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After-dark walleyes: Night action on area lakes

The last hour or so before dark is the best time to scout likely night fishing hot spots. (Gary Korsgaden/For the Enterprise)

Don't stop fishing at dark. The night action on area lakes might be better than you've seen all day.

Putting aside the romance of fishing sundown and after, it's a known fact that fishing tends to be better once the sun goes down any time of the year.

Walleyes feed better under a cover of darkness. Action is better due to prime walleye forage. Bait fish move shallow; walleyes lurk in the dark to ambush them.

Consider this: our area lakes, during the fall, become clearer. Walleyes react by moving deeper mid-day, out of the sun — not that walleyes can't be caught midday, they can. At nightfall, walleyes seek shallow waters and become easier for anglers to find and catch.

Mid-day, walleyes hang out in deep water, so, logically, prime shallow water areas are close to the deep water. Some areas are close to the main basin or the mouth of a major bay. Any point, rock pile or sunken island close to deep water are worth a look. On top, look for vegetation, fresh and green. Another walleye haunt is rocks. All hold bait fish for prowling walleyes.

Electronics are the best tool to spot bait fish schools, just off the drop-offs before dark. Cruise the deep-water areas, keeping a watchful eye on your electronics. Leave your arsenal of live baits and lures home; keep it simple.

The easiest way to deal with darkness is to arrive early, affording you the opportunity to become better acquainted with the area before dark, when the action begins. For starters, I like to troll minnow-shaped crank baits. This allows me to cover a lot of water, taking particular note for later the fish on the depth sounder screen, usually deep just off the shallow structures. Don't worry if there are no biters now. The active feeding moods will change when darkness arrives.

A second method is jigs tipped with plastic tails. Fish them with a vertically jigging motion over spotted fish before dark. Later, switch to pitching them it into the shallows after the sun sets. Once the sun drops below the top of the tree line, you might try casting larger minnow imitating crank baits into the shallow water. Crawl back, capitalizing on the slow side to side action so the walleyes can hone in on your lure for a easy meal. The same applies to casting a jig and a plastic tail. Cast it a distance offshore or from the boat, let the lead head tap the bottom, retrieve it back with up and down rod tip pumping actions, with the lead head tapping the bottom. This becomes a signal for the walleye to come and get it.

It's universally accepted that moon activity affects fish feeding moods and affects walleye behavior. What varies is anglers' perception of how much and to what degree moon phases impacts fish activity. Fisherman will not be in agreement on the details, based in part on the type of forage available and the clarity of the water found in individual lakes in our area. My years of compiling and recording my successes and failures in a diary have come to the following conclusions. Days within a few days of the full moon, fish are the most active and less spooky. Also fishing action is best around the times of moonrise and moonset, either day or night.

Anglers I know find the best plan — go fishing any time one can.

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