Fishing, Life, Love & The Great Outdoors
Midwest Outdoors October 2009

October, Harvest Time
By Joel “Doc” Kunz

One thing I like about October, is that it has always been a time for me to get together with friends. The last rounds of golf are scheduled in with things like the final BBQ party, a fall colors road trip and the occasional Octoberfest or community event. Usually, by mid October I’ve carved my pumpkins, changed the lower unit fluid in my outboard and done a bit of garage cleaning too. Walks with the labs in the brisk fall air are rewarded with plenty of color and migrating wildlife. I love fall. Well maybe not raking leaves and cleaning gutters, but I love fall. October is frost on the pumpkin, harvest time, bonfire time, time for the soul.

October is also about the time when my friends start calling me about the fall walleye bite, something I look forward to each year. Unlike spring, walleye and sauger fishing is much more predictable in the fall. As water cools, groups of fish will be found together in areas where they can stack up and feed. A good visual example would be blackbirds. In spring, you see them spread out everywhere. Small groups everywhere, feeding and looking for nesting sites. But in the fall, you see large groups in the trees, on the wires and in the sky feeding in swarms near warm roadways. Same for walleye. In spring, mostly spread out in groups all over the system. In fall, stacked up below dams and in deep water above the lower lakes of the system, and usually in large schools of fish. I’ve had more 100+ fish days in the fall, then at any time of year. They will feed right until ice up and can be caught drifting or anchored with a jig and minnow with ease. Sometimes they will be finicky, but usually they will feed aggressively if you give them the right size presentation.

For fall walleye, deep water and eddie currents are prime spots. Fish will use the front and back of the hole and hope top grab food as it washes by. The food is provided as baitfish leave the tributaries, backwaters and shallow areas of the system to winter in the main river. They will also spread out along the flats when competition in the hole gets strong or when a school of flatheads come through. In the Wolf, and on other rivers I fish in fall like the Rock and Wisconsin, there are catfish. Many spend the entire summer in the upper reaches of the Wolf and Embarrass River. These fish return with the falling current to their wintering spots in the lower lakes and in the deep holes of the lower river. As these fish filter through the system, they can sometimes “take over” some of the deep holes. Sturgeon do also. Although they don’t feed on small walleye like a big catfish would, they are a nuisance when hooked. This is when I often find the walleye in water that is much shallower then I would think they would be this time of year. Ripples in the sand provide a place to sit and wait for food without as much potential for being a meal for a big flathead. Sweeping light jigs over these areas can often produce fish when they seem to have disappeared from the hole you had been catching them in.

October is the glide path to prime time on all my favorite walleye waters. As the water cools, fish will feed as hard as they can to bulk up for the long winter. That’s why walleye waters like the Wolf, Rock, Wisconsin, Fox at DePere and the bay of Green Bay are all producing fish this time of year. As a general principle, I try to make time to visit them all each year. At one point in my life, availability of time was not the determining factor in going fishing. But now it is. A tough economy and other factors such as arthritis make being on the water more difficult for many like myself. That’s why good trip planning is so important. It’s also a reason I like to go during the week as much as I can. Same with golf. Don’t do much on the weekend except for Sunday evenings after most people have gone home. Watch water levels and temps on the available USGS gauges and look to fish during stable weather periods of cooling temperatures. Rising water helps move the fish and keeps them tied to the river system If water levels are low, fishing can be much more difficult due to lower numbers of fish in the system.

On waters where you are unfamiliar, I always suggest using a guide. Once you learn a few spots and a few tactics, you should be good to go on your own if you have the equipment to replicate what you have learned. On the Rock, I suggest Jim O'Brien from Dancing with Walleyes Guide Service. I’ve known Jim for a number of years and know he does a good job. He can be contacted at (414) 429-5292. For the bay of Green Bay, I suggest Dale Stroschein’s Wacky Walleye Guide Service. He can be contacted at (888) 879-5548. For the Wisconsin River, much depends on the pool you are going to fish. For the Dells, I’d arrange a guide through Rivers Edge Resort at (608) 254-7707 but above that I’d say Larry Smith is the most noteworthy. He can be contacted at (920) 361-4996. If you get farther north then Petenwell or the Nekoosa area I’d suggest Pat Pierce and his Lake DuBay Guide Service. He can be contacted at (888)
693-4696. For the Wolf River I’d contact Bob Caryl at Red Banks Resort, (920) 446- 2933 or Louis Woods at Wolf River Outfitters at (920) 446-2277. All of these people are top shelf fishing guides and someone you are sure to learn from. If they are booked, they will help you network with another guide.

So take a little time from Halloween party preparations and do a little fishing this October. Fishing should improve as the water cools and days shorten. Good luck and enjoy your day on the water.

Joel “Doc” Kunz is a field editor for Midwest Outdoors and 2005 Readers Choice Award Winner. He is also a member of the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers. To keep up with Doc’s fall fishing adventures please visit his new web site


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