The Top 5

When it comes to fishing in the fall I have an incredibly difficult time making up my mind. I always find that when I’m standing in a river I’m wondering what is going on in the ocean. When I’m on my boat drifting along a beachfront I wonder what is happening with the largemouth bass in the lake. No matter what decision I make I find the fishing in the fall to be gangbusters, and I’m sure you do too. As long as commitments don’t get in the way of our fishing we’re in an enviable position.

Closest to home is the striped bass migration. Big schools of bass gather together to chow on one of a dozen types of baitfish before beginning their trek to Maryland and Virginia. Sometimes there is a school as large as a football field, and anytime your lure or fly hits the water it gets whacked. Some fish are small, others are big, but when the run is going strong it’s hard to leave. Unless of course the steelhead are in the rivers.

Fishing for steelhead in the fall puts you among some of the prettiest colors of the year. October’s foliage changes to vibrant color, and when you’re thigh-deep in a steelhead river it’s tough to beat. Heavy rains bring up the river and that usually brings in a fresh charge of hard fighting chrome colored steelhead. Beauty and the Beast so to speak, but catching a fresh steelie surrounded by gorgeous fall colors is tough to beat.

Unless the cooler nighttime temperatures cause your local lake to turn. When that happens largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, perch, pickerel, and panfish know that Old Man Winter is knocking on the door. Find the edge along a drop off and the odds are pretty good that your rod will be bent more than it is not. There is something about the fight in a fall bass that is different from other times of year. Most of the time fall fish aren’t shy and if we’re a little slow on the hook set they more than make up for it.

Ocean speedsters arrive in full force as the summer shifts to fall. Bonito and false albacore are some of the most athletic fish to catch on light tackle or on a fly. They’re bullet shaped, with fins that tuck into pockets in the sides. Expect an initial hundred yard run and while they’re cranking enjoy the sound of a singing reel. There might be a few squawks from a gull or two, and you’ll replay this day when you put your boat on blocks for the long winter.

The choices in the fall don’t stop there. In the end, there is no right or wrong choice. They’re all as different as the fish and the environment. And that’s part of what makes the fishing in the fall so fun. The days are warm, the nights are cold and the fishing is hot.

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Tom Keer

Tom Keer

Tom Keer is an award-winning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a Contributing Writer for Covey Rise magazine, a Contributing Editor for both Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program.  Keer writes regularly for over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics related to fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor pursuits.  When they are not fishing, Keer and his family hunt upland birds over their three English setters.  His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast was released in January 2011.  Visit him at or at