Pier Pressure: It Was A Dark And Erie Knight

Pier Pressure: It Was A Dark And Erie Knight

Want to catch a really big walleye -- the trophy of a lifetime -- and do it from shore? It's no secret that, of the five Great Lakes, Lake Erie would likely be your best bet. But what time of year to go, and how to catch them? Early spring produces the heaviest fish -- the females are full of eggs -- but Fall may be even better for catching numbers of big walleyes, for several reasons.

Someone who has experienced this fantastic fall fishing first-hand is Lake Erie Fisheries Program Administrator, Roger Knight, a biologist for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife.

"I have great memories of a walleye fishing trip to a Huron, Ohio, pier one October evening, when eight of us caught our 6-fish limits in an hour. And the fish ranged from 6 to 10 pounds. A longtime friend and I fished side by side, and we both caught our 6 fish on 11 casts. My friend broke his personal best walleye record three times that night. I can't remember a better fall walleye pier-fishing experience."

But Knight says that fall night-fishing from piers for walleyes is like angling anywhere -- sometimes sizzling, sometimes not. "The fishing can be spotty because the walleyes follow the food, mostly gizzard shad. If the shad stay offshore, so do the walleyes. But if the shad come in close, you can literally catch a walleye on every cast. I have seen walleyes in water as shallow as 4 feet, with their dorsal fins exposed like sharks," he says.


Typically, shad schools hug the shoreline when offshore waters cool quickly. A chilly October tends to create better shorefishing than a mild October, but there are exceptions. November usually produces more consistent fishing, with water temperatures in the mid-40F range the key. In many years, walleyes can be caught from shore well into December.


"These fish tend to be large females that spent their summer in the Central and Eastern basins of Lake Erie," Knight says. "They then migrate back west, where they stage until spawning in spring. In fall, they're on a major feeding binge because of lower water temperatures and an abundance of high-energy preyfish. It's not uncommon to catch multiple walleyes over 10 pounds in autumn, though the average fish is between 4 and 8 pounds."


Continued - click on page link below.

Knight says that the best daily fishing times vary, but dusk to midnight is generally most productive. "I've heard of people doing well fishing from midnight to dawn, but that hasn't worked well for me. You will, however, avoid most other anglers by fishing after midnight. Believe me, when the bite is on, word spreads quickly and some piers get crowded."


JUNIOR HINTS

Jim Fofrich, Jr., son of the late, legendary Lake Erie guide and fishing innovator, Jim Fofrich, Sr., was a former aficionado of Lake Erie's nighttime shore walleye fishing. A longtime contributor to In-Fisherman publications, Jim Jr. passed away last year.

Fofrich approached night walleyes a bit differently from most anglers. Not liking the crowds when the fishing heated up at piers, he put on waders and move along the shoreline, well away from other fishermen. "But if you try wading, be careful," he always cautioned. "Remember that you'll be walking on rocks below the surface in the dark, and that next step could be a deep one."


Fofrich used a medium-heavy 7-foot spinning rod-and-reel combination, the reel filled with 10-pound-test Berkley FireLine. "It's important to be able to make long casts," he said, noting that skinny nostretch FireLine vastly increases casting distance over monofilament line. "Just after the sun goes down, cast as far from shore as possible. Later in the evening, when the walleyes have moved in, make most of your casts parallel to the shoreline."

For crankbaits, he liked #9, #11, and #13 jointed Rapalas, as well as Countdown Rapalas of various sizes. Fofrich also preferred what he considered the "softer" colors for clear water: blue/white, silver/black, and pearl/chartreuse. "The only time I'll go with a color such as firetiger is in dirty-water conditions," he said. "And remember, bigger baits usually catch bigger fish. A large lure casts farther and makes a bigger target for walleyes to find in the dark. I also use bladebaits from time to time, such as Bitzer Creek Zip Lures or Reef Runner Cicadas. Gold or silver seem to be my two best colors for blades." Other anglers prefer a vibrating, lipless crankbait for nighttime fall walleyes, such as a Bill Lewis Lures' Rat-L-Trap, a Cotton Cordell Super Spot, or a Rattlin' Rapala.

Continued - click on page link below.

At times, Fofrich dabbed a small amount of light-colored glow paint on his artificial baits -- a tip learned from his good friend and fellow night-fishing expert Mark Martin. "Not too much," he cautioned. "Just a touch on each eye of the bait, and then I paint a thin ring around the tail. I believe this gives walleyes an easier target in the dark."

Occasionally, if the fishing was slow, Fofrich switched from lures to livebait. "Again, keep your bait size large," he said. "I prefer a 5- to 6-inch gizzard shad or emerald shiner. I fish them on either a Lindy sliprig or a Thill Nite Brite float."

In the end, it's best not to overcomplicate pier fishing at night. The best time to go is anytime you can, although it's always easiest when the fish are in, the weather's moderate and you don't have to cast into the teeth of a fierce onshore wind. Easier doesn't always equate to better, however. And while no one enjoys fishing shoulder-to-shoulder with other anglers, their obvious presence at the ends of piers or lining breakwalls strongly suggests that the fish are inshore and biting. Dealing with pier pressure -- it's all part of the game when it comes to fishing for Great Lakes walleyes at night.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

Recommended for You

To help you get a handle on it all, we offer the following rundown of top choices on the buzzbait scene. Bass

Buzzbaits for Bass

Dan Johnson - February 02, 2015

To help you get a handle on it all, we offer the following rundown of top choices on the...

Catfish is meaty, juicy and holds up well in this soul-satisfying fried fish recipe with homemade chips and tartar sauce. Fish Recipes

Catfish Dinner with Homemade Chips and Tartar Sauce Recipe

Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley

Catfish is meaty, juicy and holds up well in this soul-satisfying fried fish recipe with...

Blackened fish ready to serve with a side of okra and cucumber-red onion salad. This recipe is a treat! Fish Recipes

Blackened Fish Recipe

Tommy Thompson

Blackened fish ready to serve with a side of okra and cucumber-red onion salad. This recipe is...

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Minn Kota's Brad Henry shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead that there's much to like in the new Minn Kota Riptide Terrova saltwater trolling motor that comes with I-Pilot and an 87-inch shaft.

Berkley

Berkley's New Terminal Tackle

OSG's Lynn Burkhead and Chad LaChance, host of World Fishing Network's Fishful Thinker television show, talk about Berkley's new innovative terminal tackle being introduced at ICAST 2019.

Costa and Captains for Clean Water

Costa and Captains for Clean Water

With the company's heavy involvement in initiatives like Kick the Plastic and Captains for Clean Water campaigns, Costa's Amanda Sabin tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead all about the sunglass maker's unwavering commitment to help the freshwater and saltwater environment.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Catfish are among the most popular groups of fish with over 7 million catfish anglers nationwide. Catfish

All About Catfish

Rob Neumann

Catfish are among the most popular groups of fish with over 7 million catfish anglers...

Now more than ever, understanding each category's strong suits is critical to choosing a powerplant that best fits your personal needs and preferences. Boats & Motors

2- Vs. 4-Cycle Outboard Motors

Dan Johnson - April 16, 2018

Now more than ever, understanding each category's strong suits is critical to choosing a...

Catfish are simple creatures that can be caught using the best catfish rigs. Catching them is simply a matter of putting a good bait in the right in front of them. Catfish

The Best Catfish Rigs

In-Fisherman - January 11, 2018

Catfish are simple creatures that can be caught using the best catfish rigs. Catching them is...

See More Stories

More Walleye

Jigging minnows, traditionally winter walleye baits, are equally effective on open water. Walleye

Rippin' Jigging Minnows for Non-Stop Walleye Action

Gord Pyzer - November 25, 2019

Jigging minnows, traditionally winter walleye baits, are equally effective on open water.

Algae blooms are a fact of life this time of year on lakes across the Walleye Belt. Walleye

Walleye Fishing During Algae Blooms

Dan Johnson - August 14, 2018

Algae blooms are a fact of life this time of year on lakes across the Walleye Belt.

A look at several different lure designs and how they attract ice walleyes. Walleye

Where Metal Meets the Water for Ice Walleyes

Douge Stange - January 15, 2020

A look at several different lure designs and how they attract ice walleyes.

See More Walleye

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.