Outdoors - T'is season for fishing

October 14, 2000

Outdoors - T'is season for fishing

Most of the outdoors activity is now centered on the various hunting seasons. This is a great time of the year for hunters, but also one of the very best times for fishermen. Veteran bass anglers know that the first frosty nights of fall seem to invigorate the bass, triggering some aggressive reactions to baits and lures.

Trout fishing can also be excellent in the fall. Many of the most popular waters receive special stockings, which can lead to some excellent fishing opportunities. And, with so many people focused on hunting, the fall trout waters are almost always less crowded than in the spring.

Many bass anglers talk of "turn-over" in the fall, or will say that the lake is turning over, and speculate on how it will affect fishing. Many anglers believe that fishing will be poor during turnover, but will improve when turnover is completed. To the average fishermen, this talk of turnover can be hard to understand.


The concept of turnover is based upon the fact that most lakes and impoundments have several layers of water of different temperatures. The coldest water is at the bottom of the lake, because cold water, just like cold air, is heavier. Cold water (and cold air) sinks; warm water stays at the top of the lake.

This is one of the reasons that tailwaters below dams are such good trout fisheries. The waters released from the bottom of the lake are quite cold throughout the year, and rich with oxygen. In other words, it's perfect habitat for trout.

The basic physics of the situation causes great changes at this time of year. The cold nights of October and November cool the surface waters, and as the surface water becomes colder it gets heavier. The waters are mixed by wave and wind action, and over a period of cold fall nights, the water of the top and bottom actually trade places until the water temperature becomes fairly uniform throughout the water column.

Turnover is just one of many changes that are occurring in the fall, but many believe it is the most important. The underwater vegetation is also dying off, and the oxygen level of the water is becoming more uniform as the temperatures become more uniform in the lake.

When you mix all the factors together, you have the basis for some exciting fishing. Bass often move into fairly predictable feeding areas in the fall. If you find the right patterns, you can enjoy excellent action.

In many of the lakes of our region, a productive fall pattern is to fish rocky flats and points with jigs. Crayfish are one of the most important fall forage items and a jig and pig or tube lure can do a great job of imitating crayfish moving across the bottom.

Another great pattern in the fall is to bounce a deep running crankbait across the rocky bottom of a lake. The most successful approach seems to include using a lure that dives deep enough to make frequent contact with the bottom.

River smallmouth action is also at its best in the fall. Any number of patterns can be effective. Tube lures are hot in most areas and do a good job of imitating crayfish, which are probably the most important food for river smallmouths in the fall.

The other major fishing opportunity is trout fishing, and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources announced the fall stocking schedule this week. Maryland will conduct a major stocking effort this fall with some 66,000 fish released into 75 waters.

The DNR reports that the stocking mix included some 20,000 holdover trout that will average about a pound each, and 40,000 yearling trout about 9 inches in length.

Area waters that will be stocked include Beaver Creek - 1,500 trout; Licking Creek - 1,000; Antietam Creek - 3,000; Blairs Valley Lake - 1,500; Big Pool - 1,500; Greenbrier Lake - 1,500.

Bill Anderson writes a weekly outdoors column for The Herald-Mail.

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