By Ross Hagemeister, https://www.meisterguideservice.com/
I was on my way to the public access the other morning and couldn’t help but notice that frost was covering lawns and leaves. The frost was right on cue, because the calendar tells us that fall has begun. No need for calendar cues beyond this point because fall is becoming all too obvious. The days getting shorter, air temps are dropping and the maples, all across Otter Tail Lakes Country, are turning fiery red and blaze orange.
Whitetail deer seem to be in a sort of fall scramble. They are ever where and they have traded in their summer reddish coat for a woodsy grey model. Although the MN duck hunting season has begun, the skies are quite bare. We just haven’t had big cold and snow yet. Most of the local birds and first migrators have exited the area, now hunters are just waiting for the real migration. The lakes continue to respond to the drooping fall temps as well. The water clarity is shifting from summer clears dotted with algae, to a more stained and murky mote. On some lakes, it seems the new “fall water” colors positively promote fish activity—they are easy to find and usually are willing to bite when you find them—while other lakes seems to become void of fish and life. It’s always odd to me. I feel like a great fisherman on one lake and can fish the lake next door the next day and not find a fish? t’s a normal fall situation that I’ve excepted, so once I find lake/fish in late September and October that want to cooperate, I just stick with it.
As the water temps drop into the 50’s, be on your guard for more fish re-location. It seems that most species are still gravitating in and around weed growth. That means northern, bass, walleye and some panfish. Most of the best panfish I’m seeing right now are deeper—at the deep weed edge. It’s not uncommon to find crappie and sunfish in 25 feet of water right now (**the exact “deep” range where panfish can be found depends on the overall make-up and depth characteristics of the individual lake). As fall continues and panfish continue to slide deeper, they become more detectable via graphs and sonar. They are usually suspending over deeper areas in blobs or “stacks” or are matted just above muddy basin areas or are pressed up against deep weed edges.
When you’re graphing fish, you may notice that schools of crappies can resemble groups of largemouth bass or visa versa. Walleye tend to be detectable by sonar as well. While there are still walleye on edges and in deeper water that won’t show up on your graph screen, the best idea currently, is to locate fish with your electronics and then give them a try. This is in contrast to early and middle September when a lot of the walleye we were catching were not showing up on the flasher or graph. Northern pike are charging right now. They are cruising weed lines and eating everything.
If you want to catch numbers of large pike right now, troll (or cast) large pike baits and musky lures or pull large sucker minnows around and near areas that are laden with dense weed patches adjacent to drops and edges. Bass are beginning to hang on steep breaks and banks. If you find them on steep ledges, they are going to ganged up in large schools and they will be in a feeding mood. Cast deep diving crank baits at them and hold on. Throwing slower stuff at bass will work too, but it’s a good time of the year for a good crank bait bite.
Have fun fall fishing in Otter Tail Lakes Country this week!
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