Bank fishing at night is a fun and inexpensive way to catch a lot of big walleyes in the fall. You don’t need much tackle to do it, and it’s an easy way to take walleye from both lakes and rivers. All you really need to do is find a shoreline with structure or cover that walleyes like, cast out a minnow bait and slowly reel it in until a walleye bites.
If that doesn’t work, move down the shore until you locate biting fish. If you don’t bank fish for walleye at night in the fall, you’re missing out on some great action and the the easy opportunity to put tasty filets on the dinner table.
Consider these 4 aspects to catch more walleyes at night from the bank:
Areas for night fishing from the bank
Shorelines containing food attract walleye at night in fall. ‘Eyes aren’t out to socialize at nightclubs, they’re going to restaurants to eat.
Here are 6 great after dark spots:
1. Grass beds
Vegetation attracts yellow perch and minnows. If there’s a 24-hour, all-you-can-eat buffet for a walleye, it’s a healthy grass bed loaded with baitfish, and ideally near deep water. A few feet of water between the weed tops and the surface is all you need to swim a bait through this nighttime diner. Even better if you’re within casting range of the outside edge of the veg.
Points are highways for walleye movements into shallow areas, and then back to deeper water once their bellies are full. Being able to walk out on the point is a bonus as it gives you more casting options.
Walleyes gravitate to sand areas in fall. Sand bars with a mix of grass or rock are especially good nighttime spots in rivers.
4. Shoreline bends
River bends are walleye magnets. In lakes, inside bends leading into coves and bays are excellent nighttime areas.
5. Inflowing water
Walleye like current. Fishing an inflowing tributary is a good strategy. Likewise, a culvert funnels water and attracts fish. The base of rapids is another productive zone.
6. Rock and concrete
Marina break walls, piers, bridge pilings and riprap banks are common hunting grounds for walleyes at night in the fall.
You don’t need a pro’s collection of lures to catch walleye from the bank at night. A couple rip baits (Rapala Husky Jerk or Bomber Long A), banana-style hard baits (Rapala Tail Dancer) and shad crankbaits (Rapala Shad Rap or Scatter Rap) will do just fine. Pictured above is a Think 3- to 5-1/2-inches. Here are some suggestions when stocking a tackle tray.
Floating models are useful for backing-out of snags. This is common when a bait hits bottom as it nears shore. Same goes for stopping a bait so it can float up and away from the tips of grass.
Some nights it seems rattles help catch fish, other nights rattles are moot. Try both and let the fish tell you what they want.
Have lures you can cast far. This results in longer retrieves, giving walleye more time to find and eat your bait. Outcasting your bank-fishing neighbors on community spots can also catch you more fish.
Walleye like hot paints, like firetiger and clown. More, bright and reflective lures are easier for you to see at night, especially under the beam of a headlamp. This helps cast and retrieve shallow-running lures through prime areas, but also avoid snags.
Bank fishing walleye at night’s pretty straightforward. The following 7 tips are a few things I’ve found to make a difference and believe will help you catch more fish.
1. Slow and steady
Walleye have evolved to be specialized night hunters, but they’re not perfect. A slow, predictable retrieve gives them an easy target. It’s boring, but it works.
2. Throw big baits
Generally, I don’t go dainty in the dark. A big bait pushes a lot of water, making it easier for walleye to locate. A large profile also appeals to the increased appetite of walleye in the fall.
3. Fish higher than in the day
A lure should be retrieved above walleye at night. This lets them see its silhouette against the moonlight. When bank fishing northern lakes and rivers, I typically catch walleye on baits swimming just beneath the surface to a few feet down. This is the prime zone for walleye up shallow or suspending higher in the water column.
4. Fish with wind in your face
Wind-blown shorelines contain turbid water and disoriented baitfish, which attract walleye. A wave-hit bank is always worth casting.
5. Cover water
Walleye can be anywhere along the bank at night. Use different casting angles to cover water and determine fish location. If a spot doesn’t produce, move to another one until you find actively hunting walleye.
6. Work current seams
When fishing flowing water look for current seams. Moonlight reflecting on the water’s surface can reveal different ripples where fast and slow flowing water meet. Cast here. You’ll feel the different currents as the lure swings in and out of fast flow. Pay attention to where you get bit and cast back to this area.
7. Trigger bites
Walleye have a habit of bumping hard baits before they hit. This can feel like a “tick” in the rod or a vibration change. It’s a neon sign a fish is interested.
Sometime it’s best to keep reeling and let the walleye overtake the bait. If this doesn’t happen quickly, stop the lure. A pause forces a following walleye to swerve away or hit the stalled bait. Adding a light twitch can seal the deal. Then, reel again, but be ready for a strike as walleye often pounce once the lure swims again.
Night fishing necessities
Carrying some basic equipment makes fishing in the dark easier. Here’s a brief checklist of some essentials.
- A headlamp - makes seeing in the dark easier while keeping your hands free to handle baits and fish.
- 7-foot medium-power spinning combo - pair it with 15 to 20-pound braid or 8 to 12-pound mono on below freezing nights.
- Snap - use a snap to quickly change lures at night.
- A multitool - A handy all in one tool will make unhooking fish and working on tackle easier.
- Waterproof boots - a pair of good waterproof boots with good foot support for walking around in the dark on uneven terrain will make life easier.
- Sharp hooks - fish might not get the bait as well at night so use new tacky sharp hooks for more hookups.
Last fall my dad and I rented a cottage on a lake for a couple days. A late arrival along with other unexpected hiccups prevented us from launching the boat until the next day. Not to be discouraged, we grabbed our spinning rods, a tray of hard baits and headed to the bank. We caught half a dozen walleyes in less than an hour. It was a great way to unwind after a long drive and kickoff our fishing holiday.
This fall, head to the bank at night and try your luck for walleyes. Simple and fun, night fishing from shore is an effective way to catch these spunky low-light predators.