By Jason Durham / For the Enterprise
With surface water temperatures gradually descending toward the mid 50-degree mark, predator fish are becoming increasingly active.
This past week marked a turning point in the season. After numerous cool nights and windy days, those warm, calm afternoons create the perfect fishing conditions for all species. Yeah, yeah, walleyes like wind and clouds, muskies prefer low pressure and certain moon phases, bass won’t bite right after a cold front. Those theories can be forgotten during fall. Actually, many traditional theories aren’t as accurate as we like to believe.
For instance, when the wind’s from the west, fish bite the best. When the wind’s from the east, fish bite the least.
None of those theories are always true. That’s fishing. But you won’t ever be able to prove or dispute an angling adage unless you actually go fishing.
I have my own saying. “Hook in the arm, sound the alarm, hook in the head, just go to bed.”
That quote is about as accurate as it gets when it comes to fishing.
During fall, theories, techniques, ideas and fish behavior can change day to day. Sometimes even hour to hour.
Since weather has the greatest impact on fish behavior, quick changes and minor adjustments make sense. Think about those fall days where the wind direction switches three times, the air temperature changes 30 degrees or more in a few hours and dawn and dusk squeeze the daylight hours into a small window.
Besides the environment, you’ll notice other differences on the water compared to summer.
Over the past few months, you’ve seen plenty of panfish around docks and near shorelines.
Now those fish will seem nearly non-existent. Though you might happen upon active panfish on warm days, they probably won’t seem as abundant as they have been all summer long. Even the rock bass tend to tone things down considerably during fall.
It’d be easy to either change baits, techniques and location so that you don’t even get much of a chance to fish or use the diverse conditions of fall as an excuse as to why you didn’t catch much.
A consistent plan is to keep a level head and use the most basic approaches.
If you want to try something new, an approach you’ve never tried before, the best time to do it is when you already have active fish biting.
But if you’re still trying to find that “magic bite,” a few basic approaches will prove most successful.
Live bait rigs, also known as Northland Roach Rigs or Lindy Rigs, are one presentation. And during fall, minnows are generally best. That’s not to say a leech or nightcrawler won’t work. But talk to the most avid anglers and you’ll hear a consensus - minnows.
Using a minnow on a jig is equally efficient. A shiner, fathead, rainbow or small redtail on a Fireball jig will catch walleye in various water depths.
Anglers wanting to change it up may want to troll a crankbait in semi-shallow water; a deadly technique throughout fall.