Three Ways to Catch More Harvest Moon Walleyes

By Jason Halfen - October 12, 2016
Oversized walleyes crash the shallows in the fall, and are targeted by fervent anglers pulling crankbaits near shorelines and decaying weed beds. Photo by the author
Fall is here, and in a matter of days, the Harvest Moon will be upon us. This is a magical time of year for fervent walleye anglers, many of us launching the boat during the dinner hour and fishing well into the blackness, rod tips and tackle boxes illuminated by the light of the full moon. Rapidly cooling water temperatures, dying shallow weeds and annual movements of baitfish and perch coalesce to bring large numbers of oversized walleyes into the shallows where they can be tempted by well-presented crankbaits.

Double check your navigation lights, buckle your lifejacket, fill the thermos with coffee and digest these night trolling tips; they will help you catch more walleyes on your next trip.


Pay attention to your speed. Resist the temptation to just drop the kicker and go. Your trolling speed should be closely correlated with water temperature. A good starting speed for October full moon trolling – assuming water temperatures are in the low to mid 50s – is 1.6 to 1.8 mph. If your favorite waters are warmer, then a speed closer to 2 mph might be appropriate. Likewise, if a midweek cold front has knocked the water temperature down a bunch, then be prepared to go even slower.

Speeds of 1.6 to 1.8 mph and slower are easy to obtain with a kicker motor. However, if your boat is not so equipped, there are a number of ways to get down into the proper speed range without having to constantly take the main motor into and out of gear. My favorite method is called the “bow brake”. Drop your bowmount trolling motor into the water and turn the lower unit perpendicular to the long axis of the boat. This will knock 0.2 to 0.3 mph off your trolling speed, so if your big motor trolls down to 2 mph, the “bow brake” method will help you hit the fall trolling sweet spot. Just don’t forget to stow the trolling motor before you head to your next trolling run!

Unique features like a scientifically formulated net coating and specialty shaped mesh make Frabill Crankbait Nets preferred by night trollers.


Think carefully about lighting. As night falls, “less is more” when it comes to lighting in the boat so your eyes can adjust for optimum night visibility. Turn down the backlight of your fishfinders to a low level. Other on-board lighting should stay turned off unless needed for dealing with a fish or preserving a memory with a digital hero shot.

Many anglers use a headlamp to help illuminate their work area, but in recent years, I’ve discovered a handy alternative that prevents me from blinding other members of my fishing party with my headlamp as I swing my head from side to side. Rather than a headlamp, I give everyone in the boat a small, gooseneck, clip-on LED light. You can find these at bookstores where they are sold as night reading lights. Designed to be clipped onto a book, they also attach perfectly to any number of locations in my boat, and conveniently, right onto the straps of my lifejacket. The light from these LEDs can be directed straight down, exactly where I need it for tying knots, unhooking fish, or pouring another cup of coffee.

One of the hottest new marine lighting solutions, APALS® were designed by military operators searching for a low cost, ultra reliable, long lasting combat identifier. APALS® enhance your situational awareness giving you the ability to rig and release fish without blasting blinding light at your fishing buddies. Completely submersible and dustproof, the hermetically sealed APALS® are intended for use in the worst possible conditions. With more than 200+ hours of run time, the disposable APALS® will meet the most stringent mission requirements.


Finally, consider going natural on clear walleye waters. Look carefully at the head of the next walleye you catch. See those big, reflective eyes? The walleye is a visual feeder. Bait profile and action will help draw a walleye near, but the visual impact of a bait’s pattern or color scheme will either seal the deal, or send that walleye back to the depths. On clear walleye waters, consider pulling natural patterns to ensure that more walleye encounters end with bites, fights, and Frabill nets.
Hyper-realistic patterns and color schemes on hardbaits from LIVETARGET Lures have proven to be extremely effective in my boat as we chase fish across the Walleye Belt. Baits with a shad-style body, like the LIVETARGET Yellow Perch crankbait, are perfect when water temperatures are in the 60s to mid 50s. Later in the fall, or after a severe cold front, select a bait with a long, slender profile and subtle action, like the LIVETARGET Rainbow Smelt Jerkbait. Use the available moonlight to help you select a finish; a bright night with few clouds calls for a reflective finish, while matte finishes will be prime performers on overcast nights with limited moonlight.

The next two weeks will feature many big walleyes caught, photographed and released as shallow, heavily feeding fish intersect with informed, determined anglers. Put these tips to use and your hero shot will be loved, shared, pinned and retweeted. Be safe, and enjoy your nights chasing walleyes under the Harvest Moon.

Pair a hyper-realistic hard baits from LIVETARGET lures with a St. Croix EYECON trolling rod for full moon trolling success.

Jason Halfen
Dr. Jason Halfen owns and operates The Technological Angler, a company dedicated to teaching anglers to leverage modern technology to find and catch more and bigger fish. Learn more at