Most walleye anglers are savvy to the virtues of fishing at night, and just as many of them are dialed into the fall-bite phenomenon. Only a select few, however, take the combination to the extreme that guide Steve DeZurik does.
The former fishing guide and one-time tournament angler from Champlin, Minnesota, marks the September full moon as the start of prime fall nightfishng, a season he says runs until ice-up in November. And while most fishermen confine their late-season quests to daylight hours, the night shift starts around 5:30 p.m. and may last until 5 a.m, even though weather conditions can range from comfortably cool to nastier than a bag of snakes.
Prime targets for this type of fishing are pockets of green weeds in shallow water near a drop-off. By October most weeds have laid down, so he looks for patches of weeds that haven’t laid down as far. Baitfish hold near the taller stalks, and walleyes come in to feed on the forage fish.
Trolling suspending minnowbaits, such as Rogues or Husky Jerks, s-l-o-w-l-y past the weeds often elicits surprisingly subtle strikes from large fish. Use fluorocarbon line to help with strike detection and keep the trolling speed at 0.8 mph.With the lure just ticking the weedtops, occasionally sweep the rodtip forward about 3 feet, then slowly let it drop back again as the boat moves forward. Sometimes it’s necessary to throw the outboard into neutral to “deadstick” the lures in the strike zone. A fish might eyeball the minnowbait for minutes, so the longer you can hold still the better.
Late fall nightfishing can produce numbers of walleyes, and offers an excellent chance to tag a double-digit fish. Follow DeZurik’s rules for success and you’ll be reaching for the landing net—often!
10 Rules For The Night Shift
1. The walleye guide considers September's full moon the start of the fall fishing season, but don't ignore the new moon period. It can be just as productive.
2. Keep tabs on water temperature. When it hits the low 50s, consider this pattern.
Nightfishing is different from daytime angling. To minimize hassles and increase your success rate, get the lay of the lake and identify potential fishing spots before venturing out at dark.
4. Always troll suspending minnowbaits. Sinking or floating lures won't trigger strikes as well as a lure that hangs in the water column on the pause.
5. Under clear skies, use lighter patterns, such as silver-and-black or silver-and-blue. When it's overcast, brighter colors, such as orange, gold or firetiger, work better.
6. Remember that walleyes may be holding in a small area, perhaps just 20 square feet.
7. Make sure you can repeat your success. Drop an icon on your GPS screen when you hook up so you can make a second, third or fourth pass over the same spot, and use a line-counter reel to get the lure back in the strike zone.
8. Check how each lure runs at boatside. Some don't swim well at extremely slow trolling speeds. Make sure the lure has an enticing wobble before letting it back.
9. Concentrate on shallower weeds as the night passes. By 2 or 3 a.m., DeZurik's efforts focus on weeds in five or six feet of water.
10. Finally, don't put your boat away too soon. The walleyes won't quit before winter weather forces you off the lake.
Bonus Rule: Stay warm! Without appropriate clothing, your late-season nightfishing trip will come to an early end. That means knit hats, fleece gloves and insulted boots. And make sure your outerwear is water and wind resistant.