Walleye Fishing – The Big Bite

March 5, 2012 by  

By Nick Simonson

And….nothing.  I ripped the glow-red spoon upward and it went…nowhere.
It was a sensation I hadn’t experienced in quite a while, having spent a majority of the past few winters searching lakes across the upper Midwest for slab crappies and bull bluegills. But on this, the last weekend of the Minnesota walleye fishing season, I felt the rush that comes with having something large – and other than a panfish – on the end of the line.
Walleye Fishing SeasonIt didn’t take long to tie into our first fish after arriving on the ice with my friend Randy, just before the witching hour where dusk settles in and walleyes traditionally strap on the feedbag.  While digging through a dusty box of big-fish tackle and selecting a new spoon straight out of the package, I glanced up and saw the bobber in the hole by the door of the flip-over shack steadily making its way down the cylinder like falling mercury in a thermometer.
“Reel up your line,” I said to Randy as I set the hook with a firm upward tug and felt an even stronger tug on the other end.
As he did, his rod blank doubled over and our lines shuddered in unison with each powerful run of the fish.  We were tangled up over the small gravel bar by the yet unseen creature below, but its identity would remain a mystery.  A few seconds later, we lost our connection to the fish, he opened the bail on his reel and I brought up our rigs.  They were twisted and tied together like something out of a newspaper cartoon where the fish is about to play a joke on the anglers above.

Randy cut his line and rerigged.  I reset my bobber and tipped my spoon with a minnow head and began pounding the sand and gravel bottom below, just off the edge of the muddy main-lake basin.
“It’s been awhile since I’ve had anything on that felt that big,” I said, “I was scrambling to find the right drag,” I continued.
After stirring the bottom sediment up with my spoon, and creating what I figured was a sufficient cloud of dust that would attract some fish, I set to work with a rip-fall-pause-jiggle pattern that came back to me like riding a bike.  Occasionally, I would raise the spoon three or four feet off of the bottom, give it a jiggle and let it tumble back down.  But for the most part, I kept the spoon near the substrate.
Nothing showed on the sonar, the bobbers were tugged down a couple of times by a pair of eight-inch walleyes.  Despite the brief lull, the tug of the giant fish at the outset kept me going and I robotically kept the rip-fall-pause-jiggle rhythm.  And as I did, another old familiar pattern occurred.
There was the slightest sensation of…nothing, but as my brain and my arm had a slight disconnect, I went to rip the lure back up the column.  And as I did, my rod bent in a ninety-degree arc and pointed straight down the hole on the inadvertent hookset.
“Fish on, and it feels decent,” I reported to my buddy.
My left hand fumbled frantically to find the right drag setting as the fish bulldogged beneath the hole.  I felt a rush wash over me, one that I had been without for several years. I knew the fish was decent, maybe not huge, but a lot bigger than anything I had landed in my recent panfish pursuits.  The fish rolled and ran and kept the line tight as the reel gave up several feet of monofilament.  I was able to steer the fish toward the hole and saw a fat walleye drift by the bottom of the cylinder cut into the ice.  It had been a while since I had to figure out how and when to turn a fish to get it to the surface.
After the fourth try, I angled the fish up and reached into the chilly, dingy water that highlighted the creamy olive-gold skin of the fish.  As I did, the angle on the line changed and the spoon popped loose and zoomed up into the fabric of my stocking cap, just few inches above my left eye.  With the line dangling in front of me, I lifted the fish out of the hole.
It was the biggest walleye I had landed on the ice in the last four seasons.  It seemed so big that I had no choice but to release it.  I measured it up and it tipped 20-inches, just over the edge of my personal slot.  And after a quick picture, I lowered it to the icy surface and it zoomed down the hole.
The scenario would replay itself three more times until dark settled in.  My good-faith release of the first fish brought us three more quality walleyes before the bite subsided, along with our share of fish under 14 inches.  They would hit the bait on the drop, with that passive-aggressive walleye bite consisting of an upward take and the sensation of nothing.  It was great to get reacquainted with the bite and the battle.
As the action subsided, I sighed a sigh of satisfaction, but slight regret that it would be at least nine months or so before this water and the walleye fishing season would support another trip after these fish.  But as with many things, absence and anticipation for the big bite, makes the heart grow fonder…in our outdoors.


Comments

One Comment on "Walleye Fishing – The Big Bite"

  1. Matt Phillips on Sun, 11th Mar 2012 8:09 pm 

    Sick walleye bud. Samething happened to me when i went ice fishing last weekend. Caught a 12 pound walleye out in front of my cottage while i was fishing for perch. Caught him in literally 5 feet of water. Could actually see him take the bait and i almost had a heart attack. Just about took the rod out of my hands.

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