Lodging food and more
Fatting Up For Winter
By John Campbell
As predator fish begin their fall feeding habits, their focus centers
on large forage. Young of the year Perch, Cisco, River Shiners and Chubs,
along with other forage, such as frogs, crawfish and even their own off-spring
will be targeted. Successful trophy hunters will match the
hatch, almost scientifically, at this time of year. Imitation of the forage
base is very critical and a key to productivity during the fall feeding
Feeding forays are anything but mysterious! The fish have to eat a
lot as summer activity increases. The perdition cycle is in high
gear on reefs, large points and adjacent flats, and in neck down flowage
areas. Veteran anglers can predict these movements, and position themselves
for hot late summer or early fall action on the biggest fish of the year.
Walleyes love live bait, especially in the fall, and there's no more
practical way to present live bait than behind a slip sinker slowly dragged
along the bottom. Rigging allows an angler to comb a lot of water
quickly. It's a great way to search for walleye schools that are
scattered along a drop-off.
Fish activity is also different at this time of year. Largemouth
bass begin to form larger schools and start feeding voraciously.
Northern pike move in from larger schools where they were feeding in deep
open-water locations, and actively cruise weed flats. And walleyes
shake off their summer lethargy and begin to enter shallower feeding waters.
This sets the stage for all kinds of fishing. These fish are
in a process of transition also. These conditions work together to
create one of the year's peak fishing times. It's as if the game
fish suddenly realize the long winter is approaching and know they have
to chow down in preparation for the hard times ahead. The most important
aspect is that all of this will occur before the colors really form on
This period is not identifiable with a specific weather occurrence.
This time of the year comes as the trees start to show a sign of ending
of the summer and just before the major frost starts to blanket the ground.
The dramatic changes are going on under water, but on the land the clues
are much more subtle.
The best example of how I stumbled onto this was on a late October
evening. Fishing had been poor for about three weeks and it didn't
seem this evening would be any different than the previous ones.
As the splash subsided I felt that familiar tug on the line and I quickly
set the hook. I reeled in a nice two pound walleye. Since the
fishing hadn't been fast and furious over the last two weeks and the family
was interested in eating a few fish before winter set in I decided to keep
this walleye. I unhooked the walleye and put him in my livewell.
I hooked up the minnow again, because it wasn't too badly destroyed and
cast to the exact same spot. Just like the first cast as the splash
subsided I hooked another walleye.
|As I motored across the lake I noticed from my Lowrance depth finder
that the water temperature had fallen from the low 60's to the mid 50's.
I didn't give it much thought, but what I didn't realize is that this was
enough to start the fish on their fall transitional patterns. I motored
over to a small point where I had caught a few walleyes during the summer
months and I cast out my Lindy Rig tipped with a minnow.
In the next fifteen minutes I caught 10 walleyes in this exact same
spot releasing all but four for dinner. These fish were aggressive,
if one walleye got off another latched onto the bait and I used the same
minnow two or three times. It really didn't seem to matter
what condition the minnow was in; they just kept hammering the jig and
minnow combination. The key here is I added bulk and live bait to
my jig approach.
The subtle difference was the water temperature and the structure that
they related to. The fish congregated in this area to feed and fatten
up for the beginning of the autumn season. They came together to
hunt in schools and possibly to move into deeper water as the season started
Just because this time of year offers excellent fishing, that doesn't
mean you're going to succeed every time. First of all you have to
find the fish and an excellent tool for that is the live bait rig.
The key to live-bait rigging is a slow, meticulous presentation.
Terminal tackle for a live bait rig usually includes a walking sinker threaded
onto the line on top of a barrel swivel. Keep the sinker weight as
light as possible, yet heavy enough to let you feel the weight along the
bottom. Usually 1/4 to 1/2-ounce sinkers should be adequate for early-season
From the opposite end of the swivel I run a 2 to 4 foot snell of 6
to 8 pound test monofilament. Adjust the distance of your live-bait
rig from the bottom according to water clarity. In stained water
the fish will be tight to the bottom so the rig should run closer to the
bottom. Just the opposite frequently holds true in clear water.
I've had plenty of experiences that saw mid-summer walleyes attacking minnows
and early spring walleyes showing a preference to crawlers.
|I prefer to use the Lindy Rig in this case because it allows me the
versatility of getting the live bait right in the face of suspended walleyes.
A plain VMC, hook or the colored hooks are great, usually number 6 or number
8 finishes off the rig except for the bait.
Let the fish show you, which form of live bait to use. A general
rule is to use smaller minnows in the spring and larger minnows in the
fall, with leeches and nightcrawlers being most productive in the warmer
months of summer. However, I've found that walleyes don't always
adhere to the rules. I like to have a complete selection of bait
in the boat with me whenever I go fishing.
Walleyes often take minnows lightly, and will sometimes nibble at the
tail of the night crawler like a small perch does. These slow biters
have to be given time to get the bait into their mouths so that the hook
can do it’s job.
That's the reason for the Lindy slip sinker, it allows you to feed
line to the fish. Most anglers use open-face Shimano spinning reels
for live bait rigging. They backtroll, with the bail open and the
line caught under the index finger of their rod hand. When they feel
a bite, they simultaneously point the rod tip back toward the fish and
straighten their finger, allowing line to run freely off the spool.
After anywhere from 3 to 30 seconds depending on how aggressive the fish
are, reel up the slack line quickly until they feel the weight of the fish.
They then snap the rod back with authority and hoist another walleye into
This is the time of the year walleyes are feeding up for the winter
months. All you have to do is be on the water when they decide to
feed and you will get some trophy walleyes. For more information
about fall fishing cast me a line on the web at www.walleye.info
and we can share even more secrets.
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