It’s that time of year again when ever so subtly more and more of our camouflage attire starts to creep its way back into many of our fishing photos, and for good reason! Hunting Season is within reach, and some of the best fishing opportunities of the year are right around the corner.
Oftentimes the weather can be less than ideal but the fishing and hunting can be tremendous! Make sure you dress properly, plan accordingly, and carry the necessary safety equipment in order to brave the elements. It will make your weekend that much more enjoyable and you will be able to withstand anything that Mother Nature throws your way! Some of my most memorable days in the Outdoors have been when I can experience a number of my favourite pastimes all within the same fall day or weekend. This usually consists of a morning duck hunt, afternoon fish, and an evening walk for ruffed grouse. Here are a few pointers to help target some of my favourite species in the fall, right on through to ice up:
The best time of year to catch crappies is in September and October, they congregate in large schools on deep water contours in 30-40 feet of water outside of known spawning bays (think reeds). Good electronics are a must at this time of year. Deadstick an 1/8 oz jighead tipped with a live minnow, you want to fish this bait dead still and vertical just off of bottom, use a marker buoy, and waypoint the spot once you’ve located the school or caught a fish for a reference point, once you find one there are bound to be more!
This can be a great time of year to catch some trophy smallmouth. Fish will be keying in on schools of ciscoes and smelt to put on weight and fat reserves for the long winter ahead. If you can find the bait, you will find the fish. Smallmouth will also be close to their heaviest at length all year, so it is a great time to try and beat your personal best! Target main lake points, reefs, and offshore humps with suspending jerkbaits, fluke style baits, and your favourite jig – baitfish imitator.
You can find good schools of walleyes staging just outside of spring spawning haunts on the first major piece of main lake structure available, whether that’s an offshore hump, point, or dropoff, these fish can often be found surprisingly shallow even well into November (4 – 8 feet), especially in rivers. We simply pitch ¼ oz jigs tipped with live minnows to a variety of depths and slowly drag or pendulum our baits back to the boat.
One of the keys to hunting ducks and geese is to spend some time scouting out areas a day or two before your hunt. Pay attention to how the birds land in a given bay, back lake, or pothole, and how they approach that locale based on wind direction, time of day, and weather. You don’t need hundreds of decoys or fancy blinds to start out, a half a dozen well placed dekes will do just fine!
In the U.S. Virgin Islands of the Caribbean, avid Inshore Saltwater anglers attempt to hit a Grand Slam which consists of landing a bonefish, snook, and tarpon all within the same day. Up here in Northwestern Ontario, you can attempt a bevy of Grand Slams including some very fall specific flavours. Perhaps an even more appropriate Canadian moniker would be a hat-trick! A.K.A The Hat-Trick! Here are some of my favourite Canadian Grand Slams that I have accomplished over the years – Have fun creating some of your own or try to tackle a few of mine:
Bucket Mouths, Paper Mouths, and Small Jaws
Largemouth Bass, Black Crappie, and Smallmouth Bass
The Harvesters Hat Trick
Walleye, Crappie, Grouse
The Bird is the Word
Ducks, Geese, Grouse
The Winnipeg River Special
Ducks, Geese, Grouse, Walleye, Crappie, Bass
Hockey Night in Canada
Walleyes, Crappies, and watch an NHL Game later that evening on CBC (Bring back Ron MacLean!)
The Big Buff
Smallmouth Bass, Largemouth Bass, and watch a Winnipeg Jets Game!