Brad Laabs column: Here's how to adjust to September fishing
As we move further into fall we will continue to be riddled with fronts on top of fronts. September is typically a month of instability, inconsistency, and transition for fish. You can have some great days on the water with fish activity, and the next day swear there is not a fish in the lake.
Guiding, I can be a hero one day, and a "goat" the next (no ... not "Greatest Of All Time") more the scapegoat-type goat!
Bite windows can shorten as fish adjust to cooling water, shorter daylight hours, and major barometer changes that occur with fronts. Pre-frontal conditions can activate fish before they settle into a very neutral to negative feeding during cold fronts or the following "blue bird" type conditions that follow a cold front.
The "blue bird" day is the cool, but beautiful, day with clear sky, and very little or no wind. That is a great day to mow your lawn, work on fall projects, or golf if you also do that. If you fish in the cold front or the following blue bird day, lower your expectations. Enjoy just being out, and make adjustments to improve your odds.
Most times you will need to look in deeper water, or fish to be hunkered down in weeds and not chasing aggressively. For live bait and artificial both, downsize baits. Fish slower. For live bait rigging or Texas rigging, shorten leaders and downsize baits.
For those that like to troll or cast crank baits, downsize baits and go to less aggressive wobbling baits. Slow trolling speeds down from 2.5 to as slow as 1.8, or when casting and retrieving, slow retrieve, and pause every so often.
Many times, the first fish to be active after the front will be smaller fish as their metabolism just can't last them out as long as the bigger fish. It is not uncommon to catch bigger fish, and more numbers during the pre-frontal conditions.
As we get a day or two out from the front, if things stabilize for a day or two before the next system rolls in, feeding periods can last longer, fish can be more aggressive, and bigger fish can be caught. Trophy fish for all species can be more common during the fall.
As weather becomes more predictable and stable, usually by the end of September, the fall "feedbag" bite will get rolling. Walleyes, northern, bass, and musky will bite at bigger bait offerings. This is part of the preparation for the winter cold water period, and also due to the fact that all the young of the year forage from earlier in the season continues to grow and get bigger.
Musky anglers will start to troll big suckers from 12 to 16 inches when that big fall bait bite starts. Walleyes will take suckers, creek chubs, and red tail chubs (fall walleye candy) up to 7 inches long on live bait rigs.
Bigger baits on jigs is also a prudent move as we transition into the fall bite. I know this is a busy time of year, I hope you can work getting out on the lake during this beautiful fall fishing period. We have at least a minimum of eight more weeks of opportunity.
(Brad Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes)