Sight-fishing for walleyes
Recently, I had the opportunity to participate as a substitute for a regular competitor in a friendly fishing contest that’s been going on for more than a dozen years. I’m usually not big on fishing tournaments and most contests, but the Angler of the Year is a small, private event with a good group of guys. It was a lot of fun and it made me appreciate a form of fishing that I don’t do very much anymore: casting.
I grew up tossing lures for bass and pike with my family, but I’ve always preferred dragging a jig for walleye and perch. This contest focused on bass and pike, but as a bonus you could also weigh any other fish you were able to reel into the boat.
We were fishing Big Manistique Lake, a body of water that was new to me. I was paired with a guy who had been fishing the lake for a couple days before my arrival. He is an exceptional angler, so between that and the fact that he knew the lake a little bit, we were poised to do well in the contest.
For the first couple hours on the first day, I handled the net as my partner jerked pike after pike into the boat. We were able to watch many of them come up out of the weeds to strike the lures in the five feet of clear water we were drifting over. With hardly any wind, it was easy to see the fish, and we soon realized there were walleye down there, too.
When I finally did set the hook, it was on a walleye that we saw take the bait. That was followed by three more, all from shallow, clear water on a cloudless day at high noon – not exactly the conditions we read about in walleye textbooks.
We felt as if we were fishing for tarpon or bonefish in the Caribbean when we would cast toward fish that we could see lying on the bottom. Even when we moved to search for smallmouth on a rocky point that was just as shallow, the only fish I caught was a walleye.
A fellow competitor reeled in a large northern on the last day to win, but my partner caught the most fish during the two-day event, which will always be memorable for the unusual conditions that served up a walleye dinner.