Everything You Need to Know About Planning a Fishing Trip
After enjoying a long summer’s worth of boating and fishing, some people start to place angling on the back burner. After all, school seasons are starting up again, fall’s hunting adventures will start to take off, and life just generally gets busy. The fact is that many people will start to hang up the fishing equipment within a few weeks. That means planning a fishing trip right now may be one of the best times you can do it.
Fall fishing trips are a great way to round out the summer and work as a perfect transition period until ice fishing season starts up again. Think of it as one more open water adventure while you can still do it. Plus the fishing action in late fall is usually amazing. Just about any game fish species you could want to chase is going through a feeding frenzy to take advantage of a seasonal abundance of baitfish; pair that with cooling water temperatures and the bite can be hot. As if that weren’t enough reason, you can also enjoy fall leaves, very few annoying insects, cooler weather, and a little more solitude at the same time. Planning a fishing trip this fall should be high on your priority list for these reasons, and here’s how to go about it.
Planning a Fishing Trip and Research
The first step you’re going to have to take is to decide on where to go. You could simply choose to do a couple day fishing trip at a favorite campground or travel via float plane to a remote wilderness area for truly amazing fall fishing. Consider what you’ve done in the past and what you’ve really liked or not liked doing. Is there somewhere on your fishing bucket list that you could check off this autumn?
The type of fish you want to go after will be the biggest determination for the location. Sure, you can catch bass and crappie in many places across the country. But if you’re going to really focus on great fishing for a certain species, there are a few hot spots that you should really try. For example, if you’d really like to land a trophy walleye, pike, muskie, or smallmouth bass, head north to Canada. Ontario has plenty of amazing lodges and millions of acres of high-quality lakes to try out for a fall fishing trip. If you’re interested in catching a few salmon species, lake trout, or big walleye, consider a charter on one of the Great Lakes. But if largemouth bass or catfish are more your style, consider going south instead. Alabama’s Lake Guntersville is a great place to catch bucket-mouth bass, and the river systems nearby are prime catfish habitat.
Before you make any plans, take some time and thoroughly research the waterbody you’ll go to. Study lake maps and read fishing forums to get an idea of where to go. Read up on if there are any secret fall fishing techniques for that particular waterbody. When you’re striking out, try calling the lodge you plan to stay at or some similar area businesses to see if they’ll offer any advice. They might not, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Gather Your Fishing Gear
After deciding which species you’ll pursue and where you’ll go, there’s the question of what to bring on a fishing trip. Out-of-state fishing licenses usually aren’t too expensive to buy over the counter. But make sure you get all the other stamps or permits that you might need for a designated waterbody or fish species. This should be priority number one so you don’t forget about it.
Before simply tossing stuff into the boat or loading your truck with bags, it helps to develop some sort of fishing trip packing list. Without one, you’re guaranteed to leave something important behind. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve gone on fishing trips, you’re bound to make an assumption or two that will leave you kicking yourself when you get to your destination. For example, did you forget that you were going to pick up some more fishing line since your last trip? Did you remember to bring sunglasses for those bright days on the water? While you can usually buy these items once you get to your destination, sometimes that’s not possible. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as they say.
After finishing the fishing checklist, take your clothing, equipment, and other things to take fishing out and lay them on the living room floor or in the garage. Once you’ve piled everything in there that’s on the list, slowly start packing your bags and organizing them into a system you’ll understand. For example, don’t just haphazardly throw everything in the same duffle. That will leave you confused about where to find anything. Instead, pack the warm weather clothing in one compartment, the cold weather clothing in another, the tackle boxes together – you get the idea. That way, you’ll know exactly where to find everything when you get there. It may help to check the items partially off the list to indicate you found them, and then cross them fully off only after they are packed and in the truck. The double-check system has saved many an angler from a lot of frustration later.
When you’re planning a fishing trip for fall, there are a few items that are all too often forgotten. Cold weather clothing is usually left at home, since we’re still usually thinking about summer fishing trips where we were trying to beat the heat. Unless there’s an obvious chance for rain in the forecast, we’ll typically leave rain gear at home too, which makes those stray rain showers all the more annoying. If you’re hauling the boat with you, you should thoroughly check it out to make sure you have the right set of keys, an extra plug, at least one oar, and an appropriate number of life jackets. And if you plan on eating a shore lunch while you’re out there, be sure to bring at least one filet knife with!
As far as your tackle goes, it may even help to get a fishing tackle box checklist. Most of you will probably laugh at this level of scrutiny, but you know how out of touch we can be with our fishing tackle especially after a season of heavy use; things go missing, we run out of hooks or sinkers, and some things need to be repaired. Taking some time to clean and organize your summer tackle box will help you on the water during your trip, but it will also make it easier over the winter when you should do it anyway.
Additionally, checking a list will help you recall what you need for a last-minute stop at a sporting goods store to fill in the gaps in your fishing equipment. Depending on what information you get from the local guides or forums, you may want to run to the store or go online to buy some new fishing rigs or crankbait to try anyway. It never hurts to have a few more presentation choices with you, right? Vicious Fishing has several options for different species, including the 10-inch sucker jerk bait. It can be equally effective on muskie or pike, and may even entice a large walleye to bite.
Fishing Tips for the Fall Season
Assuming you decided on a location and got your gear packed, the fall fishing trip fun can begin! Because the water temperatures are slowly dropping in the fall, fish activity will start to drop off a little more each day. Because of this, mornings will be cool and probably slow in terms of fishing action. Afternoons will usually produce the hottest bite, since the sun is high above and can warm the water temperature throughout the day, which in turn raises the body temperature and metabolism of cold-blooded fish. Similarly, as a general rule, you should start with slower-moving presentations in the cooler parts of the day and work up to faster-moving cranks once the water temperature increases a bit. Lethargic fish are much more likely to gulp a plastic minnow on a static jig than chase a crankbait. But when the water temperatures warm up, pitching or trolling crankbaits can result in some trophy fish potential and you can cover more water too.
If you’re going after a few different species, you should obviously realize that late fall bass fishing tips will be different than crappie fishing tips or catfish fishing tips. You should generally have different fishing gear and techniques for each species. You should brush up on today’s fishing line choices before you leave to help decide which line might be best. For example, certain fish (e.g., pike, muskie, etc.) are extremely strong and have very sharp teeth. If you plan to fish in an area with a good population of those fish (or if you’re specifically targeting them), you’ll want to include a strong, fluorocarbon leader, which boasts great abrasion resistance and is nearly invisible in the water.
Water temperature and fishing line choice are important considerations, but structure is also critical to finding and catching fish. Depending on the species you’re after, this will naturally vary from rocky points to weed beds to deep pools. But one thing is the same: even the best-looking structure will probably be ineffective to fish if the bait fish aren’t there. Remember, fall fish are taking advantage of bait fish patterns and congregations. Because of that, areas with vegetation that hold bait fish nearby are great spots to start your search. When the fish are actively feeding, you need to be there offering a similar presentation to the bait fish to put some fish in the boat.
To start your fall fishing trip (unless you hear better advice from the local resorts), it might be best to troll around and do some searching. A fish locator will really help to identify the substrate and any obvious bait schools, and you’ll also be able to see where the fish are gathering. Once you find a good spot, take note of the location and try to pinpoint similar positions on the waterbody that you could also try.
Planning a Fishing Trip While You Can
While there’s still time, you should really consider planning a fall fishing trip for you, your family, or friends. It’s a great time of year to be on the water, regardless of whether you actually catch any fish. But following these tips and now that you know what to take on a fishing trip, you’re pretty likely to fill the live well or catch a once-in-a-lifetime fish. If you’re into that kind of thing.