Walleye are at the top of the food chain around Lake Erie, and they have little trouble rounding up big meals after the sun goes down. With superior low-light sight, they feed voraciously in fall and early winter.
Walleye are getting ready for the cold weather, followed by the rigorous spring spawning season, gorging on gizzard shad that move into the warmer shallow water areas along the Ohio shoreline.
The secret got out a long time ago that when the sun goes down, the walleye light up around Lake Erie.
As trolling tactics evolved, and sonar equipment and GPS units became more sophisticated, after-dark boat anglers began filling their coolers. Shoreline fishermen also figured out that casting lures from piers and breakwalls could produce some amazing catches of walleye.
The pier fishing crowds blossomed, first from the breakwalls along the Huron River, and eventually from many of the piers from Lakeside, on the Marblehead Peninsula, to Sandusky, Lorain and Fairport Harbor.
These days, while many walleye fishermen pack up the tackle and go hunting, some are still putting fillets in the freezer.
The shoreline fishing is easy to enjoy. Warm clothing, a lantern, long-handled net, a spinning rod and reel, a cooler and a small selection of minnow-style plugs are all that is needed.
The secret to success is finding a lonely pier or breakwall. The popular areas, such as the Lakeside Pier, Catawba Island State Park area and Huron River Pier, are productive and often crowded. The Ohio shoreline of Lake Erie, though, has lots of rocky areas where fishermen can cast. Minnow-style plugs, especially the ones hefty enough to cast a distance, are the most popular with shore anglers. Lipless crankbaits, such as the Cordell Spot and Rat-L-Trap, are personal favorites. One evening, I watched a bass guy score with a plastic swim bait.
It’s also a time when anglers who have small walleye or bass boats need not go far from shore to troll for big walleye or a limit of nice fish. Every harbor along the Lake Erie shore can be just right when there is a full moon, mild breezes and comfortable fishing conditions.
Proof of the popularity of night walleye fishing is the Walleye Fall Brawl on Lake Erie (www.lakeeriefishingderby.com) created by Frank Murphy in the Cleveland area.
From a humble beginning, the Walleye Fall Brawl now lakewide attracts more than 8,000 entrants. From Oct. 16 to Nov. 29 anglers have the chance to win a Hewescraft or Warrior boat, and a wealth of other prizes. The entry fee is $30 with an entry deadline of Oct. 14.