We are there! Or here? Sakakawea. Fall. The bite is really picking up, the bigger fish are showing up, and life is good...when the weather allows. Water temps on the main lake are mostly below 50 degrees except on the deeper east end of the lake which is closer to 53. Some of the bays are down around 45 degrees. That nexus between Deepwater Bay and the Van Hook Arm has been quite productive the last week, whereas the east side has been slower, partly due to water temps and partly, I suspect, due to the migration of populations of fish back up river.
The bite has typically been in 25-30 feet during the day and sliding up shallow at night or even in the afternoon if there's a good chop. It's always worth casting shallow and working deep to see if there are fish up there. Steep breaks and rock/gravel have been our go-to pattern, and we've caught more fish on ripping/gliding baits (jig raps, hyper rattles, etc.) than anything else. You can get them vertically, but we found that trolling/drifting and casting seems to be better, if for no other reason than the fact that we're covering more water, testing more depths, and putting lures in front of more fish. The late afternoon into evening bite can be so good, though, that it probably doesn't matter much what you throw at them.
The fish are getting really fat, and some of the 24-25 inch fish look like they may weigh close to six pounds! They've likely been roaming deep gorging on smelt all year, and now they're cruising up shallower as the cold-water baitfish, smelt included, have begun to run shallower too. If you can brave the weather or find a nice day on the calendar, you can have an amazing time out there until ice-up.
Unfortunately and reluctantly, I have to call the season for myself up on Sakakawea and head back to Iowa. That said, I'll be looking to do some local trips for my Iowa and neighboring friends. If anyone is interested, shoot me a message. This year isn't over yet, and some really nice fish can be caught anywhere in the midwest this time of year.