Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Dialing in Big Walleye and Crappie

I've had the early season walleye and slab crappies on lock since The end of March. It's been really, really good, so I really haven't felt the need to do much else fishing wise on the days when the bite was going to happen. I was on the fish and on them good. But I wanted to dial in the bite a little better... I wanted a very specific fish: my biggest walleye ever. The biggest crappies were just as easy as the smaller ones, so I didn't have that much headway to make there. But I knew there were giant walleye there too, and I really wanted on.

Saturday night was so warm wearing shorts wasn't unreasonable. But it was also brighter than I would have preferred and there wasn't as much flow.  The crappies came but the 'eyes didn't. I knew they had to be there, though.

After I felt I had beat on the reef plenty long enough, I decided to see what was actually there. I hit it with my light. Sure enough, a dozen sets of big white glowing eyeballs were revealed, only to scatter quickly.

I knew what to do.

I went home. That may seem like a crazy move, but I wasn't done for the night.
I got to the vice and tied up a couple of very small, unweighted white woolly buggers.
Then I went back. I made a few test casts somewhere else to make sure the fly looked like I wanted it to in the water with my light. Then I carefully drifted that fly through every spot I'd seen a walleye sitting in before. And eventually, I saw a swirl. I lifted the rod and was on. This was not the giant I was looking for, but about the best so far.

Why did I need an unweighted, tiny little peanut of a fly? Well, I might go into that in depth one day. But not here, not now, not for free.

The next night looked even better. Good cloud cover, fog, showers, and shorts weather again. There was even less current though, so I expected the fish to be ranging throughout the area rather than holding. And that's exactly what was going on. Before sunset I beat on perch and bluegills, which was fun. But as soon as the sun went down the slabs came in and took their place.

After a few good crappies, not much happened for a little while. Then, exactly where I didn't expect them to be, I found a school of walleye. I missed one, landed a solid male, then on the next cast got my smallest ever walleye on the fly. Good start, but once again, I was looking for a brute.

And then, the surprise of the night...
A fat brown bullhead found my chartreuse bugger and ate it.

There was a pretty long nothing. But I stuck it out. My friend Rick, who is an accomplished walleye tournament angler and has fished with me at this spot the last couple of nights, had told my about a tendency for there to be staggered bites during this type of activity: fish move in right after sunset and there's a flurry activity, then about a half hour pause before they come back again. I'd noticed the same thing last summer. I had a hunch that in this spot at this time of year, that second bite would coincide with the arrival of the big females. And, a half hour after I had caught the last small male, I felt a faint pause and set into something heavy and very angry. Unlike every other walleye I'd hooked here this year, this fish took line steadily and defiantly, heading for deeper water, and on 6lb tippet I just wasn't in a position to impose my will on it right away. When I finally did turn it it responded with enormous head shakes. Yeah, this was a good fish for sure. After a grueling battle, I tailed her. When I turned my light one her and finally saw every bit of her, some expletives slipped out.
"Holy f****** s***, this is the one."
There are certainly bigger walleyes to be caught, and I've been pretty lucky to catch far more mid to high 20's fish than 20's or below, but man what a gorgeous fish this was. I have an immense respect for walleye. They are so finicky, so smart, and just so gnarly looking... I adore them. And I was just elated to get this one. It was the last of the night. And that was fine with me.

Though it was very cold and very windy the next night, I had to go back again. Once again, I caught some monster crappies after sunset.

And once again I got a smaller walleye during the first bite.
And once again I got a big female about a half an hour later.

It feels really good to know that you're on the right track. It also feels really good to hold a big, beautiful fish that was the result of hours and hours of time on the water. Hard work pays off.

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  1. That was great. Do I know where you were? Those Walleyes were fantastic and you figured out the timeline.
    Tie, fish, write, conserve and photo on...

    1. Nope, not where you're thinking. I wish it were, but the walleye numbers have gone down hill there.

  2. Congrats. They are one of the more elusive fish in this area. You and Mike Taylor seem to have them dialed in but use relatively different presentations.

    1. We're fishing very different water. He's fishing a big river, I'm fishing still water reefs, points, and creek mouths.