Sep 10, 2014
Well the open water season is winding down. Labor Day has come and gone. Kids have gone back to school, and you might notice, many folks are already putting their boats away for the season! Life on the lakes has generally quieted down. Even hard core outdoor enthusiasts are now in their tree stands or duck blinds. But there is still great fishing to be had!
This is a great time of year to hit Northern Wisconsin waters for all species of fish. The weather is cool, the bugs are gone, and the waters are vacant of the summer boating traffic. Fishing this time of year is probably some of the best you can experience. The water temperature is changing and fish will be on the move, hitting the feed bag stocking up for the long winter.
Fishing in early September through the end of October will offer different fishing conditions through this time period. September is for fishing big muskies in shallow water. This is my favorite time of year for large bucktails and topwater action. Many lakes in the area, once water starts to cool, bring fish that have spent much of the summer in deep haunts to shallower water. This is a pre-turnover bite and usually is good for several weeks on most waters. Get up shallow and hit thick weeds which have been void of muskies much of the summer due to warm water temps. Bucktails, topwater, jerkbaits and swimbaits are top producers during the early fall pre-turnover bite.
Once water has turned over in mid-October, those fish will move out of the shallows and move back to the edges, slowly moving towards their late fall haunts. Post turnover, musky fishing can have great rewards of large fish but you must spend your time on the water to hit the feeding windows. You may find yourself out for hours with no activity but in a 30 minute stretch have three fish in the net. Sucker fishing is usually heating up once turnover takes place. Deep diving crankbaits and jerkbaits are good options for casting the deeper edges of the lake. Green weeds still produce but if there are any good drop offs, with rocks or cribs, this is the time of year that these structures will start to produce.
Walleyes will also transition from summer to fall patterns as water starts to cool. This, just like musky fishing, is a great time to chase big walleyes. Many times these fish will move out to deeper holes and mud flats. Sucker minnows drifted through these areas with jigs and slip bobbers produce large walleye during early fall periods. Just like musky fishing, up sizing your bait is often a good trigger to get more bites.
Smallmouth bass will transition, just like all fish, during the fall months. They will start to move back up on shallower rocky points and humps and once turnover takes place move back out. Larger plastics like creature baits offer a bigger presentation over standard plastic worms. Depending on when you will be fishing, start shallow and keep working deeper till you find fish. Just like walleyes, larger mud minnows, redtails, and sucker minnows will out produce a standard fat head or leeches during the fall. Fish them on a jig head or slip bobber for live bait presentations.
Many of the nicer panfish will move out of weeds if they start to die, but can still be associated with them if they are still green. I like to fish for large perch in the fall since a lot of the summer those fish will be out deep and harder to get to. They move up during the early fall to breaks. For Crappies I spend most of my time chasing them around fish cribs and some of the nicer bluegills will be on rock or gravel bars on many of the larger lakes. To weed through the smaller fish if a problem I tend to use larger than average plastics over live bait to self-regulate what will bite. 1/16 oz jig heads with gulp or plastics work well for all panfish this time of year. Tipping them with a pinch of crawler or minnow if needed.
Captain Matt Raley, Hideaway Hollow Outfitters, LLC, www.hideawayhollowoutfitters.com,
West Central Wisconsin
This is a great time to get after walleyes, as they start the big bulk before winter. They will be stacking up on sharp drop offs chasing baitfish, so a jig, tipped with a fathead, is going to be the weapon of choice. The Yellow River area by the state park is a popular fall destination, as well as the Chippewa River channel near the S bridge. Trolling cranks in a perch pattern, during the last hour of light on Little Lake will produce some bigger fish.
Chippewa River System
This applies to the Chippewa River and all of its flowages, such as Lake Wissota, Lake Holcombe, and Old Abe. Let me first say that I am not, in any way, implying that I am a musky guide. I don't really fish for them a lot, I don't have the patience. But in late September and into the entire month of October, it's a different story. Those bad boys (and girls) are packing on the pounds. It is a great time to soak sucker minnows. Fish them under a large bobber and set your clicker. Use a quick set rig to help ensure a safe release. Cast bucktails to pass the time by.
Mississippi River at Alma
What a great time to be out on the big river. This is the one time of year, other than winter, where there is virtually nobody else out on the river. I enjoy spending this time chasing beautiful fall smallmouth. Fish the slack water in the shallows. Plastic crawfish imitations are a good option as are a jig tipped with a gulp minnow, or my personal favorite Mississippi bait, the Heddon Sonar. Fishing the Sippi never gets old.
Captain Chris Powell, Chippewa Valley Guide Service, 715-577-9771, www.Lake-Wissota.com, Twitter: @Wissotaguide, Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Fat-Guys-Guide-Service
East Central Wisconsin
The Wolf River will have a fall run of both walleyes and white bass. These fish can be caught by casting a jig and minnow, a jig and crawler, or a crankbait. Most anglers have put their fishing equipment away and have headed to the fields and woods for hunting. You will be very surprised at how few people you will meet on the river at this time of the year- but the fishing can be fantastic.
Lake Poygan will also have a new influx of fish; walleyes and white bass, mainly, as they stage for the winter. Fish here can also be caught by casting a jig and minnow, a jig and crawler, or by trolling crankbaits such as Shad Raps and Flicker Shads. When trolling, this time of the year, I tend to use larger baits.
Lake Winnebago is almost forgotten in fall, but will still produce good numbers of walleyes, white bass, and perch. The fishing there will consist mainly of the rock piles and the edges of the rock piles. Again, using a jig and nightcrawler or a slip bobber are the more preferred ways to fish at this time of the year. Walleyes and white bass can also be caught by trolling out in the mud or near the edges of the reefs. When trolling use Flicker Shad Raps and Salmos.
The Bay of Green Bay
The Bay of Green Bay is known for its large walleyes and also holds a large number of muskies. The fall is one of the best times to target both of these species. Walleyes can be caught by trolling in 6 to 18 feet of water. The best baits for this time of year are larger Flicker Shads and Shad Raps. The muskies are also targeted by trolling or casting. When trolling one should fish in 6 to 12 feet of water and use larger trolling baits. As for casting, you should lean toward spinner type baits such as bucktails and larger Mepps.
Remember, in the fall, the duck season opens and we must share the waters with each other. Try to avoid conflict, but still be sure to enjoy all the outdoors has to give.
Fishing Fremont and Wolf River area
Drifting and jigging will be most effective. Depending on the water temperature, try nightcrawlers first then as temps drop, use minnows. 1/4 oz. jigs should work very well for this application. The fall walleye run starts when the gizzard shad migrate up the river to spawn and the walleyes follow to gorge for winter.
Good numbers of catfish can still be caught through mid-October. Primarily cut up minnows on Wolf River Rigs work best.
In September, the flatheads start to put on winter weight. 7-12 in. suckers are their primary bait of choice. Keep in mind 2 things: First, the season ends September 30th and second, there is a slot limit on these amazing fish. Keeper flatheads need to be 30-36 in. or over 42 in.
Fall is the best time to catch big and large amounts of crappies. Fishing fallen trees in the river channel with small jigs, tipped with small fathead minnows or slip bobbers with fatheads. Be prepared to retie a lot of jigs and don't get frustrated. Drop the jig into the fallen down trees and slowly work it from the bottom up. Only try a spot for 15 minutes, and then you should move on to the next spot.
White bass also follow the gizzard shad up the river when they spawn. Not as many as in spring, but good numbers of fish are in the river for the taking. Wolf river rigs with hooks or flies tipped with minnows will be your weapon of choice. The best place to find these fish are in current breaks along the river channel.
Tight lines and good luck fishing the beautiful Fremont and Wolf River area.
Captain Patrick Morack, Moracktion Guide Service, 920-216-9085
South Central Wisconsin
Petenwell and Castle Rock Flowages
This time of year when things are really starting to wind down on the lake. Guys and gals are back in the woods hunting whitetails and bears. While the waterfowl hunters are waiting for opening weekend.
The last 5 years, the water tempurature has been very warm; especially, with all the warm weather we have been having in the fall. Water temps have ranged in the upper 60's. The last 3 years the fall trolling bite has been very strong. Typically, on any other given year, at this time, as the water temperature drops the trolling bite will slow down and the live bait bite will pick up.
Areas you are going to want to target are steep drops along the bank, deep bends in the river channel, and deep wooded structures in the river and points on the main lake. We like to use larger bait than normal. We like to pull Lindy rigs with large redtail chubs, magnum fatheads or even medium suckers. The point is everything from the spring spawn is now at a large enough size for the walleyes to feed on. You want to try and match the size of the hatch with your bait presentation. Another good fall presentation would be to use 1 1/2-2 oz bottom bouncers 3-4 feet of line with a slow death hook with half crawler.
Fall is also a good time to panfish for bluegills and crappies. We like to go up in the river, tie up to fallen trees, and pitch weed less jigs (1/8 and 1/16 oz.) tipped with medium fatheads or half crawler. I prefer to use weedless jigs. You can also catch walleyes along with the panfish by pitching the wood.
On Petenwell Flowage, the north buoy line along the yellow banks heading north, and the south east buoy line on the south end of the lake are great areas to vertical jig. 1/8 oz. and 1/4 oz. jigs tipped with 1/2 crawler, leaches, or large fat heads worked up and down the break from shallow to deep water.
On Castle Rock Flowage, the fingers along Devil’s Elbow and the train trestle on the northeast side of the lake are very good fall jigging spots. In the fall, large amounts of white bass and walleyes move back up in the rivers below the dams. When the water temp is cool, great ways to target these fish are blade baits, one-eyed spoons, or jigs and plastics. I prefer to use 3/4 to 1 oz. echo tails below the dams.
Jesse Quale, Green Water Walleyes, 608-547-3022, check us out on www.Lake-link.com, or visit www.GreenWaterWalleyes.com
Lake Koshkonong has been great to many anglers this year due to abnormally high water and cooler water temps. Normally, water is quite shallow this time of year and continues to be low throughout the fall. If levels stay higher than normal, expect the bite to stay strong on the lake. The deep mud area will continue to hold fish. Trolling crawler harnesses or cranks will produce the best results. We’ve been using Uncle Josh Pork Crawlers on harnesses instead of live bait and our results have been pretty good. Once water temps start to dip in late October, harnesses tend to become less productive but cranks will continue to produce fish. The rock pile near the center of the lake will also continue to hold many species during the early fall. Slip bobber presentations will catch everything from bluegills to pike. Bobber fishing here is best when there’s a little wave chop present. Trolling this area or simply drifting jigs with live bait over the rocks will commonly catch walleyes and perch. Pitching and retrieving jigs with live bait will work here as well, but we’ve had better results using artificial bait with this technique. Northland Impulse, Berkley Gulp, and Uncle Josh Pork Minnows are some of the artificial baits we have our best results on. Some day’s bright colors work best while other days natural looking baits are preferred. A little trial and error is required when using artificials. As the season goes on, try using larger bait profiles whether using live or artificial baits. Fish are looking to bulk up and prefer more bang for their buck.
The upper river system from Blackhawk Island to Fort Atkinson is a great area to fish in the fall. As always, vertical jigging deeps holes with live or artificial baits will catch fish. Walleyes are common, along with catfish and sheephead. Pitching the shoreline and popping your bait near the bottom will also produce fish. Again, as fall approaches, increasing the profile of your bait can result in more fish. When river fishing, we like to double up artificial minnows on one hook or simply use larger 5” to 7” artificial minnows to offer large profile baits. If using the double up technique, ensure you leave enough gap between the hook and the bait to help with hook ups. If there is no gap, fish will come off easier or you’ll miss strikes all together. Along with artificial minnows, twister tails, paddle tails, and Moxi plastics work well here in the fall.
The lower river system near Newville is another good spot for fall walleyes. Although trolling cranks in this spot can produce fish, dragging jigs or fishing Lindy rigs seems to work better. When using these two techniques, live bait works best. If fishing the bridge pylons or if you’re pitching baits in the shallows, artificial baits mentioned above will work here also. If you’re looking for crappies, boat slips and piers along the river banks will hold fish. A slip bobber presentation baited with a crappie minnow or waxie is a great way to fish these areas.
Captain Adam Walton, Pike Pole Fishing Guide Service, 608-290-3929, email:firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.PikePoleFishing.com
Pewaukee, Okauchee and Oconomowoc Lakes
As summer winds down and water temperatures gradually drop, Pewaukee muskies become more active. Surprisingly, this has been an unremarkable year for musky fishing on Pewaukee Lake. However, I have been having a productive season on Okauchee and Oconomowoc lakes, so far this year. I have been chasing the monster muskies that the Oconomowoc chain is known for. I have also been on a very hot big bass bite this year; especially on Okauchee.
But as fall approaches and water temperatures lower, my attention shifts to Pewaukee Lake. There seems to be two types of musky fisherman. Those who prefer quality rather than quantity, and are after very big fish, and will endure periods of inactivity, in hopes of netting a giant musky. Then, there are the action musky hunters who are after numbers of fish rather than numbers on the bump board. Fall musky fishing, especially in late fall on Pewaukee Lake, can provide the best of both worlds. Three to five musky days with fish pushing and occasionally exceeding the 50 inch mark are a possibility.
The post turnover period is prime time. I have seen turnover as early as September 24th, in recent years. This year, it will be interesting to see when turnover occurs. I use a thermometer to take the guesswork out of it. I attach one to my line and cast into deep water (40 ft on Pewaukee ) and bring it up 5 minutes later. If the bottom temperature is the same as the surface, it’s turnover. On Pewaukee, the muskies tend to go deeper after turnover.
Kevin Moore, Muskies Etc. Guide Service, 414- 218- 0702, www.muskiesetc.com