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In the fall, walleyes want minnows or chubs By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

As we move into the fall months, walleyes again switch their bait preferences. Where night crawlers and leeches were the preferred baits in the warm waters of summer, once water temperatures begin to drop that changes.
The walleyes will tell you. If you are listening, you will hear them say, “Minnows, big minnows, really big minnows, really, really big minnows, chubs.”

Let’s take a look at the varieties of minnows you will most likely find in bait shops this fall. Next week we will look at how to keep minnows alive while you are fishing as well as in-between trips.

In a well-stocked bait shop in northern Minnesota where hundreds of lakes exist within a 50-mile radius, you will be amazed at the variety of minnow baits on hand. You will find spot tail shiners, silver shiners, emerald shiners, golden shiners, fathead minnows (often in several sizes), creek chubs, and dace, redtail cubs as well as sucker minnows that range in size from 2 inches to a foot in length.

It’s a fact that some minnows are better than others in some lakes. Tell the bait shop owner which lake you intend to fish, and he’ll recommend the minnows that are working best. Keeping some of these minnows alive is a difficult task. That’s why they’ll give your bait bag a shot of oxygen before you go out the door.

Let’s look at some of the more common varieties of baitfish you might be using.
FATHEAD MINNOW
Everyone is familiar with fishing with minnows. There are more than 250 different species of minnows in the United States. But there is one that stands out.
When you go to a bait shop and order “a couple dozen minnows” you are going to get a fish called a fathead minnow. It’s native to most states and grows 2 to 3 inches long. It is easy to propagate so is popular with fish farms which supply bait shops.

It is a great bait. All minnow-eating fish love them. And, since they are found in most fishing waters, fish are used to feeding on them.
Bait shops commonly sort them into at least two different sizes. Small and Large. Small is what you want for crappies no matter what time of year it is. Large is what you want for walleye.

Fatheads spawn in the springtime when water temperatures hit about 50 degrees. The male at that time turns very dark, almost black and small protuberances or “horns” appear on his head. The female is very fat because of the eggs she is carrying and is much lighter in color. That is why I prefer female minnows to the males in the springtime. The female is much easier for walleyes to see.

In the fall it makes no difference which you use. I just look for the biggest in my pail. [Read more…]