For the second year the WDFW is putting on their “Fall Into Fishing” program. If you are unfamiliar with this program it involves a fall round of planting trout in lakes around the state to fuel fall trout fishing. The number of fish planted is considerably less than the spring plants, but the average size is significantly larger.
Prepare To Go Out
Before you rush out the door, take the time to get prepared. You first stop should be the WDFW’s Fall Into Fishing page. This will give you 2 lists. The first is the planned trout stocking, so you can see what plants are upcoming in your area. The second is what plants have actually happened.
If you see your favorite lake listed, then that is awesome. If you want to try someplace new then use this as an opportunity to take action. What I do when considering fishing a new lake is:
First, open up the web browser to my favorite map site and type in the name of the lake. That will show me where it is, and how far away it is from where I live.
Second, I go to the “Fish Washington!” page the WDFW has setup, and lookup the lake there. This will tell me something about the fishing in the lake – what species it holds, access spots, etc…
Third, I check the regulations on the WDFW website. Don’t forget to scan the emergency rule changes and new releases to make sure there isn’t any recent changes. The way I trout fish is legal just about everywhere (catch and release with single hook artificial lures), but always good to know exactly what the regs are and that you are complying.
Fourth, go to Northwest Fishing Reports website to check out both the lake information and historical reports. This site has a good collection of bathographic maps (underwater contour maps) which can be helpful when understanding a new lake. Past reports can be a gold mine for good locations and what has generated success in the past.
At this point I now am armed with the information I need to be successful, and can get my boat and gear prepped for that lake. I can also have a game plan as to when to arrive, and where and how to start fishing.
Keep A Weather Eye Out
Unlike summer, the water temps in fall and winter are usually in the low end of the preferred temperature range for trout, or even below the preferred range. This has a profound impact on the fish’s metabolism, since they are cold blooded.
In summer when their metabolism is going full steam the fish feed a lot – both actively and opportunistically. As such the weather patterns have a more minimal impact in our catching of them.
When colder temperatures dominate, it is a different story. The fish don’t need to eat as often, and therefore are more likely to go off the bite. If the weather has been changing in the last day or two then odds are the fish will be less likely to be feeding.
So the best days to go fishing are the ones where the weather has been steady for several days. One way to spot these days is to go to Weather Underground and look at the 10 day forecast chart for the location. Check out the barometric pressure graph. We want to find a stretch of days where the pressure doesn’t have any significant ups or downs.
Being aware of the weather, and picking your days carefully, can make the difference between getting a limit or being skunked.
Where Do Fall Trout Hide
Now that we are on the water it doesn’t really matter what lure we are using until we are fishing where the fish are.
When the water temperature is in the 50s or higher, then we’ll mostly find these fall fish near the surface, and often away from the shore.
As the temperature drops the fish start suspending deeper and move around less. This may mean you need to hunt around for them more. One of my fishing mentors would always say that trout like to be “at the ledge, along the edge or in the hedge” – meaning near drop offs, along the shoreline or near structure like weeds.
Your fish finder can also be a valuable tool to find the right depth. However, this requires that the fish are deep enough not to be spooked by the boat and not moving out of the sonar cone.
As you fish remember locations where you get bites and hookups. Then think about them and try to identify the patterns. Record those observations for the next time, or the next year. The fish are often predictable once you spot the pattern.
Regardless of where you find fish, pound those locations repeatedly until they stop producing fish. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen people catch a fish while trolling, and then keep going rather than turning around to try to catch that fish’s buddy.
Targeting Fall Trout
Now that we are on the lake, how do we effectively target these fish? You could use the same tackle that you use in spring or summer, and chances are you’ll get some success. But if you want easy limits then you need to use tackle suited for the conditions.
If the water temperature is still in the mid 50s or higher, then use smaller lures with natural colors. A good example would be a F3 frog flatfish, or size 1 50/50 dick nite, or a rapala lure. If you are a fly fisherman then black or olive wooly buggers/carey specials are great choices.
As the water temperature drops then you’ll want to increase the size of the lures, and start using brighter colors. For example, in the height of winter I like using a red wedding ring with a size 4 spinner blade. Other good choices would be an F5 red flatfish, size 2 red dick nite, or bright spinners. This winter I plan to try out the new 2.5 Maglip and have high hopes.
For the fly guys this is the time to switch to non-traditional colors and patterns. Blobs and boobie patterns and colors can do quite well. Traditional patterns like the woolly bugger in colors like pink, red or chartreuse can also work great.
If still fishing bait is your thing, then it is hard to go wrong with powerbait in white, pink, or chartreuse colors. Let the water temperature control the size of the bait, rather than the color.
If All Else Fails
If you are having a trough day fishing, here are a few tricks that might help you get something, rather than go home skunked.
Add A Gang Troll
I rarely use them, but when I do it is during winter. That extra noise and motion can help attract fish when it is tough. I like low drag ones like Mack’s Lure Flashlight Troll.
Sometimes going a bit faster will cause an otherwise uninterested fish to bite out of the reaction of seeing something shoot by their face.
Add A Spinner
Adding a spinner blade in front of your fly can sometimes be deadly.
I wish you the best of luck this fall and winter. Please comment and let me know your favorite fall and winter fishing tips.