Outdoor sports enthusiasts wait patiently for this time of year. Hunters and fishermen enjoy their passions against a backdrop of beautiful fall colors. Even subject to the unpredictability of the weather, all can enjoy what the outdoors has to offer.

Growing up in an outdoor-focused family, mom's only requirement was that we attend church on Sunday and set time away as a family to be together.

As opening dates got crunched together, we were forced to get to the early church service and the family times together shifted with dad and brother. Wearing a set of waders at a favorite duck slough close to home, putting many miles on our boots chasing rooster pheasants and casting for walleyes from shore on a full-moon evening, outdoors activities were essential to our family. It brought us together.

I must admit I was spoiled coming from North Dakota to Minnesota for waterfowl and upland game. Puzzled as to what happened in Minnesota, I asked Kelly Condiff of Park Rapids.

“Local duck numbers, first wild ducks, are contingent upon early fall food sources, such as rice, small grains, or acorns. If the locality has changed in agricultural practices, replacing small grains with corn or potatoes, this will eliminate an early fall food source. Ducks go to the food in new areas. This is where wild rice plays a critical role in the number of ducks in a location and holding power to stay,” Condiff said.

“Migratory waterfowl numbers are dependent on weather and human disturbance in the fall. Fall fishing can have a tremendous influence on the number of waterfowl congregating on our lakes. With more ducks arriving in November, our more extended season and available for open water and harvest grains like corn is good for duck hunting. One can always say the best is yet to come,” Condiff continued.

Minnesota duck production numbers are down in the agricultural areas of the state. One cannot intensively drain potholes and convert grass to row crop production. In lake country, duck production is down due to the influx of lake homes and the associated clearing of shoreline vegetations, according to Condiff.

Then there is October’s full moon walleyes.

Dan Rydell with a beautiful walleye, caught during the full moon in October 2018. (Submitted photo)
Dan Rydell with a beautiful walleye, caught during the full moon in October 2018. (Submitted photo)

The walleye fisherman knows this weekend is the full moon – a time when, odds are, anglers favor landing a trophy walleye and numbers of smaller fish for the table.

Wading, then casting silver-colored, shallow-floating rapalas along the shorelines on any prime walleye water is sure to produce after dark. Focus on first inlets with moderate water flow and move out in alongshore either direction from the opening.

Dan Rydell waits all year for the October moon. “2019 is no different. My son and daughter set aside this weekend to enjoy after-dark fishing on several area lakes. About the weekend weather, we’re not looking forward to fishing in the dark in a blinding snowstorm. If we can get out, Leech Lake is my all-time favorite, though, if not productive, I venture onto the smaller walleye waters around Park Rapids,” says Rydell.

Rydell prefers trolling slow tapering, south wind-exposed shorelines on Leech Lake with pencil-length, glow-in-the-dark, side-to-side wobbling plugs that dive eight to 10 feet.

“I vary my speed from 1 to 2.5 miles per hour,” he said. “Unlike my friends, I prefer to hold my rod instead of putting it in the rod holder. In this fashion, I can feel my lure if it grinds into the bottom. Too much line out, make adjustments accordingly.”

Don’t overlook the daytime walleye action on the south shore of Leech right now. Anglers have been reporting fishing slow on the proverbial hotspots like Big and Little Hardwood, Goose Island, and Big and Little Duck. Find the hot fishing action along the shore, starting at the south entrance to Walker Bay eastward. Jigging shiver minnows and jigs tipped with rainbow minnows are getting walleyes to bite.