It's been a relatively normal fall this year and the fish are behaving accordingly. Oddly enough, we seemed to have skipped November and plunged straight from the 70s to the 30s without much warning. Kind of a rally killer, if you ask me.
Fishing hasn't been bad though, and I've spent a lot of time catching buffalo, bass, and even some kind (and large) redhorse.
I'll start where fall started for me, I guess, and that was with my personal best bigmouth buffalo.
It was a great fish to catch on the first day of fall and really gave me some good hopes for the season. The upper parts of the Des Moines River has an incredibly healthy buffalo population due to the fact that there are no silver or bighead carp in this stretch. The dam at Lake Red Rock prevents anything from passing upstream, and because of that there are no direct competitors for the bigmouths to fight with. Many of my bigmouth are caught with 1/8-1oz jigheads (depends on current) and a small twister tail of any color.
For some reason, these filter feeders will attack a large jighead with gusto and will fight with equal power. Only issue is that once the fish is landed, the locals swarm you and ask "Can I keep it?" or "Do you want it?". I usually say no and release unless they lend me their net.
Once the beginning of October rolled around, we received some heavy rain and the spillway quickly rose to an unfishable level. Thankfully, some of my favorite spots downstream that were previously dry from the near-record drought we experienced were resubmerged once again. I was finally able to return to the spot where I had seen quillbacks, highfins, smallmouth buffalo, redhorse, a foul-hooked black buffalo (oh so close!), and a hogsucker caught once. I was more than excited.
I arrived to the location with 3 dozen nightcrawlers prepared to have a good day. I quickly received a powerful hit and soon a fish was on. After an impressive fight, a white bass (or hybrid, wasn't to sure with the tongue patches), was in my hands.
Expecting to have an even better day than I originally thought, I quickly rebaited and recasted. I was met with frustation. I soon realized that I had apparently caught the only white bass in the area of any size at all.
I had bait stolen more times than one could count by these little fish. I decided to call it a day after an hour of missed strikes and stolen worms.
Soon after that, I turned my focus back to the kind of fishing I grew up doing: Pond-Hopping. I love largemouth bass and can always get enjoyment out of standing on the shore of a pond casting around. Luckily, a local lake-pond has a healthy population of largemouth bass AND white bass nearby. Always goes for a good afternoon.
I spent a few afternoons there after school messing around with a mepps, a rapala, and some old black and blue jig and caught as many fish as I wanted.
After a strong cold front came through and screwed up the ponds, I decided to scoot back to the river and see if any horsies would cooperate. I knew of some gravel bars that I predicted to hold fish. Thankfully, I was right.
I caught upwards of around a dozen of these spunky little guys before I got a similar hit. However, this fish felt stronger.
This shorty would likely have been a state record. She taped out at 19" and the record is 18". Sadly, and I'm very angry about this, I didn't have anyway to bring her back to my car (15 minutes away) without and put her in my bucket without killing her, so I put her back. Hopefully she's still swimming around down there and I hope I can run into her again someday.
Thankfully, my river luck began to pick up again. The City of Des Moines was doing some construction on a low head dam downstream, so they closed the gates at Saylorville Lake to an incredibly low level, almost what it was during the drought. Since it would only be like that for a day, I had to take advantage of it now.
While I may have not caught fish in the high numbers I did when the water was warmer, fish were still willing and ready to take. Now that the river has gone back up again and the temperatures have dropped to an uncomfortable level (call me a wimp for being in Iowa), the fishing has slowed down. Hopefully, some more fish will come by if we ever see a warmup.