Difference in Catching Fish in the Summer vs. the Fall

By Todd Reed

As another page on the calendar is turned and the heat of summer is now gone, fall is in the air. To many fall equates to hunting seasons and football, while some outdoors people are still enjoying the sport of fishing. If you are one of those anglers that still pursue your favorite fish species throughout the month of October it can be a challenging month. The ecosystem of the fish has done a “180” in the last month, so we as anglers must evolve as well if we want to have success on the water. Here are few things that can help you stay on top of the fish in the fall season.

In the fall season the time of day can be critical to your success. When fishing for game fish in summer it is vital to fish the first few hours of daylight as well as the last few hours of daylight, this is no longer the case. As the water is cooling throughout the days of the month it is no longer necessary to consider the time. Actually it is better to not rush things in the morning and let the fish get active. The sun is now your friend as it warms the water in the morning. This is one time of the year when the clock is not a significant factor in catching fish. Sleep in, have one more cup of coffee, and then head out to your favorite fishing place.

~ Water clarity is another factor that anglers must make special consideration this time of year. No matter if you fish rivers or lakes the water will be at its clearest this time of year. The micro-organisms that populated the water column are all but gone this time of year and the water will gleam like no other time. When this occurs we must make three important changes to our fishing techniques. The first being our line. Line diameter should be the smallest that you can get away with. During this time 6-10# test line will take care of most presentations, bluegills, crappies and even those larger bass and walleyes. The smaller the diameter the better when working with clear water. Another reason to use the smallest diameter line is to accomplish the second factor with water clarity. During this period of clear water, making long casts will be advantageous for the angler. The less we give away our location, the better! The third adjustment for the change in water clarity comes down to our baits. If you enjoy live bait, this season is really for you. Natural colors really shine this time of year. The clean water gives all fish species a better look at the bait you are offering. We must blend in if we want to maximize our chances. Browns, oranges, whites and silvers are all good choices to begin with when the water is clean.

~ Think about your cadence. This is important throughout the entire year, however in the beginning stages of fall it can be the factor of a great day of fishing and a total bust. Cadence is the speed of the lure/bait you are using. Trolling speed is important to consider this time of year, too fast…too slow what is the piece of the puzzle on that particular day? Those angler who like to cast lures must constantly think about what their bait looks like in the water. A simple stop-n-go retrieve has created many great days of fall fishing for me. This works well with crankbaits and spinnerbaits. As soon as you pause your bait, the fish eat it up. This technique is very powerful in the fall months of the year. If you like throwing jigs and slip bobbers this time of year then cadence is a variable you must figure out as well. Casting a bobber and letting it sit there for 5 minutes without a bite, and then doing the same thing again, and again, and again probably isn’t going to work. I have the slow reel on a slip bobber to prove lethal on fall bluegills and crappies. Cast the bobber rig out, and ever so slowly reel it back to the boat or land. This technique is great with kids too because most of the time the fish hook themselves. If you are offering the fish a jig this time of year, play with the cadence for more bites. Slow hops, fast hops, dragging, dead stick, all can be good presentations, don’t go a day without trying them all.

~The last point to notice this time of year is experimentation. Fish can be in one location one day and not to be seen in that same location the next day. Fish species are on the move following bait to feed up for the winter and the colder weather ahead. This time of year also presents fish in all depths of the water column. Topwater baits can still work this time of year, as well dragging baits on the bottom. Experimenting with moving baits as well as slow presentations will have you narrowing down your search for your species of fish. I like to refer this time of year to the “full deck” period. At the end of a day of fishing my front deck could have a dozen of rods scattered around, each with a different lure and water depth in mind. It is a puzzle each and every day this time of year, but the rewards of experimentation can be great.

There are numerous things in life this time of year that grab our attention, however if you can find some time to hit the lake or river you can make some simple adjustments to have a great fall day of fishing. Enjoy, and as always be safe on the water.