Fishing options still out there

This time of year is always a little bit depressing for me—and I’m sure other anglers across Sunset Country feel the same way.
We are running out of time to fish out of the boat as soon our lakes will be blanketed with ice for the next five months.
I like ice fishing, but I think it’s just something about how great our summers are that brings on the depression from the end of another season.
Though some ice is starting to skim over on the small, shallow bodies of water, there still are a few fishing options out there for the hard-core angler who wants to get that one last trip in.
When most anglers think about fishing late in the fall, they think muskies. Fall has long been the most popular season to fish for serious musky anglers and trolling always has been the preferred method for catching big fish.
Muskies feed heavily this time year on spawning whitefish and ciscos that inhabit all of our big lakes. They are not that active during the winter months so they want to pack on the pounds right now.
The good thing about trolling is that it allows you to cover water fast in order to make contact with fish.
You want to use big baits that will get the attention of hungry fish. One lure my friends and I have had good luck with is the Storm Giant FlatStick, which was designed for trolling.
We use heavy rods spooled up with 80-pound Power Pro braided line to absorb the shock of hard hits from these fish.
Prime trolling speed in the fall is about 3.5 m.p.h., which is not as fast as we would troll in during the summer (I monitor my trolling speed on my GPS unit).
Concentrate your efforts on neckdown areas of the lake with some current passing through, as they will congregate the large forage fish that muskies are searching for.
Bass are still catchable up until freeze-up, although their activity level starts to drop off once the water temperatures dips below 48 degrees F. Smallmouths will be grouped up on main lake humps where they will spend the winter.
The good thing is if you can find some fish, you’ll likely catch numbers of them. It’s a good idea to throw out a marker buoy when you catch a fish because the schools will be grouped tightly together on isolated spots.
Try fishing with a vertical jigging spoon like a Northland Macho Minnow, a bait that we like to use ice-fishing for walleyes and trout. You’ll be surprised at how well they work for bass right now.
Scott Dingwall and I filmed a TV show last week and caught a number of nice fish on vertical spoons.
If you do like to ice-fish, now is a great time to get out there and look for crappies or walleyes because wherever you find them now, you’ll likely find them during that first outing on the ice.
You can find the main lake humps that are holding good numbers of walleyes. It pays to mark the hot spots on these humps with a waypoint on your GPS unit.
These are great places to place your shack during the winter.
By now, crappies are holed up in the deep basins of the bays or lakes that they live in—the same places where they spend the winter. If you know that an area has a population of crappies, now is the time to get out there with your electronics and look for fish.
My fishing buddy, Jamie Bruce, is one of the most hard-core anglers I know and this is his little secret. He spends hours late in the fall driving around with his Humminbird sonar unit looking for schools of crappies—and it pays off.
Once the ice forms, he always has a bunch of good spots that produce fish.
It’s a long winter so if you haven’t put the boat away, there still are a few fish out there to catch.

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