A good number of very successful anglers commit a lot of their fall fishing time to rivers, and for good reason. Most rivers are home to a wide variety of fish species. Those different species of fish will gather in the fall and they'll be hungry. If you can find the fish in the fall, you can probably catch them. Following are some ideas for catching fish from rivers in the fall.
There is one really good sign that Mother Nature provides that lets us know when the fall season has arrived. On a day when it's drizzling, take a drive on a hard-surface road near a marsh or a swamp. If there are more salamanders, snakes, turtles or frogs than usual on the road, it's time to start thinking about fishing on a river. The warmer surface of the road attracts these critters and gives us an indication that river fish(as well as lake fish) are going to be eating.
If walleyes are your quarry, check out some wing-dams if the river you’re fishing has them. Don't fish a wing-dam too long unless you’re getting action. 10 or 15 minutes is enough time to learn if a walleye wants to get caught on that particular wing-dam. If nothing happens, find another wing-dam.
When water levels are low, concentrate on the deep end of the structure.
If the water is higher than usual, be sure to make a few casts to the shallow part of the wing-dam and also to the downstream side.
When water levels are normal, the most active fish will usually be on the upstream side of the wing-dam.
If the river you're fishing doesn't have wing-dams, points or shallow rocks will concentrate the walleyes.
It's hard to beat a jig tipped with plastic for walleyes early in the fall. A Slurp! Jig in the appropriate size tipped with a three inch Impulse Swim'n Grub will be a very good walleye catcher. There will be days when the walleyes are color selective, so keep experimenting until they show you what they want. If the fish are fussy, tie on a Fire-Ball jig and tip it with a minnow.
River smallmouth and largemouth also go on a really good bite in September and October. Largemouth will spread out over shallow grassy flats that are close to deeper water, while the smallmouth will hold on rock piles and points that are just off the channel.
When the largemouth are on the flats, crankbaits will be bass-catchers. The same baits will be productive on smallmouth. Again, don't spend too much time on one particular area. If the fish are going to eat, you'll know about it pretty quickly.
A fairly new style of crankbait, at least to me, are the square-bills. These are crankbaits that have square diving lips, and this design gives the bait a unique wobble. The KVD 2.5 and 4.0 Square Bills are outstanding around logs and over the tops of submerged weeds. Use the 2.5 in shallow water and the 4.0 deeper. In the rivers that I fish the most, you’ll usually be fishing water in the 3- to 8-foot range.
Lure color can be an important consideration much of the time. I like crankbaits that have some chartreuse or red in them, but try different colors until the bass show their preference. When the fish are aggressive, they won’t be as color selective. Put your bait where they are and you’ll probably get bit.
Rivers can produce fish when lakes won’t. Rivers aren't as effected by negative weather conditions as lakes are, and river fish are constantly dealing with current: They're expending more energy, so they eat more often, and easy-to-catch fish are a great reason to get on a river the next chance you get.
Photos: Big fish caught in North Iowa
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.