Fishing in the fall of the year is always challenging. Some fishing areas are going through a turnover period, which is always a difficult time to fish. Some waters go through dramatic changes in vegetation habitat, and changes in water temperature vary from lake to lake. The good side of fishing this time of year is that most species are schooling up for the cold water period. This means that once the fish are located, quite a few of them can be caught. The trick is, of course, to locate the fish.
This time of year, as in the spring, largemouth will be looking for the warmest water they can find. Look for dark bottom bays, shallow water with cover such as docks or downed trees — probably less than 10 feet of water. You will lose a few, but crankbaits are the bait of choice. Perch are going to be coming in shallows again on a lot of our lakes; look for 10-14 feet of water, hard bottom with some grass or weeds, and there should be plenty of nice perch. The walleyes and the smallmouth are probably heading deep, so look for rocky points, with the base of the reefs in 20-30 feet of water. The smallies will be transitioning between spawning areas and deep-basin wintering spots on most lakes.
Reports from around the area are good. The Fox River above the Chain of Lakes has been hot for white bass on a jig and minnow bite. Illinois River reports good action on sauger with the best bite in shallow water. The walleye bite should be getting better each day as the water cools. There have been no recent reports from the Skokie Lagoons, but bass and crappies may well be on a good bite.
The Chicago River has been a hotspot this fall for bass and crappies. All seem to be a shallow-water bite in 5-8 feet of water. Reports from Government Pier in Waukegan have the king salmon being caught out at the harbor mouth from the pier.
So get out there, enjoy the fall color and the fishing opportunities this season provides before the ice takes over. Until next time … keep a tight line.
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