The October full moon period is often one of the best opportunities of the season to catch a big walleye. The effects of the full moon last for several days before and after the full moon.
Cloud cover can be a problem but it won't completely shut down the night bite for walleyes. A sudden appearance of the moon breaking through the clouds can often trigger a flurry of activity, with the moon having an almost magical affect on walleyes.
The full moon will move some of the largest walleyes in the lakes into the shallows to feed, especially in lakes with clear water. Walleyes use the backlighting from the moon to silhouette their prey against the surface of the water and blindside their prey from below.
Trolling long skinny minnow baits usually works better than the short fat crankbaits for walleyes at night. Walleyes can be somewhat scattered on the flats, so trolling also helps anglers cover more water faster.
Walleyes lose their inhibitions after dark and will literally slam into the baits with surprising force. Anglers can use larger baits for walleyes at night than they normally would during the day. The best size lures are baits often considered "pike sized" in the five to seven-inch range because they give the walleyes a bigger target.
The larger baits will catch all sizes of walleyes but they are most appealing to the larger fish. Anglers often catch walleyes larger than 20 inches and a 10-pound fish is also a possibility.
Anglers may also notice that the walleyes they catch at night are often quite a bit fatter than walleyes they catch during the day.
Walleyes conditioned to feeding after dark are often some of the largest and most healthy fish in the lake. Anglers may also catch a few pike or muskies trolling after dark but most of the action is usually from walleyes.
Anglers fishing at night often fish on large mid-lake structures or large shoreline flats in eight to 14 feet of water. Walleyes feed towards the surface at night so it is not essential that the lures work all the way to the bottom as anglers usually must do when trolling crankbaits during the day.
The areas with rocks or short weeds are usually the easiest to troll because anglers don't get hung up as often. Having to reel in and clean weeds off baits or frequently getting snagged will quickly take the fun out of fishing at night.
Line counter reels are almost essential so anglers can accurately adjust how much line they put out in a certain depth of water.
Anglers can set rods in rod holders and catch fish but it usually works better to hang on to the rod and work the baits while trolling. Many of the strikes will come right after jerking the bait.
Walleyes have a short window of opportunity when the baits go past them in the dark at about two miles per hour. Some of the strikes can almost tear the rod out of angler's hand so keep a good grip on the rod.
Anglers holding onto the rods can also feel when the lure strikes the bottom or misses a fish. Anglers can usually clear the bait of weeds with a couple of hard jerks on the rod. Anglers will know if the lure is free of weeds if they can feel the action of the lure.
Headlamps are ideal for night fishing and will direct the light where the anglers are looking. The eyes of the walleyes will shine like a deer at night in the when they get close to the boat and that helps anglers see where to net the fish.
Handling lures in the dark can be dangerous so anglers should use a hook-out and watch where they put their hands in relation to the lures. Using a tangle-free net is almost a necessity too to keep the lures and the fish from getting tangled.
Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. He can be e-mailed at email@example.com.