How to Fish for Walleye at Night From Shore
Updated: Dec 31, 2020
Growing up my only exposure to night fishing was catfishing with my grandpa at his lake cabin in northern Ohio, but as an adult, I now wanted to learn how to fish for walleye at night from shore.
After doing some research I found a bunch of helpful information on how to catch walleye at night from shore. A single medium-light action 7’ spinning rod paired with 10 lbs. braid, steel leader, and a stick style crankbait 5-7 inches long will be your primary gear. Cast the crankbait and retrieve it slowly with pauses. You can also use a jig and minnow. Fish shallow water preferably adjacent to deep water or current.
What do I Need to Catch Walleye at Night From Shore?
As mentioned above, the gear you need to fish for walleye at night from shore will include a few basic items no matter what lure or bait you choose to fish. The most basic being a light source such as a headlamp or flashlight. Clothing will depend on your local weather and personal preference. Walleye can be caught at night from shore all year round, but it is usually best in the spring and fall. In the spring and fall the water temps will be cold and can produce hypothermia if you fall in, so be cautious when fishing near obstructions or current. Because you are fishing at night, you will want to consider general safety at night and be aware of your surroundings, and if you are fishing alone make sure someone knows how to find you if something were to happen.
Attaching a wire leader to your fishing line can be challenging even for veteran anglers. Check out this tutorial video for a great way to tie on the leader without compromising the action of the husky jerk.
Where to Fish for Walleye at Night From Shore?
During the night time, walleye will swim up into shallow water to feed and this is especially true in the fall. You want to start by looking at a map with depths or contour lines and figure out where there are shallow water creeks or streams or bays that come off of a main body of water. After you have found these places on a map you will want to research if it is possible to access the shoreline of these spots, and what you will need to get there. Some additional features that make great night time spots for shore fishing walleye at night are:
Piers can offer quick and easy access to otherwise unreachable water. You can cast or vertical jig from them and extend your fishable water.
Docks are a great year-round structure for fish, and walleye are no exception. They will seek out docks for both shelter and to ambush prey.
Breakwalls will be another awesome place to fish walleyes at night because they will provide a stopping point for bait fish which walleyes will use to pin their prey or cut off escape angles.
Bridges are some of the best places to fish for giants all year round. They are natural pinch points that funnel both current and bait in and out of areas of the body of water. Walleye like other predatory fish will use all advantages the bridge provides to ambush and capture their prey.
Dams provide a great way to locate fish. Their function intrinsically congregates fish in a predictable manner. Find the channel current, closest eddy, and or current seam and you should quickly find some fish.
My First Walleye at Night From Shore
We would catch bluegills or perch off the dock during the day and keep a few for bait by chucking them up onto the yard and letting them get good and “baked” in the hot summer sun. By nightfall, they would be hard, fly filled, and stinky. We would push a circle hook through the bottom lip and out through the head and toss the bait below a heavy sinker and softball-sized bobber out into the lake. The fun part was playing card games while we waited and watched for bites. We caught some big channel and blue catfish fishing that way, but none of it compared to the first time I saw a pair of golden glowing eyes pierce the dark night water and inhale my crankbait right at my feet.
When I moved to Wisconsin I was introduced to an enormous amount of outdoor adventures, and one of the most relaxing and addicting ones was “shinning” for walleyes at night. Shinning refers to the act of using a headlamp or flashlight and walking the shoreline shinning the light into the water. If you are successful you will witness a pair of glowing golden marble-sized eyes either sitting on the bottom or swimming up and downstream. You can also see large carp and buffalo roaming the water, muskies or pike stalking prey, bass and bluegill “sleeping” on the bottom, bullheads and crawfish playing in the rocks, and dogfish (bowfin) searching the bank for food.
One of the very best times to learn about night time fish behavior and shine for walleyes is in the fall. When the weather turns cold, the water temperatures fluctuate in a way that shallow water in the backs of creeks, bays, and rivers will attract large groups of baitfish. And where the baitfish go, the game fish will follow. Almost all types of freshwater game fish can be caught in shallow water in the fall. If you are a shore-fisherman looking for the biggest fish of your life, fall fishing at night is a great way to net your dream fish.
Depending on what species you want to target and where you are fishing, you may have to use a couple of different rod and reel or tackle setups. However, I have found that it is really hard to beat the effectiveness and versatility of a single medium-light action 7’ spinning rod. To fish it correctly you need to be patient and practice, but once you catch a couple of fish you will have the confidence to you pursue the fish of a lifetime at night.
I had a monumental night a month after my twin boys were born. It was the day before the channel I was fishing froze for the winter. It was the first week of December and actively snowing with temps so cold that it hurt to take your glove off. I was fishing with a headlamp and had not been able to see into the water due to the wind and lake turn over, but in hindsight that probably was an advantage. I casted out into the main current seam just past a large weed bed and counted a few seconds before I closed my bail to start reeling up the slack. I popped a glass perch colored husky jerk bait (size 10) twice pretty hard on slack line to get the bait to dart quickly back and forth without actually moving it very far in the water, which simulates a dying baitfish. I started to reel up the slack and just as I went to pop the bait again I felt a truck slam into the rod. In utter amazement, the biggest walleye I had caught to date had just inhaled my crankbait and hit my net. I got the football-sized freak out of the net for some quick pictures and measurement then let him go. Three years later I ended up getting a replica made to help represent a happy time in my life when I was first learning the nuances of night fishing. Joe Fittante did the replica and he did an amazing job with only a total length and a picture of the fish. The fish went 24.5 inches on the bump board, but it was so fat it looked like its head was a small glued-on triangle with a mouth.
Fall is my favorite season for many reasons, and when that cold crisp air starts to settle in, it is time to head out and search for the biggest fish of the year. Even if you do not plan on fishing, get out at night and shine a light. You may be pleasantly surprised at the big fish you see and the glowing eyes swimming around in the water.