Mossy Oak Fishing Team member Johnnie Candle from Devils Lake, North Dakota, loves to fish and guide for walleyes, fishing all over the U.S. and Canada. For more information on walleye fishing, check out https://www.johnniecandle.com/.
Our fall fishing in North Dakota for walleyes starts about the middle of September. To me, fall is triggered by our first frost, which usually occurs September 10 – 15. The weeds begin dying off, so many of the walleyes holding in the weed beds will vacate those weed beds and generally will move to the first major rocky structure they can find. Where I fish at Devils Lake, the walleyes will be in water depths of 15-20 feet of water.
I like to find large stretches of rocks that I can troll. I’ll either use a bottom bouncer with a spinner combination, tipped with a piece of night crawler or a piece of artificial bait like Berkley Gulp! Or, I’ll put large crankbaits on my trolling lines like a No. 9 Berkley Flicker Shad, a Rapala No. 12 Down Deep Husky Jerk or a large Reef Runner. These lures are very popular fall fishing crankbaits for walleye. I like to cover a lot of water as fast as I can to locate the walleyes that are actively feeding.
The fall triggers big walleye to bite. The word “big” when you’re talking about walleyes is determined by the body of water you’re fishing. Traditionally, in the fall is when the largest walleyes in any water system become the most active. Here in Devils Lake, ND, I’ll catch walleyes that the month before may have weighed 2-4 pounds, but they will have become 4-7 pound walleyes by the fall. Occasionally, we’ll catch walleyes in the 8-10 pound class. Water like you find at the Lake of the Woods in Minnesota, known as the Walleye Capital of the World, or the Great Lakes is where the 10-12 pound trophy walleyes start showing up. There’s something about that cooler water that stimulates those large female walleyes and tells them that winter is coming. They realize they’ve got bodies full of eggs, and they must feed up to keep those eggs viable through the winter. But I know for certain that the big females really like to bite when the water starts cooling off.
Typically, you won’t catch as many walleyes in the fall as you will in the summer months. During the summer months, we may catch 30-50, one to three pound eater walleyes per day. Although from September to November, we only may catch 15-20 walleyes per day, we’re targeting the walleyes that weight four to six pounds each with a few trophy walleyes that will weigh more than six pounds.
On Devils Lake, where I primarily fish, we’re allowed to keep five walleyes per day, and you can only have 10 in your possession. For instance, if you’re here for a week’s vacation, you can only have 10 walleyes in your cooler at one time.
Walleye fishing can be a challenge in the fall. One of the things I look for in the early fall is where schools of baitfish are already broken up. When I locate walleyes, I can get right on top of them and use jigging tactics to catch them.