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September 21, 2010

MADISON -- Buck fever is building in Wisconsin but anglers may want to hold off on packing away their fishing rods just yet. Fall offers some of the best fishing the year has to offer, state fish biologists say.

"Many species tend to congregate more as winter approaches. With winter approaching and the prospects of food becoming limited, fish actively feed during much of the day compared to an evening or morning bite during the summer months," says Brian Brecka, Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist stationed in Alma.

Here are seven reasons to keep the fishing rod out a little later into the fall:

  1. The Mississippi River. Wisconsin's waters of the Upper Mississippi River are home to more than 119 species of fish -- more than found in any of Wisconsin's inland lakes. Fish that spend the winter in river backwater habitat begin to make their move as the fall season proceeds. Bluegill, crappie, largemouth bass and northern pike can be caught around weeds and wood as water temperatures fall. Areas with slight current near backwaters can also be good for these species as some fish wait until just before ice blankets their wintering haunts to move. As fall proceeds, very basic presentations work for most backwater species. A bobber and worm for bluegill, a small jig or live minnow for crappie, and a spinnerbait or crankbait for largemouth bass and northern pike will likely put tussles on the end of your line. Try fishing in the following pools -- those stretches of river between navigation dams -- Lower Pool 4, Pool 5, Pool 5a and Pool 6. See the Mississippi River Boating Guide for information on navigating the Mississippi River. - Brian Brecka, fisheries biologist, Alma
  2. Lake Michigan tributaries. Coho, chinook and steelhead are starting to congregate in the mouths of Lake Michigan tributaries in advance of their fall spawning runs. Now's a good time to catch a fill of these Great Lakes trout and salmon. Check DNR's Lake Michigan Tributary Access and the Lake Michigan Outdoor Fishing Report and follow the fish. And find Fall Shore Fishing Close to Home], a special web page with information on the timing of spawning runs, regulations, license requirements and 50 great places to fish all within 60 miles of Wisconsin's biggest city. -- Brad Eggold, fisheries supervisor, Milwaukee
  3. Lake Superior. Fall is a great time to fish Lake Superior for trout and salmon, and this year, the fish are in top condition. Salmon are just beginning to congregate near the river mouths, but fishing will get better in the next few weeks. Coho salmon fishing has been exceptionally good since this spring and summer. A large year-class of coho salmon are coming back to spawn this year and are much larger than normal. They are so much bigger than usual -- 4 to 6 inches bigger -- that many anglers assume they are chinook salmon. They have benefited greatly from the tremendous number of small herring available. Anglers have been seeing more chinook so far this year also, again benefiting from increased forage in the lake in the last year or so. As we move into October brown trout will be showing up around the river mouths also. Anglers typically troll near the rivers or even wade near the mouths and cast for trout and salmon this time of year. Angler should start searching in deeper water but as the water temperatures drop the trout and salmon move shallower and shallower.- Mike Seider, fisheries biologist, Bayfield
  4. Bigger muskies later. In recent years, anglers have fished deep into the fall to land some of the year's biggest fish. Wisconsin has about 775 lakes and streams with thriving populations of the official state fish, but if size is the prize, try these musky waters with special regulations aimed at growing trophy fish.
  5. The bugs are going, going, gone. Wave after wave of mosquitoes chased some anglers inside this summer and kept others furiously swatting between casts. Repeated heavy rains in many parts of Wisconsin produced bumper crops of what Phil Pelliteri, UW entomologist, calls summer floodwater mosquitoes. These mosquitoes breed in temporary standing water, like that often found in ditches alongside roads or in abandoned tires. "These are the mosquitoes that make or break us," Pelliteri says. "We breed 90 percent of our mosquitoes from less than 10 percent of the water in Wisconsin." The good news is their breeding grounds are drying up, and the mosquitoes are not nearly as bad as they once were. Anglers are not out of the woods yet. "It takes three hard freezes before I consider it being over," Pelliteri says. But the cooler temperatures definitely slow mosquito activity. They have trouble flying when temperatures are below 50 degrees or winds exceed 10 miles per hour. The cooler fall temperatures also slow their development, which could be a saving grace if heavy rains arrive soon and allow one more crop of mosquitoes. Watch out for deer ticks, a problem 'til snow arrives.
  6. The days are cooler and the fishing more comfortable. A quick scan of average September temperatures for several Wisconsin weather stations shows a drop off of about 10 degrees from August. See the average for your favorite fall fishing hole. Check the Midwest Regional Climate Center's (exit DNR) summary of temperatures.
  7. Less competition for fish. It's not your imagination. There are fewer anglers out on the water in the fall. DNR fisheries researcher Brian Weigel analyzed numbers from the 2006-2007 statewide mail survey of anglers, the most recent such survey, and found that angler effort in the fall is much lower and less consistent in the fall before picking up with the start of ice fishing in December.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Mississippi River, Brian Brecka - (608) 685-6221; Lake Michigan, Brad Eggold - (414) 382-7921; Lake Superior, Mike Seider - (715) 779-4035

Last Revised: Tuesday, September 21, 2010

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