But... none of those things take away from my fondness for catching
fish off a dock. The magic of dock fishing experiences as a little
kid never leaves you. So, when a friend called the other day to say,
"The bite is on, off my dock!" I jumped in the truck and went right
over to his place on a nearby lake.
As is typical for a good
walleye bite during the cool autumn months, the action had been
happening after sunset. His dock was situated in close proximity to
a steep break into deep water, where a short flip cast would put a
bait into about 15 feet, and a long cast would land you in 35-plus
feet. A steep structure like that is perfect for walleyes since it
allows them to relate to bottom structure while feeding at a variety
of depths in the water column.
I arrived at my buddy's cabin about a half-hour after sunset and
strolled down to the dock with two fishing rods in my hand. One was
a spinning rod rigged with a Rod-N-Bobb's slip sinker above a hair
jig. The other rod was set with a classic Lindy Rig and a circle
Slip-bobbering for walleyes is a dynamite technique and one of my
personal favorites. I intended to start the evening with that rig
and to tip my jig with a jumbo leech. But when I got out to the
dock, my pal already had a line out with that very thing. So I
decided to start with the Lindy Rig instead.
The reason for this is simple: Whenever you have two or more
lines in the water while targeting the same fish species, it's smart
to present different baits. This way you can more effectively cover
the spectrum of lure size, color, live bait selection and depth. If
the fish continually hammer one bait and not another, then you can
roll with the punches and switch to what's working best on a
particular day or night.
Since my friend was already out with a leech, I opted for a Lindy
Rig with a large shiner minnow to get the evening started. I hooked
the minnow through the meat below his dorsal fin, rather than
lip-hooking him. For set lines, a back-hooked minnow can swim around
a lot more freely than if he's lip-hooked. Now, if I was jigging and
swimming the minnow in with a retrieve, then I would definitely opt
for the lip hook.
[to top of second column]
After hooking my shiner, I lob cast the Lindy Rig out into about
20 feet of water. It's good to use a gentle lob cast to ensure that
you don't cast your bait off the hook, which can happen easily with
aggressive casting. When my sinker found bottom, I put my rod in a
rod holder and left my bail open. This way, if a fish hit, he could
immediately begin running with the minnow as line played out through
my Lindy slip sinker.
And here's a handy tip for this kind of fishing -- especially
when doing it in the dark: Take a little piece of tissue paper and
get it wet; then wrap it around your line beyond the rod tip and
give it a little pinch to peg it to your line. If you look up and
that tissue is gone or it has moved, a fish is running with your
minnow. It's a nice little trick when dock fishing at night.
About 10 minutes passed when I suddenly noticed my tissue paper
"strike indicator" was slowly being pulled away. I looked at my
reel, and the fish was peeling line at a fairly healthy clip. Oh,
boy, was I excited! I gave that walleye a lot of time with the
minnow, knowing I could because I was using a circle hook. With such
a hook, a fish can take live bait all the way down into the stomach
but not get "gut hooked."
Here's how a circle hook works -- and worked on this particular
fish that night: The walleye grabbed the minnow, swam away and
swallowed it. Meanwhile, the fisherman (me) closed the bail and
reeled up slack line. As soon as there was line tension, I didn't
set the hook. No, I just started reeling, and the fight was on!
That's the beauty of a circle hook. It pulls right up out of the
fish's stomach and throat, and when it gets to the corner of a
fish's mouth, it curls around and embeds. It's the best way to
harmlessly catch fish with live bait and ensure a safe release. The
key is to NOT set the hook. Just reel.
That walleye was pushing 26 inches, and he went back into the
lake unscathed. As the night went on, both the Lindy Rig and slip
bobber produced several fish. Three of them were right around 16
inches. They went on the stringer and are sizzling in a pan as I
write this. Bon appétit!
[By BABE WINKELMAN]
Babe Winkelman hosts "Good Fishing" and
"Outdoor Secrets," the most-watched fishing and hunting programs on
television. Tune in on NBC Sports Network, Destination America,
Velocity, Time Warner Sports Texas & New York, and many local
broadcast channels. Visit
Winkelman.com for airtimes and more information.