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Fall Walleye Fishing on Mille Lacs
By Perry Good
Cooling water temperatures in fall send monster walleyes
on a feeding
frenzy. Whether the lure is a minnow imitation
crankbait, leech or red
tail on a jig, live bait rules in fall. This is
a time that sportsmen should not overlook because walleyes turn on as if
old man winter is ordering them to bite with reckless abandon. Now's
the time for trophy fish.
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. One of the very
first places I look and concentrate my efforts is on the flats. Flats
are the least interesting types of structure in a
lake. There are no breaks, holes, edges, just flat
bottom. But seemingly featureless flats hold most of the active walleyes
during most yearly periods. With that definition there is always
an exception. The exception in this case are the mud flats of Mille
Lacs. They are mud plateaus that rise up from the floor of the lake
and they have edges, holes, and inside turns, but on the top they have
the qualities of a defined flat. Most anglers believe that the bigger
fish move to the shoreline in the fall, but the mud flats of Mille Lacs
hold fish all year round and these big fish stay and feed during the fall
months. On the flats, the weather has less of an impact than it does
in shallow water. Fish favor stability. Relatively constant
water temperature, water quality, weather, and abundance of prey let fish
live predictably. Good fishing often accompanies stable conditions,
but sometimes when weather is poor fishing is the best on the flats.
Flats are the major food-producing regions of most lakes. Walleyes
forage over flats. Therefore, the flats are the home of walleyes.
It's easy to identify productive flats. Some prime flats drop off
steeply into deepest areas of the lake. Walleyes
that use flats typically move shallower at night to feed on a variety of
prey species. Baitfish such as cisco and shad move shallower at dusk.
The depth of a good flat can very from only a few feet to over 20, depending
upon the lake and the season. Flats with a fairly soft or sandy bottom
carpeted with low weeds, with patches of coontail or cabbage rising above
the carpet, attract walleyes. Submerged weeds develop as the water warms
in the summer. Weedy flats hold baitfish that attract walleyes at
night. In fall, weeds decline and small fish are flushed from cover.
Walleyes feed aggressively throughout this period. Walleyes can feed
in dim light. They have a feeding advantage over most prey species
Walleyes often feed voraciously at night. The first-time
night fisherman finds a new and unfamiliar world, which at first can be
threatening and unproductive. But with proper equipment and background
knowledge, night fishing adds a fascinating new dimension to fishing. Although
walleyes don't necessarily follow narrow pathways as they enter a flat,
a good bet for locating them is to find a stretch of rocky rubble that
is adjacent to a steep drop-off. At night, walleyes on flats tend
not to hug the bottom, but often suspend in mid-water and sometimes near
Active walleyes hold above dense weeds, rock, or other
cover; but they
also roam more freely than during the day. Don't
neglect areas with
sparse cover that walleyes rarely visit during the day.
Just because there may appear to be no cover does not mean that walleyes
are not roaming over the flats. Keep a constant eye on you depthfinder
to see if you see any fish suspended. Because, on flats, large walleyes
feed in a variety of depths, from just a few feet, to the deep outer edges
of the flat. Depending upon what's available to eat, walleyes may
be on the bottom, suspended at mid-depths, or even at the surface gobbling
mayflies or shad. The character of the flat and the season determines
fish staging. If the flat is large with broad contours, trolling
usually is best. Trolling or anchoring and casting can probe small shallow
flats. This nis a very effective method for looking for large walleyes
in the fall. They seem to take bait if they are not pressured by boats
and motors moving over the fish column.
Long-line trolling with crankbaits is the most versatile
technique for fishing the flats. Trolling covers lots of water and
crankbaits are attractive to feeding walleyes. Try large crankbaits
that run with a wide wobble at medium speed. Big walleyes prowling
the flats aren't easily intimidated. I like to use large
Husky Jerks are
probably one of my favorite baits. I prefer to
use black or dark baits
at night. On bright moonlit nights in clear water,
however silvery patterns often out produce dark ones. Of course,
don't hesitate to use bright yellows and blues to catch walleyes at night.
It seems that, as soon as you have them figured out it is time to change
to a completely different color. To establish a pattern, make a few trolling
passes at various depths. If walleyes seem skittish attach side planner
boards to get your lures out of the wake of the boat I use the
Positioning System, that allows me to bottom track and shows me the inside
turns, but if you're familiar with a particular flat, you can determine
your location as you move by noting the pattern of water depth, bottom
type, and vegetation. Ability to keep on track and determine location
as you move by noting bottom contours can greatly improve fishing success
on nights that are too dark to see landmarks on shore. For this kind
of navigation, my Pinpoint Positioning System allows me the freedom of
not watching the depthfinder and more concentration on my line in the dark.
Constant bottom contact is essential even though it increases
the potential for snags. Use a small jig head with a wide hook gap
to deliver the bait in wavy conditions. Leeches are an outstanding
rock bait because they can take the pounding.
Drifting the breakline on a windy day is a way to catch
trophy walleyes. The tackle is simple and the methods are easy to
learn. First, use jigs tipped with a crawler, leech or minnow. The
size of the jig should be just enough so you have contact with the bottom.
Large fish like to bulk up on major protein at this time of year.
Fishing the flats can give you the opportunity to catch
a trophy fish,
so don't overlook the flats.
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