Scott Mackner is an astute Minnesota angler who spends a lot of time targeting walleye on natural lakes in western Minnesota near Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. This past fall, Mackner has spent a lot of time on the water as the weather has been unseasonably nice. Fall is one of Mackner’s favorite times of the year to target walleye as he notes that fish often school up at this time.
“Something you have to factor in is just how clear the water is right now,” stresses Mackner. Mackner points out that you can actually see bottom on some of these lakes in twenty feet of water when there is high sun and no wind. Because of how clear the water is, you just can’t get a boat over the top of these fish, and you have to cast to them. “We are using the Garmin Live Scope and typically, we can’t get within sixty feet of the fish without bumping the fish away or spooking them.”
Forward facing sonar is crucial for finding and watching these fish but if you don’t have this technology, side imaging will also show you fish. Depending on the lake, some of Mackner’s favorite fall walleye locations include large sand flats in front of outlets. These shallow flats can range from five to fifteen feet, but Mackner is finding most of the fish in that ten-to-twelve-foot range. There is a little bit of moving water from the outlets where shiners and other baitfish might be attracted to some current but Mackner notes that he is finding frogs in many of the fish he has kept.
Because of the water clarity and how spooky these fish are, Mackner is catching most of these fish by making long casts with jigs and minnows. These fish are often picking the jig up off the bottom, but some fish can be six to eight feet off the bottom when it is cloudy or windy. The retrieve alternates between a slow drag and short hops. With the jigs, smaller rainbow dace or fatheads have worked the best. While Mackner is using a ten-pound super line, he stresses the importance of using a really long leader of fluorocarbon. “I have a tough time catching these walleyes if I tie direct to braid so I often use about a twenty-foot leader,” stresses Mackner.
Besides making long casts with jigs, another presentation that can work extremely well especially on cloudy days is to casts rigs and big minnows like rainbow chubs or creek chubs. These minnows are used with a four-to-six-foot snell and again, a long fluorocarbon leader ahead of the sinker seems to make a big difference.
Because these fish often spook at sixty feet, Mackner prefers to set the range of the Live Scope out to ninety feet and creep into spots while casting at specific fish but notes that some of these walleye schools right now can be enormous as the fish seem to be really concentrated.
This time of year can produce some of the best walleye fishing of the year in this part of Minnesota and Mackner anticipates many of these bites will hold until freeze up.