Chicago area fishermen!  Go north for the best fishing you can find…..

It’s the time of the year when fish feed heavily to carry them through the  winter when their metabolism slows down and for female fish the heavy feeding  will help in their egg production for the spring’s spawn. It’s a great time of  the year to be on the water for some of the biggest fish of the year and also  most bodies of water are not crowded giving you the water to yourself. I’m going  to give you some top locations and tactics for catching fall salmon, muskie,  walleye, smallmouth, and northern pike.

Chinook salmon make their fall migration to shallower water and the numerous  harbors that dot the Lake Michigan shoreline in October and November. These are  the 4-year old fish that are completing their life cycle. You’ll find 2- and  3-year-old fish, but the vast majority of the salmon are the 4-year-olds that  are changing color as they reach their life’s end.

Anglers can catch salmon in the harbors and off the piers from Racine to  Sheboygan. A top salmon choice is the Sheboygan waters. Here is a recent report (10/11/2013) from one lucky salmon fisherman fishing the Sheboygan area:

“Went out this morning from 6-10 a.m. worked 120-150 FOW. It was a madhouse right from the get go…….went 11 for 15. All nice clean Kings…..on a variety of flashers and flies and mag spoons. Foil mag spoon down 69 on rigger was the hot setup today……we fished 35 to 80 down in the column. Temps nearly steady around 50 throughout. Great day to be out, gotta take advantage of the fun while it lasts!”


The pier techniques are two-fold; an angler can cast and slowly retrieve  spoons and crankbaits. The best spoons to use are Little Cleo’s and Crocodiles  in green, glow, and chartreuse. Salmon can also be caught by casting Rapala’s,  Fastracs, and Junior Thundersticks. The other proven tactic is to soak spawn  sacs just off the bottom while using a No. 4 red treble hook attached to the  sac. Use Styrofoam balls or marshmallows pinched to the hook eye to keep your  bait off the bottom.

Boat fisherman can slowly troll spoons, crankbaits, and spawn sacs in water  15 to 30 feet deep. The “Gap” which is located between the piers is where you  want to fish if you’re in a boat. The best place to check on local conditions is  at the Wharf (920-458-4406) the harbor.

Fall to many anglers means muskie time! Trout Lake holds numerous muskies in  the 30 pound plus range. The lake is in Vilas County, just south of Boulder  Junction east of Highway 51 and west of Highway M. Its depth (115 feet) and size  (3870) can make it a difficult lake to fish on a windy day. But, Trout Lake is  loaded with structure and big muskies and walleye too.

Trout Lake deserves its trophy reputation. Big baits like the Smity or Eddie  jerkbaits work well as do bucktails. The best colors are black, yellow, and your  natural colors. There are many deep drop-offs, so a weighted bucktail or deep  diving crankbait can help put your bait in the zone. Also, always have a  good-sized black sucker (12 to 16 inches) on a quick-set rig close to the boat  for follow ups and always do a figure eight close to the boat on your  retrieve.

Some good locations are:

• The south-east shoreline of North Trout Lake before the “Narrows” because  it has numerous rocky and steep breaklines. Cast parallel to the breaks with  bucktails and deep-running crankbaits.

• Both shorelines going through the “Narrows” have deep breaks that will hold  muskies. Be sure to cast both sides thoroughly.

• Work around South Trout Lake islands (Miller, Haunted, and Zimmerman)  because of the ideal bottom structure that attracts muskies in the fall.

Good electronics (Lowrance) are important because Trout Lake has structure  that can vary dramatically. There are numerous submerged islands, reefs, rock  bars, underwater points, and steep drop-offs that quality electronics can help  you find.

Lake Dubay is located south of Stevens Point and west of Interstate 39 in  Marathon County. Anglers can catch both numbers and trophy walleyes from the  coffee colored water of this Wisconsin River flowage. The fishing pros at the  Mosinee Gander Mountain (715)-355-5500) say that the “walleye size averages  above the minimum of 15 inches and the overall size is outstanding. There’s  walleyes caught over 10 pounds throughout the year and especially in the  fall.”

Good fishing locations this time of the year include:

• The area around the Dubay Dam at the south end is a good bet for walleyes  with deep water and sand flats being close by.

• In the middle of the lake, there are three distinct “stump fields” One is  just south of the boat landing off Highway 34, another north of Koss Point, and  the third is north of Goose Point.

• The flowage has a distinct river channel which should be fished along with  the abundant timber and wood. The lake lacks weeds, so wood is the main  structure.

The best way to catch fall walleyes here is the standard jig and minnow  combination with blue and glow being the best colors. Casting jigs with plastics  (Gulp) also works well when casted and retrieved very slowly. Try trolling the  channel edges with bright-colored crankbaits (Shad Raps, Mann’s Stretch 5’s, and  Wally Divers. Trolling lead core also works well year-round.

Lake Dubay is less than 100 miles from Madison, 10 miles from Stevens Point,  and 120 miles from Milwaukee. Good guides are available at Hooksetter’s Guide  Service and Phil Schweik (715-693-5843). He and the other guides know the area  well and will put you on fish.

Madison’s Lake Mendota is the fall pick for smallmouth bass. This lake is  again large (10,000 acres) and deep (90 feet). Lake Mendota has structure and an  excellent smallmouth fishery that is rarely fished in the fall.

The lake has numerous points, rock bars, islands, and sharp contours that  smallmouth love. The later in the fall that you fish Lake Mendota, the better  the fishing is. Once the water gets below 55 degrees, smallmouth will start  feeding heavily. Live bait will catch you the most fish, but you can end up  gut-hooking too many fish. If you use big minnows (chubs, fatheads), set the  hook quickly before the bait is swallowed or use a circle hook to prevent  killing the fish.

Good locations include:

• The steep drop-offs near Governors Island where the water can quickly go  from 10 to 70 feet. Jig up and down the steep breaks.

• Work the contours and breaks off Maple Bluff and Warner Bay while  concentrating on depths from 5 to 20 feet. Planer boards with great lake trolling flies work well

• Fish off Picnic Point and Second Point on the lake’s south end. There are  numerous humps and bars off these points to go along with deep water. Rocks are  the fall key on Lake Mendota and most lakes in the fall.

As the fall progresses, smallmouth will move shallower. Smallies go on a  feeding frenzy before the really cold water sets in and then they go pretty much  dormant. Lake Mendota allows trolling, so pulling large crankbaits can also mean  big smallmouth.

Contact Gene Dellinger at D and S Bait and Tackle at (608-241-4225) for the  latest information. Gene also guides and is always on top of the Lake Mendota  fishing. Madison is only 70 miles from Milwaukee, 125 miles from Chicago, and 70  miles from Rockford, Illinois.

My top location for fall northern pike is Lake Puckaway. The shallow water  lake is large with over 5,039 acres of water. The stained water has a maximum  depth of only 5 feet, but it contains both numbers and large pike. The state  record northern pike (38 pounds) was caught here in the 1950s. Fish over 20  pounds are always possible and caught every year. The trophy potential on this  lake has been maintained with a minimum size of 32 inches and a 1 fish daily bag  limit.

A professional angler and guide from  Montello says that the best fall locations are in the Fox River area and the  whole west end where the Fox River enters the lake. The reason why this is a top  location is because the shad forage base moves into the river to spawn. Fish any  green weeds with spinnerbaits and crankbaits in white, black, and orange colors.  Follow the scattered weed edges along the west shoreline  when casting. Daryl also said that the big fish that you see in the weeds are  not carp, but big pike. Big spoons casted and quickly retrieved catch pike and  the odd muskie.

Lake Puckaway is located in Green Lake County about 75 miles north of  Madison. Take Highway 51 north from Madison till it runs into Highway 22 and  continue to Montello. From Montello, take Highway C to the lake.


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