by Greg Bohn
If you think your rock bar is hot during the day,wait until the sun goes down. Many walleyes put feeding on hold until nightfall. Don’t miss the bite after dark. It can be unbelievable!
There’s nothing more exciting than watching a Lindy Nite Brite lighted float dipping underwater near the boat. You know there might be a big walleye on the hook. If that doesn’t get your attention, check for a pulse.
I live in heaven when it comes to the night bite. My area of northern Wisconsin literally offers thousands of lakes that turn on hone the sun goes down.
Still, some anglers consider night fishing a hassle. I agree it’s a different world out there after dark and it does have it’s moments. Swatting mosquitoes and big June bugs or watching bats swoop down and hit your lighted bobber are things that happen. But, I assure you, late-night walleyes will make it worthwhile.
Not all lakes are active night lakes. Shallow lakes that contain darker water are typically more active during the day. Why target lakes that have a good daytime bite anyway? They will probably have no action after dark. Instead, fish lakes that have a reputation for having a tough daytime bite. It’s automatic that’ll sport a walleye night life. The big, deep, clear lakes generally prove best after dark.
Many night-lake favorites have several things in common. They are typically gin-clear, have deep water rock structures and big walleyes. They also have suspended daytime walleye, lots of cisco and whitefish, a few weeds and deep rock bars. The walleyes we catch at night never get close to a lure during the day.
There’s really no best time of year for the night bite. Walleyes bite after dark from the walleye opener to ice up. Lakes that offer a night bite always have a night bite. But, my favorite time to light up is the summer period of June through September when I have a chance to experience pleasant weather, beautiful sunsets, stars and the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) overhead.
Target hard bottom humps and bars that top off in 10- to 25 feet. Walleyes inactive during the day know exactly which bars offer food. These bars can go from having no action before the sun sets to being super hot after the sun goes down. Walleyes seem to suddenly appear from everywhere.
Night fishing is not like daytime fishing when you run from spot to spot. There’s not enough time after dark. You’ll miss what I call the night surge. When the best action comes, the last thing you want to be doing is wasting valuable time looking for spots to fish. Have the first spot and two alternatives picked out before you reach the lake. If the first spot fails shortly after dark, move to the second. If you need to try the third, the night is over. Go to bed.
My fishing strategy is to arrive well before dusk, select three quality rock bars and locate the crown, the highest point, of each bar. That way, I know how deep to set my rigs at each spot. The sweet spots can be hard to find sometimes. Doing it before dark makes it easier. Don’t be afraid to put a marker or two out for reference later. No one will bother them. They’re home watching the tube.
If the wind is blowing, I also take time to map my best anchoring locations. Arrive early on the first spot, anchor and have the rigs out when the sun begins to set. Your baits should be in place waiting for the night surge to happen.
The night surge varies each night. Sometimes, feed periods are short. Sometimes, they are prolonged. In my dreams, the ultimate night slip bobbing would feature a cloudy sky, which usually translates to more active walleyes but for a shorter period of time.
The wind direction, moon phase and barometric pressure are all factors. When moon rises, you can actually feel a change in pressure and see the wind swirling to create a chop. Walleyes feed recklessly for a few minutes. It’s a golden opportunity for big fish.
I love when the late evening hop extending into nightfall. That prolongs the bite. Any wind is better than no wind at all.
If you get hits before dark, that’s a great sign. Settle in. You won’t be going anywhere.
Set rigs 3 to 7 feet off the bottom. The walleyes that were suspended during the day move over the tops of the bars, but they don’t hug the bottom. If you fish too deep, you can miss the biggest fish. They are more likely to come up to hit something anyway. By setting rigs higher in the first place, you’ve already increased your odds.
When a bobber goes under, watch the bobber light’s direction of travel. Is it going deeper, shallower or is it staying the same as the walleye moves off? That can be a hint on how to fine tune the depth. Big walleye travel slowly.
All live bait works at night. But, one of the highlights of night fishing is that panfish are no where around. Whole nightcrawlers can be used without being pestered. My top night producer is a Thill Nite Brite float rigged with a 1/16 ox. Mr Slip Bobber Jig Bug tipped with a whole nightcrawler. That makes a big target. Jumbo leeches and big chubs also catch nighttime fish, but there’s just something about the whole ‘crawler after dark.
Do glow jigs and glow hooks work after dark? Simple answer. Yes.
Keep track of productive spots. With experience, you become so intimate with the details of each spot you’ll know where you are going, where you will anchor and how deep to set your rigs before you get there. I’m already set to go to particular GPS locations before my boat leaves the garage. I may have to do some fine tuning on the water, but I’m basically ready to fish spots before I arrive. You’d be surprised how many times I have a walleye on before I get the second bobber rig in place.
If one of the rods seems especially hot one night, mark the handle with a rubber band. Next day, adjust other rods to match the hot rod’s depth. You’ll be prepared when you go back to the spot again.
For more slip bobber tips, check out Greg Bohn’s book “Master the Art of Slip Bobbering“.
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