Brad Laabs: Try night fishing the next three full moons
It is hard to believe we are already half way through August. Based on the weather last week you would have guessed it as September! The next few weeks will be the start to another transition in the fishing season. We will have shortened daylight hours, cooler nights, and more frequent cold fronts. Water temperatures will start to cool. Baitfish and young of the year’s fish hatches have been maturing and are bigger than the early season. Fish will start to focus on bigger baits. We will also start to have evenings free of bugs with comfortable fishing temperatures.
The next couple of months will also have full moons that can be excellent for night time walleye fishing. This month will provide the first of the best three months of moonlight fishing. The first full moon will be Tuesday, Aug. 20. Night fishing will be later in the evening during this full moon, as the moon won’t get above the horizon until about 9:30.
Many times the bite in the moon will get better as the moon gets higher in the sky. It helps significantly if the skies stay clear for us, but even if they don’t, some fish always seem willing to bite.
The September full moon will be the 19th, and the October full moon will fall on the 18th. Each month the sun sets earlier and the moon rises sooner. By October you may be coming off the water by 10 p.m. and already have several hours of night fishing by moonlight under your belt.
In my experience, the full moon phase with good night fishing lasts about five days. The first couple of days before the full moon, the full moon, and the couple of days after the full moon. Even if cloud cover messes up the bright sky, you will probably still catch some fish.
The two best and most common full moon night fishing strategies are pulling crank baits and fishing with lighted slip bobbers. The third most common approach is wading in shallow water and pitching jigs or crank baits, especially in current areas. Both shad style baits and stick baits (or minnow imitators) are productive. Most fish caught trolling crank baits will come from 12 feet of water or less, and as shallow as 6 feet. Speeds of about 2-2.5 m.p.h. will be productive. Choose crank baits that will run close to the bottom at about 120 feet behind the boat.
Color can make a big difference at times. Changing baits and trying different colors can increase success. For most lakes in our area, perch colors, crayfish colors, and shad colors produce consistently. Under bright conditions, some of the reflective colors can really “shine” at times. It is not uncommon to catch a trophy sized walleye trolling crank baits under a full moon.
Slip bobbers are usually used to fish leeches on rock piles or shallow weed areas holding walleyes. It is great fun to watch the lighted bobber go under, set the hook, and slip a net under a beautiful gold walleye with shining eyes under the moonlight. Most situations will have you fishing 15 feet of water or less with the bait set close to the bottom of the depth you will be fishing. Leeches are the No. 1 bait choice for the lighted slip bobber presentation. If leeches are not available, most second choice baits will be minnows under the bobber.
I like to get out before dark and see if I can locate some fish before the sun sets. The fish will move up on the shallow water close to where you locate them before dark. Make sure you have working anchor and running lights on your boat. Take flashlights, headlights, lanterns, and spotlights to help with seeing in the boat. You will always have tangles, fish stuck in a net, hooks to remove, baits to change, etc., and the lighting will be needed.
Bring warmer clothing than you think you will need as it cools significantly this time of year after the sun goes down.
It is always good to get the first of your night fishing experience with someone that has done it before. Night fishing has provided many wonderful memories for me and others I have shared the experience with. If you haven’t experienced this opportunity yet, put it on your fishing bucket list.
(Laabs runs Brad Laabs’ Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)