Don't put your boat away yet! Plan a fall fishing trip
The turn of the weather over the last few days will get many anglers thinking about winterizing their boat in preparation for winter. We always go through this cold snap before we get another warm-up and beautiful fall weather again. Be patient, there is plenty time for some great fall fishing in our area.
We are also in a good location, as we are centrally located and within easy travel distance to several fall trophy walleye fisheries. This can be a good time to plan a trip and explore new waters that can provide some memorable walleye fishing experiences.
Starting in mid-October and lasting until the water ices over, the south end of Lake of the Woods and the stretch of about 30 miles of the Rainy River from four-mile bay at the lake to Birchdale to the east can provide fall trophy opportunities. Many anglers are aware of the early spring trophy bite and it can be very busy during that time of the year. The fall can be awesome as well, and never has the crowds the springtime bite has. Jigs and minnow or slow trolling crankbaits with long lines or leadcore is the most common choice for catching these river fish.
To the west, the Missouri River south of Bismarck, N.D., has been a host to many pro walleye tournament championships this time of year. The choice for this location is because of the quality of bite that can occur there during the late fall. Vertical jigging channel edges, current seems, or deep holes in slack water areas as well as long line or leadline trolling crankbaits are the popular techniques used in the fall.
Devils Lake in North Dakota is also a desired fall bite destination as success can occur not only in size of fish and trophy potential, but numbers of fish are known to put the feedbag on and be cooperative biters. Jigs and minnows, live bait rigs with large chub minnows, pitching or trolling crankbaits, or trolling spinner rigs with minnows are the common approaches for extracting walleyes at this time of year from Devils Lake.
To the east, the Fox River from the community of Green Bay, Wis., to the mouth of the river as it opens into Green Bay is highly regarded as a walleye trophy destination for anglers looking for a chance at walleyes that can weigh into the "teens." The common river technique of "slipping" current with jigs and minnows, anchoring and pitching jigs, or long line trolling crankbaits up river, work for your chances of landing a trophy walleye in Green Bay.
To the south, the Mississippi River produces trophy walleyes on a regular basis from the fall and into the winter season on open water. The "go to" destinations here include the south end of pool 3 and the north end of pool 4 (just up river from the community of Red Wing). The south end of pool 4 and the north end of pool 5 (by Alma, WI) can be a sleeper area that doesn't draw the fall crowds that pool 4 can during this time of year. Further down river, pools 9 and 10 can produce some trophy catches as well. The area to fish is up and down the river by Prairie du Chien, Wis., and just south of La Crosse, Wis. River strategies for getting big fish include jigging wing dams, pitching jigs to shoreline riprap areas, and vertical jigging channel edges. Trolling crankbaits or minnows with "three-way" rigs produces consistently. Long line or leadline trolling crankbaits up river along channel edges or current seems can produce big catches.
For those interested in traveling further or heading north of the boarder to pursue trophy walleyes, the Red and Winnipeg Rivers have long been known as fall trophy walleye producers. Trips to these destinations may require a little more planning, prep work, and homework to fully take advantage of the fisheries and have success. Hang in there, and when the weather gets better, get out and enjoy some peaceful fall fishing and the chance for a local trophy, or take this crappy weather time to plan your trip to a trophy destination.
(Laabs runs Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)