How to Catch Autumn Walleyes at Night

Walleye anglers everywhere anticipate the arrival of October because it’s the “witching time,” when big fish prowl shorelines, reefs and similar structure that attracts baitfish. Female walleyes are intent on filling their biological fuel tanks to levels that will sustain them, and support egg production, though the bleak winter months.

Their single-minded drive toward that objective during the fall also makes them more vulnerable to a well-placed lure, especially after the evening sun has dropped below the horizon.

“In places like Green Bay, night fishing has always been popular,” said tournament angler and Smithwick brand ambassador Zak Jobes. “Here on Lake Erie I’ve seen its popularity rise dramatically in just the past few years.”

Nighttime action begins to heat up as day lengths shorten and water temps drop into the 60s, the angler explained, and the frenzy typically builds to a peak as they drop below 50 degrees. Shiners and other baitfish concentrate near piers, breakwalls, reefs and other massive structure, and big walleyes simply have to lay in wait to ambush them.

“The guys on Green Bay might be trolling in 5 or 8 feet of water, but here I seldom troll shallower than 20,” said Jobes, “but you don’t have to get very far from a pier or breakwall to be in 15 or 20 feet of water.”

His approach is to troll Smithwick Perfect 10 and Bandit Shallow Walleye stickbaits just 10 to 30 feet behind side planers that run close to the structure at around 1.4 to 1.6 mph.

“The fish are shallow — sometimes suspended just a couple feet below the surface — so you don’t want the lures running too deep,” he said, “and the planer boards keep them from being spooked by the boat.”

It’s a rare thing to actually see walleyes on the sonar screen in such skinny water; Jobes focuses more on the temperature readout and concentrates on the warmest water in a particular area. “Baitfish and walleyes are also influenced by current, so pay attention to current edges where you find them,” he added.

One final tip Jobes offers: Boat traffic can push walleyes away from structure; if you find yourself among a flotilla of trollers, ply the outside edges of the fleet. The fish might just get pushed right into your lap.

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