The leaves are changing, the water temps dropping, and the big fish are going to be on the prowl. Triggered by the instinctual need to feed before the winter abyss, now is a great time to go hunt giants! Bonus, fishing pressure drops significantly, since many are drawn to the woods for other outdoor pursuits. Take advantage of this time of year to find giant walleyes in North Central Minnesota.
To find the larger fish in any system in the fall, one has to have an understanding of what they are after. Typically, in most Northern Minnesota lakes that means ciscoes. During the fall, ciscoes are looking to spawn, and this will draw a crowd. Find ciscoes, you will find fish. Prime spawning grounds will include rocky flats adjacent to shorelines and points that have deep water nearby. Ideally, there is also some weed growth as well that can serve a hideout spot for spawning ciscoes. While waiting for the right water temperature, the ciscoes will often suspend out in this deeper water. When the temp gets to be around 42 degrees or so, the ciscoes move in and the walleyes will follow.
The seasonal movements of walleyes also come into play. As the water temperature continues its decline, walleyes start to leave the main lake structure in favor of shoreline points or even bays. As the walleyes move back to the shoreline structure, they will often set up along shoreline breaks as shallow as 4-6 feet of water and shallower if a stiff wind is blowing into shore. Given this fact, walleyes and ciscoes are on a collision course and the advantage goes to the toothy critters. What we want to focus on are the walleyes that will lurk near these rocky areas in their pursuit of these tasty, fatty ciscoes. When looking for these areas on the maps, look for windblown points or shorelines that have a steep break and deep water adjacent or nearby, this is the ideal set up for fall walleye fishing success.
One method to target the bigger walleyes is to ‘supersize’ your baits. Keep in mind, if your goal is to catch a giant, don’t offer them a snack, IE a fathead or a small chub minnow. Go big or go home and that means Redtail or chub minnow that is in the 6-9-inch class. In doing so, you will eliminate the smaller fish from being part of the equation. Yes, this may mean less action, fewer bites, but not necessarily so. Leisure Outdoor Adventures owner Toby Kvalevog notes, “in the fall we will see bigger fish ending up in the same area and forming schools in their search for baitfish.” Thus, if
you catch one big’ un, there will be others nearby. Jigging can still be an effective presentation vessel for giant eyes but instead of your typical jig and shiner, try a bigger Redtail or creek chub on a longer shank jig. To help with hooksets, use a jig with a longer shank that accounts for the bigger bait but also allows for ample hook space for solid hookups. Good ones to consider are the offerings from Kenkatch Tackle Company. Kenkatch has a line of jigs that come with the longer shank hook which are ideal for hooking on a 4-5-inch Redtail or creek chub. You can make long cast toward shore and snap it aggressively back in the early fall. However, as temps drop, you may need to slow this presentation a bit. When the temps really plummet swimming the bait back might be the ticket. Allow it to tick the rocks, pause it, twitch it and this pause and twitch will be when the walleye drills the bait.
A second option to consider is the many swimbaits that are on the market. Bass guys out west have known for years the viability of swimbaits to lure big fish, walleye guys need to do the same. Making long casts, swimming them just over the rocks will get you big bites. Look to match the baitfish as best as you can when picking out your colors and adjust the size of your jig for the conditions you are fishing in. When the walleyes go after these baits, there is no mistake, they crush them leading to KVD type hooksets!
As summer is but a distant memory the giants start to patrol the depths beneath our cooling fall waters. Driven by the need to feed as winter approaches, it is GAME ON for big fish. The allure of chasing these giants is not so much for a fish fry, rather it is the desire to match wits with the biggest and baddest each lake has to offer. Get out there, chase down a giant and make a memory!
Editor’s note: Leisure Outdoor Adventures is a premier guide service located in north-central Minnesota. You can check them out at www.leisureoutdooradventures.com