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Fall Fishing Guide

Fall Fishing Guide
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Fishing in the fall has its advantages. From beautiful scenery and cooler weather to more open space on the water and getting your favorite bait fish on the line – what could be better? There’s a reason anglers look forward to this time of year. Trophy fish.

As the water cools down, fish become much more cooperative. That means more bites for you and a higher chance of getting a replica-worthy catch. Colder water temperatures mean slower fish metabolisms and heavy feeding as they look to add weight and stock up on food in preparation for the winter months. Take advantage of the opportunity by locating food sources such as bait fish and foliage, and cast for your target fish with smaller baits.

This guide covers some of the most popular fish species to target in the fall, how you can catch them, what you should wear, how to stay safe, and other tips and tricks for having a memorable fall fishing experience.

Targeting Fish in the Fall

There are lots of fish species you can target in the fall. Here are our recommended species with where you can find them, and what bait can catch them.

  1. Bluegill

    Big bluegill love cooler temperatures, so they’re an excellent target fish in the fall. But while they’re greedy feeders, they have tiny mouths, so you’ll need to stock up on smaller baits.

    • Where – drop-offs, rocks, shallow weeds
    • Bait – midday; live bait, sinking fly
  2. Crappie

    Crappie are a popular recreational fish that are prized by sport fishermen. Because crappie respond strongly to temperature changes, fishing them in the transition from summer to fall can be very productive.

    • Where – structures
    • Bait – 2-inch grubs and tubes
  3. Largemouth Bass

    Bait fish abound in the fall, and where you find them, you’re likely to find hungry largemouth. This is a special time of year when anglers can catch some of the largest largemouth of the year.

    • Where – 5-8 feet of open water, near diving birds
    • Bait – reaction-type baits
  4. Muskie

    Muskie slow down in the fall, so they won’t chase fast-moving lures like they will in other seasons. The best way to target these fish is by using lures that suspend in mid-water near the strike zone.

    • Where – narrows, near schools of baitfish, river-mouths, rocky points, weed beds
    • Bait – slow-moving baits
  5. Perch

    Perch are a popular target species. They’re fun to catch, and even better to eat. Plus, they’re usually easy to catch. They’re abundant, and competitive, which makes them eager to bite your line.

    • Where – muddy areas, shallow waters, structures
    • Bait – small minnow baits, shiny and/or vibrating lures
  6. Pike

    Pike are temperature-sensitive fish, so they roam more freely in their preferred cooler fall water. October through November are some of the best months for pike fishing, when they’re eager to feed.

    • Where – shallows, weed lines
    • Bait – floating/diving lures, topwater baits
  7. Smallmouth Bass

    Smallmouth bass are abundant in many lakes and offer a fun fight, making them a great target species for anglers. They’re extremely active in the fall with the increased amount of bait fish, so this is an excellent time to target them.

    • Where – islands, sand drops, weed beds
    • Bait – 12-30 feet diving crank baits, jigging spoon, tube baits
  8. Walleye

    Walleye stay in shallower water at the beginning of fall but will go deeper as the water gets cooler. Look for them in shallow, fertile lakes to get the best action.

    • Where – big structures, rock piles
    • How – big baits, crankbaits

Dressing for Fall Fishing

No matter when you’re fishing, you generally want windproof, waterproof clothing that will keep you comfortable and protected from the sun. But as the temperatures cool off, you may need to dress a little differently. Your key concerns will be staying warm and dry without impacting your movability for casting and reeling. Here are our suggestions for fall-appropriate fishing gear:

  • Layers, including a base layer and a light long sleeve shirt or jacket
  • Fleece gaiters for warmth and sun protection
  • Polarized sunglasses for visibility
  • Waterproof pants to keep you warm and dry
  • Fishing gloves for warmth

Safety Precautions for Fall Fishing

Remember, cooler temperatures mean you need to take some extra safety precautions. As the temperatures drop, you need to think about more than just staying warm when you’re out of the water – that’s why our list of suggested gear includes items like waterproof boots. Colder water temperatures post a risk of hypothermia if you experience any incidents that put you in the water. Prepare with a first aid kit, equipped with a first responder blanket, and always make sure someone knows about your fishing plans.

Cooking Your Fall Catches

If you choose to keep your catches (be sure to check local guidelines on what you can legally keep), you may be thinking about recipes and how to cook them. Prep, seasonings, and cooking strategies might change depending on what fish you’re cooking, but we have some general tips to get you started.

  1. Start with an overnight saltwater brine.
  2. Rinse the fish thoroughly and dry them off.
  3. Coat the fish in your choice of a bread mixture.
  4. Deep fry the fish.

We recommend looking up species-specific recipes and experimenting with your own twist on them until you find what you enjoy best. After all, everyone has different taste buds and preferences.

Make the Most of Your Fall Fishing Experience

Some of the best fishing happens in the fall. Our favorite thing about it? Capturing the moment you catch a trophy fish with amazing scenery around you. Always bring a phone or camera with you to take photos of your catches. This is a great way to document your fall fishing journey. Many anglers, especially those that go fishing with their family, also enjoy journaling to recreate those memories.

As you’re fishing, try to find one of your favorite spots on or around the water, and wait for later hours of the day as the sun is preparing to go down to get some of the best photos that truly capture the essence of the season. And if you capture the moment with any Fishmaster products, be sure to share the photos or videos with us!

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