River Fishing – September

by Sam Scott

Fall is finally creeping in, and the days are reflecting that! Cooler nights mean cooler water temperatures and the fish here in the river are loving the cool down! Just getting that water temperature back under 80F again makes a world of a difference when it comes to activity of our game fish throughout the day. September is also considered one of the driest months of teh year in VA so our flows are generally pretty low in the rivers. This can be a double edged sword. With the low clear water, you can see the fish and the structure from further away and make more accurate casts to feeding fish, but that also means the fish can see you from further out and they also can become a little leader shy during this time. I usually like to change my leader size from 15lb flouro down to 10lb or 12lb flouro just to be a little more stealthy, especially with finesse baits that are down there in front of the fish for longer periods as opposed to moving baits or reaction baits. 

So when it comes to Smallmouth fishing throughout the month of September, your tactics will start changing a bit as the water temps continue to cool down. Our fish will start transitioning for fall usually in late September, sometimes not even until October. But to start, I continue to hit all my favorite summer holes and shoals that have produced fish for the past few months. Riffles and shoals hold more oxygen and therefore more fish so they are usually a great place to start looking. As those shoals fill out into a deeper slow pool, a lot of the bigger fish you will find in the shade lines or ledges just down from the shoals in this deeper water. Try favoring your top water lures this month, especially in the mornings and evenings. September and early October have always been my best top water months for our rivers here. Some days the top water bite is so strong you can fish them through mid day with tons of action as well! Your standard finesse baits such as NED Rigs and Tubes will continue to get action as well. Once that water starts cooling off towards the end of the month, be sure to have a few jerk baits tied up and ready. The Early Fall jerk bait bite is something I look forward to at the end of every summer. That water cooling down signals to the fish that fall is coming and they go into Feed mode. They aren’t feeling depressed by that hot weather anymore either so these fish will hit harder and fight harder than they have been all summer 

As far as our muskies go, we usually get back to targeting them in mid to late September , as soon as the water temps stabilize under 76F. That means I want to see water temps get no higher than 76F at any point during the day for at least 4-5 days in a row before I decide its safe to start catching musky again. And even then I’m going to be extra careful with them as the warmer water will still stress these fish out easily. 

Our Muskies will be in a similar mood to when we left off back at the end of June. They too will be eating top water baits very aggressively. And Blade season is at its peak right now too. I love to start my mornings off throwing a top water prop bait or a double 8 bucktail. Target areas where the river gets deep immediately after ledges or shoals. Muskies will also be preferring those high oxygenated areas. Speed can be so important in your retrieve this time of year. Start out with a fairly fast retrieve, and when you see a musky following behind your bait, start burning that thing in as fast as you can straight into a deep and aggressive figure 8. The speed is usually what triggers strikes this time of year, and trust me, you will never be able to retrieve ‘too fast’. 

Good luck this month whether your on the rivers bass fishing or musky fishing, or if your on the lakes targeting green back! Enjoy the last little bit of summer and the start of our fall! I’ll see y’all back here next month for the Fall Transition and some of the best fishing to be had all year!

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