Depending on when and where you do most of your walleye fishing in Ontario, darkness might well be what lights up your life. Most walleye fisheries have good night opportunities. Things might start to happen just as it gets too dark to see, or sometimes you’ve got to kill a few hours before heading out into complete blackness. Maybe the window opens in the wee hours, just before daybreak. Whatever the time frame, the basics never really change.
The pace of fishing in the dark is slow. You’re typically not running all over the lake power-fishing. Pick a handful of productive areas, rotate through them with basic presentations and work them over in detail. At night especially, you’re better off straining through five spots you know intimately than flailing around on ten spots you don’t. Fish will move in or out, and activity levels can shoot up and shut down just as at any other time of day. Being on a good spot with your bait in the water is critica. Don’t waste a lot of time running or taking flyers on unknowns. The areas you’ve learned by day are the ones to revisit in darkness.
Good night fishing for walleye is reasonably easy to find. Knowing where fish are located during the day will give you a big head start. These fish tend to move into shallower water and/or higher in the water column at night. On some lakes, fish might move right into open bands between the inside weed edge and the shoreline. On others, they might cruise over the shallowest crowns of offshore shoals or underwater points. Shallow water and the surface bristle with life in the dark. Crayfish, perch, insects and all sorts of baitfish become available. Locating large, shallow, fertile sections of structure with lots of character near daytime stations can be as complicated as you need to make it. Watch your sonar for surface activity over deeper water, too. There are many situations where walleye will feed within inches of the night air, just outside the more obvious spots.
Both long line trolling and casting basic, baitfish-imitating plugs is highly effective. Depending on the size of the spot and cover, one technique may prove more effective than the other. If you find concentrations of fish while trolling, slip back through the area making a number of tightly-spaced casts. Retrieve your lure with just enough speed to give it action, and move it along steadily. Top night lures come through weeds or rocks well, work at low speeds and give walleye an easy target to overtake and engulf. Reef Runner Ripsticks, no18 Floating Rapalas and Rebel Minnows are all time-tested producers. Jigs dressed with action tails or live minnows also have a strong following. Anchoring and fan-casting works very well anytime walleye are in tight spots in very shallow water.
Nothing melds your senses with nature quite like being on the water in the dark. Keep the use of bright lights to a minimum, and your eyes will adjust to the darkness. You’ll hear, see and even smell things out there at night that will amaze you. Take out only what tackle and equipment you’ll be using. Stow the rest of it away.