Early fall can yield big walleyes [UPDATED]Published 9:16am Tuesday, August 28, 2012 Updated 11:18am Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Lots of folks regard October and November as “trophy time” for big walleyes. It is true that big fish come aboard across Minnesota during this time, especially for anglers fishing deep water on some of our state’s large “classic” walleye lakes.
Another lesser known, yet very effective pattern for big fish, also materializes in the fall. This one involves smaller, shallower lakes and often kicks in during early September and lasts into October.
This pattern involves fishing small, shallow lakes that some folks refer to as “prairie lakes.” Here in our part of western Minnesota, there are several lakes like this including Barrett, Pomme deTerre, Pelican, Red Rock and several others.
These lakes have good populations of fish, including some real giants. Though catching a big one is never easy, an angler who puts his or her time in on these bodies of water will probably catch good numbers of fish, many eaters, but with some big fish probably mixed in as well.
Finding likely fish-holding areas is a key to any successful fishing pattern, and this one is no different. Though various areas will hold fish,
I like to look for remaining green, living weeds in the fall. Living vegetation seems to congregate bait fish and bigger fish like walleyes, northern pike, and largemouth bass are usually not far away.
In fact, a bonus to targeting weeds in the fall is that you never know what you will catch.
A good way to find weeds and fish is to cruise flats and their corresponding drop-offs “looking” with sonar for remaining weeds.
A key spot is often one where still living weeds grow on a flat out to the flat’s edge before tumbling into deeper water.
This spot will be even better if it involves an outside bend (a point) or an inside bend (a corner) as these irregularities are often hotspots.
Another way to find these spots and fish is to use a bottom bouncer and spinner combination baited with a lively night crawler and to work quickly along the edges of flats looking for good weeds and hopefully catching a fish or two that will indicate the presence of even more fish.
Once fish or areas with good weeds are found, it often pays to slow up and investigate further.
For this style fishing, I prefer to work slowly with a slip-sinker live bait rig baited with a night crawler or minnow.
Various minnows will work, but when targeting big fish, it is often worth the investment to spend a few extra bucks and purchase big (4- to 6-inch-long) redtail chubs.
Walleyes, in particular big ones, often can’t resist a big redtail wiggling and squirming in their faces. Redtails are expensive and because I want them fresh and lively for a full day’s fishing, I store them in a Frabill Aqua-Life Bait Station which keeps them in top fish-catching condition.
Two other important considerations when targeting big fall walleyes involve fishing line and the reels used to fish that line on.
If you have been fishing the same monofilament line on your reel all season, now is a good time to change it. Not only is fresh line more manageable, but you want to be sure you have fresh line should you tangle with the trophy of a lifetime.
I use 7-pound Bionic Walleye Line in the camo color pattern for rig fishing in and along weedlines.
Another reminder is to check the drag setting on your spinning reel.
More than one big walleye has been lost when it made a last minute dash away from the boat and an angler’s drag “locked” at the most inopportune time. Recently, I re-armed my spinning rods with Lew’s Speed Spin spinning reels. They have very smooth, adjustable drag systems and they’re very affordable as well.
If your goal is to test the strength of your fishing line and your reel’s drag on a big walleye this fall, consider heading to a small, shallow lake and employ some of the strategies just presented. You might just catch the walleye of a lifetime.
Mike Frisch is a western Minnesota fishing guide. Visit his website at www.fishinwithfrisch.com.