Fishing for walleye at night can be more productive than during daylight hours. While Walleye will feed throughout the day, they feed more on certain bodies of water after dark. This isn’t a big surprise. Walleye are known to feed at night and have evolved to do so with having special eyes for the task.
Let’s take a dive into some effective night fishing tips for catching walleye and how you can prepare yourself to be successful while doing it.
Best Time to Learn
This may not seem like the correct answer at first, but the best time to set yourself up to be successful at night fishing is during the day. This is especially true if you are not familiar with the body of water you intend to night fish.
Going out on the water after dark and trying to use nothing but your electronics to precisely fish small structure or find fish is difficult.
In fact, everything becomes vastly more difficult at night when you are in a boat.
Author Note: Learning these pieces of structure during the daylight hours and locations of baitfish and marking them all out on your GPS unit is far more effective and makes things easier when you go out after dark.
Night fishing for walleyes is typically shallow fishing, and you will more than likely be fishing in water that is 15 feet deep or less. This is another reason why exploring these areas is key in the daytime.
Stumps and other hazards can be dangerous during the day, but at night they can be life-threatening operating a boat.
If you are fishing rivers, lakes, flowages, or reservoirs at night, you need to be aware of any rock bar, humps, stumps, sandbars, or other dangerous boat hazards. At best, you damage your boat or destroy your boat motors’ lower unit.
At worse, you get flung from your boat in the middle of the night and end up seriously injured or dead.
With the scary stuff out of the way, walleye will push up to shallower waters at night to feed, and you can find them congregated on rip-rap, sandbars, sandy bays, rock bars, and other areas.
A good way to see if a shallow spot is holding fish at night is to use a spotlight.
Using a spotlight will reveal those chrome eyes as they reflect the light back to you, and on a truly epic spot, you might see dozens or hundreds of eyes shining back at you.
Keep your Lures Off The Bottom
Crankbaits are great lures to fish at night, they make a ton of vibration, and many rattle to call in walleyes (and sauger) from long distances.
When fishing these shallow areas at night, try to keep your lure 1 to 3 feet off the bottom. Walleye tend to bite very lightly at night, and if you are constantly contacting bottom or vegetation, you won’t be able to tell if it’s a fish or not.
This will have you setting the hook on upon contacting weeds or bottom, and then you will get complacent and not set the hook on light-biting fish thinking it’s the bottom or more weeds.
Top Tip: Walleye in a positive feeding mood will have zero issues going a few feet from the bottom to grab a crankbait. It’s only one kick of a tail.
Since you will be fishing in shallow water the majority of the time when night fishing, it’s important to maintain a high level of stealth. Flying up to the areas you want to fish with the main boat motor is a bad idea. Instead, stop well before you get to your intended fishing spots and then creep closer with your trolling motor.
Lights like lanterns, headlamps, and flashlights can make the walleye aware of your presence as well, so be sure to only use them when needed, like when netting and unhooking a fish or when tying on new lures.
The same colors used in daylight will also work at night, and matching the hatch is a great idea. Just make sure the type of line you use works well with your walleye fishing reel.
Imitating the chrome side flashing of shiners in the dim moonlight can make for some amazing fishing at night. It looks natural and is something the fish actively seek out when feeding.
In murkier or stained water, glowing lures can be very effective.
But many professional walleye anglers warn that using too much light to activate a very bright glow can actually be detrimental to your walleye fishing cause.
Use your flashlights sparingly to get your glow lures powered up. You want a subtle glow, as a bright strobe light lures glowing in the water can actually scare walleye away.
Live bait like shiners can really do some damage after dark. Using a simple slip bobber or adjustable floats to vary your depths precisely is all you needed here, along with a few sinkers and a small treble hook.
Many bobbers can accept glow stick attachments that you can attach to the top of the bobber, allowing you to see them at night, even at fairly long distances, and it’s easy to see when a fish grabs your shiner by watching the glow stick sink beneath the surface.
Rivers at Night
Walleye fishing on rivers is awesome, but at night the river becomes an entirely different animal, and as mentioned before, you need to be very cautious on the water after dark, this is most certainly amplified on rivers, especially the smaller remote rivers that are loaded with obstructions and hazards.
Many of the same rules still apply in terms of fishing and walleye location after dark, and areas like shallow flats can be very productive.
Great river spots like dams are also easily fished from shore, and there is so much positive going on in terms of fish near dams that they can be very productive. Dams and their discharges, as well as water flow from the gates, creating a highly oxygenated environment.
In many cases, the areas directly below a dam may have holes or deeper water depths than further downstream.
These perks created by a dam mean that baitfish will congregate below them, and as a result, the predatory fish like walleyes follow.
Dams can be a great place to catch walleyes year-round, from spring and summer and throughout the winter months as well, as the discharge water of the dam is typically warm and makes a warm water sanctuary where fish will congregate.
Night Fishing on the Ice
Night fishing for walleye on the ice is very popular in the northern reaches of the United States, in particular the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes region.
Early in the season on first ice typically means you will be fishing as you would at night any other time of the year, shallow areas or areas between deep water and shallow areas where the walleye are transitioning to feed.
Tip-ups with live bait like shiners are great tools for night fishing for walleye, as they work for you, allowing you to jig while indicating when a fish has grabbed your bait.
It’s important to note that walleye can be very wary of tip-ups if they feel the resistance needed to turn the spool and trip your flag. Set your flag in as light of a position as possible.
This might not be possible if there is wind, but setting your tip-ups to create the least amount of resistance as possible will result in more fish.
Spoons tipped with minnow heads or lures like the jigging rap by Rapala can be great options for jigging up walleye on the ice after dark. Add in a flasher or sonar unit to see what is happening below you, and work the fish into striking.
Author Note: Be sure if you are fishing early ice to keep safety in mind, and it is best to head out during daylight hours to inspect the quality of the ice.
Safety equipment is imperative, so be sure to bring a spud to check ice thickness as you approach the area you want to fish, along with having safety picks with you in the event you break through the ice.
Night fishing for walleye can be much more productive than fishing for them during the day. And if you cross your T’s and dot your I’s, you might hammer the walleye after dark when 99.9% of anglers are counting sheep and had little action during the day.
Safety is always the #1 concern with night fishing, so be sure that you do it in a safe manner and prepare for any situation that could arise when fishing at night for walleye.