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Fall Fishing: 6 Species to Target This Autumn

Fall is in full swing and the fish are hungry. 

By Trent Jonas

Fall Fishing: 6 Species to Target This Autumn

Autumn is prime time for many of the country’s favorite species of sport fish. This is because, as water temperatures drop, many species either spawn, migrate, or feed aggressively before winter sets in. These factors amp up the predatory nature of game fish, which in turn, increases the odds that an angler will land a trophy (or dinner) during the fall months. Here are six species to target this autumn.

Striped Bass, Jersey Shore, NJ

When fall rolls around on the Atlantic coast, striped bass begin their annual southbound journey, following massive schools of baitfish migrating to warmer waters for the winter. This makes autumn a great time for anglers to chase stripers because they’re running and eating in huge numbers. Few places are better for landing a striper in the fall than the Jersey shore. The fish hug the shoreline, making it easy to haul them in from a pier or, in many places, right from the beach.

New Jersey anglers lean toward cut bait, like clams and herring, when targeting stripers. Head into a local bait shop, like Surf City Bait and Tackle, to find out where the stripers are running and what they’re hitting. If you prefer to get out on the water, look for a charter fishing operation, like Blue Chip Sportfishing to put you on the stripers.

Brown Trout, Milwaukee Harbor, WI

In the Upper Midwest, brown trout spawn in the fall and early winter. In the pre-spawn period, browns feed voraciously. For anglers, this means big trout that are eager to hit baits. During this time, brown trout aggressively protect their turf by attacking the eggs and spawn sacs of perceived competitors. This makes baits and patterns that mimic trout or salmon eggs particularly effective for targeting trophy trout.

There are few better spots to hook into a monster brown than the Wisconsin shoreline of Lake Michigan and its tributary rivers. Surprisingly, the urban setting of Milwaukee Harbor, where the river of the same name enters Lake Michigan, has produced some record brown trout. Orvis Milwaukee is located on the banks of the river, upstream from the harbor, and can offer advice as to where the browns are biting and what patterns have been effective. Big Fish Guide Service specializes in waters in and around Milwaukee, and its owner holds the world record for a catch-and-release brown trout—pulled from and released into Milwaukee Harbor.

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Smallmouth Bass, Lake Coeur d’Alene, ID

When thinking of places with premier smallmouth fishing, Idaho may not be the first state to pop into an angler’s mind. Over the past few years, however, Lake Coeur d’Alene, in the northern part of the state, has emerged as a no-longer-hidden gem of a fishery. 

As with many species, the fall months trigger aggressive feeding in smallies, as the water temperatures cool down and winter approaches. Anglers are able to use the smallmouths’ voracity to their advantage and can often hook into a hog during autumn. If you’re new to the Lake Coeur d’Alene fishery, Fins and Feathers Tackle Shop and Guide Service can offer advice and bait, or even take you out and put you on the fish.

Muskie, Mille Lacs Lake, MN

In the Land of 10,000 Lakes, muskie, which are famously elusive, highly-sought-after predators, are known as the “fish of 10,000 casts.” There are a couple ways to increase your odds of catching a toothy trophy: fish in the fall when they’re feeding voraciously and fish Mille Lacs Lake, which is arguably one of the best muskie fisheries in the country.

Mille Lacs is a big, open lake without a lot of obvious structure, so if you’re unfamiliar with the waters, you may want to seek out some local knowledge. Tutt’s Bait and Tackle, in Garrison, boasts the area’s largest selection of muskie lures. They can get you set up with the right bait and offer advice on techniques and location. Predator Guide Services may be able to get you a muskie in fewer than 10,000 casts.

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Walleye, Devil’s Lake, ND

One of the most popular—and delicious—species to target in the fall is walleye, and the Midwest is home to the country’s best fisheries. Not surprisingly, given the species popularity as both game fish and table fare, and the resulting fishing pressure, the best walleye waters are often not the easiest to get to. Devil’s Lake, North Dakota, may be a little far afield for many anglers, but if you’re a walleye lover, this elite fishery will be well worth your while.

If you’re looking for a guide to help ensure that you get a shore lunch, Fishing ND Guide Service specializes in Devil’s Lake walleye. Woodland Resort offers local accommodations and boat rentals right on Devil’s Lake.  

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Chinook Salmon, Siuslaw River and Bay, OR

Oregon’s Siuslaw River and its eponymous bay, off the city of Florence, is one of the state’s premier fall fisheries for chinook salmon. Most anglers in the bay and the river’s tidewater section troll with bait or spinners. Salmon can be caught from shore farther inland and upriver. The run is strongest through the months of September and October, but plenty of salmon remain in the area through November.

Salmon fishing is highly regulated in the state of Oregon, and fisheries may be closed or limited on short notice, depending on fish population and environmental factors, so it is always a good idea to check the Department of Fish and Wildlife website for updates. You can find bait, tackle, boat rentals and advice at Siuslaw Marina and RV Park. Grey Ghost Guide Service (https://greyghostguideservice.com/) can help put you on the salmon.

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Due to the escalation of the coronavirus outbreak, local destinations for outdoor recreation may be closed. Please visit official websites for more information.

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