Fall fishing starting to heat up for local anglers

Commentary

Fall officially arrived at 4:02 p.m. last Friday, even though we experienced a week of summer-like days with daytime temperatures in the 80s.

I always enjoy balmy weather during autumn, and being a warm-weather guy, I would welcome those kinds of days until Christmas–and beyond–for some great fall fishing opportunities. Fishing pressure declines dramatically in the fall as many anglers succumb to watching football, yard work and a variety of other seasonal distractions, and pleasure boat traffic also wanes steadily throughout the fall and many good trout streams are all but deserted now. Because of that, you will often have prime fishing spots that were regularly crowded during the spring all to yourself on most days during the fall.

Angling lore suggests that the bigger fish instinctively tend to go on a feeding spree during the fall, supposedly to put on weight to tide them through the upcoming winter. I suppose that’s as good an explanation as any, and I can’t dispute the success I’ve always had during September and October. Last Saturday was one of those great days as I landed several Juniata smallmouths from 18 to 20 inches on spinnerbaits.

In many ways, the fall fishing patterns for river smallmouths tend to be similar to those of the early spring. Therefore, I rely on soft-plastic tube jigs this time of year almost as much as in the spring. Tubes can be fished in a variety of methods that closely imitate some of a smallmouth’s preferred prey. Fished right on the river bottom, tubes mimic crayfish, and fished higher in the water column, tubes present a reasonable imitation of shiners, chubs and other minnows. Crankbaits are effective lures for fall smallmouths. With the possibility of bigger bass on the prowl during most the day, I go mostly with medium divers in 1/4- and 3/8-ounce to have a better chance of tempting some of them. Crankbaits also provide the opportunity to cover lots of water to find fish.

Bass in the fall can be extremely fickle from one day to the next, probably because bass are more sensitive to the changing weather patterns and fluctuating water temps that come in the fall. One day can seem like there isn’t a fish left in the lake or the river, and a few days later, you can’t keep them off your line. Don’t let one slow day make you believe the fishing is over until next spring. Be willing to try new spots and different lures and techniques, and enjoy some great bass action this fall.

Fall trout fishing should also be much better this year, compared to the dreadful low water we experienced last. And while many streams are relatively low and clear, a good fly-fisherman can do well over the next month or two. Although hatches tend to be sporadic in the fall, dry-fly fishing is often productive.

Be prepared to fish small flies, often size 18 or smaller, but on occasion, larger attractor-type flies like Stimulators, Wulffs and Humpies will often take fish quite well during the fall. Caddisflies tend to be the most important bugs in our local streams during the fall for dry-fly fans.

A tan or brown Elk-Hair Caddis in size 14 or 16 usually covers most of the caddis activity I encounter during the fall. Another important dry to carry would be some Blue-Winged Olives in sizes 18 to 22.

Fishing subsurface with nymphs and wet flies will almost always take some fish in the fall. General purpose nymph patterns such as the Pheasant Tail, Walt’s Worm, Hare’s Ear or Prince Nymph are all good choices. And just like dry flies, go with smaller sizes when the water is low and clear. Brown and brook trout are fall spawners, so egg patterns like Glo bugs or sucker spawn can be effective fall flies.

A trout stream is a wondrous place to be anytime of the year, but the scenery and the solitude of autumn make trout fishing a special experience. Be sure to take advantage of this fleeting opportunity. Remember, however, that the extended trout season in now in effect, so the daily limit of trout is reduced from five to three.

The extended season applies only to Approved Trout Waters and some special regulation areas, so no trout may be killed on wild trout streams. For complete information about specific regulations on various waterways, consult the Pennsylvania Fishing Summary booklet.

Meeting to address CWD

The Pennsylvania Game Commission has scheduled a series of public meetings to inform the public about chronic wasting disease and how this disease continues to threaten Pennsylvania’s wild deer herd. In our region, meetings will be held on Thursday, Sept. 28 at the Penn State DuBois Student Union from 6 to 9 p.m. and on Tuesday, Oct. 10, at the McConnellsburg Fire Hall at 6:30 p.m.

Additional meetings may be scheduled. A current list of meetings and more information can be found on the Chronic Wasting Disease page at www.pgc.pa.gov.

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