If you’re like most anglers, you probably shut down your fishing efforts when the sun goes down. Trust me – for a long time, I did too.
But you are missing out. Big time.
Some species love to feed after dark, and there’s nothing that gets the heart racing like using a flash light to get the first glimpse of a monster fish.
I’m talking about walleye.
One of the best tasting freshwater fish on the planet, they are also a thrill to catch at night. Fortunately, there are great walleye fishing opportunities most of the year.
But if you have only targeted them during the day, you may be wondering where to start when it comes to fishing for walleye at night.
That’s okay – I’m going to let you in on a few walleye night fishing tips and tricks that will have you ready to go the next time the sun sets on your favorite walleye hole.
Table of Contents
- Night Vision Experts
- Dinner After Dark
- Special Equipment
- The TOP 3 Walleye Fishing Tips for Night
- FAQ About Night Fishing for Walleye
- Ready, Set, Night Fishing!
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Night Vision Experts
If you have ever pulled a walleye out of the water on a bright, sunny day, you may have noticed its eyes look a lot different than other fish. To me, they always look kind of cloudy.
That walleye you caught was probably really unhappy.
No wonder – they are very sensitive to light!
The truth is, the walleye has some of the best vision of all freshwater fish. Their large eyes are perfect for gathering and filtering more light than many other fish, and that results in them being able to see well – even in the dark.
Even though they see well during the day, they can actually see better at night than during the day!
Already, you can “see” why walleye love to be active night feeders. Pardon my terrible pun…
Dinner After Dark
But think about it from another perspective. Most fish do NOT see well at night – and walleye love to prey on other, smaller fish for their diet.
This gives walleye a huge competitive advantage at night. Their prey can’t see, they can, so they eat well.
We are going to talk about picking baits to catch walleye at night later on, but I want you to really remember this point. It’s important.
The main reason walleye are such great predators at night is because other fish can’t see as well.
That means when you are fishing for walleye at night, you should be thinking about how to make your presentation look like a baitfish.
With so many smaller fish sitting around at night, you can bet on one thing – the walleye ain’t after bugs and insects at night.
They want fish.
You are probably already starting to get the picture – nighttime walleye are hungry, aggressive, and ready to be caught.
After reading this article, you will be ready to catch them.
Before we go any further, you may be wondering what special equipment or gear you need for night fishing. When it comes to tackle, we’ve got you covered – the best baits for walleye night fishing will be discussed in other parts of this article.
But there are a few other things to consider. First, you definitely need a proper light for your boat. Not only is it a common-sense safety tip, in most places it is a legal requirement to have a properly lit boat after dark.
Another thing you will need is some form of flash light to be able to see your tackle, the fish and more. One great solution is a headlamp – it will keep your hands free to battle fish on your line, or tie on a new lure.
That’s probably the only special equipment that you need for night fishing. But there’s one more thing worth mentioning – it might be pretty obvious.
Take a moment to organize your boat and your equipment while it is still light out.
Seriously – you DON’T want to be fumbling around in the dark, tripping over stuff on the floor of your boat.
Get organized and you will thank me for it later.
Now, we have a good understanding of why walleye feed so aggressively at night, and we know that the equipment you need is actually pretty basic.
So let’s get to the good stuff.
Trust me, this will help a lot… the top 3 tips for walleye fishing at night!
The TOP 3 Walleye Fishing Tips for Night
Go For Action – With Your Bait
In addition to having great night vision, walleye have terrific overall senses.
This means that can hear, see and even feel vibrations in the water – including those caused by the action from artificial lures.
If you are targeting walleye at night, the number 1 best thing to start with is a vibrating, rattling, shaking – you name it – bait that will get their attention and set off a feeding frenzy.
Another important part of overall action and presentation is color. Generally, bold and striking colors work best – think about using whites or chartreuse that pop in the dark. Walleye night vision is so good that even dark baits can attract them at night.
So keep that in mind – something bold with vibrating action is where to start your walleye night fishing trip.
You can also target walleye through the ice! If you can handle the cold, there are lots of great baits to help you catch walleye through the ice at night.
Big Bait for Big Fish
Another thing that is very important to remember is that walleye are aggressive night feeders, catching and eating baitfish with their elevated night vision.
That means you want a bait that looks a lot like the minnows and smaller fish that walleye will prey on naturally.
It is also important to consider that even though walleye have great night vision, it’s still dark out! Selecting a bigger bait will make it even easier for the walleye to detect, and activate its instincts to begin feeding.
So remember, when picking a bait for walleye at night: big size, bold color, loud and vibrating action!
You can’t go wrong.
Shallow is Golden
It’s one of the basic facts of walleye fishing.
At night, they move into shallower water than during the day.
This lets them see even better, being closer to the surface, and gives them easy access to baitfish that may be resting in shallow water.
For some of those baitfish, it will be the last nap they take.
When night fishing for walleye, follow the fish in towards shore as it gets darker.
It does not even need to be night for this tip to work.
That’s right – walleye night fishing patterns actually start a bit before dark, as the sun gets lower in the sky.
A good rule of thumb is to assume walleye are transitioning to nighttime patterns about 30 to 45 minutes before sunset. Some people even have success with night fishing tactics an hour before sunset.
Try it out on your local lake and let us know when the nighttime walleye bite starts.
Personally, around 45 minutes or so before dark I like to start fishing them in 12-15 feet of water, and then move in closer, reducing the depth I am fishing as it gets darker.
By the time it is almost dark, 8-12 feet of water should be the sweet spot for walleye.
Another good tip is to try baits that stay near the top of the water surface. Walleye are very aggressive, sometimes pushing baitfish up to the top.
So retrieving your lure only a foot or so under the surface could help get a nice walleye bite at night.
A Whole Shoreline of Opportunity
The ability to fish for walleye in the shallows opens up another possibility.
You may not want to take your boat out in the dark to fish – that’s okay.
Boating in the dark can be scary if you are not experienced and lack the proper equipment.
One way to get the hang of walleye night fishing is by shore fishing.
Most people who think of catching big walleye imagine doing so from a boat – but walleye night behavior patterns totally change this.
At night you can cast out from shore and still have your lure go over the shallower water range that walleye are found in.
So give it a shot – before committing to night fishing for walleye in a boat, try it from shore!
Stick to What You Know
This one might surprise you.
It’s logical to think that fishing for walleye in the dark requires a very different approach than during the day.
But actually – it doesn’t. In fact, changing it up too much can cost you big fish.
Instead, stick to what you know.
A lot of the basic ideas, tactics, baits, and even fishing spots that catch you walleye during the day will help to catch them at night.
It’s really all about small adjustments – and I mean small.
Start with your favorite daytime walleye fishing spot.
Go there and fish at night – just a little bit closer to shore!
A small, easy adjustment to make.
Take your favorite daytime walleye bait – and use a bold, striking color like we talked about earlier.
Another small adjustment – while sticking to what you know.
If you like to troll for walleye, there are a lot of great options to catch fish that way too.
FAQ About Night Fishing for Walleye
Are walleye active at night?
Yes! Walleye have amazing night vision – even better than during the day. Their common prey sources are the opposite, with poor night vision. This puts walleye on the hunt at night for food.
What catches a walleye’s attention at night?
Generally, bold and striking colors will catch a walleye’s attention – look at white, chartreuses, even blacks to really stand out. But walleye have such great sight at night that many color combinations can be successful.
It is also important to remember how good walleye’s other senses are. They can see, hear and even feel things around them – so vibrating baits with great movement or action are easy ways to get their attention.
What special gear or bait do I need to catch walleye at night?
Except for lighting for your boat and a headlamp to see what you are doing, no special equipment is needed.
In fact, instead of getting special equipment for night fishing, it is actually best to stick to lures and equipment that you already know work well for walleye!
Do you need a boat to catch walleye at night?
No! In fact, night fishing for walleye from shore is a great idea. They are in closer than during the day, so you can cast to them!
Shore fishing is a great way to try out night fishing for walleye to see if you like it before making the commitment of going in a boat.
Ready, Set, Night Fishing!
There you have it – all the tips and tricks that you need to get started fishing for walleye at night.
I’ve been there – I know it’s a little weird at first. Your friends might think you’re crazy for getting out your fishing rod when the sun goes down.
You know something that they don’t.
Nighttime is… walleye fishing time!
I hope the tips in this guide give you the confidence that you need to catch big walleye at night.
Just remember a few important things.
Keep it simple and use the walleye baits and techniques that you already know work. Choose bold colors and big baits with great action. Make sure you have lighting on your boat for safety and to follow the law.
The next part is in your hands.
Let us know in the comments how these tips for walleye fishing at night worked out for you!