Cooler temps bringing on the good bites
The weather has definitely turned cooler in the evenings this past week, and the trace of snow this past weekend is an indication that we are entering the fall season. Anglers know that this marks an exciting time for them.
Some of the most productive fishing of the entire season can occur during this season. Cooler water temperatures and fall-spawning fish getting into the pre-spawn mode create excellent opportunities for the fisherman or woman.
Kokanee salmon, brown, brook, and lake trout are all fall-spawning fish. The kokanee can already be seen staging near inlet streams to make their spawning runs upstream. There have also been some very large fish caught recently by fishermen near some inlet streams to lakes.
Large brown, lake and even rainbow trout have been caught near these inlets to lakes. Some are getting ready to spawn, but many of the large fish are following the kokanee. The kokanee provide meals for the non-spawning fish in the form of eggs. Rainbows are a prime example of fish that follow kokanee upstream to eat eggs.
Lake trout (also called mackinaw) typically feed on the kokanee salmon themselves. They tend to move as their prey moves. Though a fall spawner, they do not need moving water to spawn. Instead, they typically target rocky areas within the lake itself.
Browns also move into the streams to spawn in the fall. Very large specimens can be seen in these waters during this time of year. They become quite territorial during this period and can be taken pretty readily with lures or streamers (flies) imitating another fish.
Anglers can catch some of the largest fish of the season during this period. Because water temperatures cool down, the fish in lakes tend to come into the shallower water where it is warmer to feed. This makes them more accessible to shore anglers than in the summer months when they are in deeper water.
A hike into the backcountry this time of year will also find brook trout getting into the spawning mode. Brooks, like lake trout, do not need a stream in which to spawn. They typically spawn in rocky areas within the lakes.
Brooks can also be caught during this period with lures or streamers because of their aggressiveness. Some of the largest brooks of the season are caught in the fall.
While I do not like to advocate catching spawning fish, I want to point out this period so anglers can catch them in their pre-spawning mode. When the fish are actually on their redds (nests), I personally feel that anglers should leave them alone.
Why risk the chance of catching and killing a spawning fish, particularly if you are practicing catch-and-release? Anglers need to know that there are a certain number of released fish that die.
The exceptions of catching spawning fish might be the brook and lake trout that do not normally get the pressure that the other species do. They also tend to be quite prolific. Brook trout in backcountry waters can actually be stunted due to overpopulation.
An angler probably will not do much harm in taking a fish or two from the backcountry waters. Their location, off the beaten path, tends to make brook trout a good candidate for an angler’s dinner.
All in all, fall holds a special place for the angler. Even the non-spawning fish can feel the coming of the winter months and will be eating voraciously in anticipation.
With water conditions looking good in both streams and lakes this year, it should be a banner fall season. I would urge you to get out there and sample some of the best fishing of the season.
Bruce Ajari is a Truckee resident and regular fishing columnist for the Sierra Sun and other area newspapers.
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