Uber Shallow Fall Walleyes After Dark
Cool days and even cooler nights mark the changing of the seasons. With Halloween over and Thanksgiving around the corner now is the time to take advantage of some oaf the best walleye fishing of the year here in Madison. The best part; you don't even need a boat. Do I have your attention? Good.
(Labidesthes sicculus: Brook Silverside Minnow)
(Notemigonus crysoleucas: Golden Shiner)
With the cooling water temps forage species such as Golden Shiners and Brook Silversides (pictured above) move to the warmest water they can find - the shallows. The shallow bottom holds the heat of the day in turn attracting the bait fish, and at night the walleyes. Follow the food and find the fish. Can you catch them deep this time of year? Sure! But why would you want to waste your time covering water trolling when you can cast from shore and catch way more fish. Here's how it's done.
Location is key. High percentage areas are vital to being successful with targeting these walleyes. The single most key feature to a high percentage area in this case is one loaded with bait. You may think to yourself "there's so much bait in here so why would they bother to hit my lure?". That's a valid thought, however given the sheer number of walleyes present, the odds are in your favor of some of them being triggered by your presentation. Just about any shallow bay or flat with bait present will attract walleyes after dark.
Before we get into the actual equipment and lure selection we have to touch on some vital equipment when night fishing. First and foremost a quality headlamp is going to make your life 217% easier than messing around with a flashlight (although bringing a flashlight as a backup is a great idea). ALSO, because walleye eyes "glow" under light you can use your headlamp to locate cruising walleyes to cast at.
The tell tale "glowing" eyes of cruising walleyes. Super creepy and super cool.
Because sometimes fish suck, it is also a great idea to bring a pair of wire cutters or high quality pliers with cutters along for both removing hooks from fish and also hands. Also be sure to let someone know that you plan to be out fishing and where you are going to be. It may not seem like a big deal, but as the water and air temps continue to drop your risk of becoming hypothermic should you fall in is greatly increased. That said fewer and fewer people will be out on the water to come to your aid. Letting someone know where you are and when you finally leave can save a lot of headaches and heartaches. Safety first.
Okay, lets talk fun stuff. My lure selection for these shallow fall walleye is super simple: stick baits. Your definition of a "stick bait" may vary, however I consider any crankbait that looks like a twig to be a stick bait. In this case my assortment of casting cranks consists of (pictured below from left to right) Smithwick Rougue, Rapala Husky Jerks (HJ 8 through 12), Rapala Shadow Rap Shad and standard Shadow Rap, and Storm Jr Thundersticks. You may also notice a central color scheme: natural. With clear water I find that even in the dark more natural patterns seem to produce better than crazy colors. That said crazy colors can and will work, however the majority of the time I have found a more natural "match the hatch" approach to be the most productive.
Working the lures properly is also key to being successful with this type of fishing. Most anglers have the tendency to work baits too quickly. It is important to remember that although walleye do see well in low light conditions, they are still looking around in the dark. A fast moving target is somewhat difficult for them to hone in on. Slow and erratic movements are the way to go. Although those two terms tend to contradict one another, that is exactly what you have to do. A quick twitch followed by a long 3 to 8 second pause triggers the most strikes. The twitch grabs their attention and the pause lets them size up the lure and make their move. If you think you are fishing too fast, add another 2 seconds to your pauses to see if it makes a difference.
Tackle for this technique can really be anything you are comfortable casting with. I like a 7 foot medium power spinning rod spooled with 20 to 30lb braid and a 25lb tieable titanium wire leader. I like the titanium better than flourocarbon or steel leaders due to its thin diameter and low weight which prevents it from affecting the action of the lures and at the same time allowing you to keep your expensive crankbaits and land more of those toothy critters that like to steal them. Shout out to Madison guide Lee Tauchen for the leader rig. You can watch his Youtube video HERE to see how he makes this rig.
Shore locations are available all around Madison on Lakes Mendota, Monona, and Waubesa. Get out there, scout some spots, and start casting! Tight lines!
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