Fall Location Considerations For That Trophy ‘Eye
by Daniel Kiazyk
Many components need to be factored into the trophy fall walleye equation. One factor that has a definite impact on your odds of hooking that trophy eye is location. Unlike many other times of the year, location in the fall becomes a factor far more predictable than at any other time of the year. There are generalizations in this regard that could be transferred to any large river system, but the observations made here follow from experiences on three of Manitoba's great rivers (in the fall) which produce monster eyes.
At the mouth of each river are larger (in some instances smaller) areas which are devoid of extraordinary structural elements. The one defining characteristic of these areas are extended areas of similar depth. In the fall, some have mused, that fish set themselves up in this areas so to be prepared to make their mad rush up the river in the spring to spawn. Others have suggested that walleye are doing nothing unusual, rather they are just following their forage (who by the way are fall spawners). Whatever the reason for their presence many large fish will remain in this area throughout the fall season, and they will be scattered throughout these areas. Angling for these fish will require an approach that recognizes that they are widely scattered through these areas. Trolling or drifting through these areas produces very consistently. One variation, however, exists with reference to this location: Small scattered rock piles, and large rock outcroppings. On one large flat that we fish regularly on the Winnipeg river, there are two large rock piles and smaller scattered rocks throughout a section of the flat. On some days "banging" these rocks while trolling produces fish, while on other days moving around them (or on the edge of this section) is the ticket. Yet on another day, proximity to the two large rock piles produces the big eye. In effect on the flats mobility and changing "locations within the location" will have an impact on your success.
Sunken islands, humps
Many considerations factor into whether a hump or sunken island will produce fish in the fall. Two sets of extremes seem to be operative when trying to determine whether these locations will render fish for the angler. Generally speaking the time of day seems to be more important with these structures than it is with the flats. Early morning and late day (just before sunset) tend to be prime times at these locations. These two time extremes can really be significant and are really worth considering. Two other other oppositional considerations are in order at this point ( I like to see things in an antithetical form) the hump will be better if it is the only hump with no other distinguishable structural elements in the vicinity or the hump will be good if there are many other structural elements related to it.Fall and humps are like that; If one does not produce move onto the other type of hump. The oppositional description of "humps" serves as a framework to work within. That's not to say there won't be exceptions. Anyone worth their salt on the water will continue to investigate and hypothesize until they come up with a locational pattern that produces fish. My idea may seem a bit simplistic, but it has done me well on many occasions!
Breaklines, drop offs (associated in some instances with points).
These structures for any walleye angler are traditional points of departure. There are some refinements in relation to these structures that seem to produce better angling opportunities in the fall .Firstly the upstream side of the structure seems better than those that are not hit directly by current. If the "upstream" drop off has a "cup" shape to it this will be another spot within a spot that requires yet more investigation. Finally, a structure will be better if it has different shelves. Fish will position themselves at different depths throughout the day – morning shallower – throughout the day deeper and during the evening the fish will rise upon the break line. A final reflection which transfers itself to the prior structural consideration ‘Humps" more often than not the up current side or the side of the hump which is exposed to the deeper water, will generally hold the most active fish in the fall.
This last, but also well known structural element, has many manifestations. We've all fished in front of bridge piers, in the front of islands and in neck down areas on large rivers. Often times, there are other structural elements already mentioned related to these obstructions. In my experience, the greater the number of structural elements, associated with an obstruction, the better the spot. Neck down areas, however, pose a difficulty when defining them as a structural element and they exist in numerous places on the Red and Winnipeg rivers. I realize that they might be defined by some as other structural elements, but in my opinion, these are more obstructions than anything else. Neck down areas are where the river's current is forced to rise up and through an area ---- an obstruction by any other name. Moreover it is the effect of these neck down areas that is of importance to the angler. These areas allow a fish to remain pinned against the bottom (using a type of hydrostatic pressure) requiring little effort to remain there all the while allowing the fish to remain in one place and have the food come to them. If the angler can find these areas he can set up so as to present an offering to these fish who are just waiting for a meal to come to them. The other more traditional obstructions provide fish with the same conditions explaining why they are productive angling locations in the fall. After having completed the process of reflection, on the fall structures that give success, I arrived at the realization that many of the structures aforementioned, are also hotspots for angling in the spring and summer on other rivers. The English River in N.W. Ontario has many of the structures mentioned here and has excellent fishing throughout the summer with one variation – as summer progresses, you will fish a little deeper.
Location, location, location… as the business word would have it, is also an imperative in the angling world. Taking some of these ideas to a river near you in the fall may increase your chance at catching that ‘eye of a lifetime.