Summer can be tough for Lake Erie walleye anglers, with too many storms, too much hot water, and too many days when winds blew hard out of the east.

But it’s settling down now, and the cool water fishing season is upon us. A good time to catch some prime opal eyes, but those who stick to spring tactics are going to find filling a ticket difficult. Is there a productive way to catch autumn walleyes? Casting Erie Dearies? Using live bait? Bumping the bottom with weighted crankbaits?

These will all work to some extent, but the classic way to catch fish now is by trolling. It’s a simple fact that casters have their offerings in the fish zone for only a few turns of the reel if they let the lure down for a certain count, then start reeling. Trollers have their offerings in the fish zone ALL the time, and since they’re moving steadily, chances of running into a pod of feeding fish are high.

You’ll need some basic gear: downriggers, planer boards, and lots of spoons in various colors and crankbaits that can be used either flatline or on the riggers. Cruise a chosen area until blips on the fish finder show they’re at 15 feet or 20 or maybe right above the bottom, then set lines at various distances behind the boat and at depths that will cover the fish zone. Then you troll. It doesn’t matter too much if winds are out of the east, or there’s a dead flat calm, or storms are moving in. Sooner or later, if you keep changing baits, varying speeds and depths you’ll hit a pod of hungry walleyes, and take some keepers.

Trolling is as close to a sure thing as you’re likely to find on Lake Erie. But some people don’t like this sport, considering it comparable to watching grass grow and paint dry even when they’re hitting, and demand to cast for their catch. That’s okay, too, if you follow another set of simple rules. One rule is that fishing will be best off the bow of the boat or the stern, with less action along the sides. And the tactic of choice is to “fish the swing.” That means you set up for a drift over fish you’ve seen on the locator, drift downwind, assuming winds are good, and cast at an angle to the drift, letting your lure settle to bottom. When you pick up and start reeling, the boat’s steady movement will cause your lure to come in at an arc, instead of straight. I don’t know why, but walleye seem to love a lure that curves instead of swimming straight, a phenomenon that’s well known to charter boat captains and veteran anglers.

Here’s another thought. Walleye are naturally night feeders, as witness their opal colored eyes that let them see well in moon and starlight, and while they might be deep and well offshore during the day, they’ll often move in to within a few hundred yards of shore (even less) at night, and forage for emerald shiners, crayfish, and insects.

Last fall, I went out with two friends, and we trolled until about midnight with spoons and crankbaits. All three of us filled our limit with good fish, culling to sort out the best. Night fishing is something to remember. Finally, if you get truly desperate, throw the rule book away and go to Plan B. Remember that the walleye population probably sees dozens of weight forward spinners every day, and at least as many spoons and crankbaits. If they’ve truly got lockjaw, turn to vertical jigging of leadhead jigs and twistertails holding an emerald shiner. Try bumping the bottom with nightcrawlers. Or spoon jigging. Or working slowly with an old Flatfish, or using live minnows that are lip hooked and dropped slowly into the fish zone. Sometimes something weird will work just because it looks like an easy meal and is something they haven’t seen lately. Like the old man said “Whatever it takes to catch the coon.”

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