As the leaves slowly begin to change colour and the nights become frosty, walleye anglers in the know begin to get their tackle ready in anticipation of guaranteed action. Fall is the number one period for catching LARGE walleye, especially those that push the scale down to double digits! By following a few simple rules, catching trophy walleye during the harvest moon can be as easy as 1-2-3, and let’s face it, what can be better than that in the game of fishing?
Fall time signals a change in the attitude of walleye. With the onset of winter just around the corner, walleye will begin gorging on baitfish and other food sources in order to build up fat reserves. This will be necessary to get them through the harsh and cold winter, and also to prepare them for the upcoming spawn.
The last few months before winter is an opportunity for “feast or famine,” and the predator walleye will be out in full force, eating everything that comes its way. Locating these fish, and knowing what to throw at them, are two key areas that will help you find success.
Where To Look?
Finding the walleyes of fall can be a simple task, as locations are quite precise and straightforward. The first thing to do is limit all of your fishing to water that is less than twenty-feet deep. Fish move shallower as the water grows colder, and most angling actually takes place in water less than fifteen feet deep. Narrows, shoals, humps and islands all provide key areas for walleye to congregate at. These structure points provide an adequate food source and also an excellent staging area in preparation of the forthcoming spawn.
Inlets, narrows and river mouths are actually excellent locations that rate high on the production scale. Current areas such as these seem to draw walleye in by the thousands, enabling anglers to cash in on the action. Concentrate on weed/rock transitions and well-defined weedlines that are made up of healthy green weeds.
The Graveyard Shift
Night fishing for walleye is a technique that positively shines when summer turns into fall. Due to their light sensitive eyes, the walleye will flood the shallows come evening and into nighttime, searching for an easy meal with their well-honed vision. The best technique to employ at these times is to start shallow, and work progressively out into deeper water. Start in water between two and three-feet-deep, and work all the way out to fifteen or twenty-feet. Generally, you’ll find the most action in the skinny water, as this is where the largest concentrations of baitfish will be congregating.
Crankbaits are your best choice during these optimum conditions as they can cover water quickly, and “match the hatch” perfectly. Choose cranks that have a long profile, and don’t be afraid to go big when picking your baits. Lures between five and seven-inches are the norm in the fall, and will certainly produce above-average size fish. Look for baits that contain rattles, as they will definitely attract more attention under the cover of darkness. Don’t let colour become an issue when choosing a crankbait, as the profile and sound they produce should be the two main considerations.
Casting and trolling are two productive techniques to utilize when chasing walleye through the night. Casting will allow you to work the area thoroughly, however, trolling will enable you to cover a larger area. One route I take is to cast the shallows first, working every nook and cranny in a slow, methodical fashion, and then trolling the deeper water as I work my way out.
The Frog Connection
Every fall, just as the frost begins to settle on the ground, frogs begin their migration from land to water in order to hibernate in the mud. Although this migration period may only last a few days, those lucky enough to experience it will be in for the thrill of a lifetime.
As the frogs make their way to the water under the cover of darkness, hungry walleye wait patiently, ready to snap up any frog that makes that fateful leap into the wet stuff. Walleye will stage in water as shallow as a foot deep, and they can make for easy pickings for anglers smart enough to figure the puzzle out.
This phenomenon will only happen once in a lifetime, but the action can be so incredible it will last forever your mind. Walleye after walleye fell prey to crankbaits with many of the fish grabbing the bait as it hit the water, much the same way that a bass does a topwater plug. The key for this action is to find the right spot. Search for an area on the lake that has a mud bottom and is surrounded by cattails at the shore and wetlands on the bank.
Jigging a Fish Up
Jigs and livebait are a great technique when heading out in the fall, especially during the daytime period. Choose large chubs or large minnows, and keep your offering on or near the bottom at all times. Light from the sun will most certainly dictate the depths you scour, with deeper water being an obvious choice during bright, sunny days. Make sure to add a stinger hook to your offering in order to hook those fish that are light biters, or those that are feeling a little finicky.
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