The Hunt for a Monster Walleye
I remember the first time I saw a big walleye. It was the summer of 2000. I had just graduated high school and moved to Minnesota where I had a job on a lake. Someone brought in a big walleye to be weighed. Those large eyes, with a dark back, light underside and the teeth. What a fish. When I had the chance I would take a boat to Namakan Lake on the Minnesota Canadian border and fish for walleyes. Walleyes were so much harder to find than bass or pike. Something about the difficulty was alluring to me. 14-19 inchers were desirable as eaters. But I was always hoping for a big one. The big one. I managed to catch a 20 incher. And then a couple summers later I landed a 24 incher in the Crane Lake narrows. I was stoked. Biggest walleye I’d ever caught. But I knew it was no monster. I knew there were bigger ones out there. I wanted a big one, real big. Big enough that I could put a replica on the wall and everyone would pause when they saw it. Pause and ask me about my trophy fish.
How big is a trophy? The term trophy fish is one I’ve heard a wide array of theories on. Many say 28 inches for a walleye, others say 29 and some say it has to be 30 inches. About 10 years ago I saw a post about someone who had joined the “30 inch club” and I knew then my goal was defined. I wanted to be in the 30 inch club.
Over the years I changed how I fish for walleyes. Rather than vertically jig for them I learned to troll crawler harnesses and lindy rigs. Worms and leeches seemed to work better for me than minnows. I caught walleyes in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness from a canoe and in other Minnesota lakes from a motor boat.
Walleye fishing takes much more patience than bass or pike fishing. Dragging that line just above the lake floor with the line running across my finger so I could feel the smallest nibble. Tap, tap. Tap, tap. Let out some line. Another tap, tap and set the hook. Oh, the thrill of feeling your rod bend over while the tip quivers from the hooked fish trying to free itself!
24 inch Walleye caught in 2015
27 inch Walleye caught in 2018
In 2017 I met a friend, Ron, who taught me to troll for walleyes. In 2018 while fishing with him I I caught my first 27 inch walleye. Biggest so far. While we’d fish he would tell me stories about big walleyes he’s caught and the people who caught them. He’d regale me with stories of 30s, 31s and even a couple of 32s he’d seen caught. I was mesmerized.
Even though I live on a lake and am around fishing all summer, I have to work most days all day long keeping the resort going. But once every week or two I would slip out for a morning of fishing with Ron. He’d meet me on the dock and tell me “lets go get that 30 incher”.
One morning in 2019 Ron and I were out fishing on Pelican Lake and I had a solid hit. I set the hook and knew right away I had a big one on. Would I finally have my trophy? I took my time and slowly played the fish in. 10 minutes later I was holding my biggest walleye to date. A 29 inch 9 pound beauty. Nice fish, but still not in the “30 inch club”.
29 inch/9 pound Walleye caught in 2019
Each summer I fish 2 or 3 mornings with Ron. Still in the hunt for that elusive 30 inch plus walleye. I’ve since caught 3 more 28 inchers and one other 29 incher. Last week I went out fishing with Ron and took my 12 year old son, Brock with me. Ron brought his 11 year old grandson Lucas. It was a little bit of a chilly morning but the 4 of us were excited to fish. As usual when fishing with youngsters, the two kids started out strong but after about 30 minutes were losing some interest. They had their poles in rod holders, were eating snacks and telling stories. Ron and I kept fishing. Rods in our hands, full concentration on our lines. Of course since fishing is partly luck, this happened…
When the walleye broke the surface I was so excited. As much as I want to catch a 30 inch walleye, I was very hopeful that I would get to see my son join the 30 inch club! As you can see/hear in the video, I was more excited than he was about the big catch. What a great fish. Very healthy, fat female walleye that came in right at 10 pounds! All those years of fishing, and I no longer have the bragging rights of having caught the biggest walleye in our family. He’s got me beat by half an inch and a whole pound. For now…