Sunset Country offers great fall fishing

Since the weather has been so nice across Sunset Country this week, it’s only fitting that we take advantage of the excellent fall fishing we have here before things cool down.
That’s not too far off, unfortunately.
Fall is a great time to go fishing because seasons are open for most species, the lakes are quiet, and the fish are biting. Except for lake trout, which closed after Sept. 30, seasons are open for all of the major sport fish in our lakes.
Most of the marinas on the lake are now void of boats and the cottagers have packed it in for the season, but the fish know the long winter is coming so they all are bulking up in preparation.
Crappies are one of my favourite species to target in the fall. As I mentioned in last week’s column, crappies school up in the fall and are easy to catch.
The key is searching around with your electronics and not fishing until you actually mark some crappies under the boat.
At the end of the day, you’ll catch way more fish if you take the time to do this rather than just dropping lines where you caught them in the past.
Musky anglers, meanwhile, live for the late October/early November timeframe because this is when the biggest fish of the year are caught.
Muskies show up in predictable locations around current or windswept rocky shorelines, where they are feeding on spawning cisco and whitefish. They do not eat a lot during the winter so they are gorging right now.
Trolling large minnow imitators, or casting and jigging large soft plastics, are the go-to techniques to put a musky in the boat.
It’s unfortunate that the bass tournaments are over for the year because some of the best fishing of the season happens over the coming weeks. Smallmouths group up in large schools on “wintering” spots, where they will feed heavily before going nearly dormant for the winter.
Main lake structure like humps and long points attract fish that have spent the summer living along the shoreline.
They are focused on eating minnows at this time of year so fish with minnow-imitating soft plastics on one-quarter oz. jig heads that will get down in the 15-35 feet of water that these fish are using now.
Largemouth bass actually stay shallow throughout the year. The key to catching them in the fall is to find the last remaining green weeds, usually coontail, that are growing around rocks located outside of the shallow, weedy bays that these fish spend the summer in.
Fish jigs tipped with soft plastics around the weed edges and when you find one largemouth, you’ll likely find more.
Years ago, MNR biologists had several radio-tagged largemouth bass on Lake of the Woods and most of these fish spent the winter cruising around in eight-12 feet of water.
Walleye fishing is excellent in the fall because more fish are congregated than any other time during the open-water season. Most of the fish are going to be in deeper water now, whereas in the spring and summer a lot of walleye remain shallow.
Anglers should focus on main lake areas in 20-35 feet, although this can vary from lake to lake. Areas with current nearly always hold walleyes in the fall, as do main lake humps.
The classic jig and minnow is tough to beat at this time of year.
Finally, if you want to catch a trophy pike, fall is a great time. Get out of the weedy bays, where many pike are found during the summer months, and cast or troll minnow-imitating lures on main lake points and reefs.
Pike are taking advantage of all of the baitfish that live in deep water for much of the summer, then move into shallower water in the fall.
Enjoy the beautiful weather this week–and be sure to get out in the boat for one last weekend on the water!

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