With cooler weather, more active fish and a beautiful backdrop of changing leaves, fall is one of the best times of year to fish in Minnesota. Depending on the area and the size of the lake, walleye, muskie, northerns, largemouth bass and crappie, as well as trout in the southeast Minnesota streams, are all biting.
“Everything bites better in the fall,” says Paul Nelson, a veteran fishing guide in the Bemidji area. As the fish try to fatten up for the coming winter, many species are more active during the day as they look for food, and also start gathering into larger schools.
On lakes including Winnie, Leech and Red Lake, the fish can be found closer to the shoreline, while lakes that have a thermoclime, including Cass, Bemidji and Walker Bay, entice the fish to go deeper in the fall.
Further north, the annual fall run of walleye takes place on the Rainy River (pictured above) in September and October. The slow-moving river features 40 miles of navigable water, beginning at Lake of the Woods and heading east along the Canadian border. Anglers can watch the fall bird migration and marvel at the autumn leaves along the way.
Several fishing tournaments take place on and around Lake of the Woods in the fall, including the North Star Walleye Classic at Wigwam Resort (Sept. 5-6), the Minnesota Tournament Trail Championship (Sept. 11-12) and the Chili Bowl Tournament (Oct. 11), both at Border View Lodge in Baudette.
In southeastern Minnesota, the trout are active as they get ready to spawn in October and November. “By fall, they are in their best condition all year long,” says Vaughn Snook of the DNR fisheries office in Lanesboro.
The aptly named Trout Run Creek in Fillmore County is the area’s most popular stream for fly fishing. For casual anglers and kids, rainbow trout are stocked through the fall in downtown Chatfield, Spring Valley and Preston. Also in Preston, the National Trout Center provides information on local waterways, as well as trout fishing tips and training.