Fall fishing can have its moments
Cooler temperatures in the air and on the water, scenic foliage, and a variety of species of fish available for the taking all make the fall months of September and October an optimal and productive time for area fishermen.
“The fall actually has the most available species of fish that you can target,” said Tim Baker, the general manager of Unkel Joe’s Woodshed in the Pleasant Valley Boulevard shopping plaza. “It’s not a bad time to fish at all.”
Baker, who was formerly the manager of the Unkel Joe’s sporting goods department, is an avid fisherman who expands his fishing horizons during the fall months.
Along with the staple fish of trout, bass and panfish, fall is a great time to fish for walleye, according to Baker.
“One of my favorite things to do in the fall is to go down to the Juniata (River) and fish for walleye,” Baker said. “I usually go down to the Mapleton area (in Huntingdon County) to fish for walleye in the fall.”
Rapela lures are a popular bait for walleye.
“There’s a whole bunch of different things that you can use,” Baker said. “We sell a bunch of rapela lures here, which are really good for walleye, and also, rubber grubs. Putting a 4-inch grub on a jighead works really well.”
Trout aren’t as active or plentiful in the fall months as they are in the spring months after they have been freshly stocked, but there is less fishing pressure on area streams in the fall, and there are still trout to be caught.
“Most of the trout stockings here are done at the beginning of the season, so any trout that you fish for in the fall are going to be held over,” said Baker, who lives near the Little Bald Eagle Creek in Tyrone. “I’ve fished a lot on the Little Bald Eagle, and there’s not a lot of pressure there in the fall because a lot of people don’t think to fish for trout there past April or May.
“It can be pretty productive in the fall,” Baker added. “The water temperature starts to get lower in the fall, and that really helps. I think that the fall is good for everybody. Everybody is a little more active in the fall because it’s not so hot.”
Creg Strock, who owns and manages the Aquatic Imitations bait and fly shop near Hollidaysburg, fishes with flies at various area streams year-round for trout. Strock also said that the cooler temperatures in the fall make for more pleasant fishing.
“Absolutely,” Strock said. “The water temperatures cool down, so the fish aren’t nearly as stressed in the fall as they are in the hot summer months. And I would much rather fish in 50 or 60-degree weather than I would in 80 or 90-degree weather.”
A variety of flies can be used for successful fall trout fishing as well, Strock said.
“I fish strictly with flies, and there are a couple of real good hatches out for fly-fishing in the fall,” Strock said. “October caddis is normally the last big hatch of the year, and it comes out during the first week of October.”
In September, different hatches come off the water.
“In September, you’ll get blue-winged olive hatches, and a second hatch of slate drakes that will come off the water,” Strock said. “You’ll still have tan caddises coming off.”
Terrestrials, or bugs, are popular bait choices that can be fished naturally or with imitation fly patterns in the fall.
“You’re going to have a lot of terrestrials on the water,” said Strock, who fishes for trout locally at Penns Creek, Spring Creek, and the Big Bald Eagle Creek in Centre county, the Frankstown Branch of the Juniata River, Clover Creek, and the Little Juniata River in Blair county, and Bobs Creek in Bedford county. “There are still a lot of beetles, crickets, grasshoppers and ants on the water even into September. Those will work for trout and bass both.”
Bass fishing is still productive during the fall months at area lakes like Glendale at Prince Gallitzin State Park, and Canoe Creek State Park.
“There are a lot of people here that, since we have a few lakes that are big bass waters, will fish for bass all year around,” Baker said. “You can fish at Canoe Creek or Glendale if you want to fish for bass. Those are still really good lakes for bass in the fall.”
Paul Riley, who owns a lawnmower sales and repair business in Duncansville, is an avid year-round trout fisherman whose favorite streams are Bobs Creek and the Frankstown Branch of the Juniata River below Williamsburg.
Riley, who fishes all year long and uses wet flies, dry flies and nymphs as bait most of the time, said that the fall months offer good trout fishing locally.
“There’s no competition out there, and the fish are all settled down from being scared half to death (early in the season),” Riley said. “They’re a little more educated, don’t get me wrong, but they’re in there.
“It’s a little bit more challenging, yes,” Riley said of the fall fishing prospects. “But you can catch them.”
The fall also offers fishing for trophy steelhead trout each October in Erie county. The big trout migrate from Lake Erie to stream tributaries Elk Creek and Walnut Creek to spawn in the fall.
Strock visits the Erie area several timeslate each year to fish for steelhead, and Riley plans to make a trip up there this fall to pursue the trophy trout as well.
“About the middle of October, weather and water conditions permitting, the steelhead will come out of Lake Erie and start up the creeks for spawning,” said Strock, who uses a heavier fly rod and imitation fly patterns that mimic glo-bugs, salmon eggs, and small white nymphs when he fishes for steelhead. “I make it a point to get up to Erie several times each year from about the middle of October until the end of January to fish for steelhead.”
With the variety of fishing options available, along with the favorable weather, fall is an entertaining time for a fisherman.
“A lot of people don’t take advantage of the fishing in the fall months because part of the (fishing) season coincides with hunting season, especially archery season, and a lot of people around here archery hunt,” Baker said. “But I would just encourage people to get out there and fish, because fall is a great time to fish.”