Published September 10, 2023

Finally Fall 

Written by
Kim Fundingsland
| The Dakotan

A Slice of Life

I got an early start. Could not wait to get on the water. I thoroughly enjoy fishing, especially in the fall. 

No, it’s not officially calendar autumn, but the fall season is underway. Leaves are starting to change colors, even dropping from some trees. Water temperatures on state lakes have begun to drop slowly. Labor Day weekend, the traditional end to the outdoor season for many, has passed 

A steady but light rain was falling when I reached the boat ramp at Fort Stevenson State Park. Since I normally don’t launch a boat in the rain, I parked near the ramp and checked the weather radar to see how long the rain might continue. It didn’t look to be too long.  

There were no other vehicles with boats in the parking area. No one else was waiting at the boat ramp, quite a change from the hustle and bustle of a busy Labor Day weekend.  

As the rain let up, I launched my boat, secured it to the dock, and parked my tow vehicle. I had my choice of parking spaces and, with no other boats preparing to launch, seemingly had the state’s largest body of water all to myself. 

Yes. No matter what the calendar says, fall had begun. A few sprinkles of rain were still falling, making countless circles on the surface of the calm water. Brightening skies to the west carried the promise that the rain would soon quit completely. 

My first stop was in a small bay not far from the boat ramp. As I shut off the outboard motor and plugged in my electric bow mount motor, I paused to listen to the quiet and observe my surroundings. I noticed that the trees in the distance had dashes of yellow.  

I looked down on the water and saw leaves floating. A check of my electronics revealed schools of baitfish in the bay. They hadn’t been there during the warmth of summer.  

When I looked up, I was staring right into the eyes of a white-tailed deer buck. He must have been lying in the grass near the shoreline. I made a few casts with a surface lure and caught one northern pike, actually on cast number eight out of 15.  

Yes, I count each cast. Even have a clicker to help me do it. Crazy little habit of mine. Silly? Perhaps, but it keeps me from staying too long in one spot. I left the bay after my self-imposed 15 cast limit and pointed the boat toward my next fishing spot, which was several minutes away. 

There were no other boats on the water, at least where I was, but I knew a few others who enjoyed the fall would soon be on the water too. There’s nothing like cool mornings that give way to afternoon warmth, a perfect time to be on the water. 

I knew my second fishing spot well, well enough to know that 25 casts would cover enough water to tell me if it should be a short visit or if more time was warranted. I had a small pike on cast 11, again with a surface lure. Time to move. 

As I pulled up to spot number three, I nosed the boat onto the shore so I could clean some battery cables. It also gave me a chance to absorb my surroundings. Young of the year perch were surfacing nearby, accompanied by the splashing of larger fish chasing them.  

Canada geese were honking loudly in flight, then drifted on cupped wings to a sliding stop on the water a few yards distant. A rooster pheasant crowed. Then came the squawk of a great blue heron taking flight from the shoreline. Fishing somehow gave way to fall. Wonderful times. 

However, as much as I was captured by my surroundings, I somehow managed to resume fishing. They were eager to play too, almost as if they were enjoying a little fall frolic. Great fun. 

My message here is not about fishing, but rather about getting out and enjoying the fall season. How you choose to do that is up to you. Fall camping is a great option and there’s usually plenty of available space in campgrounds this time of year. There’s hiking trails, scenic drives, corn mazes and such. Hunting seasons are underway with more to come. Temperatures are generally more favorable for spending time outdoors than they are in the heat of summer. It won’t be long before the fall migration arrives with thousands of ducks and geese entering the state in one of nature’s most spectacular displays. 

Winter will arrive soon enough and stick around for who knows how long. When it gets here, which can happen quite suddenly, don’t be that person who didn’t find the time to enjoy fall. It’s a slice of life you don’t want to miss. 

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