Labor Day 2018 has come and gone. When it comes to people who like to go fishing, for many of them, there are 2 switches that could get flipped at this time of the year. For some anglers, Labor Day flips that switch that says fishing season is over.
For other anglers, the Labor Day switch flip indicates that perhaps the best time of the year to go fishing is just starting. Whatever your inclination, the reality is that the next couple of months can provide the best opportunity of the year to catch lots of fish and some truly big ones. Here’s how you can get in on the action.
Let’s start with crappies. Crappies are abundant and popular almost everywhere. In the spring we catch them near cover like rushes, docks, and timber in shallow water. In the fall, for the most part, if you fish those areas you won’t experience the action that you did earlier in the year.
In some lakes, the crappies will be on or near the deep weedline. Sometimes they’ll be 25 yards off the edge of the deep weedline. On a calm evening, you can see them creating dimples as they suck bugs of the surface of the water. Work 1/16th-ounce Fire-fly or Gypsi Jigs tipped with minnows under slip-bobbers around these dimples and you’ll catch crappies.
Crappies will also be found on the bottom in the basin of some lakes. Cruise the basin in 25 to 30 feet of water with a close eye on your sonar. When you see a concentration of fish, work them with eighth or sixteenth ounce Fire-Ball jigs tipped with minnows. We run our Raymarine Axiom sonar in the RealVision 3D mode in this deep water and nothing escapes detection. This unit in this mode draws such a precise and interesting picture of the bottom of the lake.
Walleyes can be in a lot of places depending on the lake. In shallow lakes, you can find walleyes on windblown points in 2 feet of water. One of my most memorable days of fishing was on Leech Lake in north central Minnesota with my dad casting 1/16th-ounce Fire-Ball jigs tipped with minnows to a shallow, windblown point. We caught dozens of walleyes, and although they were not big, mostly 2-pounders, it was fun. Fun is why most of us go fishing.
In deep, clear lakes, they’ll be in 20 feet of water or more on deep structure like rock piles or deep points. They’ll suspend away from structure near baitfish in some bodies of water, and they’ll go on a night-bite in some lakes. Research the lake you’ll be fishing to determine where you should focus your efforts.
Largemouth bass will also be in different areas. On a warm day in the fall, especially at mid-day, you can find them cruising reed-beds near deeper water. Reed-beds in 6 to 8 feet of water that are close to green cabbage beds in 12 to 15 feet of water can be very good. The bass hold in the deeper water during cold conditions, then move shallower when there’s a day or two of warmer weather. In some places, spinnerbaits aren’t as popular as they used to be, but they’re still very effective, especially in this situation. Strike King makes a bunch of outstanding spinnerbaits. Select one with a big blade or two blades, add a Swim-N-Shiner to create bulk, and start throwing it around. Big bass really go for this set-up at this time of year.
In many places, the best fishing of the year is starting or going on right now. Take advantage of it.
Steve Young muskie 1
Kid catches muskie
Houston muskie in East Park
Logan Conway and Muskie
Steve Ibarra 2
Sea Wall muskie
Clear Lake muskie
Redig's big fish
12th Street cat
Tom Caswell's Muskie
Big fish in St. Ansgar
Santee's northern pike
Richards' river monster
Mike Uhlenhopp's northern pike
Lenz lands a big one
Georgia Hanford cat
Frank and the fish
Echelbarger's northern pike
East Park walleye
Mom and son muskie
2 for one on Clear Lake
Big muskie caught on Clear Lake in January, 2016
Jeff Lutcavish with giant northern
Catfish in Clear Lake
Fall Classic walleye
Jensen's Fishing the Midwest: Fall can be the best time for trophy fish
Depending on where you live, the young people and their teachers are getting ready to go back to school, football season is either here or just around the corner, and the fall fishing season is not far off. Some folks may not like this progression of seasons, but many anglers do. They know that autumn can provide the best fishing of the year for both numbers of fish and trophy fish. Many anglers have caught the biggest fish of their life in the fall. If we want to take full advantage of fall fishing, now is a good time to make preparations to do so. Following are some things to keep in mind as we prepare for fall fishing.
Whether you’re fishing a lake, river, or reservoir, at some point in the fall the fish will school up. In the summer they’ll be loosely schooled more of the time, but when the fish feel the water temperatures drop and notice the days getting shorter, they’ll group up. Therefore, it works well to keep moving with an eye on your sonar until you find where the fish are hanging out.
The importance of paying attention to your sonar was once again driven home on a fall trip to Lake Kabetogama a couple of years ago. Kab is known for its walleyes, but it’s also a world-class smallmouth fishery. We were fishing for the smallmouth on deep structures. We located the structures on the maps in our sonar units, then cruised over them looking for fish. The first two spots were fishless, the third showed fish.
We dropped jigs and dropshot rigs to them and had immediate action. Just for the heck of it, we tried similar looking structures that didn’t show fish on the sonar, and that’s what we caught: Nothing. The fact that you’ve got to fish where the fish are if you want to catch fish was reinforced that day. We were using Raymarine sonar at the time: I can’t remember which units we had, but the Axiom series of sonar from Raymarine that we’re using now does an amazing job of showing fish, and they have the other features necessary that make fish-catching so much more consistent.
Start the autumn season off with fresh line. Just as we start the season with fresh line, we want to be sure our connection to the fish is in good shape in the fall. Be sure that when that fish-of-a-lifetime eats your bait, your line will be ready to handle it. There are lots of line choices out there, and they all have a purpose. With that said, day-in and day-out, I use P-Line CX or CXX Premium. These are kind of like monofilament line, and I’ve developed a lot of trust in them. If I want more sensitivity and better hooksetting ability, I use XTCB braid with a Tactical fluorocarbon leader. This set-up provides the ultimate in strength and minimal stretch, yet allows for a very natural presentation.
In the fall, fish like larger lures. Even the smaller fish eat bigger baits in the autumn. Mother Nature tells the fish that it’s better to eat one large meal instead of several smaller ones. Use big bait for big fish.
There are lots of options for recreation in the fall. Football and hunting take up lots of folk’s time. But if you like to fish, reserve some time for doing-so. The weather is pleasant, the scenery is nice, and the catching can be outstanding. Discover that for yourself when the leaves on the trees turn colorful.
Muskies: Mitchell County Conservation intern explains 'the mystery fish' (with photos)
OSAGE | Local anglers had an opportunity to hear about the “mystery fish" -- also known more commonly as the muskie, from Levi Nettleton, recent naturalist intern with Mitchell County Conservation.
Nettleton, who will be a senior science education major at the University of Northern Iowa this fall, told attendees muskies are known as the mystery fish because of their unpredictability.
“Muskies are very unpredictable,” he said. “You can find them in waters that are 6 inches to a 100 feet deep. They look like a pike, but they have six teeth instead of five teeth like northern, and northern are spotted.”
Nettleton said a female Muskie can lay up to 265,000 eggs, but their survival rate is very low. They spawn best in water temps of 55 to 65 degrees, laying their eggs randomly in shallow waters where predators can consume the eggs.
“Many fishermen believe the muskie is a major consumer of other game fish such as bass and walleye, but they are apt to eat softer fish like bullheads and minnows,” Nettleton said, noting they also eat insects, crayfish, small mammals and waterfowl.
"Many believe they are aggressive, but that isn’t true, unless they are feeding," he said. "They are complicated for naturalists to study.”
Nettleton said Muskies’ habitats also vary, meaning they can be found in weeds like tobacco cabbage or 30 feet deep in open water. He said fisherman can find them in different places throughout the year.
Nettleton shared his enthusiasm for catching the large game fish, something he started four years ago.
“Once you do it, it can become an addiction," he said. "There's a lot of skill in muskie fishing, and sometimes, muskies are called the fish of a 100,000 casts.”
Nettleton’s study has rewarded him well, as he caught and released 36 muskies last year and 12 so far this year.
Fishermen seeking muskies typically use 7- to 10-foot rods, according to Nettleton. He uses a 300- to 400-foot reel with 22 pounds of drag, with 50-100 braid line and steel or fluorocarbon leaders.
He also carries needle-nosed pliers longer than 8 inches and a rubberized net, so he doesn't harm the Muskie.
He gave some additional pointers:
• Leave the catch in the water and support and release it when the fish is calm.
• Cut the hook if the fish has been deep-hooked.
• Don't fish over 80 degrees.
• If trolling, start at 2 mph, increasing to 4 mph.
• Do figure-eights to attract muskies.
Nettleton, who whose biggest catch was 53 inches long, said there are Muskies in the Cedar, Iowa, Shell Rock, and Winnebago rivers, as well as in Clear Lake.
The largest populations of muskies are in Minnesota, according to Nettleton, where the largest caught was 56 inches long and weighed 54 pounds.