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What are the Best Fish to Catch in Fall?

Kayak fishers love the autumn season. Everything bites better in the fall! So, let’s take advantage of the change in the season and see what fish are biting this time of year. Here are a few tips and tricks to land some whoppers before the winter chill puts an end to your kayak fishing.

Best Fish to Catch in Autumn

Bass (largemouth & smallmouth): This popular game fish is found in rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds from Canada to Mexico. And they aren’t just a summer fish. They are still biting in the fall. However, they are moving out of deeper water as the temperatures cool. They will likely be in the warmer waters near the shore.

Look for bass near vegetation and drop-offs as they follow the baitfish. Crankbaits are popular for bass this time of year, just start shallow and work your way out. Largemouth can often be found in 5-8 feet of water while smallmouth are hanging out a bit deeper.

Muskie: If you are looking to grab big fall muskies (like almost all game fish), follow the baitfish schools. However, muskies aren’t as likely to be hanging out in the weed beds.

Instead, troll the clear weedless waters off of the big weed beds or at river-mouths, points, and narrows. Muskies prefer open water. They won’t be moving fast in cool water so use large, slow moving bait to mimic the conditions.

Panfish: This non-scientific name is given to a number of ‘pan-sized’ fish species that live in freshwater through North America. While there is some debate on the name, most consensus is that they are called panfish because they fit into a frying pan. While different region may include more (or different) fish generally Sunfish, Blue Gill, Perch, and Crappies all fall under this title.

They tend to bite all year round but in fall they are hanging close to weeds and rocks in shallow water. They prefer live bait but they will also hit on sinking flies if bugs are hatching.

  • Perch particularly like muddy water so take advantage of cloudy “turnover” waters in fall.
  • Crappie like structures and timber which allow them to move in and out of shallow or deep water. Cloudy days will find them near the surface. Sunny days, they will be hugging the bottom. Small tubes and grubs will get you hits with crappie.
  • Blue Gill like the shallows and weeds and can also be found to hang out right off drop offs. Live bait is best.
  • All of these types of fish tend to stay in one spot for a long period, so drop anchor and haul in a catch.


Pike: Many anglers tackle pike in the autumn season because they are really aggressive in the fall. Look for living vegetation underwater and you are likely to find pike.  Big topwater baits are recommended. Cast near a weedline or sharp break off and see if you get a hit. On days when pike need more coaxing, try floating/diving lures.

Trout: Fall is the perfect time to try your hand at fly fishing for trout. Even from your kayak, you can learn to cast and retrieve on a fly rod. Trout like fall because they are ready to eat. They are less active eaters in the summer so come fall they are hungry. And the cooler temps make them more active.

Be sure to “match the hatch”. Trout will hit on flies that mimic whatever bugs are hatch in the season. The Blue Winged Olive is one of the most prevalent insects that anglers should be aware of. Another important hatch in fall is the caddis (sometimes called the October Caddis because of its hatching season).

Walleye: In early fall, these gamefish are moving to shallow water to enjoy the warmer temperatures. By late fall when the temps drop even more, they are likely deeper.

Trolling crankbaits seems to work best throughout the fall season. They like to hang near areas of big structure and might be on the lookout for good-sized bait to bulk up for winter.


Don’t pack away your kayak too soon. Be sure to capitalize on the great fishing action to be found in the fall months.


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