Autumn in the northwoods is what gets me through the long cold winter. With more fishing and hunting options than days before freeze up, the beautiful weather and lack of bothersome insects makes fall a true paradise for the outdoor enthusiast. Fish likely feel the changing of the seasons more acutely than we do, and start to up their food intake in anticipation of the cold dark days to come.
Smallmouth bass fishing tends to peak somewhere between the end of August and mid-September as they begin to vacate shallow hunting grounds for deeper wintering waters. This is typically the time of year we come across the largest bass as they’re starting to really bulk up for winter. Many times the fatties are caught on bigger musky flies when they ramp up into their fall feeding mode.
Brule river Steelhead fishing heats back up in the fall as well with a healthy push of lake-dwelling brown trout and a smattering of salmon leading the way. By October there are fishable numbers of browns and steelhead throughout the river and with more arriving each day the fishing only gets better until the season closes in mid-November. Water temps dictate fish activity level and movement and typically nymph rigs produce the best results. Steelhead are a hoot on the end of a flyline anytime you can hook up with one, but fresh from the lake in the fall they’ve got an extra boost of energy that many times makes landing one just as challenging as getting bit- one of the few times you might see the backing on your fly reel in northern Wisconsin!
The apex predator in our region, muskies, also feed heavily in anticipation of the fall freeze up. October and early-November provide some of the best odds for trophy specimens as the feeding pace picks up and becomes more confined to the warm part of the day. Although the weather can be unpredictable, the fishing overall can be very good. Weather can vary from sixty degrees and sunny to thirty degree rain and snow squalls during this time of year so don’t be afraid to pack a lot of clothing!