How To

Catch River Fish in the Fall

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Rivers offer some outstanding fall fishing opportunities for a wide variety of fish. Different species of fish will stack up in very defined areas and they’ll be willing to eat your bait. If you can find the fish in the fall, you can probably catch them. Following are some ideas for catching fish from rivers in the fall.

There is one really good indicator that Mother Nature provides that will let us know that the fall season has arrived. On a day when it’s drizzling or there are light rain showers, take a drive on a hard-surface road near a marsh or a swamp. If there are more salamanders, snakes, toads or frogs than usual on the road, it’s time to start thinking about fishing on a river. The warmer surface of the road attracts these critters and gives us an indication that river fish (as well as lake fish) are going to be eating.

If walleyes are the quarry, check out wing-dams. Don’t spend much time on a location if you don’t catch fish right away. A few quick casts should let you know if anyone is home. When water levels are low, concentrate on the deep end of the structure.

If water levels are high, be sure to make a few casts to the shallow part of the wing-dam and also to the downstream side.

When water levels are normal, the most active fish will usually be on the upstream side of the wing-dam.

If the river you’re fishing doesn’t have wing-dams, points or shallow rocks will concentrate the walleyes.

It’s hard to beat a jig tipped with plastic for walleyes early in the fall. A Slurp! Jig in the quarter ounce size tipped with a three inch Impulse Swim’n Grub will be a very good walleye catcher. There will be days that the walleyes are color selective, so keep experimenting until they show you what they want.

River smallmouth and largemouth also go on a really good bite in September and October. Largemouth will spread out over shallow grassy flats that are close to deeper water, while the smallmouth will hold on rock piles and points that are just off the channel.

When the largemouth are on the flats, spinnerbaits and swimming jigs will be good. The same baits will be productive on smallmouth. Again, don’t spend too much time on one particular area. If the fish are going to eat, you’ll know about it pretty quickly.

If there are shad in the river you’re fishing, largemouth really seem to like a bait that resembles a shad. Try a spinnerbait or swimming jig that has some white in the skirt.

If you’re fishing an area that looks smallmouth-ish, white is again good, but chartreuse can be even better sometimes. Just keep trying different colors and areas and retrieves until the productive one is discovered. Eventually you will get bit.

Rivers can produce when lake fish are fickle. Rivers aren’t as effected by negative weather conditions as lakes are, and river fish in general are just usually more aggressive. Remember, river fish are constantly dealing with current: They’re expending more energy, so they eat more often. Fish that eat more often are easier to catch, and easy-to-catch fish are a great reason to get on a river the next chance you get.

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Image courtesy Bob Jensen

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