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When does the “fall bite” for river smallmouth really begin in your eyes, and how much better is it really than summer?


Ohioguy25

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I always hear people hype this year after year, but my best fishing has always been in September this time of year. After October I find them harder and harder to locate, with far fewer fish and the occasional big bite.

 

Perhaps I’m not fishing this transitional period properly and focusing on summer patterns when I should be targeting their wintering areas? A lot of people hold the belief that within a week of the autumnal equinox they begin making their way to where they will spend the winter.

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In the susky when fall starts to roll around the river starts going in high spells. I always follow high water patterns no matter what the time of year is. 
 

Smallies are very nomadic. Some are going to stay in the summer homes for a little bit yet. Others will start to make the move. As you said it’s the transition. Deep into fall is when most of the smallies will be in or around their winter homes. Although there will be some roamers up shallow. 
 

all in all you have to be adaptive and it will pay off big.

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For me it’s always based on water temperature.  Mother nature doesn’t always follow the calendar.

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12 minutes ago, TOXIC said:

For me it’s always based on water temperature.  Mother nature doesn’t always follow the calendar.

Agreed, and for whatever reason in our area - when the water temp hits the magic 53 degrees - I automatically get strep throat and miss work for a week..

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Mid-October through the middle to end of November is when most of the big fish are caught in Northern Illinois. September is still mostly summer patterns. The water temperatures must be dipping down to the low to mid 50’s for the big fish to come out and feed.

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5 hours ago, Darnold335 said:

In the susky when fall starts to roll around the river starts going in high spells. I always follow high water patterns no matter what the time of year is. 
 

Smallies are very nomadic. Some are going to stay in the summer homes for a little bit yet. Others will start to make the move. As you said it’s the transition. Deep into fall is when most of the smallies will be in or around their winter homes. Although there will be some roamers up shallow. 
 

all in all you have to be adaptive and it will pay off big.

The section of the Susky I fish has a number of stretches that are always 4' or less in depth unless the river is in flood stage. I catch both numbers and size of Smallmouth in those areas from ice-out to when the river freezes over. The fish are more active in cooler water....say below 65F, and the big ones turn on in the fall when the water hits about 58F....or any day after a hard frost, no matter what the water temperature is as long as it is not frozen.

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1 hour ago, Ohioguy25 said:

And what temp would that be?

I agree with most on here.  My area and the waters I fish when it drops below 60 and the baitfish are schooling is when I start  my fall tactics.  I find it’s close for both largemouth and smallmouth but the smallies will aggressively feed in colder waters when the largemouth will start getting dormant. 

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The best river smallmouth fishing always occurred for me in midsummer - July and August. Once we started to get cooler nights and lower daytime temps of September, the bite shut off. I experienced this for almost 20 years, so I stopped trying after Labor Day in the river and started lake fishing again.

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26 minutes ago, gimruis said:

The best river smallmouth fishing always occurred for me in midsummer - July and August. Once we started to get cooler nights and lower daytime temps of September, the bite shut off. I experienced this for almost 20 years, so I stopped trying after Labor Day in the river and started lake fishing again.

Interesting, where are you located?

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6 minutes ago, Ohioguy25 said:

Interesting, where are you located?

Central MN. Bear in mind my river fishing is in a small, shallow river with moderate current. Not a big deeper river where you can launch a full size boat that often fishes more like a lake.

 

I was not able to river fish this summer because of drought. But most years I am able to.

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10 hours ago, roadwarrior said:

October 15.

 

The best part of the smallmouth "season" is 10/15 - 3/15.  My biggest have been caught

in January.

You'd find it exceptionally difficult to fish for most of that time where I live. ?

10 hours ago, TOXIC said:

For me it’s always based on water temperature.  Mother nature doesn’t always follow the calendar.

Yep.

Where I live - NW WI - is gong to be whole bunch different from someone down south...

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15 minutes ago, PaulVE64 said:

In my area (Ontario) I find it starts soon after the first full moon in September and a weeklong temperature drop of say 10 degrees.

What does the first full moon have to do with it? That could be on September 1 or the 29th or any day in between.

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5 hours ago, PaulVE64 said:

Moon fazes are something of a trigger for wildlife in general, smallies seem to move with that trend. 

There have been studies indicating the whitetail rut timing may be influence by moon phases. 

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On 9/15/2023 at 6:51 AM, Darnold335 said:

I’ve also been told that during moon phases is when the fish actually release their eggs during spawn. Could be a 50/50 thing. 

That would actually make sense that the better light would help

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On 9/15/2023 at 6:51 AM, Darnold335 said:

I’ve also been told that during moon phases is when the fish actually release their eggs during spawn. Could be a 50/50 thing. 

True but fish instinctively know if their eggs will survive in the water temperature.  So if the lunar cycle is telling them it’s time to spawn and the water temperature is telling them their eggs will not survive, they will not spawn.  If it goes on long enough they will just absorb the eggs and not spawn. 

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