Walleye Fever – Trophy Walleye Fishing

February 23, 2009 by  

Our Outdoors
Nick Simonson


The largest walleye to date for the author

The largest walleye to date for the author

Call it the result of a lucky catch, call it an unwanted side effect of Minnesota fishing opener (I guess now I see why ND really got rid of opening dates for fishing) but I’ve been stricken with walleye fever.

Chance Encounter

The symptoms started last Tuesday when fishing with a couple of buddies on the Sheyenne River. It was a sunny windy day, with 30 mph winds preventing the effective use of soft plastics for bass. Feeling the lure was possible, after reeling in the 8-foot bow the gales had put in the line. We decided to head north to a small bay where a feeder creek joined the river.

Here the small bay was sheltered by stands of elm, oak and buckbrush. The wind, coming straight out of the north, skimmed right over the boat and our offerings making line management easy in comparison to our adventures downstream. I pitched my jig up the current break, a well defined line of leaf buds, insect shucks and grasses that showed where the creek met the main channel.

Working the jig along the bottom, and pausing every so often, I felt for the telltale tap that walleyes are well known for. In the past, this spot was also well known, for its fast action for both walleyes and bass. A quick whack from a 16-inch smallmouth got the fishing off with a bang.

After releasing the fish, I cast out again, this time to the front of the break and slowly hopped my staple jig-and-grub combo along the break. I paused briefly for a quick conversation and picked up my rod tip. Tap…tap…tap.

I drew up the slack and set the hook hard. I was certain this fish was dinner. It felt like three maybe four pounds. I knew I was wrong when I could see the fish. Her mouth could have easily swallowed a three-pounder. My legs began to shake as she rocked back and forth, flaring her gills and swinging her white-tipped tail in protest.

“I think we’re going to need the net,” I stammered as the fish dove under the boat.

I rocked her back out from the transom and she went into my friend’s net, tail still hanging out well above the mesh. From that point on it was a blur my memory was failing and I though I was hallucinating, I recall the head of the fish, with gills flared, looked about the same size as the blade on a spade shovel. There was a large scar on her right gill-plate, and her teeth were scraggly and bent with more than a decade of life in the Sheyenne. I laid her next to my rod after a couple pictures, and cut a small notch in the shaft to mark her length. It was the usual incoherent hollering and babbling one experiences from such a fish after she swam away away.

The next day, my friend emailed me the pictures. I knew it had to be the same fish, but I did a double-take at the size. After looking at them all morning, and strategically placing them on the coffee table in the break room, I went home for lunch to confirm it. From the notch to the end of the rod butt, it was 29 inches – my biggest walleye ever, in terms of length. The fever was building.

The first time this 27 inch walleye was caught

The first time this 27 inch walleye was caught



With Minnesota’s fishing opener came bad weather, cold temperatures and the foolhardy idea to chase walleye and pike around Detroit Lakes with a small trolling motor and an old 16-foot Lund. Long story short, we ended up catching bluegills, crappies and the occasional ‘eye from shore.

My buddy and I returned home and decided to head to the secret spot. The only one we don’t share with anyone, specifically because of a 40-walleye day we stumbled upon there two years ago. That day we only kept seven, because most of the fish were over 20 inches in length.

The same walleye caught 15 minutes later - proving that catch & release WORKS

The same walleye caught 15 minutes later - proving that catch & release WORKS

Launching the canoe, we had images of a repeat in our minds. But the high blue skies and sunny day, like in trips past, did not bode well for this honey hole. In position, we began casting at the upstream edge of the hole with no success. We inched the canoe down stream and kept casting. No bites for forty-five minutes.

We reset in the middle of the hole and cast toward the end of the area. WHUMP! My buddy’s rod doubled over as he set the hook on a fish not ten feet in front of the canoe. The fish stayed down, shaking its head, bulldogging its mass toward the river bottom. The white-golden mouth was first to the surface, making it appear as if the river would drain entirely into the gaping maw. I scooped our makeshift net under the fish and hauled it in. It was a post spawn monster of 27 inches, which appeared in good shape, despite a cut on the tip of its nose. That one fish brought back the shakes and tremors of the fever.

Moving the canoe downstream about 15 feet, I placed my first cast off to the right of the craft and hopped it back along the bottom. The sensation of dead weight on the rod resulted in a reactionary hookset. I felt the fish dig, roll and come to the surface. It was another massive walleye, it looked about 27 inches. My buddy landed it, and I saw the cut and knew right away what had happened.

It was no delusion, or double vision – it was the same fish, fifteen minutes later. I held it up, smiled, and was completely satisfied with catching the same fish as my friend. It made for a good story at least. But the pictures don’t lie, catch and release works, and helps keep the treatment available for ailing anglers.

So here I sit at my desk in my office before work finishing off my column, it’s Thursday morning and my hands are shaking. Most of my coworkers would say its from the pot of coffee I drink to start my day, but I know it’s just another symptom of walleye fever, an ailment that can only be cured by another trip into…our outdoors.


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