Autumn represents the end of something in public consciousness; it brings along the twilight of the summer holiday and summer itself. But a new era starts on the rivers too just like at school, since the first cool nights, and the rapidly falling water temperature entail the explosive uptrend of predatory fish’s appetite as well. Most fish consciously prepare for winter, and parallel with the changing weather, a change gets started in the mood and appetite of fish too. For the anglers who arrive to Tokaj in this period of the year, it is not worth missing those unique opportunities that the Tisza and Bodrog rivers can offer.
The rivers show their wonderful faces in autumn. The floodplain forest is dressed in colorful clothes and the slowly balding trees dance to the roar of deer in the morning mist. Foggy mornings lure even the most cautious animals out of their shelter. Under the fog that covers the face of the river like a veil, deer and roe deer swim across the quiet flow. Wild geese, like giant arrows, cross the sky and say goodbye loudly to the changing landscape.
We are lucky in Tokaj because the two rivers have markedly different predatory fish stocks, thus pike, zander and catfish can be easily caught within a relatively little amount of time. The main predator of the Bodrog is pike, and the Tisza is famous for its zander and catfish population. The Bodrogzug Nature Reserve, as the “cradle” of the area, provides the fish with the right spawning conditions every year, thus ensuring continuous natural reproduction.
By autumn, the Bodrog River usually clears and slows down, showing a particularly friendly and quiet face at Tokaj. In addition to the larger depths of 6-8 meters, there are plenty of shallow shores, benches, shores lined with yellow water pumpkins and reeds. These shallow waters attract pike like magnets in September, as the water pumpkin fields are full of whitefish. As the water begins to cool with the first cold dawns, the “crocodile-jawed” predators visit coastal aquatic habitats and here we can catch large numbers of them if we use the right technique and bait.
This is the most exciting course for spin fishermen, as it is a big challenge to catch these strong river predators from the vegetation. Two methods are most effective in this case: we either fish with surface frog imitations on top of the pumpkin leaves or we use sinking lures (usually rubber bait) with protected hooks between the pumpkin leaf stalks. Due to the strikes seen in the vegetation, as well as the sight of pike wildly attacking surface lures, the heart of every spinning angler beats faster. These are the actions that make a spinning guy a spinning guy; usually the moment of the strike, the fierce attack of the predatory fish is what we like best in this method.
This period lasts as long as there is still water pumpkin on the surface. If the aquatic plants disappear once and for all - which usually happens by November - and the water temperature drops below the critical 10 degrees, the pike will also follow the large schools of whitefish gathering in the deeper layers of the water. Even then, they can be caught, but in a completely different way, and only in the vicinity of the bream flocks that gather at the winter dwelling spots.
The Tisza is just as magical as the Bodrog, but in terms of its predatory fish, zander and catfish are much more dominant in it. Even in autumn, these two fish species are the most common guests on the hooks of spinning anglers.
Many people do not even know how ideal September and October are for the scouting of the largest growing predator in our domestic waters. But the catfish is on a conditioning diet, getting ready for the winter. The digestion of the large-bodied fish is still quite fast in 15-20 Celsius degree water, which is why it feeds a lot and attacks larger fish more carelessly than in the summer. At the same time, when preparing for winter, it tries to get into the best possible shape, which it can achieve with regular and indiscriminate foaming.
It is no coincidence that we catch more and more catfish as by-catches during zander- and Volga zander fishing. After all, catfish prefer to stay close to smaller, easily swallowable, cylindrical fish around 30-40 cm length, and they do take the duty from them properly. But not only can we catch catfish by accident on the Tisza, but we can also aim at them consciously. We can be effective with traditional plastic lures and jigging technique or vertical fishing.
Zander migrate a lot during this period due to changing water temperatures. It is often the case that they need to be “investigated” on a daily basis, as whitefish troops move, so do the “spiny-backed” predators. They are most likely to be found on stone structures, drop-offs and underwater obstacles, snags. Interestingly, the deep pits are not yet functioning well during the transition period, they are only visited by whitefish - and thus by predators as well - just in the winter. The sandbanks, shallow but hard, clay-bottomed river sections can surprisingly keep many large zander in the fall.
In such cases, it is worth fishing for zander with the traditional plastic lure technique, but vertical fishing can also be effective. Zander fishing is a much more rewarding task in the fall than in the winter because the fish become inactive at water temperatures close to zero. This way, even a beginner spinning angler can clearly have a lot more success in the fall. Of course, there are better and worse days in autumn as well, but perseverance and conscious “point-hopping” will bring along the long-awaited success.
So, it’s no coincidence that autumn is the real season for predator anglers. We can chase our domestic predatory fish in cooling waters with much better results than in summer or winter. This is worth keeping in mind for all visitors to Tokaj, as it is easy for a spinning angler to catch the fish of his lifetime during a weekend family vacation. And if we want to pamper our limbs frozen due to the cool autumn wind, there is no better place for this purpose than a Tokaj cellar in the company of a little mulled wine.
Anglers see all seasons from the point of view of an angler. While „others” wait for the warm weather to come, the sight of green trees and flourishing meadows, or the opportunities deriving from the lengthening of the days in the springtime, the fisherman’s mind clicks most of the time on the expansion of the fishing possibilities. The season starts indeed in March and April – this is the time to dust the fishing rods, reels and tackle fed up with the winter break! But is it true that spring really promises thriving opportunities for all kinds of fishing methods? Is it worth going spin fishing in March too?
The answer is clearly YES! Although the third and fourth month of the year are full of prohibition periods concerning our predatory fish. From the 1st of March it is forbidden to fish for zander, asp, perch, and Volga zander. At the same time, the ban on pike fishing, that started in February, is still in effect too (ending on 1st April). Therefore, this period of the year is truly difficult for spin fishermen, but it does not mean that we should entirely give up artificial lure fishing.
Most of the fanatic spin fishermen either hunt bass (which count as alien species) in this period of the year on intensely stocked lakes, or they walk about on the shores of rapid (and often rhapsodic concerning water level) creeks and streams hoping that they might catch a good-size chub. However, the lovers of big rivers and wild waters do not have to lose heart either, since there are two fish species that are not protected by catching prohibitions in March, and it is easy to prey them in the quickly warming waters too. And these two species are ide and the European catfish (Wels catfish).
Those, who visit Tokaj in early spring have the chance to catch both species indeed, since River Bodrog is famous for its huge ide fish, while the catfish population of River Tisza is highly exceptional. Thus, nature-loving spin anglers can spin fish here for two species, even on the same day, that behave quite different, and that provide an entirely different fishing experience for those who deserve this.
Let’s start with ide (orfe), which is basically not a bream fish, since it is a member of the Cyprinids family. However, even this attribution of it cannot stop them from hunting prey fish in a predatory manner all year long, but especially in spring and autumn. By the way, besides small prey fish, they feed on almost everything; most of their diet is made up by bugs and insects falling into the water from trees, but they also consume crayfish and leeches too, furthermore, in the summer, they even collect the fruit of wild mulberry trees that fall on the surface of the water.
We must prepare with ultra-light tackle for ide. Our spin fishing rod must be capable of casting small lures. Fishing from a boat, we prefer rods shorter than 2 meters, with casting weights approximately between 1-10 grams, and small, size 1000 or 2000 reels, with 0,06-0,08 mm diameter line (preferably either nanofil or braid) on the spool.
The mouth of the ide is small; thus, we can spin fish for them effectively with smaller-size lures, 2-5 cm wobblers, soft baits, or metal lures (like spinners and spoons). When choosing the color of a lure, we should prefer darker colors and lifelike patterns!
In this period of the year, we may find ide fish in deeper water (too). At spots where the current of the river pushes out to the shoreline and the depth of the water is sufficiently deep enough (2-4 meters), that is where we should search for the ide group. Here, the current constantly drifts nourishment in front of the fish stuck in the coastal lane, which is particularly advantageous for orfe.
Ide is not a lonely fish; where we catch one, probably there are more, but we must know how to deceive them. And we must be quiet and careful during their fishing, since they are extremely clever and cautious fish, and their eyesight is very good into the bargain!
Despite ide, the other predatory fish that can be caught in this period of the year, the largest fish in our waters, the top predatory fish in freshwaters, is the Wels catfish (Silurus glanis). Fishing for catfish, considering the size of it, requires extremely strong equipment. Thus, we must choose heavy tackle, rods, reels, and line which were designed expressly for catfish fishing. Besides the harmony of rod & reel, we must pay special attention to every little element of our rig, e.g.: the snap, the lure, the trebles on the lure, the split rings on the lures, because if we do not do so, catfish will most probably find the weak link in our tackle, and, as a consequence of this, we might lose the fish of our lifetime!
Catfish begin feeding more and more actively due to the warming water. As soon as the temperature of the water reaches 6-7 Celsius degrees, we have a good chance of catching them with artificial lures too. Then, when the water temperature goes above 8 Celsius degrees, they start feeding like crazy, and from this time on, they also react well to the sound of the ancient catfish luring tool, called clonk. Obviously, these measures are not regularities, but experience underlines that they are certainly true to River Tisza.
This is the period of the year – until the water temperature reaches 14-15 Celsius degrees – when most of the large catfish are caught here on the Tokaj Tisza section too. In this period, they attack aggressively wobblers, soft baits, and other kinds of artificial baits too, which action is to their liking and which enters their attack zone.
We can also utilize their greediness. At first, we can find them only in deep waters and steep drop offs, but later, as the weather gets warmer, they start moving to shallower and shallower water as they are following their prey fish, which visit the rapidly warming, 2-3 meters shallow waters in springtime.
We apply two very effective methods. When they are stationary in deep waters, we find more of them in relatively small but easy-to-locate spots. In this case we anchor above the spot and cast our soft baits towards them. We move our lures nice and slow above the bottom, trying to deceive these refined fish. In case we use the other method, we do not anchor the boat, but utilizing the current of the river, we let the flow drift our boat, and we keep moving our baits vertically right under the boat. We apply this technique when – due to the warm water – fish are already scattered around, and not concentrated on one special spot, but they might occur everywhere along a longer river section.
So, there is life beyond zanders and pikes for the lovers of predatory fish, we do not have to leave our spinning rods in their stands in spring either. The essence is that we must aim consciously at these predatory fish (ide and catfish) with the proper tackle and lures, and we must fish at the right places. In Tokaj – in a unique way – we have good chance to catch both species! And after a tiresome day we spent with spin fishing on the rivers, the best relaxing program is to visit the cool wine cellars of Tokaj.
Appointments for fishing trips in the spring are now available!
If you need a local and professional fishing guide, feel free to contact me!