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Want to get some action? Go fishing after dark

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Exceptionally warm weather has slowed the catfish bite somewhat in the Red River. Many anglers who love to fish for this hard-fighting fish have switched over to night angling.

The best time to catch these fish at this time of year is after midnight, but make sure to bring lots of protection from mosquitoes. With a wet spring the bug situation is very bad in many sections of the province.

Fishing at night is not restricted to catfish. I have had some of my absolute best fishing for walleye under cover of darkness. This is especially critical on lakes that have excellent water clarity. The walleye in these lakes follow ciscoes (their primary food) up into the top of the water column in the evening as they feed on small aquatic insects.

Walleye are light sensitive, and this makes them very efficient predators in low light conditions. Thus anglers will typically find the more active fish in early morning and late evening, especially in the summer. Walleye love shallow bays that have some structural options, which could include weed cover combined with rock piles, mud bottoms and sand. This variety will attract a wide array of forage with walleye close behind.

On stained-water lakes and on windy days, walleye can be caught at any time as long as the weather remains constant.

Here is a check list of key points to remember when trying to find and catch walleye at this time of year.

-- Walleye will be found in shallow water and will be more active in low light.

-- When retrieving your chosen lure for walleye, experts recommend a slow retrieve. What I suggest is once you find a retrieve that works, stick with it. There are times when snap jigging, -- which consists of a sharp lift and drop motion with the rod -- will trigger walleye when nothing else has a chance. It really does pay to experiment in this regard.

-- Line diameter is not a factor in dirty water, but becomes critical in clear water when the bite is off. Switch to six-pound test line that is clear underwater and tie lures on directly. Don't use a leader but a small snap can be used when fishing with crankbaits. Many top anglers are now using fluorocarbon leaders when invisibility is critical.

-- When trolling, use a heavier-pound test but go with a superline like Berkley Fireline. It will run lures deeper and provide better hook sets.

-- Lure selection is always a struggle. To cover water to find active fish, trying trolling with bottom bouncers and spinners and crankbaits.

On a trip to Lake of the Woods last week, I found the walleye and pike to be out in the eight-metre depth during the day when conditions were hot and calm. In this situation, I would move the boat over top of the fish that I marked. We would then vertical jig. When the wind blew though, the fish seemed to want to suspend out over 30 metres of water and covering water was a better option. This meant trolling with crankbaits at various depths. If three people are in the boat, I would run one crank at four metres, another at six metres and another at eight metres. Find the depth that works best and adjust accordingly by changing the other crankbaits so they run at that range. I use a line-counter reel to make sure I let out the correct amount of line.

-- If you find a good school of walleye, pinpoint the area with marker buoy. Try a slower presentation such as a jig or live bait rig when the action slows and you still think the fish are there.

-- Weather is critical. Stable weather is always the best for fishing success.

-- Wind helps, so always consider areas where wave action will lower light penetration and make walleye more active.

-- Have a good depth finder if you are fishing from a boat and make sure you note at what depth you are catching the fish and try and remain at that depth until the fishing action slows.

Anglers notes

The annual Fish Winnipeg event at The Forks is coming up August 16. According to reports, the catfish bite within city limits has been outstanding, so it should make for an exciting event. There are still some corporate boat spots available. You will get to fish with a top notch angler from 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. with dinner to follow at Inn at the Forks. For more information, drop me a note at the email address below.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 28, 2012 C12

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