And if you insist upon fishing from a boat this spring — a pretty logical and effective tactic — there’s often no more effective technique than longline trolling a minnow-imitating crankbait through the shallows at night. Postspawn walleyes often hang around their rocky shoreline spawning areas for a week or more, feeding on whatever forage is present. It might be prespawn perch near weeds, prespawn minnows or shiners near sand or a creek mouth, or prespawn shad roaming the shoreline and adjacent open water. Cloudy or windy weather, or stained to dark water, may host good walleye activity and productive fishing during the day, even in the shallows. But if the weather’s calm and sunny, or the water clear, chances are that daytime feeding activity will be suppressed, and walleyes will only come out to play in earnest after nightfall.
Walleyes that tuck down into weed- or woodcover during the day are often inactive, requiring a subtle tactic like jigging or slipbobbers with livebait to extract bites under the bright sun. But come nightfall, the fish become active and rise above the cover, often cruising and patrolling the general area, perhaps even penetrating all the way to the shoreline. Whenever the conditions are relatively shallow (2 to 8 feet) and flat, with few irregularities to concentrate fish within specific areas, a trolling approach is dictated to cover water and locate walleyes.
Begin by tossing a minnow imitator over the side of the boat and slowly idling forward (with either an electric or small outboard motor), first making sure the lure is running properly, wobbling but not vibrating hard. Then slowly let out line under light pressure until the lure is 75 to 100 feet behind the boat. Close your spinning reel and give the rod a forward pump, to both make the lure surge forward and to make it vibrate harder, perhaps enabling you to feel lure vibration, particularly when using FireLine rather than stretchy 10-pound mono. Repeat this tactic occasionally as you troll along, weaving slowly through the shallows, covering the general area. The pump-and-dropback tactic often triggers a following fish into striking.
Sometimes the fish are concentrated near shorelines or along inside weededges, dictating a precise trolling path. Other times, they’re spread across wider expanses, and it pays to weave the boat in S-shaped trolling passes, a tactic referred to as snake trolling. Try to determine a productive area, depth, type of cover, trolling speed, degree of lure action, even lure color or pattern. Yes, you can fine-tune presentations, even at night! Especially with this simple, effective and fun technique.