Novembers Big FishBy Mike Mladenik - November 1, 2005
This summer food has been at a premium on both natural lakes, reservoirs and even in the rivers. The cold spring played havoc with the forage base. Besides baitfish numbers being down crayfish are also less abundant. Most of the fish we caught in the summer looked healthy but the forage base is limited and can become depleted by late fall. So my prediction is for big fish to be more accessible to anglers.
Each year it seems that the same lakes tend to produce huge fish before ice up. Granted part of the reason is that having this reputation they receive pressure and intern produce big fish. The bottom line is that time is limited and go with the odds, go for the sure thing. This late season is tough enough and even I know when not to buck the system. Here are a few places that have potential for producing trophy fish before ice up.
For big November walleyes try mid sized clear water lakes. Large clear water lakes may have larger walleyes but they can be more difficult to locate. One favorite lake I fish each year has large walleye that evade anglers most of the year. In fact I was fishing for smallmouth in this lake in May and saw a walleye well over 30 inches holding tight to the side of a fish crib. I might have to go back to that lake this November.
With structure being limited in the lake these big walleyes have few places to move to in November. The first place and most obvious place to fish is the large point in the north central part of the lake. Use your locator to mark any fish on the deep edge of the point. If you mark fish toss out a floating marker. And drift through the area with slip sinker rigs and red tail chubs. If there is limited wind tries jigging with a jig and chub.
If the point fails to produce then head for one of the many fish cribs on the northeast shoreline. Find a crib and vertical jig with a jig and chub along the edge. Often walleyes will hold so tight to fish cribs that they are impossible to pick up even with the best electronics. Be patient and you have a possibility to boat a 10-pound plus walleye.
This is one time when fishing during the day is most productive. In summer and early fall low light is the key to this clear water lake. However even in the clear water big walleyes tend to be most active during the day. However the best days to fish are overcast days or before an incoming front.
One overlooked fish in the Northwoods in the late fall is largemouth bass. If you think pressure on largemouth bass is light in summer then wait until fall. By late fall few if anyone pursues largemouth bass. If you are after a trophy northern largemouth November is indeed the time.
The trick to finding big fall largemouth is fishing the right lakes. I have found that the best lakes to find big November largemouth are small to midsize trout lakes. Yes, I said trout lakes. These put and take trout lakes usually have a two-story fishery. The trout get pounded and nobody fished for largemouth bass. The overall largemouth bass population may only be moderate but these types of lakes grow big fish. There are many of these lakes scattered across northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula. These big largemouth will go on the feed before ice up. One lake I fish consistently produces six pound largemouth and I have yet to see another angler on the lake.
To fish for these big largemouths you will need move to a smallmouth frame of mind. Structure is limited, weeds are dead and the largemouth are relating to deep rocks. These deep rocks hold the only remaining forage in the lake. Use your electronics and your gray scale to find soft/hard bottom transition area and baitfish. Once you find this combination you will find big largemouth.
Live bait will out produce artificial on a daily basis although some artificial presentations will also work. When fishing live bait use a light jighead with an oversized hood and a red tailed chub. Tin Man Jigs are deadly in the late fall especially when vertical jigged tight to the transition area. As far as artificial bait go stick with four and five inch finesse worms and slow falling jigs.
These same trout lakes can also hold a few giant northern pike. I know of one particular lake in Michigan's Upper Peninsula that has produced 25 pound pike in the late fall. In the late fall these pike will chase the remaining trout. All that is needed here is a good set of electronics. Mark the trout and the big pike will be close buy. If ciscoes and whitefish are present in the lake, the better the odds are for giant pike.
Since trolling is allowed on these U.P. lakes take advantage of this presentation. Once you locate the suspended pike and trout troll deep diving crankbaits at the desired depths. Crankbaits with a silver or trout patterns work best. Drifting with suckers on quick strike rigs can also be productive.