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PAUL NELSON FISHING: Time for a little night fishing

The October full moon was Thursday night, but anglers are able to have good success fishing walleyes at night several days before and after the full moon, so the opportunity should extend at least through this weekend.

Night fishing is not for everyone, but with the zebra mussels expanding to more lakes, the trend of fishing for walleyes at night is just going to get more prevalent in the future.

Trolling or casting floating minnow baits that dive just below the surface is the presentation most walleye anglers use at night.

Shallow rocks or the outside edge of cabbage weed beds are two of the most likely places to find walleyes feeding at night.

Anglers can troll the outside edges of the rocks or weeds until they find some feeding walleyes and then hold their boat just outside the productive areas and cast the floating minnow baits towards the structure.

The tops of the cabbage weeds break off late in the fall from the wave action in the lakes. The seeds are located in the tops of the plants, so this is the way cabbage weeds reseed the areas for next year.

Once the tops of the weeds break off, anglers can cast shallow diving lures over the weed beds without catching as many weeds.

Walleyes usually feed toward the bottom during the day. At night, walleyes use the moonlight as a backdrop to see the silhouettes of the baitfish above them, so walleyes usually feed toward the surface at night.

Lakes in the Bemidji area have finally dropped into the upper 50s after a week of rain and more seasonal temperatures for early October.

The thermocline in the deeper lakes has disappeared, so fish species like crappies and walleyes are free to begin moving into deeper water, as long as there is enough oxygen and forage located there.

Walleyes are able to choose where they want to be located based on the amount of sunlight and available forage and not based on the water temperatures to determine where the fish do and do not want to be.

Once the lakes begin cooling, they cool from the surface down, so at some point in the fall, the warmest part of the lakes is on the bottom.

Most anglers like to use jigs and minnows, with a ¼- to ⅜-ounce jig the most popular sizes. UV colors and glow paints are often helpful for fishing in deeper water, to help the fish see and target the baits.

Live bait rigs with larger minnows is also a very productive way to catch walleyes late in the season. This presentation allows anglers to fish more slowly and be able to pause their baits in areas where they are seeing fish on sonar, so the minnow can do some of the work.

Leeches are like gold in the fall for walleyes, but they can be very difficult to find, especially in larger sizes. Anglers can put more than one small leech on a hook to get more mass, to try and make it more appealing to the walleyes.

Night crawlers will also work in cold water, so it can pay dividends to try different types of live bait for walleyes. Some anglers like to pinch off the night crawlers if the walleyes are biting short.

Panfish can also be caught on leeches and nightcrawlers, with anglers cutting the leeches or night crawlers into smaller pieces and putting them on smaller winter jigs or smaller jigging spoons or other winter jigging lures.

Perch have been actively feeding in areas holding a mixture of minnows and crayfish. This can be either areas with broken rock or chara covered bottom, which both give the minnows and crayfish some cover to hide.

Small jigs, usually 1/16th or 1/8th ounce, tipped with a fathead minnow will catch perch in most situations. Anglers will also catch walleyes or northern pike as a bonus when fishing for perch.

Fishing for most species should just keep getting better as the lakes cool down.

Paul A. Nelson runs the “Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service.” He can be contacted at

Paul Nelson
Paul Nelson writes a weekly fishing column for the Bemidji Pioneer. He runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service.