The sun is setting on summer. Fall is here and brings with it the start of the fall kayak fishing season. With the exception of a few weeks in from the latter half of June to the start of August, Western North Carolina anglers don’t see the brutal heat of others in the South. However, the cooler temperatures and quieter waterways are a welcome change and provide the last chance for some great fishing before the kayaks go into winter hibernation.

The very best fall fishing is in October. While you might see fewer and smaller fish in early September, kayak fishing can change day-by-day and the sport offers relaxing exercise after work or in the dark of an early morning.

Expect to see lots of smallmouths on the river. Fall is time for your faster boat. Move fast enough to keep off rocks, but slow enough not to spook them. It’s a great season to explore new spots to fish that you might disregard in the summer. If you use a sit-on-top kayak, make sure you’ve got scupper plugs to keep cool water from entering your cockpit.

During fall, there are tips to remember to make your day on the water more enjoyable.

Light the Night (and Early Morning)

There’s no getting around the shorter days that come the closer to the end of Daylight Saving Time on November 6. If you like to hit the water after work, you’ll be lucky to get an hour or two in before the sun goes down. Thankfully, headlamps and lanterns can extend your time. We love the waterproof headlamps for hands free lighting. Be sure to check for any specific rules about lighting after dark at your planned fishing hole. However, the experience of fishing after sunset is something every angler should experience.

Explore Your Layers

Fall is the season for layering. We still experience four distinct seasons in the North Carolina mountains, but the drop in temperature after about 3:00 p.m. becomes pretty noticeable. You can stick with your summer fishing shirt, but start with a base layer. The same rule goes for covering your legs. As temperatures drop even more in late September, you’ll need a bit more insulation and a dry suit is a great idea for colder nights. Wearing your PFD will keep you safe on the water, but use your common sense, too. If the weather is uncertain, just stay home.

The Exception Proves the Rule…

Just because it’s cooler doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to the sun. Yes, this goes against the first tip, but if you’re hitting the water for a full day of fishing on the weekend, sun protection is important (along with plenty of water). Apparel with UV protection can provide another base layer of warmth and protect your arms and legs. There are many options to keep your hands and face covered, too. Check out fantastic options from Columbia, Mountain Hardwear, Buff, and more.

Keep Fishing

Many anglers see autumn’s arrival as beginning of a few months off, but October and November offer some of the best time to get on the water. It’s a fun time to try new techniques and explore spots with fewer tubers and paddleboarders.