The people who make calendars would have you believe that February is the shortest month of the year, but anyone who enjoys the Wisconsin outdoors knows differently. Clearly, October is shorter.
With a plethora of hunting seasons now open, and the fall colors starting to glow; with temperatures perfectly suited for hiking in the woods, or just strolling along the river, this is the month to be outdoors in Wisconsin—and there aren’t enough days in October to enjoy it all.
Given the abundance of outdoor distractions available, it’s easy to overlook a favorite pastime we’ve been enjoying all year—fishing. Fall fishing is frequently the best of the year. As water temperatures cool, lakes “turnover,” moving oxygen throughout the entire water column. This is the time that fish go on something of a feeding binge before the really cold weather hits.
Fall feeding frenzies are well known among the dedicated trophy fish hunters. Walleyes, bass, northern pike, even crappies and sunfish, all lard up for the upcoming winter. Don’t believe me—just ask any muskie angler you know.
Serious muskie (or musky, if you prefer) anglers get even more serious in October. They know more record fish consistently come at this time of year than any other.
This binge eating by muskies isn’t a secret—Louis Spray’s Wisconsin state and world record muskie, a 69 lb. 11 oz. monster caught in 1949, was landed on October 20. Several of the previous muskie records also came in the fall. In fact, a quick perusal of the books shows that the state’s record muskie, largemouth bass, and saugeye (walleye/sauger hybrid) were all caught in October.
Around here, the St. Croix walleyes and sauger, which were a bit lethargic in the heat, are starting to snap again. Same can be said for the river’s bass and northern pike, although they never seem to get as tight-lipped as the walleyes do in the dog days of summer.
A story is circulating about a huge smallmouth bass caught this week on the river, but you know anglers; piscatorial prevaricators to the last. Without some kind of verification, or at least a photo, this one will stay a rumor.
For those more inclined to smaller water, and less inclined to hyperbole, one of the better lakes in the area, Perch Lake, is a consistent panfish producer pretty much year-round. Right now the trout are back on the bite, too.
Mark Erickson, a St. Paul resident who fishes Perch regularly, found that both the sunfish and the rainbows were cooperating earlier this week.
Erickson has been fishing Perch on a weekly basis for a couple of years, in summer and in winter. Recently he has found fish in three feet of water, all the way out to 40+ feet. With Perch lake’s clear, cold, and deep water, it takes some experimentation every time you fish it.
Undaunted by the possibilities, and sporting a kayak equipped for virtually any contingency, Erickson had in his arsenal spinning gear and fly rods. He used big deep diving plugs, tiny lead-head jigs, and even tinier wet flies. He was having his best success with the jigs this week, but alternates his presentation consistently until he identifies a steady pattern in fish behavior. It can change day-today, or even hour-to-hour. But then every angler already knows that, right?
You won’t catch any record muskies in Perch Lake, but there are good numbers of other fish there. If you want trophies, the St. Croix certainly has the variety of fish, and the size, too—if the stories are true.