Top 12 Places to Fish in the Fall

As summer’s warmth begins to fade and the leaves don their vibrant hues, anglers across the United States eagerly anticipate one of the most exhilarating seasons for fishing: fall. The transformation of landscapes brings about an extraordinary shift in fishing, making it the perfect time to pack your fishing gear and head out to some of the best places to fish in the fall.

Whether you’re a seasoned angler looking for new challenges or a novice eager to experience the thrill of fall fishing, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we’ll explore the top 12 places for fall fishing across the country, each offering unique opportunities to reel in a diverse array of species against a backdrop of breathtaking fall foliage.

Why Fish in the Fall?

Before we dive into the specifics of these angler’s paradises, you might wonder why fall is such a revered season among fishing enthusiasts. The answer lies in the remarkable changes that occur both above and below the water’s surface during this time.

First and foremost, fall marks the onset of migration for many fish species. As temperatures cool and daylight hours get shorter, fish embark on their annual journeys, making their way to spawning grounds or following baitfish movements. This mass movement of fish creates prime conditions for anglers, as you’ll have the opportunity to catch various species in larger numbers.

Cooler temperatures and decreased recreational boating traffic also provide a serene and peaceful fishing experience. You’ll have more of the water to yourself and can fully immerse in the natural beauty of fall.

Now that you know why fishing in the fall is one of the best times of the year, dive in and uncover the secrets of fall fishing in some of the most stunning locations across the nation.

The Great Lakes Region

Stretching like vast inland seas across the northern United States, the Great Lakes hold a special place in the hearts of anglers. The combination of their size, depth, and the diverse fish species they house makes them one of the most captivating fall fishing destinations.

Lake Erie, Ohio

  1. Walleye Wonderland: Lake Erie, often referred to as the “Walleye Capital of the World,” comes alive in the fall. As water temperatures drop, walleye become more active and easier to catch. The western basin, including areas near cities like Toledo and Sandusky, is particularly renowned for fall walleye fishing.
  2. Smallmouth Bass Bonanza: Beyond walleye, Lake Erie also offers excellent smallmouth bass fishing during the fall. The rocky shorelines and abundant structure make for ideal smallmouth habitat. Anglers often target them with jigs and soft plastics.
  3. Perch Paradise: Yellow perch are another popular target in Lake Erie. Fall marks their movement to shallower waters, providing anglers with fantastic opportunities to catch them in large numbers.

B. Lake Michigan, Illinois

  1. Salmon Spectacle: Lake Michigan boasts one of the most impressive salmon runs in the country during the fall. Chinook salmon and coho salmon migrate from the open lake into tributaries like the Salmon River and St. Joseph River to spawn. This spectacle draws anglers from far and wide.
  2. Trout Trails: Besides salmon, Lake Michigan offers excellent trout fishing. Brown trout and lake trout are commonly found near the shorelines during the fall, making it an exciting time for trout enthusiasts.

C. Lake Champlain, Vermont/New York

  1. Bountiful Bass: Lake Champlain, straddling the border between Vermont and New York, is famous for its outstanding bass fishing. In the fall, both largemouth and smallmouth bass are actively feeding before the onset of winter. Explore the lake’s various bays and coves for your best chances.
  2. Pike Pursuits: Northern pike also thrive in Lake Champlain, and fall is an excellent time to target them. These toothy predators become more aggressive as temperatures drop, making them an exciting catch for anglers.
  3. Scenic Splendor: Beyond the fishing, Lake Champlain’s stunning fall foliage and breathtaking landscapes provide an awe-inspiring backdrop for your fishing adventures. Don’t forget to take in the natural beauty that surrounds you.

The Great Lakes Region offers an impressive lineup of fall fishing experiences, from walleye and salmon runs to bass bonanzas and more. Whether you’re a fan of trolling, fly fishing, or casting from the shoreline, these Great Lakes destinations have something to offer every angler seeking to make unforgettable autumn memories.

The Northeastern Experience

As autumn paints the landscapes with a vibrant palette of reds, oranges, and yellows, the northeastern part of the United States unveils its own breathtaking fall fishing experiences. From pristine rivers to picturesque coastlines, this region offers diverse opportunities for anglers to embrace the changing seasons.

Kennebec River, Maine

  1. Atlantic Salmon Quest: The Kennebec River in Maine is a renowned destination for anglers seeking Atlantic salmon. Fall is prime time for these prized fish as they return from the sea to spawn. The Kennebec’s cool waters and rich forage base provide an ideal environment for salmon.
  2. Striper Season: Striped bass, a favorite among saltwater anglers, make their way up the Kennebec River during the fall, chasing baitfish. This presents an exciting opportunity to catch trophy-sized stripers in a scenic river setting.

Cape Cod, Massachusetts

  1. Cape Cod Canal Catches: Cape Cod, with its picturesque landscapes and abundant fishing opportunities, is a fall angler’s paradise. The Cape Cod Canal, in particular, is famous for its fall run of striped bass and bluefish. Anglers gather along the canal’s banks, hoping for epic battles with these powerful fish.
  2. Albie Action: Fall also signals the arrival of false albacore (albies) to Cape Cod’s waters. These speedy and hard-fighting fish are a favorite among fly anglers and light tackle enthusiasts. Cape Cod’s shores and bays become hotspots for chasing albies during their migration.

Upper Delaware River, New York/Pennsylvania

  1. Trout and Scenery: The Upper Delaware River, straddling the border of New York and Pennsylvania, offers exceptional trout fishing in a stunning setting. Fall brings cooler temperatures and reduced recreational activity, creating tranquil conditions for anglers to target brown and rainbow trout.
  2. Smallmouth and Pike Paradise: Beyond trout, the Upper Delaware River is home to smallmouth bass and northern pike. These species become more active as water temperatures cool, making autumn an opportune time to catch them. The river’s rocky structures and scenic beauty add to the experience.
  3. Fly Fishing Haven: The Upper Delaware River is a fly fishing haven, and fall provides fantastic opportunities for fly anglers to test their skills against a variety of fish species. Whether you’re drifting nymphs for trout or throwing streamers for bass, this river system offers endless possibilities.

The northeastern United States delivers an array of fall fishing adventures, from chasing Atlantic salmon in Maine to battling striped bass along Cape Cod’s shores and enjoying serene moments on the Upper Delaware River.

The Southern Charm

While the southern states may not experience the dramatic foliage changes of their northern counterparts, they offer their own unique charm for fall fishing. With mild temperatures and abundant aquatic life, these destinations beckon anglers to experience autumn on the water.

Lake Okeechobee, Florida

  1. Largemouth Bass Capital: Lake Okeechobee is often hailed as the “Largemouth Bass Capital of the World,” and fall is an excellent time to understand why. As temperatures begin to cool slightly, largemouth bass become more active and often move to shallower waters. Topwater action and flipping techniques can yield exceptional results.
  2. Bird Watching Bonus: Fall is also the time when birdwatchers and anglers alike flock to Lake Okeechobee. The lake’s vast expanse attracts a variety of bird species, including migratory waterfowl and wading birds. It’s not uncommon to spot herons, egrets, and even bald eagles during your fishing adventures.

Gulf Shores, Alabama

  1. Redfish Rally: Gulf Shores, with its pristine beaches and abundant estuaries, offers fantastic inshore fishing in the fall. Redfish are a popular target during this season, as they move into the shallows to feed. Sight casting to these copper-colored brutes is an adrenaline-pumping experience.
  2. Speckled Trout Triumph: Speckled trout are another prized catch along the Gulf Shores. Fall brings cooler water temperatures, and trout become more active in search of baitfish. Wade fishing along the sandy shores or fishing from a kayak can lead to memorable encounters with these speckled beauties.

Lake Lanier, Georgia

  1. Striking Striper Action: Lake Lanier, situated in the picturesque foothills of Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, offers exciting striper fishing during the fall. As water temperatures cool, stripers migrate to the surface, making them more accessible to anglers. Trolling, live bait, or casting artificial lures are popular methods for targeting these powerful fish.
  2. Hybrid Heaven: Lake Lanier is also known for hybrid striped bass, which become more active in the cooler fall months. These hybrids offer a thrilling fight and are often found in schools, making for consistent action.
  3. Scenic Serenity: Beyond the fishing, Lake Lanier provides a serene backdrop for fall fishing adventures. The combination of clear waters, rolling hills, and colorful foliage creates an idyllic setting for anglers seeking both relaxation and excitement.

The southern United States may not showcase the classic fall foliage, but it offers an abundance of warm-weather fishing opportunities. From the renowned largemouth bass of Lake Okeechobee to the redfish of Gulf Shores and the striper action on Lake Lanier, southern destinations are ripe with angling possibilities.

The Western Wonders

The western United States boasts some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the country, and it’s no surprise that fall fishing in this region offers anglers not only fantastic fishing opportunities but also stunning natural beauty. From alpine lakes to pristine rivers, the West is a treasure trove for those seeking a fall fishing adventure.

Lake Tahoe, California/Nevada

  1. High-Altitude Excellence: Lake Tahoe, nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountains, provides a unique fall fishing experience. As the temperatures drop at this high altitude, lake trout and mackinaw become more active, making it an excellent time to target these cold-water species. Deep trolling and downrigging are common techniques.
  2. Scenic Splendor: Lake Tahoe’s crystal-clear waters and the surrounding mountains create a breathtaking setting for fall fishing. The changing leaves on the aspens and cottonwoods add a vibrant touch to an already picturesque landscape.

Columbia River, Washington/Oregon

  1. Salmon Spectacle: The Columbia River is legendary for its salmon runs, and fall is the peak season to witness this natural phenomenon. Chinook salmon, coho salmon, and even sockeye salmon make their way upstream to spawn. Anglers flock to the Columbia’s tributaries and mainstem to try their luck at catching these prized fish.
  2. Sturgeon Surprises: Fall is also an ideal time to target white sturgeon in the Columbia River. These prehistoric giants become more active as water temperatures drop. Sturgeon fishing offers a unique challenge and the chance to hook into a massive fish.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

  1. Trout Treasures: Yellowstone National Park is a fly angler’s paradise, and fall brings excellent trout fishing opportunities. The park’s rivers and streams are teeming with native cutthroat, brown, and rainbow trout. Casting dry flies amid the backdrop of geysers and hot springs is a fly angler’s dream come true.
  2. Elk Rut Excitement: Fall in Yellowstone isn’t just about fishing; it’s also the season of the elk rut. While you’re not casting lines, you can witness the mesmerizing spectacle of bull elk bugling and competing for mates—a unique bonus to your fishing trip.

The western United States offers a wide range of fall fishing adventures, from the serene beauty of Lake Tahoe to the salmon runs of the Columbia River and the iconic landscapes of Yellowstone National Park. Whether you’re chasing trout in alpine lakes or battling salmon in mighty rivers, the West has something to offer every angler.

Tips and Tricks for Fall Fishing

As you cast your line into the fall fishing adventures in these diverse and scenic locations across the United States, it’s essential to be well-prepared and armed with the knowledge to maximize your success. Fall fishing can be incredibly rewarding, but it also presents its own set of challenges. Here are some tips and tricks to help you make the most of your autumn angling experiences:

Gear and Tackle Considerations

  1. Adjust Your Tackle: In fall, fish behavior changes as water temperatures drop. Be prepared to switch to smaller lures or baits as fish may become more selective. Experiment with different colors and patterns to see what works best in the changing conditions.
  2. Cold-Weather Clothing: Fall weather can be unpredictable, so dress in layers to stay warm and dry. Waterproof and insulated clothing, as well as gloves, are essential for staying comfortable during longer fishing trips.
  3. Light the Way: Days are shorter in the fall, and you may find yourself fishing in low light conditions. Carry a reliable headlamp or flashlight, as well as spare batteries, to navigate and tie knots in the dark.

Weather and Water Conditions

  1. Monitor Water Temperature: Fish are cold-blooded creatures, so their activity levels are closely tied to water temperature. Use a thermometer to gauge the water temperature and adjust your fishing techniques accordingly.
  2. Pay Attention to Wind: Wind can be your ally or your adversary. On windy days, baitfish may be pushed closer to shore, attracting predators. Conversely, calm days may require you to seek out deeper, cooler waters.
  3. Stay Informed: Keep an eye on weather forecasts and be aware of approaching cold fronts or storms. These weather patterns can significantly affect fish behavior. Fish are often more active right before a front arrives. Additionally, weather can quickly change for the worse, especially along the southern coastline states such as Texas and Florida. Mid summer into late fall is hurricane season.

Species to Target

  1. Research Local Fisheries: Each of the featured fall fishing locations has its own unique fish species and seasonal patterns. Do your research and learn about the target species in the area you plan to visit. Understanding their habits and habitats will give you an edge.
  2. Multi-Species Approach: Fall fishing offers a unique opportunity to target multiple species in the same area. Consider bringing a variety of tackle and equipment to take advantage of the diverse fish populations.
  3. Match the Hatch: Pay attention to the forage base in the area. Mimicking the size and color of the local baitfish or prey can increase your chances of success. Check the stomach contents of caught fish for clues.

By carefully considering your gear, understanding local weather and water conditions, and knowing the behavior of the species you’re targeting, you’ll be well-prepared for a successful and enjoyable fall fishing adventure.

Planning Your Fall Fishing Trip

A successful fall fishing trip requires careful planning to ensure you have the right gear, accommodations, and knowledge to make the most of your time on the water. Whether you’re embarking on a solo adventure or a group outing, these planning tips will help you prepare for an unforgettable autumn fishing excursion:

Accommodations and Lodging

  1. Book Early: Fall is a popular season for fishing, so accommodations in prime fishing areas can fill up quickly. To secure your preferred lodging options, make reservations well in advance.
  2. Consider On-Site Lodging: Many fishing destinations offer on-site accommodations, such as cabins, lodges, or campsites. These options can provide convenience and proximity to the best fishing spots.
  3. Local Knowledge: If you’re unfamiliar with the area, consider staying with local guides or in accommodations where you can tap into the knowledge of seasoned anglers. They can offer valuable insights into fishing conditions, hotspots, and local regulations.

Travel Tips

  1. Check Regulations: Familiarize yourself with the fishing regulations in the area you plan to visit. Different locations may have specific rules regarding catch limits, bait usage, and fishing seasons.
  2. Fishing Licenses: Ensure you have the necessary fishing licenses and permits for the state or region you’ll be fishing in. These can typically be obtained online or from local authorities.
  3. Travel Insurance: Consider travel insurance, especially if your trip involves a significant investment or long-distance travel. It can provide peace of mind in case of unforeseen events.

Local Cuisine and Attractions

  1. Culinary Adventures: Part of the joy of traveling for fishing is savoring the local cuisine. Explore restaurants and eateries that serve fresh seafood or regional specialties. Sampling local flavors can be a delightful complement to your fishing experience.
  2. Side Excursions: While fishing may be the primary focus of your trip, take time to explore the local attractions and activities. Many fishing destinations are near natural wonders, historical sites, or cultural landmarks worth visiting.
  3. Travel Essentials: Don’t forget to pack essentials like sunscreen, insect repellent, a first-aid kit, and any prescription medications. These items can enhance your comfort and safety during your trip.

Planning your fall fishing trip involves a combination of practical considerations, including lodging and travel logistics, and the excitement of exploring a new fishing destination. By taking the time to prepare and gather the necessary information, you can ensure a smooth and enjoyable adventure.

Wrap It Up

As the weather cools down for most parts of the U.S. many anglers are still hitting the waters at these best places to fish in the fall. Don’t miss out on these unique and hidden gems to continue creating memories for years to come!

If you’re in a region of the country where it’s getting close to winterizing your boat, be sure to check out our article on how to best protect your investment from the harsh winters.

Refuse to let the cold get in your way by taking a trip to the Sunshine State? See what fish can be caught during this time of year by clicking here.

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Safe travels and tight lines!