Walleyes move shallow in fall to take advantage of cooler water temperatures. This annual migration helps ensure the bite remains consistent well into November.
If you’re heading out on the Rainy River for your annual walleye fishing adventure this fall, hiring a guide or charter boat could be beneficial – or bring along your own boat and fish alongside friends.
Though spring walleye fishing gets all the glory, fall is an excellent time to be out on the water. Cooler temperatures, colorful tree leaves, and vibrant shoreline views make fall an amazing time to chase trophy walleyes.
While shallow fishing will still produce, fish often migrate deeper water in autumn for oxygenated water and abundant baitfish. Older walleye in some lakes may even learn to take advantage of larger bait stocks found around deeper structures like ciscoes, suckers or bullheads to locate larger walleye.
Start looking for deep-water walleyes by trolling sharp drop-offs with mixed layers of shallow and deep water, using spinner rigs or rubber shads rigged up as spinner rigs with spinner shads – these techniques should work effectively! Be looking for cabbage weed beds, current areas, points or rocky saddles between islands in these locations.
Jigging deep water can also be an effective tactic, with heavier jigs like four- and five-inch paddle tail plastics being especially effective in fall conditions. A split tail minnow grub may provide more subtle action than paddle tail plastics do – both live bait and soft bait jigs can be utilized, such as 6-pound test Berkley Trilene Sensation line being an ideal option.
Fishing flooded timber areas can be very effective during fall fishing on many of Michigan’s smaller lakes. Lighter jigs with three-inch power minnows or power twisters offer the most success.
As temperatures cool off in fall and winter months, walleyes often shift deeper to conserve body heat and this makes finding them challenging. A depth finder is invaluable for quickly pinpointing where suspended walleyes may be found. Slow trolling with deep diving crankbaits like Rattling Fat Rap or Jig Nerk lures can be very effective; adding 12oz or one-ounce bottom bouncers to keep lures at an appropriate depth may further boost success rates.
Walleye are often considered deep water fish, but they can also be found in shallow waters – 10 feet or shallower – like rivers with weed beds, current areas, rocky saddles between islands, etc. If an abundant supply of forage exists then walleye in lakes may also be found near shallower depths during fall months.
Fall is the transition period when forage fish migrate to shallow waters to feed before winter arrives, allowing walleye to feed themselves and other predators in shallower parts of a lake. Because shallow areas often offer more food sources than deeper sections, walleye may concentrate in these shallower parts as they chase after prey. Rock reefs, humps and points extending deep into a lake’s depths are other good locations where walleye can be found during this season.
Anglers willing to fish during the night in fall can also find excellent walleye fishing opportunities. Walleyes in Great Lakes and connecting waters revert back to their natural habits and go on an extensive foraging spree in cooler waters; massive schools of shad and perch will disperse across lakes and river channels as these fish feed on forage sources like long fingers or spines that protrude from lake beds; these structures should then be targeted using trolling with shad-bodied crankbaits at 2 mph before switching out for minnow profile jigs like Rapala Shadow Rap or Husky Jerk when fish become less active.
Night time fishing can be particularly fruitful when conditions are calm and overcast, enabling anglers to see more of what they’re fishing in their target area. The ideal times to fish will be half an hour prior and after sunset; this time period is known as “golden hour”, as this period can produce some excellent walleye.
As the weeds begin to die due to decreased oxygen and cooler temperatures, walleyes move to any available structure such as drop-offs, brushpiles, windswept points, gravel bars or reefs. This shift in fall can make a tremendous difference for anglers targeting fish that had been holding along weed edges throughout summer; trolling or anchoring and casting jigs to probe these edges may prove very productive; cups, inside bends or irregularities within the weed line should also be observed carefully as walleyes seek shelter before joining their future feast!
River walls that extend into the main lake can also provide excellent targets in fall, as gizzard shad flood into rivers when temperatures in the main lake drop, drawing walleyes who are intent on feeding. Night-shift trollers using minnow-profile baits like Rapala Shadow Rap, Husky Jerk or LIVETARGET Rainbow Jerkbait should find success here.
Michigan waters of Lake Erie in Michigan provide great places for walleye hunters in the fall: shallow flats that transition into deeper waters can be particularly productive when hunting walleyes. Weedy flats that feature coontail and cabbage carpeting with patches of ciscoe or shad rising above the surface typically host baitfish that attract walleyes at night.
As walleye metabolism slows, they may be caught suspending above weeds during the day as well, particularly if weather turns poor or visibility decreases. When such conditions exist, larger-bodied lures like Rattlin’ Rogue or Rapala Floating Cunny might be necessary – especially with plenty of twitches, pauses and jerks applied to trigger strikes.
Walleyes can often feed near the edge of deeper waters when conditions are right, where shad and small yellow perch are abundant. Casting body bait into these areas with either a sliding rig or tandem-rigged swivel and slip bobber is highly effective, particularly when working to the bottom and then slowly twitching back up toward weed edges.
As the leaves fall and temperatures cool down, Mother Nature gives a signal that walleye season is on its way. That’s why Hall-of-Famer Ted Takasaki and Professional Walleye Guide Brian Tordsen focus their efforts on river jigging from October through December – especially because with less daylight hours during the day walleye move deeper to feed at night.” Takasaki notes: “Walleye are feeding now before winter sets in. They need a stock up.”
As the sun begins to set lower in the sky, look out for walleyes to move from deep water towards shallower weed beds and rock reefs – still good spots for big fish but may require additional effort in getting your bait into their path.
Jigs tipped with fathead minnows are often successful when fishing at night; however, don’t be intimidated to experiment with other lures too. Trolling rigs with small crankbaits may also prove fruitful during full moon phases – bright silvery patterns often outperform dark blue or yellow hues in low light conditions.
Productive fall locations often feature main-lake structures with easy access to deep water, such as shallow reefs or main islands with accessible depths. Steep structures with hard bottoms also make excellent fall walleye spots, as do sunken islands or humps protruding from shorelines and long fingers or spines that attract baitfish into specific spots where big walleyes await them.
As walleye are structure-oriented fish, anglers must keep close to weed lines and rocks when fishing for walleye in the fall. A small boat sway or wind gust that sends your bait away could mean the difference between hooking a solid catch or missing it outright – this is why many anglers opt for heavier rod/reel setups when jigging in autumn for extra power; also remember to use heavier bait than what would typically be used during summer fishing sessions.