You don’t need a calendar to know that it’s fall

Published 1:51 pm Saturday, September 25, 2010

By Dick Herfindahl
Woods and Water

It’s official — fall is here! The golds and browns of the crops and the turning of the trees are the tell-tale signs of fall. I am definitely holding on to my plan of hitting some of our area lakes a few more times before ice-over. I am not talking northern Minnesota although I will be heading north to the cabin for a week in October. I really want to and will be fishing Fountain Lake this fall but I also want to head to the Waterville-Elysian area to try a couple of small lakes that I haven’t fished for a few years.

This past Saturday I was in Mankato for my grandson Dylan’s football game and after that I decided to take a little drive to Waterville and check out two of these lakes. I haven’t fished Reed’s Lake or Fish Lake for quite a few years so I decided to stop by the public accesses on these two lakes to see refresh my memory (maybe I was just checking to see if they were still there).

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For years I had fished Reed’s Lake which is approximately 193 acres, 58-feet deep and for years it was my opening day lake of choice. I always seemed to be able to catch plenty of northern along with some nice bass, crappie and a few walleye. In reading the lake statistics on the DNR website I was surprised to see that they no longer list walleye as one of the species in their lake information.

Reed’s is still a good lake for bass, northern and crappie. Since they put the 30-inch minimum slot limit on the lake the average size of the pike has gotten bigger but there still aren’t many being taken over 30. This is attributed to the slow growth rate in the lake but the vast majority of the fish now range from 25 to 29 inches. You maybe can’t keep them but they are still fun to catch and there are also some dandy bass in the lake.

Fish Lake is the other lake that I stopped by to check out. It is a small lake of only 73 acres with maximum depth of 55 feet but it has water clarity of 15 feet, which is very clear for this part of the state. The times when I have fished this particular lake I have usually caught crappie, northern and some bass. There is also an abundance of bluegill in the lake and the average size range is pretty good for a lake this size. This lake does have a 25-horsepower maximum outboard motor limit.

The last stop in my quick jaunt through the area was at Best Point Resort where I had a seasonal campsite for about eight years. After seeing some old friends and spending a little time there, I was reminded of the reason that I enjoyed spending that time. The fishing on Tetonka was always pretty good and topping off a day’s fishing by sitting around the campfire was a great way to finish the day. You’d be surprised how many of the world’s problems could be solved around a campfire. I always plan on spending a weekend camping there but the last couple of years it just hasn’t happened.

There was always something pretty special about fishing that lake in the fall. On one particular October day I pretty much had the campground to myself, and I definitely had most of that big lake to fish without seeing more than a boat or two. I trolled around the weed edges of this one flat and caught some nice northern using a “Little Joe” spinner tipped with a fathead minnow. You always take your chances when you use a spinner while fishing for pike and you need to check the line quite often for signs of wear. There is nothing more disappointing than being bit off by a big pike. Usually you can avoid any damage to the nylon leader if you keep constant steady pressure on the fish while cranking the line in. I always use a landing net on even the smallest pike when I’m not using a steel leader. There are too many times whey the fish will shake its head when you take it out of the water and that can fray a leader in a hurry.

I still think that fishing in the fall is the best time to experience the outdoors. There is just nothing better than being on the lake on a clear crisp fall day, and if you spend the time and are in the right place it’s likely that you can land that lunker you’ve been dreaming about. Fishing in the fall can also be a little more challenging at times. Once the lakes turn over the fish can be found just about anywhere. They go away from their summer patterns and pretty much follow the baitfish. If you can find the baitfish you will usually have a pretty good chance of finding those fish that are fattening up for the winter months ahead. With that thought floating around in my head (plenty of room) I may just have to head to Tetonka Lake this fall and see if I can find some more of those nice pike that I know are just around the next bend.

It’s only the beginning of fall but the northern third of the state is 50 to 100 percent of peak so get out and enjoy the fall colors whenever you can. Get out and enjoy the colors while sitting on your favorite lake doing a little fishin’.

Remember our brothers and sisters who are proudly serving our country so that we can enjoy the freedoms that we have today.

Dick Herfindahl’s outdoors column appears in Friday’s Tribune.