Fall fishing in the Almaguin Highlands is one of the great outdoor pursuits in the wilderness just north of Toronto. With incredible landscapes all around, it’s just like spring fishing in fact, before the waters warm up – but far more rewarding. Fall is also great because there are fewer boats on the water and services are easier to obtain. Not to mention the spectacular colours of autumn in Almaguin!
Be sure to pack a thermometer (that can read temperature at depths) in your tackle box or get a sonar with a built-in thermometer. Big fish use parts of the water that offer them comfortable temperatures, and this is the number one factor to consider when fishing in fall.
What To Fish For in Almaguin
Pike, no matter what size, are an awesome fish to target, fight and either harvest or release, and the region has many trophy fish waiting to be caught at any time of year! Fall is a great time for pike as well, and water temperature is the main factor for a successful trip.
Most lake waters are stratified by temperature. In the fall these layers start to turn over. This period can start in late August to the middle of September at a depth (generally between 28- to 32-feet). The thermal decline separates the warmer waters from the oxygen depleted cooler waters below. For a few days before and after the fall turn over, feeding shuts down. This can happen anywhere between the middle of September to the end of October depending on the lake and the weather. Prior to the turn over, most of the forage base (minnows, perch) can be found in the 3- to 6-foot of water range, meaning that fast drop-offs are key to finding big pike.
After the turn over, most of the forage fish move to the 16- to18-foot range. Finding a small bump on an open flat in that 14- to 20-foot range can hold schools of bait fish and also predators. You can often see them on your depth finder. Here too you will find the big ones hovering just outside of the school. Trolling the flats can be productive. During the fall period, you’ll find all sizes and species of fish mixed together. All predators follow the migration of the minnows from the shallow weed beds to the open expansive deeper flats in lakes.
Smallies move on to points in lakes as the water temperature drops to 15° C / 60° F. They like to gather on the extreme ends of points closer to deep water. The deeper sides of a point are also good spots to try. They tend to suspend in deep channels, but do move to shallower waters during the daytime. Try top-water lures like a Zara puppy on a warm fall day. Use the same lures you used in the summer, adding big crank baits.
Smallies tend to school tightly by size in the fall, and are not as scattered as they are spring. Once you find them, you usually have a whole school. If the fish you’re catching are small, move to deeper water! Keep in mind their feeding slows in the fall when water temperature drop below 5° C / 40° F. When this happens, you may want to consider targeting an other species.
Walleye fishing in the cool weather of autumn is second only to early spring. When the temperature of a lake goes down and after the water turns over the fun begins! Try fishing at night in the fall when you shiver (with excitement as much as cooler evening temperatures) as the line goes tight and the fish takes off for deeper water.
In many lakes in the Almaguin Highlands there is a False Run – at about 7.2° C or 45° F. The fish school up in the same areas where in the spring they go to spawn. This is where you want to be. As the water temperature drops lower, they then disperse around the lake.
Walleye seem to like the break between shallow and deep water at this time of year. They will school in a deep hole and feed in the shallow waters around the edge, during the day. Try trolling or jigging along these areas with a minnow, and don’t be afraid to try different depths.
I have fished in many places, and the Almaguin Highlands of Ontario remain one of my favourite spots to cast a line – especially in autumn. Plan a getaway to the region, and see what makes this place so unforgettable for fisher folk in the fall.
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Guest Blogger: Ken Turner
An avid fisherman, Ken Turner was involved in fish conservation in the Almaguin Highlands for many years. He is the former owner, with his wife Carole, of a resort on Ahmic Lake in Magnetawan, Ontario. He is also a former board member of NOTO and Explorers’ Edge.