Walleye Fishing in the Fall
Walleye Fishing in the Fall
By Sam Anderson
Some of the finest walleye fishing of the year takes place during the fall. The trick is to find the best action, and to match your presentation to the mood of the fish. Fall walleye fishing can be extremely unpredictable, but most sources will say that usually the poorest weather conditions will produce the largest fish. Most large fish caught in the fall are females. To nourish their developing eggs the female walleye needs to consume large quantities of food.
The fall is a great time to get to a river near you and catch some walleyes as they start to move up towards the head of the pools or start staging along the various breaks as they head towards the dams. River walleyes bite all year, if you know where to look and how to fish for them.
A river walleye unlike lake walleyes have to fight current all of their lives. Therefore, the walleyes in the rivers have adapted to be in areas that offer current breaks so they don’t have to fight the current all of the time. These current breaks are anything that diverts the current and allows slack water. The slack water areas are found below the dams where an eddy is formed by the water being drawn over the dam and rushing downstream which causes a slack water area on each side of the dam. Other obstructions that cause slack water might be below wingdams, behind rocks, a depression in the floor of the river, a stump or fallen tree, or man made obstacles such as bridge abutments.
The key to locating walleyes in the river in the fall and early winter starts with locating a series of obstacles and then allowing your bait or lure to present itself in a natural manner so the walleye can race from behind the obstruction to acquire the offering and then race back into the slack water area to digest his meal and await another Big female walleyes will move shallow in a lake or river to feed and usually they need some reason to do so. The reason is that is where the prey fish have moved. Lakes have a tendency to layer out or “stratify.” In the fall this would mean that the depths of a lake are warmer than the shallows. The fall cycle of a lake allows the stratified layers to turnover and therefore the cooler water is on the shoreline.
Big walleyes will swim into the shallow waters to go a feeding spree. If you are in the shallows when this takes place hang onto the rod, you are about to catch some of the largest walleyes of your life. As they get full they may slide down to deeper parts of the lake, but again remember they have to eat and one of the places to start looking for big walleyes is shallow. How shallow? Sometimes it maybe six inches of water, just enough to cover them.
Cold fronts, rain, wind and rough weather often precipitate the hot bite during the fall. Water temperatures start to drop from the 70 degree range back into the 50 degree range or below, most walleyes abandon the flats and hold tight to edges. Massive bait schools break up and walleyes head for specific structural elements that funnel scattered, roaming forage past specific spots. Look for long fingers or spines that protrude toward the main lake. Roaming baitfish usually congregate along these fingers and filter down them. Walleyes wait at the tips . Find those spots and you’ll find big walleyes. Bright warm days are preferred to cold, blustery ones. The sun is lower in the sky this time of year, so light penetration is decreased. However, bright days will cause the water to warm up, which will turn fish on. Frequently, action will be better from mid-day on.
In the fall big fish like big baits. In fact, that is never truer than prior to ice-up. The water is cooling down rapidly and those fish won’t expend a great deal of energy on a snack. They want something substantial.
If the water is cooling off, the fish are slowing down. They become sluggish and don’t want to chase all over the lake for food. They want something easy and a lot of it. The anglers must also slow down their presentation to match the mood of the fish. Walleyes can’t resist the slow wobble of a Rattlin’ Fat Rap, or the wide sweep of the thick Risto Rap. These large fat baits pulled slowly on long-line trolling techniques or casts into the shallows produce fish.
Don’t overlook a plump night crawler or a jumbo leech pulled behind a Rainbow Spinner. Just because the bait is big and plump doesn’t mean that your hooks have to be gigantic either. A small hook allows a walleye to swallow the bait without feeling anything unusual. And a small hook will not break or pull out. Most big walleyes are hooked under snag-free conditions, so if you take your time and do not attempt to horse the fish, light line will do the job. Many times I will scale down my line form 6lb test XL to a 4lb. test XT, just to get a better feel and allow the big walleye as little resistance as possible.
Think about what time of day you would like to be on the water. Most of us would like to be there when the weather is nice, sunny and bright. The big walleyes don’t want to be around during high sunny skies. They would prefer the low-light conditions or even the darkest night conditions to make their feeding run.
Monster walleyes are on most large bodies of water in the Upper Midwest. As the fall winds start to blow and you feel that you would rather be back at home sitting by the fire that is the time when fall walleyes are on the prowl. Try these simple techniques and if you would like to share your experience with me contact me on the web at: www.samanderson.com