Fact number one: Big fish eat little fish. They might eat other stuff too, but big fish of almost any sporting variety prefer to eat little fish if they’re available. And big is definitely relative in that the predator fish need only be big enough to catch and swallow the prey fish, regardless of the size of either of them. A three inch fish will happily eat a three quarter inch fish. A twelve inch fish will eat a three inch fish. A thirty inch fish will eat a ten inch fish, and so it goes.
As we head into the annual fall feeding extravaganza where fish are packing on weight for the looming winter, we as anglers are wise to keep fact number one in mind. At no time of year are gamefish more focused on their piscatorial palate than fall. The young of the year fish of all species have grown to perfect eating size and are fair game for all those that weren’t eaten in their first year. Furthermore, baitfish species like shad, shiners, and various minnows are now perfect munchy size and in a serendipitous twist, have schooled up and moved shallow for their own fall feeding binge. This makes them accessible to feeding gamefish, which then makes the gamefish accessible to anglers. See, I told you it was a serendipitous twist.
Fact number two: Many anglers have given up on fishing for the season after Labor Day weekend. When you combine the facts, you end up with hungry, aggressive fish and un-crowded waters. I like the facts.
However you fish, and really for almost any predatory species, this is the time of year to get out the minnow and fish imitations and work them erratically. For the fly guys, this means streamer fishing. Large Clouser Minnows are my favorite at this time of year, followed by Deceivers, and several old school streamers like a Mickey Finn or Black Nosed Dace. Work current seams, long runs, and pockets in the rivers for trout. Flat, windy banks will produce for bass, walleyes, and trout in the various impoundments around NoCo.
If you’re of the majority that prefers to spin fish, a minnow style hard bait is a great choice, as are chrome spoons. Again, work them fast and don’t skimp on the size of your offering. Big baits get big bites. Watch for feeding seagulls, herons, and pelicans to clue you into likely baitfish spots which will draw in your target species.
For some serious fun, hit a few of the local ponds tossing a topwater bait on fly or spinning tackle. Bass are definitely looking up for the next couple of weeks and poppers or walking baits will light their fuse.
Take a look at the facts. With great fall weather and even better fall fishing, now is the time for anglers to put an exclamation point on their season. Go fish!