Wisconsin Fishing Guide


By Michael “Loby” Lobenstein


We are well into the first portion of the fall fishing season and some of the finest “open water” fishing opportunities present themselves to the diehard fishers among us.

This is when we strap on the warmer gear and the fish strap on the feedbag!!

In consideration of the fall season it is important to also make some changes to the daily check list to coincide with the changing seasons particularly due to weather. Abrupt fronts can push in quickly, turning a warm sunny morning into a blustery midday excursion. Making sure you have warm rain gear as well as layered clothing will allow you to add or shed clothing during the day as situations in the weather dictate. Being caught unprepared during this time of the year will put an end to a day of fishing in a hurry.

Sandals are traded in for water proof hunting boots and tank tops are worn as an under garment with long sleeve T-shirts and hooded sweatshirts being standard items of apparel which will keep you snug and comfortable. From October through “ice up”, the weather should be your main concern and being prepared for it, with a dry storage bag of items, including a waterproof container with matches and fire starter material in case you accidentally get wet and face “hypothermia” issues and need to build a warming fire. Doing so will keep you safe and sound, while enjoying the great fishing that fall provides.

The fall period for fish is the time of the year when it is critical that they feed heavily to build up reserves to carry them through the long winter months ahead. For that factor alone it becomes an advantage to fishers looking for the fish. Another factor that stacks the deck in the fishers favor is the baitfish and crustaceans as well as insects and larvae that have been greatly depleted by feeding fish during the summer months and with each passing day, their opportunities for meals become harder to find, making for some very “aggressive” fish feeding behavior. These factors most definitely create situations where the bite, regardless of species being targeted, can be incredible.

Water temps play a roll in fish behavior throughout the fishing seasons and fall is no different. The early season begins with it being less of a factor because their metabolism is still high and water temps are still warm. As water temps get colder the fish tend to slow down and their activity level will fluctuate with the weather on a given day.

Cold evenings make it less important to rise early and hit the lake or river at the crack of dawn as you have done during the warm summer months. As fishers of this season well know, you must be ready to adapt to what the fish activity level is and fish them accordingly. Warm days with a bright sun can create feeding frenzy periods in shallow areas and bays as leftover baitfish move into the warm waters and as they do, the predatory fish will follow right behind them and if you have wind pushing into bays or up on to feeding flats adjacent to deeper water you could hit the “jackpot“.   Mouths of feeder creeks and rivers as well as upstream areas can be overlooked holding areas as baitfish move up them during the fall period.

On cold days or overcast cool days, activity levels may be reduced but a strong bite may still be available but it becomes a matter of slowing down your presentation.  Also, following the fish locations which may require using electronics to find that they have moved closer to the nearest deep water and often, will be found on or just off the first main depth break line and relating to structure or remaining weeds on that break line.

Knowing what the fish are feeding on is also very important and paying close attention to stomach contents will quickly let you know what they are keying in on to satisfy their appetites.

In the case of “catch and release” fishers which I highly promote, it is not uncommon for fish to regurgitate the bait they have eaten as you handle them after the catch. For instance, smallmouth’s may cough up a crawfish part or a whole crawfish as you are dislodging the hook which lets you know that they have found an area which holds crawfish and instead of throwing a crank bait you may want to switch to a tube jig or a “jig and pig” and attempt to match colors of the real crawfish with your lure selections.  Matching what they are feeding on can make a good bite become a great bite with just one change in color or combination of action and color you choose to present to them.

I also am a firm believer in throwing large presentations at this time of year. The fish are looking for easy meals and the less attempts they have to make at chasing prey the happier they are as well as the less energy they expend. The aggressiveness at this time of year is a direct result of “competition” between fish to grab dwindling food sources.

It is not uncommon to hook a fish and as you bring it boat side observe numbers of other fish following along in an attempt to “steal a meal” and also it is not uncommon to catch two smallmouth or large mouths etc. on a single crank bait that contains two sets of treble hooks. When this happens, you are in for some exhilarating action as nothing can compare to large predatory game fish competing for the same meal. This can be true for all species at this time of year.

Having covered the importance of dressing properly and as well some basics on finding fall fish it can not be stressed enough that “catch and release” becomes even more critical at this time of year.

Schooling fish “on the feed” can make for easy targets for anglers and unethical anglers that take advantage of the concentrated fish and their need to feed can do serious damage to fish populations in a short period of time.

We are all aware that fish make great table fare and Wisconsin has fairly liberal bag limits for specific species which is your responsibility to know as well as the minimum and or maximum lengths allowed for harvest which includes “slot” limits on species such as walleyes which are set specifically to protect spawning class fish. Exploiting an area you find that hold large concentrations of fish is unethical and does damage to future fishing success for both you and anglers in the coming years.

Pan fish for example in most cases are plentiful and by keeping hand sized ones and releasing the large “BULL” gills is an excellent way to do your part in preserving and as well, initiating a good example for youth who may be with you observing the example you are teaching them.

These larger fish are the prime spawning fish and the future of the lake or river you are fishing on, and in all cases the larger fish do not make nearly as good a table fare as do the smaller ones you choose for your bag limit and they contain less contaminants, which makes them a healthier choice for you and family members as well !

In the case of pan fish, we often will self impose “half” of the allowed daily bag limit and choose 15 pan fish to keep for a meal instead of 25 which makes selecting your catch more interesting as well as “protects” the number of fish taken by the many anglers who fish for food or in the case of walleyes….will keep 2 eater sized as opposed to the 5 that most inland waterways allow you to harvest each day by law.

Until next time, get out and enjoy the awesome fall fishing and practice responsible harvest. Another great practice is to take your kids along with you, as they say……“If you take your kids hunting and fishing with you, you won’t find yourself hunting and fishing for your kids” !

Be good stewards of the waters you fish and immediately report suspected violations to your local warden by having the D.N.R. “tip line” stored in your cell phone.

Feel free to register on the “bait tank” discussion board at www.lobybaits.com and view video and pictures of catches throughout the Midwest and find out what the fish are biting on as well as read or share tips of your fishing excursions. New members are always welcome to the fishing family both young and old!

GoOd FiShIn’




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