By Jason Mitchell
Current attracts walleye any time of the year and what might surprise many anglers is just how much current affects walleye location and movements throughout the season. Even large natural lakes have currents that occur as wind pushes water to one side of the lake. Even after the wind lies down, there can be current that is created as the water levels off and moves back the opposite direction. The current factor on reservoirs and flowages is even more obvious. Of course rivers always have obvious current.
Current can be a big drawing card for walleye throughout the season but current can be one of the most important variables for quickly finding walleye in the fall. Walleyes love current in the fall and often congregate into any incoming tributary or river system thus becoming more accessible to anglers. Many anglers have referred to this fall run in rivers and reservoirs as a false spawning run as this movement resembles the same spring migration of fish but I don’t believe this movement of fish is simply practice for procreation. The amount of baitfish that concentrates in current when the temperatures fall is incredible and walleyes are simply opportunistic. These fall migrations are all about forage.
Walleyes running up river systems in the fall is a classic fishing opportunity but some of the most overlooked and sometimes productive fall walleye fishing patterns happen on natural lakes and flowages where walleye concentrate around bottlenecks and funnel areas that concentrate current.
On many lakes, causeways and bridges that are built between lakes focus a current that attracts walleye during the fall. Many narrow gaps that connect lakes are prime fall walleye locations. If there is any depth and moving water in these types of locations, there will almost always be walleye around.
Other top locations that enhance or concentrate current can be bottlenecks that are created by islands or points that basically neck down the water to increase the current flow. If there is visible current, there is enough current to attract walleyes and we have seen good locations that range between five feet of water to thirty feet of water. What makes these locations so good is the simple fact that these spots keep recharging with new fish and this can often be a big fish location… some of the biggest walleyes caught each fall come from these scenarios.
Presentations and fishing strategies can run the gamut but fall walleye fishing can often revolve around jigs and cranks. Some fisheries produce after dark bites for big fish where shallow running stick baits can be either trolled or cast from shore or by using waders. Anchoring or slipping the current with jigs is another proven strategy. Daytime bites often occur in deeper water where as after-dark patterns often happen in shallow. Some incredible bites can develop particularly after dark for anglers either fishing from shore or with waders. Many of these locations can be fairly unassuming to anglers not in the know, simply a small bridge connecting two lakes is all that it takes.
People often tout spring as one of the best opportunities for cracking a trophy caliber walleye arguing that spring spawning conditions concentrate fish and the simple fact that big female walleyes are at their heaviest prior to the spawn. Fall fishing opportunities around current can be just as good. Fish are often is prime condition from the ample fall feeding opportunities, females are starting to carry egg mass and the fish can often be concentrated. Trophy walleye hunters covet the fall.
As a general rule of thumb, fall presentations need to be bulked up in the fall. Shallow running suspending stick baits and swim baits shine in less than seven feet of water. Larger stick baits like the Salmo Suspending Sting have loud rattles and two larger treble hooks (which work well for keeping big fish pinned up). Large four to five inch swim baits can also work extremely well. From my own experiences, I have often done better throwing the swim baits during the day and have done better on shallow running hard baits after dark. Swim baits like the Kalins Sizmic Shad with large thumping paddle tails are usually the ticket.
Deeper patterns can also occur depending on the location and jigging below the boat was often productive whenever working specific current seams or troughs that combined depth and current. There are times where the fish would be laying out in front of the current in the deep hole or break line in front of the bottleneck. These fall funnel locations are not necessarily always shallow or right immediately in the bottleneck. For numbers of fish in particular, the deep water close to the moving water often loads up during the fall. Since these locations can be tight and small, staying over the top with a jig can be very efficient.
Because of the competition outdoors with so many facets of outdoor activities, fall walleye fishing opportunities can often be overlooked once hunting seasons kick in. Pressure falls off drastically as many outdoors enthusiasts trade in fishing rods for shotguns but for the committed anglers still fishing through the fall, these current patterns can produce some of the best walleye fishing of the season and some of the biggest fish are a real possibility.