Ontario Walleye FishingOntario Walleye Fishing Tips and Resorts
Night Trolling for Walleye
The green, red and white navigation lights from other boats slowly glided through the darkness, setting the ambiance for another night fishing adventure. Within a few minutes of starting a trolling run, I connected with a fierce and feisty walleye that hammered my shallow-running minnow bait. Through the flashlight beam the fish became visible. Once boat side it was netted and quickly released. I returned my bait to the water, gazed up at the stars and breathed the cool, evening air – Ah, the joys of night trolling for walleye.
If you’ve yet to get hooked on night fishing for walleye you’re missing out. Walleye anglers can have all the latest bells and whistles in tackle or know the latest techniques, but the basic fact remains that walleye are low-light feeders. They become active at dark and fishing for them when the sun’s down puts the odds in your favour.
Areas to cover when trolling during the night for walleye include breaklines, points, sandbars, and shoals next to deep water where walleye can easily move into shallow water to feed. Cover is also critical to your search. Walleye will often favour areas with weeds or rocks as cover attracts prey but also aids these predators when ambushing forage. It’s best to fish a variety of structures until you locate walleye, keeping in mind that fish will roam various depths ranging anywhere from two to 20 feet of water.
It’s tough to beat the silent hum of a trolling motor or a paddled canoe to avoid spooking walleye, but long-lining with gas motors is also an effective method. S-turns are a good pattern to follow when trolling. Refrain from using rod holders. They work well in the day, but at night you won’t feel (or see) a fish hit or be able to monitor the action of your bait if you’re not holding the rod. GPS units are an excellent addition to your boat when trolling as they allow you to navigate at night as well as return to productive areas by storing waypoints instead of relying on landmarks as reference in the dark.
Keep it Simple
When fishing at night keep things simple and organized. Don’t bring too many rods or try to fish with more than two anglers. Keep gear (like nets, pliers, and flashlights) at the ready. If you’re boat has them, use the onboard lights to help you find your way around but use orange bulbs which attract bugs less than white ones. A headlamp is another great piece of gear to have on board, allowing you to keep both hands free.
Top Tackle Choices
Crankbaits and minnowbaits are the stars of nighttime trolling. Various wobbles and wiggles appeal to the different dispositions of walleye throughout the season, so keep a variety of straight, jointed, narrow and fat billed trolling baits in your tackle box. Shallow running baits (like a Rapala J-9) work well for trolling over the top of weeds to avoid hang-ups. Deeper running baits (like Cotton Cordell’s Wally Diver) work well for probing the edges of breaklines or around shoals. Another top trolling choice are spinner rigs tipped with worms, leeches, or minnows.
Unlike walleye that see well in the dark, anglers loose the reliance of their number one sense when night fishing – sight. To keep your night trolling adventures safe, use your boat’s running lights and wear a life jacket. Exercise caution around other boats as depth perception is dramatically reduced in the dark. If possible, get on the water an hour or so before nightfall so your eyes can adjust to the changing light conditions. Finally, leave an itinerary with someone on land, including time on and off the water and fishing area, and bring a cell phone or other communication device with you for emergencies. All these points should be standard whenever boating, but they are especially important when night fishing.
Give night trolling a try this season and hunt walleye when they’re feeding and active. Not only will you likely find them more aggressive than during the day, but you’ll also likely experience little (if any) boat traffic or crowded fishing spots, which is a welcome sight to any angler, even in the dark.
By Tim Allard