Night walleye fishing a fun experience
My phone notification for a text sounded off as I helped dig up a flower bed for my stepdaughter. It was a welcome relief.
“Want to go night walleye fishing this week?” It was Bob Rustowicz of Cheektowaga and we had tried to hook up for a trip last year, but COVID-19 and the weather got in the way.
“Absolutely Bob. I am good tonight and Wednesday,” I shot back.
“I will call you when I get out of the woods.” Bob was turkey hunting, and it was 11:38 a.m.
“You have 22 minutes left! I will be waiting.”
His call came as promised and we made plans to meet in the Cabela’s parking lot and leave from there. We were going to be fishing with Todd Wojciechowski of Lancaster out of the Point Breeze area of Lake Erie and I was excited. I had never been night walleye fishing on Lake Erie and according to Rustowicz the planets were aligning, and it was shaping up to be a perfect night.
“We never fish past midnight but there is a good chance we will be done way before that,” said Rustowicz, a veteran outdoorsman who does all things hunting and fishing. “It should be prime tonight.” I think he just jinxed us.
When we met Todd “Woj,” he was working on the big motor to his 18-foot Tracker. I wondered if that was a good sign. Maybe one of the planets dropped out of alignment.
Rustowicz had borrowed the boat earlier in the week and the motor had worked just fine. In fact, he used it to troll as slow as he possibly could. When he arrived at his fishing destination, he couldn’t find the remote for the bow mount trolling motor. He called Todd.
“Where is the remote for the trolling motor?”
There was silence on the other end of the line for a few seconds.
“On the dashboard of my truck,” said Woj. “Maybe I should leave it in the boat.” Rustowicz was already on the lake that night and they managed to catch fish despite the motor handicap.
Rustowicz was not worried on this night. “Todd can fix anything!” And he did. In 10 minutes, we were on our way to Lake Erie as the sun set slowly in the west.
As Wojciechowski backed the boat into the lake, the sun was sinking into the horizon in spectacular fashion. As we headed to Evans Bar to try and catch some walleyes, the sun was gone – leaving a beautiful purple haze. Another omen? Off course they forgot the music!
Lake Erie is without a doubt the walleye capital of the world. Estimates are now nearly 100 million ‘eyes in this Great Lake.
“We will be fishing in rocky areas, focusing on 6 to 12 feet of water,” said Rustowicz. “You can catch walleyes from Smokes Creek (near Buffalo) all the way to the Pennsylvania line, but we picked this spot because there will be less boat pressure.”
A clear sky and a calm lake brought out a few boats, but the most amazing thing is that there were four kayaks fishing alongside us, taking advantage of the conditions. And, yes, they were catching fish, too.
“The walleyes like to hide behind the big rocks when they are on the feed and ambush bait,” said Woj. “We will run stickbaits like Husky Jerks, Chatter Raps, Rapalas, and Smithwick Elite 8 Rogues.” Anything should work that is a shallow diving lure.
Knowing how far the lure is back is important to keep a consistent presentation. Wojciechowski uses the new Okuma Convector Low Profile Line Counter reels that have a high speed of 6.3 to 1 ratio. The rods are the Okuma Kokanee 7-1/2-foot sticks that offer a great feel. The rod and reel was in our hands as we motored back and forth across the Bar.
“We try to keep the speed between 1.5 and 2.2 miles per hour,” said Rustowicz. “The lures are back 60 to 100 feet, depending on what the bottom terrain calls for. If you are hitting bottom, pick your rod up or bring some line in. When you do hit bottom, check your lure for weeds and make sure it is clean.”
It can be a little tricky taking weeds off a lure with 3 treble hooks … in the dark. However, we were all wearing head lamps to make sure the sharp lures did not catch more than a fish.
It was about an hour in when Wojciechowski noticed that something was up with the trolling motor.
“My trolling motor is losing power. I think one of the batteries is dead. They were new batteries!”
As he shined a light into the battery compartment, he could see one of the wires was not attached. Battery power did not last long. We soon needed to fire up the big motor and troll as slow as we could with that power source. We were able to get the speed as low as 2.3 mph going one way which was not bad. However, the fish were being finicky. We had 4 or 5 hits with no fish to show for our efforts.
Finally, several hours later, we hit our first fish. Rustowicz broke the ice first, followed by Wojciechowski with a couple. The hot lure was the Smithwick Elite 8 Rogue in blue. It was nearing midnight. Yes, it was getting late, and we were talking about packing up. Most of the other boats in the area were already gone.
Woj handed me the Smithwick lure and almost immediately I had a hit. Success! Dinner for the table! We decided to take another pass. I hit another, this one a bigger fish. It was clearly the largest of the evening and it was a fitting end to a treasured first-time experience.
Bob and Todd apologized. “Sorry the fishing was off. We will have to get you out again when the fishing is better.” We caught 5 fish. The evening was far from a loss.
There was one downside. I did not return home until 2 a.m. I have not seen those hands on the clock in that position in a long time. I am now an early to bed, early to rise guy. In fact, I was up at 2 a.m. for a goose hunt in the Finger Lakes not too long ago. I guess it is all relative, a small price to pay to experience the great outdoors. Thanks for sharing guys!