Fall Fishing Tips

If you are a casual fisherman, you probably like to occasionally sit on a dock or relax in a boat with your line in the water on a warm summer day.

Nothing wrong with that. It’s not a bad way to spend a few hours with family and friends. Or even just hanging out by yourself, if that’s what floats your boat (no pun intended).

But if you are an experienced fisherman, you’re excited that fall has come. You know that cooler air and water temperatures make it easier to catch fish.

Whether it’s bass, walleyes, catfish, sunfish or a wide variety of other fish, you can be pretty confident you’ll come home with dinner following a fall fishing venture. And it should be a filling dinner because many fish are busy putting on weight for the winter.

If you’re a novice or occasional fisherman, here are a few tips regarding fall fishing you might not be aware of:

Know the rules. First and foremost, make sure you understand the rules and regulations regarding fishing in the area you’re in. There are state laws you should know, and sometimes there are local variations on those regulations. Especially pertaining to the type of bait you can use, catch-and-release laws, and the need for licenses.

Go where the fish are. Cooler water temperatures often send fish into shallow waters where they can find insects and smaller fish to eat. The later it is in the fall, the more often this will occur. If you see baitfish along the top of the water or birds circling and diving for a quick snack, you’ll probably find the type of fish you want to catch as well.

Make wise bait choices. Once you’ve chosen your spot to fish, ask a bait shop owner or a local which kind of bait works best for that area. This could make a big difference as to whether you have a successful day or go home empty-handed. Most fish prefer slow-moving, larger bait in the fall.

Determine how you’ll fish. Some fishermen like to wade in the water while they fish, while others prefer to sit in a boat or on a dock. If you don’t have a preference, ask locals which method they’ve found to work best in their area.

A focus on bass

One of the most popular fish to catch, especially in the fall, is bass. If you can find an area where small fish such as minnows, bluegills, shads and small sunfish are swimming, it’s very likely bass will be there too, looking for their next meal.

A silver-colored lipless crankbait might be a good choice for your bait, as it could be mistaken for a shad.

Bass also like cover. They use it to hide from larger fish and so they can ambush smaller fish.

You’re less likely to find bass in open water – although they do swim there sometimes – and more likely to find them around docks, rocks, fallen logs, wood structures, lily pads and shallow grass.

What’s the weather?

Understanding how bass react to different weather conditions can help you catch them. For example, sunny days can make them cautious. They’re bolder when it’s cloudy.

So when the sun is shining brightly, use sinking lures that bounce. Bring the lure up and down near the bottom. If it’s cloudy, try moving baits such as spinnerbaits, swimbaits and topwater plugs.

Many people fish for bass in lakes, but don’t ignore rivers or creeks. Shads often move toward creeks in the fall, and you can be sure bass will follow them.

Depending on the fall month in which you’re fishing, your lures should vary. Try aggressive lures when the waters are warmer and slow-moving bait when the waters are cooler.

What to wear when it’s cold

What you wear and pack will vary greatly depending on whether you’re taking a one-week fishing trip or just tossing your line into the water for a few hours.

Another major factor is the weather. If you want to fish in a colder climate, make sure you wear waterproof clothing and have plenty of extra socks and underwear.

Waterproof raingear is essential, including pants, footwear, and insulated gloves and hats. Layering is a good idea, and polar fleece comes in handy.

Also have sweatpants and a heavy jacket in your bag. You never know when the weather will turn even colder than expected.

What to wear when it’s warm

It may be warm enough to wear shorts and a t-shirt while you’re fishing on a warm fall day. But that doesn’t mean it’s the correct attire.

Overexposure to the sun can cause plenty of problems. So a long-sleeved, lightweight shirt with ventilation and long synthetic pants are a better option.

Make sure you have plenty of skin protection from the sun, as well as several bandanas. Close-toed water shoes will help keep you from slipping on rocks. Sunglasses are a must.

Take a hat to protect your face and neck from the sun, as well as to reduce glare while you’re trying to spot fish. A poncho or rain jacket could also come in handy.

What else to pack

Regardless of how long you’re planning to fish, nature or an unexpected problem might keep you out there longer than you intended.

So pack a bag with personal items. These should include a first-aid kit, medications, sunscreen and lip balm.

Another important item to pack is insect repellant. If you’re fishing before the sun rises or after it sets, mosquitos will be looking for you.

Make sure you also pack hand sanitizer. You’re going to get hungry, and you don’t want to be handling your food after you’ve handled fish, without cleaning them first.

Fall fishing can be a lot of fun, whether it’s a one-day event or a one-week excursion. But it will be a lot more comfortable, fun and successful if you’re prepared with knowledge, proper clothing and supplies.

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