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Locating & Catching Fall Salmon

By Lucas Ciezki - October 1, 2014
October and November are great months for anglers to pursue their favorite species throughout the Midwest. Trophy fish of all kinds are being caught in lakes, rivers and streams. While many species require a boat to target, I choose to tackle my favorite species, salmonids, from shore. The trout and salmon that migrate toward the shores of Lake Michigan, and eventually into its tributaries, will peak in October and November. Each year the largest fish are consistently caught from within the major tributaries or areas near their mouths. There are many things that contribute to a successful trip when targeting these powerful aquatic creatures; however, within this article I will examine two factors that I deem most important to consider during your next outing. These factors are remaining mobile and lure selection.
Think about a typical fishing trip you had while angling from a boat this past summer and consider how many times you changed locations to seek out larger concentrations of fish. I apply the same principle while shore fishing as I search for congregations of spawning trout and salmon in the major tributaries that connect to Lake Michigan. Timing, water temperature and level will dictate where in the river these fish will gather on any given day. It is imperative to note that these groups of fish, along with fresh fish entering the river, will not remain idle during the fall run. Consequently, remaining mobile during this time of year is vital to discovering where the larger concentrations of fish are each day. My typical strategy is to start closer to the river mouth and progress upstream until I locate an active large grouping of fish. If I fish a spot for 30 minutes without a strike and there is little surface activity I will simply move to an upstream location and repeat the process until I am confident in a given area. In essence, moving just like I would in a boat on favorite inland lake.

Each year anglers choose from hundreds, if not thousands, of lures to utilize when targeting trout and salmon from shore. One must realize that there is not a single lure that is perfect for all situations in this style of fishing; rather, knowing the strengths of your lures and when to use them is the key to catching fish. The remainder of this article details how I catch fall run salmonids outside of river mouths and in the shallows of large tributaries.

When observing fellow anglers fishing deeper water situations, such as harbor and marinas bordering tributaries, a reoccurring theme is the utilization of presentations that display a horizontal retrieve (anglers just cast out a bait and reel it back in). Knowing that, I tend to focus my attention on lures that exhibit a more vertical presentation. Not only will this presentation stand out to the fish, it will effectively cover the lower half of the water column that most horizontal lures tend to neglect in deep water situations. Although it is common to witness numerous trout and salmon surfacing on a given day during October and November, it is important to note that some fish are more bottom oriented. Therefore, choosing a lure that offers a more vertical presentation is effective at targeting fish that most anglers inadvertently pass by. Two lures that are worth mentioning for this situation are Acme's Kastmaster Spoon and Vibration Tackle's Echotail. Kastmaster Spoons have a unique body design that displays an erratic falling motion coupled with tremendous casting distance. The Echotail offers the power of a blade-bait combined with a soft plastic Kalin's Grub tail making it extremely effective when jigged vertically during the retrieve. Offering a different presentation than the guys around you is often the key to getting results within a highly pressured fishing area.

When fish move into the tribs I go in search mode with a more horizontal presentation to cover as much water as possible. This tactic will allow me to evaluate a spot quickly and decide if I need to move upstream to a more fruitful location. The market is saturated with lures that are retrieved in a horizontal fashion. Like I mentioned previously, offering the fish a different presentation is crucial when fishing in heavily pressured areas. Therefore, I tend to use a spoon with a different body design because their action sets themselves apart from others. Acme's KO Wobbler and Thunderbolt spoons have consistently put fish in my net. I am sure many Great Lakes anglers are familiar with the side to side swagger that the KO Wobblers emits; however, the Thunderbolt is an underutilized lure. Coming in smaller sizes that are excellent for inland trout, the uniquely curved lure offers unmatched action that is equally effective on Coho and Kings. With a simple jerk of the rod tip, one will notice a unique darting action that turns following fish into strikers.

While there are numerous trophy species to chase in October and November, try taking a trip to the many different shoreline opportunities that Lake Michigan and its tributaries have to offer. The excitement of fighting a species of fish that spends more time out of the water than in it during a fight is why I look forward to these two months more than any other. Remaining mobile and offering a unique or different presentation to these trout and salmon is the best advice I can give to a novice angler.

Author Lucas Ciezki
Lucas Ciezki
Lucas Ciezki has turned fishing into his lifestyle over the last 26 years of his life. Born in North Carolina, Lucas grew up fishing trout streams and the East Coast for a variety of fish species. Now Lucas resides in Southeastern Wisconsin and specializes in Great Lakes tributaries for salmon and trout, walleye and deep water pike fishing. Traveling across the state to chase after different species, Lucas has a great understanding of the fishing opportunities Wisconsin has to offer. He has been a part of the fishing industry for the last five years sharing his knowledge and passion for the sport with fellow anglers.

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