Fall has arrived in Otter Tail County. It’s an exciting time to be in lakes country. You don’t have to look hard to see the changing leaves, flocking birds, and the ripening of crops and garden vegetables. Small grains are being harvested and I’m beginning to see carts and stands selling pumpkins. Fishing enthusiasts are noticing changes on the lakes too. There are fewer recreational boaters, swimmers, and skiers on the lakes because the water is too cool for swimming and pleasure. It brings a sort of peace to the lakes—when the traffic slows. And the element of solitude reenters fishing sessions. The gulls are teaming and can’t wait for anglers to toss out a dead minnow. Young loons keep up their fishing habits and aren’t shy. It almost seems like they like to hang out by fishing boats just for company. And to hear the loon’s call is to hear what Minnesota is really about; and they complete the fall fishing experience.
As anglers head deeper into the fall, we need to keep an awareness that changes are occurring and fish continue to transition into cool-water habits. In doing so, they seek out new locations. If you have found yourself off of the lakes for a week or two, there’s a good chance that when you return to the lake this week or next, that the fish are missing from your fishing spot and if they are not completely gone, you might notice that other sizes of the same fish species now occupy the area or new species have replaced the species you caught in the same location last time. These changes are inevitable as the lake temps cool and the amount of day light wanes. Primary changes to keep an eye on are lure sizes and color (color choices/selection), bait type changes (minnows vs. crawlers), and where fish ultimately go (watch for drastic depth changes). Walleye are biting around the county. The water temps are 65–67 degrees on most Ottertail County lakes, which a prime water temperature for sustained walleye feeding, so getting walleye to bite is getting easier when you find some. After spending much of the summer in shallow water and in weeds, walleye on many lakes can be found below the weed line so they are easier to detect with graphs and flashers.
Crappie and sunfish are rapidly exiting their summer locations and are heading towards deeper water and deep weed lines and can also be found clinging near the bottom over mud in the deep basin on lakes. Basically, if you can’t find crappie and sunfish where they were mid and late summer, you should look deep. Don’t be afraid to use 1/16 to 1/8 oz lures and jigs (Northland Thumper jigs or Gypsi Jig) tipped with Gulp or live bait up to 2.5 inches long. Large panfish eat large baits and you may simply need heavier lures to get to them anyway. Northern pike are out and about. A good choice for large pike is to focus on steep edges and cabbage stands and by trolling or casting large muskie-sized spinner baits and buck tails. Keep the boat moving on edge, cover water, and hang on to that pole! The weather is looking great this coming week—so it’ll be perfect to get in the boat and fish. Good luck on the lakes this fall! By Ross Hagemeister, meisterguideservice.com
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