Shore fishing fall river walleyes is one of my favorite outdoor activities.
Not only do I get to enjoy the spectacular fall folliage and weather, but I can reward myself with a delicious walleye dinner after a day on on the water. I will fish for eyes in the spring and catch one occasionally in the summer but I start actively targeting them in the fall. Once the water temps in the Susquehanna start to drop off of their summertime highs the walleyes really put on the feed bag. They need to put on pounds to sustain them through the winter and come out in the spring healthy and strong for the spawn. A skinny 24 inch 4 pound summer walleye will add a couple pounds in the fall months and be a fat and happy 6 or 7 pounder by years end.
My favorite methods for shore fishing fall river walleyes is to fish live baits: shiners and chubs and small suckers. I will drift the my baits along current breaks with a hook and split shot rig or, bounce/swim white lead head jigs with a 2 or 3 inch powerbait twister tails along the bottom of the adjacent slack water. Favored tail colors are chartreuse, and chartreuse combinations, black, white and yellow work well too. I like to trap my own bait to tip my walleye rigs and jigs with. Fresh local bait is hardier than store bait store bait and will as they say “match the hatch”. I’m not knocking bait store baits I do use them successfully when ever I cannot obtain any wild baits. Medium to large fatheads seem to work better than the commercial shiners for me.
Another method for shore fishing fall river walleyes is to use crank baits. Using Rapalas and other brands of crankbaits can get expensive when fishing the rocky shorelines that walleyes prefer but crankbaits do produce fish. Rapala husky jerks and X-Raps are good choices. One thing I do is carry a few cheaper knock offs to sacrifice when I’m trying a new spot. If I can get in a dozen casts with out snagging or breaking off the cheaper imitation I will tie on the more pricey lures. The problem encountered with the crankbaits is that as a shore fisher you are reeling a diving lure right into the bottom of the river as opposed to fishing from a boat where you are reeling away from the shallow bottom and towards the deep. I guess that is one of the reasons that I have grown fond of fishing jigs they are cheap, get the job done and it doesn’t hurt to loose a dozen or so on an outing.
As for gear, I like a longer rod. I have an 8’6″ South Bend Black Beauty and an and an 8’4″ St Croix Eyecon bait rod. I use Shimano Symetre reels on both rods. I load them with Trilene XL Smooth Casting line in either 6 or 8 pound test. Depending on conditions and where I will be fishing I may be using chest waders, or knee high boots, a bucket or a Frabil Flow Troll for my bait. If it is late fall and the temps are getting close to freezing wool fingerless gloves and a knit hat are indispensable. And no matter what, I am always wearing my belly pack full of tackle.
I love the fall. The crisp air and gun steel blue skies are invigorating. Knowing that the fishing will be at it best only adds to the alure of shore fishing fall river walleyes.