By Bob Jensen
If you want to catch a big walleye, fall is a time when your odds of doing so are probably the best. Spring can provide an opportunity to take a trophy, but season is closed in many areas of walleye country. For many walleyes chasers, autumn is the most consistent producer of big fish with glassy eyes.
There are lots of bodies of water across the range of the walleye that will provide big fish. Some lakes, rivers, or reservoirs have a reputation for turning out big fish. If the walleye-of-a-lifetime is your goal, center your efforts on those water systems.
Often the best trophy walleye producers will be large, deep lakes with clear water. Not always, but often. Lakes such as this are home to baitfish that make the walleyes fat. The food in deep, clear lakes makes walleyes heavy, and because the water is clear, the walleyes can often be easier to catch at night.
But there’s another reason why the walleyes go on a night-bite in the fall. Those baitfish that make the walleyes grow big are fall spawners. They’re in the shallows at night laying their eggs at a time of year when the walleyes are interested in adding some fat to their body to get them through the winter months. Those baitfish are very susceptible to hungry walleyes when they’re in those shallow areas.
The fall-spawning baitfish will usually spawn in shallow water that is close to deep water. Shorelines or off-shore shallow sand or rock areas will be good starting points.
In lakes that don’t have fall spawning baitfish, a night-bite can still occur. Look for areas with current. Go out during the day to current areas and see if baitfish are present. If they are, walleyes will visit at night. I remember a Halloween evening in the early 90’s on Leech Lake. My friends and I were casting crankbaits from shore and catching walleyes on almost every cast. Not big ones, but they were all from two to four pounds, and back then, that was some very good fishing.
I remember another October evening on Clear Lake in north central Iowa. The full moon was rising over the eastern shoreline and the walleyes were eating on the west side of the lake. We caught a lot of fish that night, and quite a few were in the four to six pound range.
If you’ll be fishing from a boat, keep equipment to a minimum and know where all your gear is in the boat. You don’t want to be looking for baits or hook-outs or line-cutters at night when the fish are biting.
If you’ll be wading, check out the area for rocks or logs under the water that you could trip on.
You’ll need some #5 Hornets and #12 Salmo Stings. Boat anglers who are trolling will do well with a #12 Salmo Perch. Try different colors until you find what the fish want.
On some bodies of water you’ll have the lake to yourself at night, but on other bodies of water there will be lots of anglers fishing under the moonlight. They’re out there because they know that night-fishing can provide the biggest walleye of the year, maybe a lifetime. Find out for yourself in the next few weeks how productive night-fishing for walleyes can be.