Catching, Keeping, Releasing Walleyes

This last week I had the opportunity to fish with a long time friend, Todd Gessner.  Gessner is a guide, working out of the Wildcat Lodge in Boulder Junction, Wisconsin.  He’s not just another guide though.  A few years back he was inducted into the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame as a Legendary Guide.

While in Boulder Junction on business, Gessner invited me to join him and fellow guide Mike Smith from Arbor Vidae to do some walleye fishing.  How could I pass that up?   Gessner said we’d be going to White Sand Lake in Vilas County, which is a short ride from my cabin at the Wildcat Lodge.  With a mild wind and a few clouds in the sky, I knew it would be a good day.

Now I have to tell everyone who may want to try this lake that launching is a bit tricky if you’re using a boat larger than a 12 foot aluminum boat and a 10 HP motor.   Although the launch itself is good as is the dock, it seemed apparent to me that many larger boaters power launched and blew out a nice deep hole along the dock.   But blowing out the small rocks and sand created a situation of the surrounding water, around the blow out, being less than a foot deep.

Getting a 17 ft. or larger boat away from the dock to deeper water where you can lower the outboard or electric trolling motor was a challenge.   We had dead calm water so it wasn’t too bad.   But winds coming into or blowing away from the launch would make getting a boat on or off the trailer near impossible.  So here’s my advice for this lake; if the winds are blowing, try a different lake.  And if you notice that the wind is kicking up while on the water, take that as a signal to call it a day on White Sand.

Gessner, Smith and I headed to a big flat that dropped off to deeper water.   We fished both depths as well as dragged our baits down the drop.   Casting from deeper water to shallow worked quite well.

Gessner had crawlers, big minnows, and some leeches in the boat and at first we all tried something different to find out what the walleyes wanted.   A few fish were caught on the big minnows, but the half crawler on an eighth ounce jig tied on 4 pound test line worked the best.

Smith got the first walleye of the day.  It came on a half crawler put on a jig.    “You have to have a tail on that jig for it to work.” Smith said to me.   This meant that half of the half crawler was threaded on the jig while the other half dangled freely.  That was the tail Smith was talking about.

Our catch for the day included a nice mix of 19", 23", 24", 24", 24 1/2" and a 26" walleyes.  Gessner took first fish with a big rock bass.  Smith tried hard to beat Gessner’s 26-inch walleye.   I was glad just to be on the board with one of the 24’s.

We had some discussion on whether to keep or release the walleyes we caught but the reality of it all seemed unanimous.   Gessner and Smith explained that they want to contribute to maintaining a great walleye fishery up north on any lake they fished.   It’s legal and okay to keep some fish for the frying pan.   And they feel it’s best to take fish in the 18 to 20 or so inch range.  Those that are over 20 inches go back.   They’re the best size for reproduction.

So our day ended with bringing one fish home when we could have legally brought home nine.   The one fish we kept was enough to make two decent fried walleye sandwiches or just hold on to for another day when a few more keeper fish would be caught.  Letting the big ones go back into the water was a good thing.  It helps sustain the body of water we fished and gave us that good feeling because we’ve doing our part.

I took a number of photos of the fish we caught and you can see them here in the gallery that follows.  Practicing catch and release is a responsible thing for all anglers to do.  DNR fisheries personnel establish rules on size and creel limits and that helps the fishery too.  If you’ll be soon be putting your catch into a fryer, that’s okay.  Otherwise, let those big ones go to enjoy catching another time.

Remember, “Great fishing is not that far away.”  tm


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