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The Night-Bite for Walleye  at Cabela's

The Night-Bite for Walleye

Author: Mark Courts

Murphy's Law always seems to come into play when night fishing, and you can count on one thing. Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong!

Pro Angler Mark Courts with a nice tropy walleye.
Fishing at night for walleye can uncover two emotions. One emotion is elation because the big walleye will move up into the shallower water at night to feed and they aren't shy about hitting a bait. The other emotion is high anxiety coupled with anger when things start going bad because of the lack of light to aid you in those simple chores that are so easy in the day.

Murphy's Law always seems to come into play when night fishing, and you can count on one thing. Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong, at the worst possible time, but the rewards make it worth enduring the pain.

Consider that you will have the prime walleye habitat all to yourself at night. This is never the case during the day. On some good walleye lakes you have to get in line to make a pass down a piece of quality structure. That's not the case at night.

Let's face it. Walleye like to feed at night. You have to work for your walleye in the day, incorporating slow, finesse approaches to squeeze a bite out of those finicky fish. At night the same walleye will hit the lure with some force and put up one heck of a fight. All of the same techniques you use in the daytime hours work at night on those walleye, you just have to think a little different.

Think shallower
Walleye move up on to the tops of the reefs or up to the weedlines at night. Of course shallow is relative, but shallower is not. If the fish have been on the deep side of a long tapering point all day and you've been seeing them on the sonar or underwater viewing camera, after the sun goes down, these fish will likely move up onto the top of the point and get aggressive. They will be shallower.

Because the night-bite walleye are more aggressive, I'll use an approach that fits their nocturnal personality. I'll troll.

Since you're fishing at night, you want to keep things as simple as possible. Do not use trolling boards or snap weights at night. Plan on holding the rod in your hand. Stay out of heavy vegetation or snag infested areas unless you're sure you can keep the boat and the bait in position where the lure won't get hung up.

If you're fortunate enough to be able to get out on the water during the day and know that you'll be back on a night trip in the near future, get as many icons, plot lines, and waypoints programmed into the GPS as possible. Having this information at night can be a huge advantage, and save you lots of time. The bit of extra effort you put into the program on that day trip will make the night experience far more enjoyable.

The technique is nothing more than feeding a long, thin crankbait out behind the boat until it hits the right depth and slow-trolling over fish. It's a slow troll, as slow as you can go, while still getting some action on the lure. I generally try to run about an eighth of a mile an hour to about one mile an hour -no faster. It's night, and those fish have to see the lure. This will take a little more time than it does when the sun is shining.

When trolling, day or night, it's imperative that you know at what depth the lure is running. If the structure is at 15 feet, I want a lure that runs 12 to 13 feet deep. I don't want the walleye to see a flash seven feet above their heads and then have it disappear. I want them to see the lure coming so they can zone in on it, chase it down, and then hit it.

Lure color isn't as important as having some kind of contrast. A pearl body with black stripes, or a firetiger color is good. It's too hard to judge whether a solid color is doing the job. A solid dark lure might blend in with the depths while a solid lighter color might be getting lost in the light of the moon. With a lure that has contrasting colors you know it will be silhouetting against the sky or throwing off some muted flash as it wobbles along.

Think deeper in this situation
Occasionally the night bite is a little tougher, so I switch techniques and incorporate live bait. Have you notice that it's always bad weather that brings this tough-bite situation on. Cold fronts always slow down the fishing.

When I need to use the live-bait approach, I incorporate a bottom bouncer and spinner rig and front troll.

The fish haven't moved from where you found them during the day, but what you will find that's changed is that now they might be biters, cautious biters, but biters just the same. You've heard it, and it's true. Even when the weather has put the walleye in an ugly mood, the fish will still be more aggressive at night than they were during the day. When the sun goes down, the fish get hungry.

Like crankbait trolling, when you're trolling bottom bouncers keep it slow, real slow. You want just enough speed to get that spinner-blade turning. Like the colors of the crankbaits I use at night, the spinners I incorporate into this program are two-toned for the most possible contrast in the dark water.

The advantages for fishing at night are many. No sunburn, no other fishermen moving in on your spot when they see you catch a fish, and no skiers zooming around your boat.

Naturally, the disadvantages also add up. Some of the nastiest bugs come out at night. You need artificial light to tie knots and perform other menial tasks, and any minor mishap is magnified at night due to the lack of light. The advantage to not having as many other anglers on the water can turn into a disadvantage quickly if you have boat or motor problems. For that reason, it is a good idea to tell at least one person where you will be fishing, and when you expect to return.

Since the pros and cons are about even, what tips the scales is the fact that walleye like to bite at night, and there is a higher potential for bigger fish. When the carcasses of huge mosquitoes are laid aside, the night bite is major fun if you just prepare a little, relax and enjoy your time on the water.





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