Temptation: Hunt, Fish, or Both, and for What?

This time of year requires us to make tough choices. Do I fish or hunt? Do I go to the deer shack and prep it for the opener, or do I go chase walleyes knowing it could be some great fishing? Should I chase some of those huge pike that have come out of the depths where they were hiding all summer, or should I go whack a few grouse? Tough choices, but it could be worse.

I might have to go fishing and think about it.

Some anglers don’t get out to appreciate late-fall fishing. It’s true that after the lakes turn over, the consistency we had all summer long is gone. Now that the fish can move anywhere in the water column, they spread out and you won’t find the tightly-grouped schools like you did just a month or two ago. But you have a great chance for a big pike or muskie, and the night bite for walleyes is always outstanding this time of year.

You can add to your success by not ruling out any part of the lake. Where deep mid-lake structure was productive all summer long, you might find me flipping Weed Weasel jigs up next to a shallow inside weedline right now. It’s a great technique for late-season walleyes. Tie on a 1/8-ounce Weed Weasel, tip it with a fathead minnow, and just pitch it out so it settles right next to the weedline. Drag the jig back slowly to the boat and you’ll feel it when a walleye picks it up. These fish move right up to the edge of that vegetation when the water cools and they really smack that jig.

Night fishing for walleyes is outstanding throughout the months of October and November. I especially like to be out on that full moon when the walleyes move right up on top of the structure and gulp down minnows––along with the crankbaits I’m trolling past them. Use a jointed, shad-shaped crankbait in a fire tiger or perch pattern, and make sure you’re bumping some rocks occasionally. You’ll catch some huge walleyes trolling the rock piles and reefs at night.

Now is the time to be chasing big pike, especially on lakes that have tulibees. These small whitefish are fall spawners and move up to the edge of the rubble where it intersects with a weed flat. The huge northern pike move right up there with those spawning tulibees and gulp them down like fish sticks on a Friday at Lent.

Some people like to soak suckers under a bobber on the edge of the vegetation to generate a bite or two. I like chasing those pike down with a spinnerbait or a crankbait. I’ll cast the spinnerbait up over the weeds and work it back right over the top and through that cabbage and coontail. On lakes with milfoil, you can’t beat an 8-inch crankbait trolled along the edge of the vedge. Make sure you use a wire leader, because you’re dealing with some big pike here and they’ll swallow a lure that big and cut you clean if you’re not using a leader.

The muskies are also going to be eating hardy right now. You’ll see lots of anglers on the prime muskie lakes during the late-fall period and they’ll be up on the shallow sand and rock piles jerking lures. I like to kill two birds––or should I say pike––with one stone––or should I say lure––and I troll crankbaits. You can hook into some big pike as well as some huge muskies while trolling crankbaits on these lakes.

There are a lot of outdoor options in the fall for both hunting and fishing. I live for whitetail hunting and I can already hear the moose up in Canada calling me, but the fishing is so great this time of year you just have to make it a point to get on the water and take advantage of the situation. I know it’s a tough decision, but one that is worth making.