The big one that got away
Currently, Lake Erie is bulging with walleyes, the result of a series of good hatches in recent years. That means most of the walleyes in the lake are nice “eater-size” fish around 17 or 19 inches – a few are larger, but the lake is not choked with magnum-sized fish. That suited three friends and me just fine. Just as thousands of other anglers do every year, we headed to Lake Erie to get in on the fishing fun.
As expected, once we located a good area and figured out the best lures to use, a steady parade of those scrumptious-sized marble-eyes landed in our livewell. However, near the end of our trip, we encountered a couple of extra-large, possibly super-sized fish.
My friend Doug hooked the first one. His rod doubled over nearly to the breaking point and even then it only reluctantly allowed itself to be pulled nearer the surface. I had to slow the boat down and even pop it out of gear as he worked the fish closer to the stern. It came in deep.
Ken grabbed the net and when Doug finally winched the fish close enough to get a glimpse of it through the emerald green water, both Ken and Doug let out warhoops of excitement. “It’s HUGE!”
Then Ken plunged the net deep while Doug said, “Don’t … wait …” The next thing he said is unprintable as the front hooks on the lure snagged on the net. The next thing Doug said was even more unprintable as the fish pulled free and disappeared.
Both guys are experienced fishermen and each have had their hopes dashed by big fish escaping their hooks time and again. But it’s always disappointing.
Doug was still grumbling and Ken was still apologizing a bit later when it was my turn to hook into a Ms. Big (big walleyes are always females).
“Here’s your chance to redeem yourself,” I said to Ken. “Grab the net!”
This time he held off until I had the fish just under the surface and slipped it nicely into the mesh. Seconds later what turned out to be a nine-pound, 28-incher was in the boat.
Then I innocently asked Doug if his fish was this big?
He glanced at it and said, “Mine was twice as big!”
Now, I understood Doug’s remorse. But if he meant length, the fish would easily have broken the world record. No one has ever boated a 56-inch walleye, which would probably weigh 40 or 50 pounds. If he meant weight, his escaped 18-pounder would easily break Michigan’s and most other states’ records.
Either way, no wonder he was crushed. I didn’t ask.