Sep 10, 2018
Fall fishing patterns are in full swing in the Northwoods. The leaves changing and water temperatures dropping are a welcome change from the warm summer we had.
Many hunting seasons will open soon, which will alleviate pressure on area lakes and rivers. One of the most anticipated times for musky is the turnover period when surface temperatures hit the 55-degree mark. This is when I will begin to pull suckers while casting blades towards cover and mid-lake structure.
I will also throw Mag Dawgs and Medussas in my lineup of baits. The suckers are out to entice followers into biters and fish just off the primary breaks. Nothing compares to having a rod go off, listening to the clicker ripping line out, and turning the boat toward a fish in order to put the hooks home. Supplies vary from year to year on sucker sizes, but I won't be running anything larger than 14 inches on my quick-strike rigs.
Right now is the time to chase fish at their heaviest of the season. Cold fronts and north winds are welcome to put fish into feeding, unlike summer time when they shut off. As the water temps drop even further, I tend to get out later in the day to allow fish to warm up with the water temperatures and begin to move around.
Good luck and tight lines the remainder of the open water season!
Dan Gropengiser, Grop’s Guide Service, 715.360.1601
Fall in the Northwoods means only one thing to me – muskies!
The Hayward area has a ton of great opportunities for angling exploration, and all of those lakes can seem overwhelming for folks new to the scene. The best advice I can give someone fishing on their own would be to do a little research, pick out a couple of lakes with a proven musky track record, and have at it.
Some of the more well-known lakes in the area include Lost Land and Teal, the Spider Lake chain, and Lake Namekagon. These are solid lakes every fall and shouldn't disappoint.
The standard approach is to cast jerkbaits and soft plastics near edges that break into deeper water. Some years, fall fishing starts out similar to summer, as warm weather and water temperatures have most of the fish still relating to weeds. But inevitably weather changes, waters cool, and the edges come into play this time of year.
The addition of live bait to the overall presentation has saved us on countless guide trips in the fall. Personally, I don't feel right without a sucker or two dragging behind the boat in these situations. Good luck and good fishing,
Jim Stroede, Jim Stroede Guide Service, 715.520.7043, www.JimStroedeFishing.com
South Central Wisconsin
Lake Koshkonong – Rock County
September fishing on the lake is pretty good as long as the water levels don’t drop too low. Since this system is very shallow, it doesn’t take much fluctuation in depth to dramatically change fishing patterns.
Trolling remains productive for a variety of fish, including walleye, white bass and pike. Weeds can be an issue when pulling cranks or harnesses, so make sure to use planner boards equipped with tattle flags or be ready to check lures often for “hangers.”
The panfish bite can be pretty decent, but they can be hard to locate on a consistent basis. Once located, slip bobber presentations are an easy and effective way to catch panfish. Using either a 1/32- or 1/16-ounce Kalins Roundhead jig tipped with red worms or small chunks of nightcrawler usually does the trick.
The rock pile located mid-lake is a good spot to start when searching for panfish. It’s also a prime spot to pitch jigs for walleye. Casting and slowly retrieving an 1/8-ounce jig tipped with a nightcrawler or leach can be productive.
The annual draw down of the lake begins in late September – and if things repeat like last year – low water levels may result in tough conditions. With extremely low water, many fish tend to move to deeper water in the river, but not all. Pike can still be readily found throughout the lake, and either casting or trolling can put fish in the boat.
Acme Tackle Little Cleo spoons work well, as do in-line spinner baits. When casting in-line spinners for pike, we use both Fully Loaded Tackle and Esox Assault Tackle products with great results. Colors vary depending on water clarity, but white is a good start.
Boating is also challenging with low water levels. Be careful of hitting bottom, especially near the river mouths. Areas commonly trafficked become an entirely new animal once the water drops.
Rock River – Jefferson County
The upper river system will hold walleye, pike, white bass and crappie in a variety of areas. Vertical jigging or dragging 1/8-ounce jigs tipped with a nightcrawler or leach in the deeper areas found here is tough to beat when targeting walleye. Trolling cranks or three-way rigs is also productive.
Working plastics, such as Kalins Lunker Grubs or Sizmic Grubs, along the bottom can work well, too. Large fall crappies can be found in river timber, but be willing to move frequently between locations. A simple 1/32-ounce jig and minnow combo placed a foot below a clip-on bobber works very well.
The lower river system near Newville can be a good spot for fall walleye and occasional perch. Although trolling cranks in this spot can produce fish, dragging jigs or fishing Lindy rigs tipped with fathead minnows or crawlers can work better. Be aware the Interstate 90 bridge spanning the river remains under construction. Like the upper river, fallen trees along the river banks and the plentiful boat slips can be great spots for fall panfish.
Madison chain of lakes
Weeds and weed edges will hold panfish consistently, but many start to travel to deeper water and suspend this time of year. Using sonar to find suspended fish will help productivity.
Although schools of panfish may stay tight to an area, they can change their suspension depth quickly. It’s important to account for this and adjust bait depth as needed. Vertical jigging a 1/32-ounce jig tipped with a crappie minnow or using small plastics can all be deadly on these deep-water suspending fish.
Capt. Adam Walton, Pike Pole Fishing Guide Service, 608.290.3929, www.pikepolefishing.com
Petenwell & Castle Rock flowages
During the fall months of the year, there can be some rewarding days out on both Petenwell and Castle Rock flowages. Those targeting walleyes will want to troll the shallow water areas early morning and late evening in eight to 10 feet of water. While some will target the main river channel, drop offs and breaks fished with live bait anywhere from to 18 to 20-plus feet of water can be effective. Water temperatures this time of year for the last six years have been warmer, making the fall trolling bite very good.
Those targeting panfish should fish areas with heavy cover in both shallow and deep water. Some anglers like to use weedless jigs tipped with plastics up tight to wood, while others like to slip-bobber fish live bait in deep water over heavy cover.
Another place to target this time of year are the areas below the Nekoosa and Petenwell dams.
Jesse Quale, Green Water Walleyes, 608.547.3022, www.greenwaterwalleyes.com
East Central Wisconsin
Fox and Wolf rivers
Fantastic fall fishing awaits those anglers who choose to hit the water instead of sitting in a tree stand. Walleye will begin heading up both the Fox and Wolf rivers and will stay there all winter long. You will find me fishing in De Pere, Fremont and Oshkosh. Vertical jigging with minnows, casting stick baits and plastics are all effective.
Also, the fall offers another good white bass run. Last fall, the Fox River in Oshkosh was full of hungry white bass for several weeks. Wolf river rigs with minnows or flies are hard for white bass to resist.
Get out there and enjoy the weather, less boat traffic, and fantastic fishing!
Andy Mack, Andy Mack Sportfishing, 262.510.1452, www.AndyMackSportfishing.com
Wolf River - Fremont area
The fall is an amazing time of year for fishing in the Fremont area. Walleye, white bass, crappie and flathead are all starting to put on the winter weight.
Walleye and white bass come up the Wolf River from Lake Winnebago to feed on the spawning gizzard shad. Walleye can be caught by dragging a jig and crawler. Later in October, depending on water temperature, I will switch to minnows. White bass can be caught on spinners, Wolf river rigs with flies, and a jig with minnow combination.
Crappie fishing really heats up as the temperatures drop. I love fishing tree jams for big slabs. I use 1/16-ounce jigs tipped with a small minnow or a plastic. Crappie are a suspended fish, so use the lightest jig you can and stay vertical with it. I start three feet down and slowly work my way down to the school. Remember that crappie spook easily, so you want to catch the ones off the top first.
Knowing there is only one month of flathead season left makes me sad. These predators really put the feed bags on in fall. I mostly fish them above deep holes with a Wolf river rig and a seven- to 12-inch sucker. Remember the slot limit, and also remember the flathead season ends the last day of September.
I hope this helps you catch more fish. Tight lines and good luck.
Capt. Patrick Morack, Moracktion Guide Service, 920.216.9085
Lake Winnebago System
The dog days of summer are in our rear view, and with that comes cooler nights and a more relaxing fishing environment. The past couple months on the Winnebago System have been some fun ones.
This isn’t taking into account the added time to wash and scrub our boats down after each outing. That algae bloom sure made for a mess, and at times, resulted in an awful smell in some areas. It was so thick in some places I couldn’t even see down an inch under the surface.
Currently on Lake Winnebago, there’s fun walleye action – not just in the mud – but also on reefs and various other contours found throughout the lake. The action from the mud has been on both crankbaits and crawler harnesses.
Hornets and Flickers have been hot tickets yet again. I’ve been caught between two different colors – gold patterns and fire-tiger colors. For the harnesses, I still have better luck on pink-patterned rigs, but have heard a lot of reports coming from purple patterns. The trick to success in the mud is locating the small pods of fish with your electronics and adjusting your run depths to the fish, prior to setting up.
The reefs have sure held some nice fish. The problem has been finding those reefs that hold the ones I have been pursuing. Being mobile and breaking down a reef in its entirety is an absolute must. When approaching the targeted reef, fan-casting a crankbait such as a #7 Flicker Shad has been great for picking off the more active fish.
After completely covering the area, the jig rods come out for the second pass, looking for the fish who want the slower presentation with the jig/crawler combo. If the action isn’t there, it’s off to the next reef to repeat the process.
The perch bite has been phenomenal this year. Many anglers have found limits of nice perch when targeting rock/sand/mud transition areas. A small chunk of crawler just inches off the bottom has been all that’s needed to trick the jumbos into committing.
While some have extravagant rigs, most find success with something as simple as a small gold hook, weighted down with a split shot approximately seven inches above.
I hope everyone has an awesome fall bite! Until next time, “Tight Lines. Stay Dry.”
Kyle Sorensen, OB Outdoors, www.oboutdoors.com