With summer in the rear-view mirror, children back in school, cooler weather arriving, and many other activities drawing interest, you may find the local boat ramp less crowded and the waterways less roiled by other boaters. Fall is a great time for boating and fishing, and these fall boating tips will help you enjoy what many consider the “best” season.
1. Watch the Weather
In the north it’s cooling and in the south there’s still the possibility of tropical storms. Changing weather patterns often bring unstable conditions, which can result in variable winds and rough-water boating. However, when the weather stabilizes, there are great boating and fishing days to be enjoyed. Pay attention to immediate weather forecasts, and especially wind direction and speed.
2. Midday is Okay
In summer, boating and fishing are often best enjoyed in the cooler hours of early and late in the day. Not necessarily in fall. With cooler daytime temperatures you can better enjoy fall boating activities, such as a cruise, a paddle, or a fishing expedition.
3. Take in the Foliage
Sure you can enjoy autumn foliage on land, but on a river or lake you seldom have to worry about traffic, so you can anchor up for an in-boat picnic or just slowly cruise/paddle while enjoying the fellowship of friends and family. Leaf peeping by boat is especially enjoyable in northern latitudes.
4. Bring the Fishing Gear
Cooling fall water temperatures means an increase in fish activity, some species moving shallower and therefore becoming more accessible, and less competition from fellow anglers. In freshwater, bass, pike, muskie, trout, and salmon are popular fall targets. In saltwater, a host of species become more prominent in the catch depending on which part of the country you’re fishing. Striped bass, bluefish, seatrout, and redfish are particularly favored pursuits of fall boat anglers.
5. Think Safety, PFDs, and Layering
Any commentary about fall boating tips must offer a reminder about safety. There’s never a time when boating safety isn’t a priority, but after experiencing a warm summer (and possibly warm early fall) the cooler waters of autumn can be overlooked or underestimated. A proper-fitting PFD in good condition is of foremost importance, keeping in mind that the possibility of hypothermia looms greater as water temperatures decrease. Dress in layers so you can shed or add clothing as needed for comfort, and always tote a good windbreaker. Fall boating gear isn’t any different than at other times, but make sure that all of your equipment is in good working order and that you have adequate fuel for whatever fall boating experiences you may have.
As fall turns to winter, the boating scenario changes, so you may find these tips on winter boating equally applicable.