Saginaw Bay Night Bite
By Mark Pieniozek
The Saginaw Bay can be a phenomenal bite as soon as the ice leaves the Bay, and night fishing is a great way to start catching early season walleye. Shallow water, less than 12 feet is full of walleye in the pre-spawn to post-spawn calendar periods and they are hungry! Floating body baits, like #5 or #7 Berkley Flicker Minnows pulled behind Off-Shore inline planer boards at slow speeds can fill your live well.
Before we go into catching these fish, let’s talk about safety. Night fishing adds an element of risk that isn’t there during the day. Be sure to always wear your PFD, have a good light source handy, keep your boat neat and organized and file a float plan letting folks know where you are fishing and when you plan on returning. Drive slower than you would during the day, and always keep your kill switch hooked up when using the main engine.
In early spring, walleye will be migrating in and out of the Saginaw and Kawkawlin Rivers to spawn and to use the warmer water to hunt for food. Shallow water (4-12’) around the river mouths is a great place to start. Trolling from the river mouths North to the water intake crib (seen on your GPS) is a very productive area to try. Keep moving the boat into different water depths until you find one that is productive.
I like to run floating, shallow diving stick baits 15 to 35’ behind the Off-Shore boards. Flicker Minnows are let back about the same distance. Keep your baits high in the water column…night biters love to feed up! I like to start trolling slowly, around 1.2 mph, but will speed up as I start catching fish until the fish tell me I’m going too fast. Color doesn’t seem to matter much at night but be sure to get your crankbaits tuned properly so they run true.
Seeing your Off-Shore inline planer boards at night can be a challenge, so I attach a small green glow stick to my boards. I have tried other colors, but the green is the easiest to see most nights. Use the slits in the boards’ flag or simply tape the glow stick to the arm of the flag.
This much overlooked bite can be fast and furious with doubles and triples being common! Make sure everyone in the boat knows the routine of landing a fish so no one ends up with a hook somewhere you don’t want it. Be careful when netting; don’t overreach with the net.
This is some of my favorite fishing on Saginaw Bay. There are very few boats out, the fish are in predictable areas and easy to catch most nights. I hope you take the opportunity to try it this spring.