By Glen Schmitt
For many walleye anglers, it’s time to head back to the boat ramp when the sun starts to go down. For others, the sun hitting the tree tops is just the beginning of a night on the water.
For the latter group, night fishing can be one of the more productive ways to consistently put walleyes in the boat. This is especially true during the summer months when feeding windows are shorter and often occur under the stars.
Night fishing tends to yield some of the biggest walleyes in a given system as well. They still have to eat and those big girls are often most aggressive when the majority of anglers are sleeping.
The bottom line is that walleye action can be very consistent at night and in multiple locations. Here’s a few tips that should put more walleyes in the boat.
Cast or troll cranks
Presenting crankbaits is probably the most utilized means of fishing walleyes at night. They can be trolled or cast and more times than not, in less than 12 feet of water – much less in some situations.
Shallow to mid-depth running crankbaits are the way to go. Pick baits that are shorter-lipped and designed to run at a specific depth. In shallow water, crankbaits with a tighter wobble or rattles tend to produce better.
On a trolling run, the amount of line you run behind the boat will have an impact on how deep a given crankbait runs as well. Line-counter reels allow you to stay in that “sweet spot” more consistently, too.
The idea is to cover water, either by fan casting a specific area or making long runs on a troll. Weedlines, shoreline breaks, and expansive sand or rock flats are all targets.
Throw a float
If walleyes are piled up on a specific spot, pitching the old lighted bobber rig will produce fish at night. It’s such a simple approach, but one that really does allow you to work on a congregated pod of walleyes effectively.
Set your slip knot at the proper depth, tie on a small jig or plain hook and fix a split-shot or two slightly above it. During the summer, leeches will be the best live bait option with this presentation.
Again, think specific walleye-holding locations, not fish that are spread out – points, weedlines, turns, and rock piles are go-to spots with a slip bobber.
Catching walleyes at night is usually associated with shallow water. But there are walleyes roaming deeper depths, too, and those are usually overlooked.
Walleyes go where the natural forage base takes them and at night, that can be higher in the water column over extremely deep water.
Lakes that hold a notable ciscoe (tullibee) population are a prime example. Tullibees roam the deepest depths on a given lake during the summer months due to cooler water and better oxygen levels. They come to the surface at night to feed and walleyes follow suit.
This is an excellent opportunity to make long trolling runs and long-line crankbaits behind the boat. Implement long, skinny baits that run just below the surface. Built-in rattles add another triggering mechanism and try to match the forage base, which is usually tullibees.
You might only be fishing a foot or two below the surface over 50 feet of water or more – the deepest water a given lake offers. But that’s where walleyes are going to be at night if there’s something to eat and they are often the biggest fish in the system.
Leave the boat at home
Another overlooked aspect of walleye fishing at night is the fact that you don’t always need a boat. On many lakes and rivers, walleyes slide into shallow areas at night that are easily approachable from shore or with waders.
Shoreline breaks, inlet or outlet areas, channels, current locations, and wind-driven shorelines are worth noting.
Pitch a glow-colored jig tipped with plastics or live bait, crankbaits, slip bobber rigs, and even hard jigging baits and you’ll likely turn fish with the boat at home.
There are added safety factors when night fishing, after all, it is dark out. So it’s very important to do some planning and organizing before you hit the water.
You need to know the lake and/or spot you’re fishing. Be aware of any extremely shallow areas or structure such as wood or rock that might be sitting above or slightly below the surface.
Make sure the running lights work and clear your boat of any unneeded gear to keep clutter at a minimum. Wearing a life jacket is paramount at night and always pay attention to what’s going on around you with the other boats.