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It’s Fall, and It’s On!

Calendar says it is mid-September.  The past few evenings have said autumn is definitely here!  Actually, depending on the fish you pursue and the amount of time you spend on the water, the seasons started to transition from summer to fall weeks ago already.

You also know that our seasons repeat themselves, year after year.  As a result, I return to the same topics in my blog every year.  So, I am going to dust off an old blog post, make a few changes to it and post it again.  (I have also learned that even if you heard this before, you probably forgot about it, Ha!).

Folks are busy with a lot of activities in the fall.  Many of them will reach for their sticks & strings, scatter guns, and smoke poles rather than fishing poles.  Just know that fall provides some of the best open-water fishing of the year.

There are many reasons why fall is one of my favorite times to be on the water.  The biggest reason is it simply is one of the best times of the year to catch big fish, big specimens of a variety of species.  Fall is a good time to pursue big fish because they feed heavily in the fall.  There is a long winter coming, and they need to get ready.  In addition, for many species, they are already beginning to develop next season’s eggs and milt.  They need even more energy reserves for that.

As autumn waters cool, fish remain relatively active and feed heavily.  That is in contrast to the spring season when cold water and reproductive behavior also drives fish behavior of many species.  Daily activity routines in the fall revolve around one thing–finding enough prey to gain weight.  It is all about the eatin’!

Other than spawning seasons, finding enough prey to eat and grow is the primary driver of fish behavior.  Knowing that I am always thinking of fish location and behavior in terms of predator/prey dynamics, what are they eating?  Where is that prey located?  Where is the greatest concentration of prey?  That is my over-simplified reply to every fishing situation.  The first challenge is finding fish.  Where their prey is, there they will be.  That is most true in the fall.

Besides telling you there is some great fishing available right now, here are a few other tips especially for catching fish in the fall:

Keep Fishing the “Weeds”

I have been on an aquatic vegetation kick recently; have mentioned it more than once in my blog.  First of all, it is aquatic vegetation, not “weeds”.  Weeds are unwanted plants.  Aquatic vegetation is great habitat for several species of fish.  I like fish.  I like aquatic vegetation.

On Nebraska waters that have submerged aquatic vegetation, especially small and medium-size flood-control reservoirs, pits and ponds, and sandhill lakes, that vegetation is very productive.  It is full of a variety of prey during the summer.  In the fall, submerged aquatic vegetation begins to die back.  That exposes a host of small fish, aquatic insects, and other food organisms to increased predation.  The fish we like to catch take advantage by patrolling outside edges of beds of submerged aquatic vegetation.  Look especially for pockets and types of aquatic vegetation that may remain green longer into the fall as any remaining cover will concentrate prey and feeding fish.  Inside corners and edges of vegetation beds near steep drops can be particularly good.

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Big Reservoirs

Our larger Nebraska reservoirs, mostly irrigation reservoirs, are entirely different habitats.  Most of those waters have very little submerged aquatic vegetation, especially with summer drawdowns.  However, those waters are no less productive and are full of millions of young-of-the-year open-water baitfish like gizzard shad and alewives.  The abundance of those oily, spineless, delectable snacks make for well-fed and difficult-to-catch predator fish during the summer.  In the fall Nebraska reservoirs are still full of an abundance of those open-water baitfish, but abundances are less than their summer peaks.  That and predator fish on the feed make fall a better window for catching fish, big fish.

In general, baitfish and predator fish movements in large reservoirs will be towards deeper water as fall progresses.  Baitfish tend to school up and move to deeper waters where water temperatures are more stable.  However, in early fall, and even on warming trends in late fall, there can be baitfish movements into warmer, shallow water.  Big predators follow.

If you are fishing from a boat, your depth-finder will show you where the baitfish schools are located, and likely there also will be some marks of big fish there too.  If you are not fishing with that technology, use your eyes.  Baitfish flipping on the surface or even the presence of migrating gulls can tip you off to baitfish concentrations with monsters lurking nearby.

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