Fall fishing can be feast or famine

Published 6:21 pm Saturday, October 13, 2012

The one thing you can always predict about a fall fishing trip to northern Minnesota is that it is unpredictable. A couple of years ago my son Brian and I made our annual October fishing and hunting trip to our cabin in northern Minnesota and the weather was perfect with sunshine and highs in the low 60s. This year, however, things were totally different. The temperatures struggled to get out of the 30s and rain mixed with snow coupled with strong winds was pretty much the weather for the majority of the week.

On Wednesday morning the sun actually made an appearance as day broke over the lake. Judging by the dark clouds that were on the horizon this was to be short-lived. Savor the moment was the isim that popped into my head at that time. There was a thin layer of crusty ice covering everything and the fallen leaves that lay on the ground looked as if they had been frosted like cookies by Mother Nature herself.

I had filled the birdfeeders when we first arrived at the cabin and there were chickadees, sparrows, a pair of blue jays and a woodpecker frequenting the feeders. It is always enjoyable watching the different species of birds that come to feast on the black oil sunflower seeds that I have found to be most popular in this part of the bird world.

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Although the fishing thing was pretty much out of the question there was plenty of inside work to be done on the cabin. In past years Brian and I have fished in some pretty bad fall weather, but I guess over time a person either gets wiser or maybe just loses the need for adventure that comes with youth.

Brian and I once took a late fall trip to my brother-in-law Ron’s cabin on Wabedo Lake.

Ron was out of the country flying for Northwest Airlines, but he called us from Japan to tell us what time we needed to be on the lake to catch walleye.

It was so cold that week that we could only stand to be on the lake for about two hours before our fingers lost their feeling and we were chilled to the bone. After spending quite a few hours on the lake freezing we had decided to call it a day and had just settled in for the night.

That’s when the phone rang and it was Ron telling us that now was the time we needed to be on the lake. It was pitch black, windy and cold, but we headed out to the spot that he had told us would be hot and spent about an hour and a half freezing and not as much as a hit on our surefire lures.

Sure enough Ron called the next morning to make sure that we had fished the night before. After a night of freezing and experiencing that exercise in futility I decided that maybe a little white lie wouldn’t be a bad thing for the next time he called.

Looking back on some memorable fall fishing trips I can still feel the sting of corn snow hitting my face as a fall snow squall caught us off guard as we were crossing a lake.

My old neighbor Gene and I had some memorable fall trips to Spider Lake. The trips we took were always in late September and we stayed in my pickup camper on those trips. I guess the fall colors and the chance of of catching that trophy fish, which is supposed to be greater in the fall, is what kept us fishing that time of year. Although I did catch my own personal best walleye in late September on that lake we never did hit the mother load of fishing on those trips. Gene and I were pretty diehard fishermen in those days so we’d come off the lake long enough to warm up, eat a bite and go right back at it.

Looking back at it now those were good times that you can’t relive but can always remember.

There are many good times to be had in the fall and enjoying the colors and the wildlife are all part of that experience.

Fall fishing can also be very good but it’s a little more unpredictable once the lakes turn over because the fish can scatter and you may find them anywhere. That is part of the challenge, but if you can find the baitfish, you will find the fish.

This summer’s patterns were actually a little out of the normal. With the warm water temperatures a lot of fish were found suspended over deeper water than they are normally.

One little lake that we enjoy fishing for northern had fish suspended at 18 feet in 70 feet of water.

This made trolling deep runners down the middle of the lake an effective method for catching big pike.

I am up at the cabin as I write this column and the sun is shining so I think I’ll have to take a break and head for the lake. Who knows, maybe I can have a fish tale or two to share later.

Until next time, take a little time to enjoy the outdoors experience and the world of nature that surrounds us.

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.