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VA Fall Walleye

Fall walleye fishing has a reputation for being some of the best fishing of the year but not all fall walleye fishing patterns are cut and dry.  On most fisheries, there is a real possibility of both shallow and deep patterns happening so there is a wide variety of locations to explore.  Fall walleye fishing also isn’t always easy.  In this breakdown, we address some factors that can make fall walleye fishing difficult and highlight some of our favorite fall locations and patterns with the theory or understanding of what makes these patterns tick.

Fall is similar to the spring in many ways but just backwards.  Cooling water temps seem to enhance and improve many patterns as we move through fall.  Warm stable weather and unusually warm weather seem to unravel many patterns.  Remember back to the spring when warm stable weather often made the post spawn fishing better and a bad cold front would slow the pattern down?  In the spring, we want warm water temps and look for warmer water temps.  In the fall, consecutively cooling temps drive the patterns.  

There are other similarities, just backwards.  During the first half of the year, the bigger fish are on the tip of the spear in regard to movements.  The big fish are one step ahead of the rest of the fish.  In the fall, the big fish are one step behind.  Also like the spring, when the water temperatures drop below sixty degrees, we notice that the afternoons can be much more productive than the mornings.  The cooling temps seem to enhance and solidify many fall patterns, but the fish do seem to become more active when you get a degree or two bump during the day. 

Remember as well that fall is a time of transition.  Fish are making major moves and relocating.  Because fish are moving so much, focus on contours that serve as a highway for fish movements.  In a reservoir, look at the old river channel.  On natural lakes, look at the primary deep-water contour.  Big obvious pieces of structure that are adjacent often load up with fish.  Something to consider, the biggest and most obvious spots on the lake map are often well known and community spots.  Many anglers will attempt to stay away from these spots because they can be community spots, but these locations are at their best in the fall and when there are fewer people fishing… don’t overthink or overlook the obvious.  Another tip, if the fish you are catching look really pale and washed out in color compared to what fish normally look like in your system, those fish are transitioning.  

Early fall can see some of the biggest transitions and there is a time when the fishing can be difficult because there is no defined comfort zone.  Some anglers refer to this window as the fall turn over.  There is no layering of warm water or cold water.  Since there is no zone of comfort, fish can basically be anywhere, and these fish typically move much more.  We often attack early fall with aggressive milk runs designed to just pick up a few fish at each stop or by trolling big areas.

Fisheries can vary dramatically with different topographic layouts and forage bases but there are some similarities that just seem to attract fish across the board.  Always check out current locations with either incoming rivers, pinch points or causeways.  Walleyes often seek current in the fall because so many shiners and minnow species winter in current holes.  Green weeds can hold walleye shallow well into the fall and can be sneaky consistent.  Some anglers believe that weeds and flooded timber will actually hold heat which attracts fish as the water temps cool down.  Good weeds are worth checking.  Classic fall walleye locations include deep structure with sharp breaking hard bottom structure transitioning into a soft bottom basin.  Just to make life more interesting, we also find walleye on shallow wind-blown shorelines of rock and sand.  There isn’t a silver bullet for location because you can at some point check all of the above.  Perhaps the biggest take away from fall walleye fishing is understanding the ten-thousand-foot view.  Factor in transitioning fish and how the patterns develop as water temperatures cool down.  Think exact opposite of spring and early summer but adhere to the same principles.

Lastly, go bigger with bait or lure profile.  By fall, baitfish have grown up.  Whether you are using creek chubs on rigs or pulling crankbaits, make sure to dabble with the bigger end of the size spectrum.  Even when we jig with minnows, we often use two minnows on the jig to bulk up the profile in the fall.

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