Walleye Master

May 31, 2011 by  

Our Outdoors – by Nick Simonson

I heard the audible click of a bail opening at the front of the boat and the whisper of line being played out and I chuckled. I turned and watched the same scene that I had observed multiple times last Sunday night. There in the spotlight was the star of the evening, my frequent fishing buddy, Josh Holm of Valley City, ND; and he was ready to set the hook on his umpteenth walleye since sundown.
“Again?!” I asked in a swirl of awe and jealousy.
“Yup,” Josh responded stoically from the front of the boat as he dropped his rod tip in respect to the dead weight at the other end of the line.
Half joking and half serious, I asked my cousin, Dylan Zubke of Watford City, ND, who had joined us at the cabin for the holiday weekend, “are you watching this? We are in the presence of a master!”
He laughed and stated he didn’t have to be reminded of Josh’s walleye wisdom, as our professor for the evening had already instructed Dylan to his biggest walleye ever – a 28-incher coming just before dusk on a crawler-tipped stand-up jig just off the creek delta near the cabin. I cranked my reel in unison with Dylan and our jigs came up over the side of the boat as Josh’s line tightened and his rod bowed slightly. The small movement from his rod tip confirmed the fish was still at the other end.
Josh swept back forcefully and the rod bent in an arc that rivaled that of the crescent moon above, which had finally peaked through the cloud cover that been with us all day. The fish, in only a few feet of water, quickly and audibly thrashed its way to the surface. I clicked the switch on my headlamp and its profile was revealed. On any other night, the Brutus before us would have been an amazing walleye – girthy and big-headed – but it was becoming old hat for the man that now stood at the front of the boat. Still, those of us in the back of the boat let out a collective gasp at its size as it made its runs left and right and then under the boat.
I slipped the tattered net into the water and wondered how many walleyes it had held in its thirty-plus years or if it had held any that were bigger than the one that swirled before us in the headlamp-lit shallows. My guess was, from the multiple holes of varying sizes, a good number of fish had been there before; but from the size of the walleye in front of me, I ventured that few bigger had found their way into it during that same time.
After several powerful pushes under the boat, the fish rolled to the surface and slid well below the rim of the aluminum frame and tattered edges of the old cloth web, coming to rest deep in the bottom of the net. To be sure the walleye’s weight didn’t snap the old landing net; I cupped my free hand around the fish’s belly as I heaved it in. I tweaked the 1/8th-ounce stand up jig from the snout of the massive walleye, pulled a tangle of netting from its spiny dorsal fin and lifted it out to Josh.
“I think it might go 29,” I guessed excitedly as I readied the tape measure, “it looks a lot thicker than your first one,” I continued, rambling as I tried to read the measurement.
“It’ll be close,” Josh replied, calm as ever.
The fish in his hands taped out at all of 28 inches; the same as his first fish of the evening which he then followed up with big walleyes measuring 25, 27, and 20 inches which he released, and a couple eater-sized fish in the livewell. The two 28-inchers were perfect bookends to the outing which any angler would have been satisfied with.
I readied my camera, snapped a photo and checked the LCD screen to make sure it turned out. There, as he had been all night, Josh posed with a monster in his grasp and the businesslike look of a guy who can close one deal and move on to the next in a heartbeat, ignoring the previous achievement in favor of what bigger accomplishments lay ahead.
“You know you have to smile for at least one of these,” I said.
Josh laughed, gave a quick grin and the flash went off again, capturing the final fish of the night and a rare smile just before the walleye was released back into the sandy shallows near the small creek. As she swam off out of the glare of the three headlamps that followed her toward deeper water, Dylan and I congratulated Josh on what was by far the best big fish night we had ever seen walleye fishing.
“Yup, not bad,” Josh replied as he re-baited his hook, clicked his headlamp off and fired his jig into the darkness, hoping to master yet another fish…in our outdoors.


One Comment on "Walleye Master"

  1. Janelle on Sat, 11th Jun 2011 3:49 pm 

    Great article Nick – thank you

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