The fall provides anglers with some of the most predictable fishing of the year. Throughout most of the summer, forage fish such as threadfin shad have spent much of their time roaming offshore portions of lakes freely feeding on an abundance of algae. Much of the freshwater algae common in the US blooms most prolifically in water between 77 and 90 degrees. Warm water and an abundance of nutrients brought to the lake from spring rains can often sustain offshore algae through the entire summer. However, as the first cool nights in fall start to occur, offshore water temperatures begin to fall. Once main lake water temperatures drop below 77 degrees open water algae blooms begin to decline. While this is occurring offshore, shallower portions of creek arms will still be warmed by daytime sunlight and maintain water temperatures sufficient for algae growth. It is at this time that shad will begin their migration from their main lake summertime haunts into the back of creek arms chasing their receding food source. Once the water temps drop to the mid to upper 50s, even though algae may still be present, the shad will reverse their migration and head back to open water. Below 55 degrees, rapid temperature changes common in the shallows can kill shad. Deeper open water tends to moderate temperature swings and reduces this risk. When fishing in the fall, my first approach is to check the main lake water temperature. This will give me an idea of how long the shad migration has likely been in progress. Water temperatures in the 70s offer an indication that the migration has only recently begun and I will concentrate my search on the first 1/3 of creek arms closest to the main body. Similarly, water in the low 60s or high 50s would indicate the shad are as far back into the creeks as they are likely to go. Once my search area is identified I’ll use electronics to search creek arms extensively before I begin fishing. When bait balls are located the task then becomes picking baits that are best able to present at the depth bass are attacking the shad at. Again, this will change from hour to hour and you’ll need to rely heavily on your electronics for this information. I spend very little time fishing areas in the fall where shad are not present.
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