Walleyes and musky are the primary fish of pursuit right now and will be until ice up.
A few anglers will chase bass, particularly the smallmouth that become very aggressive in the fall, and pan fish anglers look forward to an improved crappie bite in the late open water season.
Finding fish in the fall is the biggest challenge. Once you have located fish, you will find them more tightly schooled, with the opportunity for multiple fish to get caught out of the school.
Many times in the late season you will also find the school of fish will continue to hold in the same general area for up to two weeks. They may slide up or down in depth on the break, or move along the break from one side of the bar to the other.
Fish will move to inside corners or tips of points on shore line breaks. Wind is a key factor in positioning fish. After we ice over, walleyes, crappies, and sunfish get the attention of ice anglers. The locations you find right before ice up will be great starting locations for your early ice bite.
Most musky chasers now are working shore line breaks in the 7-15 foot water. Slow trolling bobber/strip on rigs with big sucker minnows that range from 12-16 inches is the most popular presentation now. It's probably the most consistent producing strategy for multiple fish, and catching some of the biggest fish in the system.
This time of the season, it is not uncommon for musky anglers to get multiple fish on some outings, or at least chances at several fish. It is amazing how good muskies can be at shaking their head hard enough to get themselves free.
This is also the best time of the year for catching some of the over 50 inch fish that are present in the musky lakes in our area. Most attention is paid to Big Detroit, Pelican, and Sallie, but Many Point and Beers are also producing.
Most walleyes are off mid-lake structure and on shore line breaks. Some of these shore line breaks may extend out to mid-lake areas, but are not mid-lake structure. Look for areas that have sharp breaks to deep water. Again, wind can play a major role in where the fish set up on structure.
There are schools of walleyes that have also moved shallow. This time of the season you will not see much on your electronics on the mid depth breaks. The deep fish on the deeper bodies of water in the area, the walleyes are ranging from 25-35 feet down.
On the shallow bodies of water, they will be relating to sharper breaks that drop to the deeper holes. On those shallow basin lakes, a few feet can make a big difference. Trust what you see on your electronics!
Live bait rigging bigger minnows, jigs tipped with minnows or plastics, or snap jig type baits (like jig raps, puppet minnows, shiver minnows, and rippin raps) are producing both deep and shallow.
Go to the bigger sizes on the snap baits and stay more vertical in deep water, and downsize the baits and cast and snap retrieve in shallower water. Cast jigs and minnow/plastics or rip jig moving up to a 1 mph in shallow water.
Don't let this cold, windy, wet, snowy weather fool you or keep you off the lake. It will get nice for a while again. The other fishing reality is that some of the worst and most challenging days to be on the water this time of year, can be some of the best catching days.
(Brad Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes)