. Much of the time we would relocate the school of walleyes. In following years I learned that walleyes would bite at night in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and South Dakota. However, in different areas there were different influences on when they bit. For instance, below the dams on the Missouri River, it seems the fish bit better if water was running through the dam. In any season, gradually rising water is usually better than falling water.
Another fall finding. One fall many years ago, fishing hadn’t been so good. On a chilly, drizzly afternoon, I noticed that there were lots of frogs and salamanders on the road in certain areas. The fishing that day and following days was much better. The frogs and salamanders were leaving their summer homes in swamps and marshes and heading to the rivers, ponds, and lakes that would be their winter homes. The predator fish were waiting for them. If you could find where the amphibians were entering the pond, lake, or river, you could bet there would be predator fish nearby. I used jig/plastic combos because the fish could be unhooked and released much faster and safer.
Several years ago Kabetogama Lake fishing guide Tim Snyder suggested that I visit Kab in the fall to fish for smallmouth bass. Tim said that Kab had a population of smallmouth that saw little fishing pressure. Mike Frisch and I made it a point to do what Tim suggested. Tim took us out in search of smallmouth bass. It was a short search. We found a hump where sonar revealed the presence of what we believed to be smallmouth. Mike quickly caught the first bass. A 21 incher on a drop shot rig. Back then, Kab’s smallmouth hadn’t seen a lot of drop shot rigs and they eagerly ate them. We tipped ours with Half Shell and Baby Z-Too plastics and caught smallmouth all afternoon. I learned on that and following fall days that under-fished populations of fish can still be found throughout North America. They might be fish that aren’t real popular to anglers or they might be popular fish in popular lakes that just haven’t been discovered yet. Or they haven’t seen a particular bait presentation. Autumn is when I’ve learned much about fishing. You can do the same.