by Jack Payne
This is that magical time of the year where an outdoors person can be both an angler and a hunter. This is also the time where a boat is not required. Sure, a boat will get you into more water but waders or hip boots will suffice.
When the weather turns cold and the frogs start their migration into the muddy bottoms, this is the time to hit the shallows. Most lakes have an area where frogs live and the lakes with the largest areas will produce the most fish.
Some of our favorite lakes have walleye and bass in them while others just bass. Muskegon Lake and sections of the Grand River will have both, other lakes like Crooked Lake harbor lots of large bucket mouth bass.
Our best fishing comes after sundown and a stealth approach is required. Noise must be kept to a minimum and on a quiet and calm night you can hear the game fish feeding.
If you are wading I would suggest chest high waders. One wrong step with hip boots and your evening of fishing is over. If using a boat a push pole is real handy.
You can make a push pole out of a piece of plastic pipe. Take a piece of plastic pipe and fasten a two by four to the bottom with some angle brackets. The wood section only needs to be a foot long.
You can slowly push your way through the lily pads and the mud without messing up the trolling motor. This is also a very quiet way to maneuver at night.
In most cases the best fishing will be within ten feet of the shoreline but do remember to try the first drop-off bordering the shallow flats. This often is a drop from 6 or 7 feet maybe into a 10-foot hole. You need to develop your night vision and if a light is required a black ultra violet light works best. You can tie your lures on, unhook a fish and still see the shoreline.
Two types of baits work the best. A jig and pig combo is deadly and a stick bait lure hard to beat. With the jig and pig you are hopping in the jig with short lifts and a slow retrieve. Flip it out as tight to the shoreline as possible and then slowly work it back in. Part of the joy is hooking a shoreline bush or a lily pad. Goes with the turf so to speak.
The crankbaits need to be fished very slowly with a lot of pausing. Cast, let it sit for a few seconds, turn the crank once or twice, let it sit for a second or two and repeat. Vary it up but remember to pause.
On the jig and pig we like the color of black. We also like using real pork, with Uncle Josh a favorite. To us, the fish hold on to the real pork a bit longer than when using a plastic tail. Very helpful when fishing super slowly.
We use a lot of black and silver body baits and we use some with an orange belly. On all of the baits we paint a line on the side with glow in the dark paint. Give the lure a quick shot of light and it throws off an eerie glow.
Night fishing in the shallows is fun and exciting. Most nights it is downright quiet, almost mystical. Some nights the action is great and other nights we really work hard for a fish. What we do end up with is most often our largest fish of the year!
The next best thing about this type of fishing is that you can still be home by ten after enjoying a few hours on the water. Give it a shot before the permanent cold weather blows in.