October 12, 2006 at 8:37 a.m.
The other day was a perfect example of how seasonal changes determine the behavior of fish. I knew for certain that if my son and I took just an hour or so to visit a particular fall crappie spot, we’d nail a bunch of them. And nail them we did. We anchored in 25-feet of water and pitched our 1/8th ounce jigs tipped with big fatheads into 10-feet of water, slowly reeling and jigging the baits down the bottom’s contour. One after another they slammed our offerings. Fish are not dainty eaters in the fall. There was a stretch when every cast resulted in either a stripped jig or a slab crappie, and many of the fish we caught taped out at no less than 11 inches. When you’re forced to use the net and can’t swing crappies over the side of the boat for fear of breaking your line, that’s a dilemma I can handle. My seven-year-old, Anders, decided that he was tired and hungry and quit fishing just before the fishing was getting crazy-good. He’s sort of a competitive type and could only stand to watch me catch a few in rapid succession when he snatched up his rod, unhooked his jig and mumbled, “Gimme a minnow.” He caught five gigantic crappies in a row (including one that looked to be on steroids) and suddenly he wasn’t so hungry and tired anymore. More proof that catching fish will cure whatever ails you.
It is a well-known fact that fall fishing is darn tough to beat. Do it enough times over the years and keep records of specific locations, dates, times, depths and water temperatures, and you’ll be surprised at how often each fall outing will seem like a rerun of previous late-season trips.
Don’t let a bit of cool weather deter you. Now is the time of year when the catching is incredibly good. Look for those crappies along the shoreline breaks, weedlines and rocky structures in less than 15-feet of water. When you find the fish, particularly fish that are shallow, you can bet they’re feeding aggressively and will readily take a jig and minnow.
So buck up, bundle up and brave the weather. After all, we are hearty Minnesotans. We need to remind ourselves from time to time that temperature is but a relative thing. A couple of short months from now the mercury will really start to plummet, and in December most of us would gladly give our eyeteeth for just a few of the pleasant fall days we’re enjoying right now.
Dan Brown’s weekly outdoor column is brought to you by Frankie’s Bait and Marine, in Chisago City, and St. Croix Outdoors, in St. Croix Falls, Wis.