Team Outdoorsmen Adventures member and member of the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame. Larry Myhre with a good walleye that was caught on jigs and released during the late fall. (Outdoorsmen Productions Photo)
Late season, just before freeze up is the time you should be on the water fishing for walleyes. as they’re making their way upstream in preparation of next spring’s spawn and in many river systems, this migration is halted by the dams.
Because the fish are stacked up below the dams, generally, you’ll find them in the same areas you found them in early fall, perhaps a little deeper as they’re in that transition period and will soon be moving into their wintering areas.
Since water temperatures have dropped, so has the fish’s metabolism, so the slower your presentation, the better and at times using a dead bait rod, one in the rod holder with a livebait rig, dragging along the bottom are what’s needed to catch the fish.
It won’t be long before many of the fish will move from their fall haunts down into the deeper water, just off the drop offs won’t be moving much, using very little of their energy so they won’t need to feed very often.
The preferred bait during the late season would be jigs and live bait rigs worked vertically, with the angler just verily raising the jig off the bottom, holding it there for a second and then following it back to the bottom.
Livebait rigs such as Northland Roach rigs also produce well during cold weather, a live bait rig consists of nothing more than a walking/slip sinker, a snap with ten to twelve of monofilament line with a small hooked baited with a min now at the end and fished in the same manner as a jig.
As the water temperatures are cooling, you might have to play with the fish a bit, keep working them until they can’t resist your bait, at times jigging your bait and others just simply letting it drag along the bottom.
I have a friend, who only uses a small split shot and snell, even when fishing deeper water as he uses his trolling motor to fish vertically allowing the light bait rig to stay in contact with the bottom.
This is the time of the year when you want to be a line watcher, keeping an eye on where your line enters the water as during this late season, fish aren’t attacking your bait and may simply pick it up and move it to the side. By watching your line where it enters the water, you can detect these subtle bites.
When fishing jigs and feeling a pick up, you might want to start out by giving the fish some slack line, as they may have simply stopped the bait and not inhaled the hook.
Once you feel the weight on the end of your line, simply drop your rod back and then set the hook.
Early fall and into winter, is one of those times when stinger hooks really shine, hooking those fish that are just messing with, mouthing your bait.
Stinger hook are made up of either monofilament or a light leader material with a sort piece of monofilament and a small hook.
Attached to either the eye of the jig or shank of the hook and then hooked into the back of the minnow, allowing the minnow to still have some movement, you can hook those short striking fish that are simply biting the tail of the minnow.
If you are fishing in an area with snags, you’ll want to use a single hook stinger as it’s less likely to snag than a treble hook, and when fishing a cleaner bottom, those with less snags, a stinger with a small treble hook works very well.
Whenever you’re fishing a live bait rig, no matter what the season, when you feel a fish take your bait, you’ll want to feed the fish a little line, allowing him to ingest the bait, generally a three count is plenty, and then set the hook.
If you’ve tried to feed line to the fish and come up short, when you first detect the bite, go back on your rod and then setting the hook, you never know until you try it.
Even when the water temperatures are cold and fish are at their slowest, once one fish starts paying attention to your bait it may get the other fish’s attention and entice them to bite.
Most of the fish caught this time of the year are going to be those smaller aggressive males along with a few of the larger females.
To assure there will be fish to catch in the future, release the females’ back, as they cannot reproduce, future generations of fish. once they’re in your freezer.
Take a picture of those larger fish, release them, then say a little prayer the fish has learned its lesson and will not fall for the next boats jig. It also would not hurt to say a little prayer that the next angler who catches it will feel the same way and release it.
Late season can be some great fishing, so when your work schedule and Mother Nature allows, hit the water as it may not be long before things really freeze up.
Gary Howey, Hartington, Neb. is a former tournament angler, fishing and hunting guide. He is the Producer/Host of the award-winning Outdoorsmen Adventures television series, seen locally in Channels 2 and 98 at Saturday at 6:30 pm and Sunday at 7:00 am and on the MIDCO Sports Network Thursday at 5:30 pm and Sunday at 10:00 am. The show airs in nine states in the upper Midwest. He and Simon Fuller Co-Host the Outdoor Adventures radio program on Classic Hits 106.3, ESPN Sports Radio 1570 in Southeastern South Dakota, Northeast Nebraska and on KCHE 92.1 FM in Northwest Iowa. Looking for more outdoor information, check out www.outdoorsmenadventures.com and like Gary Howey’s Outdoorsmen Adventures on Facebook.