Southern Minnesota offers great fall fishing

Published 3:24am Saturday, October 12, 2013

Column: Woods and water, by Dick Herfindahl

The northern one-third of the state is at or past peak for fall colors, and the rest of the state is anywhere from 25 to 75 percent there, depending on your area. If you enjoy the outdoors — whether it’s just watching nature or participating in an outdoors activity — now is a perfect time to be outdoors.

I’ve heard the perch are active on area lakes with some northern and walleye also being caught. With the nice weather we’ve been fortunate enough to have this fall, it doesn’t seem possible that we’re almost halfway through October.

Before we bought our place in northern Minnesota, I enjoyed camping at Best Point Resort on Lake Tetonka in Waterville. Spending time at the lake was great, especially in the fall when camping for most folks started to taper off. When I’d fish that lake in the fall, there were times when I’d hardly see another boat. One such day in early October, I had a hunch that trolling the outside edges of a large weedy flat could produce fish. I’d decided to try a rig that I’d used many times in the past but had sort-of forgotten about when I moved on to new and improved methods. This particular technique simply involved a Beetle Spin lure tipped with a fathead minnow. Over the years I’ve always found it to be a go-to bait, but like many other things, when something different works, the old tried and true is sometimes forgotten.

Getting back to the story at hand, I trolled the weed edges in hopes of enticing a walleye or two to take the bait. But, instead of walleye I found that the northern still had a fondness for that bait. I caught a nice limit of pike and decided they would make a nice late fall meal for the family. One of the things I’d always enjoyed about that lake was that you always seemed to be able to catch fish from Labor Day on. Tetonka holds a nice variety of fish, and if you’re not locked in on one particular species, then you will catch fish.

Another good late fall lake, if you like catching bass, is Lake Frances. It’s just a few miles west of Waterville in the town of Elysian. I once knew a fisherman who would catch frogs right after the first hard frost and head to Lake Frances in search of big bass that are lurking in those waters. His trick was to cast the frog to the top of a lily pad and then flip it off the pad like it was jumping. He said it was a technique the bass found hard to resist, and he had a 5 ½-pound largemouth on the wall to back it up.

Yes, many good lakes exist in this area of the state that can be very good fall fishing lakes. I’ve found that I actually get a lot of enjoyment out of just spending a nice fall day driving around and checking out a few of them. What a great way to spend a day and take in the beauty of the fall colors in our area of southern Minnesota. Another great fall drive is to head east to the Mississippi River and take a drive along that mighty river. The fall colors should be at their best for the next couple of weeks, so it’s a great time to enjoy what a river drive has to offer.

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to fish many of the lakes in the Waterville-Elysian area. I must admit that I’ve only fished Elysian Lake a few times in my adult life, but I did fish it a few times as a kid. I can still remember the first time my uncle Ben took me to that lake. We had to go through a gate on a farm place and pay a fee by dropping the money into a coin box made of pipe. Back in those days, it seemed like the honor system actually meant something. On that day we caught quite a few fish, but none were considered big enough to keep by uncle Ben. The size didn’t really matter much to me, because I was excited to be catching real fish and not bullheads or rubber tails like I was used to catching on Fountain Lake in those days. Ahh… the memories of a simpler time, when fishing usually involved nothing more than a hook, sinker and bobber.


Blaze orange safety requirement reduces hunting accidents

With Minnesota’s small game hunting season underway and the firearm deer season set to begin Nov. 9, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said making a blaze orange fashion statement this fall might not get you on the best-dressed list, but it just might save your life.

“Wearing blaze orange clothing is a safety requirement to hunt or trap during Minnesota’s small game season or deer season,” said Capt. Mike Hammer, DNR enforcement education program coordinator. “It’s important to be seen by others.”

For small game seasons, at least one visible article of clothing above the waist must be blaze orange, except when hunting wild turkeys, migratory birds, raccoons, predators, when hunting by falconry, trapping or while hunting deer by archery while stationary.

For deer season, the visible portion of a cap and outer clothing above the waist, excluding sleeves and gloves, must be blaze orange when hunting or trapping during any open season where deer may be taken by firearms — including special hunts, early antlerless, youth seasons and muzzleloader. Blaze orange includes a camouflage pattern of at least 50 percent blaze orange within each square foot. This restriction does not apply to migratory bird hunters on waters or in stationary shooting locations or to trappers on waters.

Until next time, this is a great time for hunting and fishing and to take a drive to see the beauty of the fall colors in our great Minnesota outdoors.

Please remember to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers, because they are the reason we are able to enjoy all the freedoms that we have today.

Dick Herfindahl’s column appears in the Tribune each Sunday.