Big walleyes should be on the prowl
By Paul Nelson
Tonight is the October full moon, which could be the best night of the year to catch a big walleye. Several days on either side of the full moon can also be good.
The conditions need to be right. Clear skies with little or no wind are ideal.
The lake has to have the goods. The lake has to have big walleyes for anglers to catch big walleyes. The best lakes usually have clear water and a reputation for big walleyes that are tough to catch.
Night fishing isn't for everyone and it is not a numbers game or a small-fish venture. Anglers fishing at night should be there to catch big walleyes (big muskies bite at night, too).
Night fishing takes some special preparation. Everything has to be handy and within easy reach, including the camera, hookout, clippers and landing net. A head lamp is almost a necessity, with other types of lighting also helpful.
Walleyes are normally cautious bottom feeders during the day but at night they lose their inhibitions and feed aggressively. Walleyes feed towards the surface at night, using the moon as a backlight to see their prey.
Walleyes feed shallow at night, usually using water 10 feet or less.
Anglers can troll or cast structure using floating or neutrally buoyant crankbaits. Anglers can also anchor and use lighted slip bobbers with live bait, especially if anglers have some big fish pinpointed.
The best lure profile for walleyes at night is usually long and skinny rather than short and fat. Anglers can use larger lures at night to provide a better target for the walleyes. Muskie-sized stick baits may be just the right size for really big walleyes.
Anglers can try different styles of lures, too. Jointed minnow baits leave a different wake in the water than one-piece baits. Rattles are another option to add some sound.
Colors can also make a difference. White and silver are usually the default colors but gold, perch and even orange or chartreuse can work in some lakes.
The surface water temperatures in most lakes are in the low 50s, which is warm for this late in the season. The lakes still have to cool another 10 degrees or more before they begin to freeze, when surface temperatures reach between 39 and 40 degrees.
Fishing has been good for most species of fish. Anglers know where the best bites are happening so cars at the accesses usually mean there is a good bite going somewhere in the lake.
Docks at the public accesses are in the process of being removed which is bad news for anglers with big boats. Most of the docks should be out of the water before the end of October.
Anglers wanting to continue fishing after the docks have been removed might want to bring a friend to help them launch the boat. A pair of rubber boots and a long rope can come in handy to help anglers keep their feet dry while launching and landing a boat without the aid of a dock.
One of the best walleye bites in the area has been on Lake Winnibigoshish. Anglers are using jigs and minnows along shoreline structure in six to 10 feet of water. Most of the walleyes have been on areas with broken rocks or on the edge of cabbage weed beds.
Leech Lake has also had a good shallow walleye bite, with walleyes moving into four to six feet on the rocks when the wind is blowing and in eight to 12 feet along the drop-off when the winds are light. Anglers have also been catching perch in many of the same areas as the walleyes in both Leech and Winnie.
Some anglers like to use stand-up jigs for walleyes in shallow water. Stand-up jigs are designed with a flat or wedge shaped head, so they stand-up when they are resting on the bottom.
Stand-up jigs often work better than round head jigs in rocks or weeds because they don't get snagged as easily. They also keep the hook in a good position when dragging or stopping the jigs on the bottom.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.