Mark Walters, Contributor
Follow along each week on the adventures of Mark Walters, a syndicated outdoor adventure columnist who lives in Necedah, Wisconsin. He began writing his column, An Outdoorsman’s Journal, in 1989. It includes hunting, fishing, lots of canoeing and backpacking. He currently writes for around 60 newspapers on a weekly basis. He hopes you enjoy reading about his adventures!
When I hit send on this column I will be getting in my truck and heading to the state of Mississippi with my brothers Tom and Mike for a week of fun and crappie fishing. First, I have to tell you about a real cool experience that I had while fishing on the Fox River at DePere for walleye out of my canoe.
Friday, March 26th
High 54, Low 29
Each spring thousands of walleyes that live in Green Bay swim up the Fox River until they are stopped by the dam at DePere. Each spring a trophy walleye season starts on about March 8th and runs until well after the spawn is concluded and that season only allows fishermen to keep one walleye and it must be 28-inches.
Nowhere that I fish in a years’ time gets as much pressure from fishermen that come from all over the Midwest as this stretch of river and the fishing can be fantastic. Because I like to do things the hard way, I canoe troll by paddling my canoe with three rods in rod holders and for the most part I use Husky Jerk HJ12 blue chrome, crankbaits.
Most of my experiences take place after dark as this is when the bigger walleye seem to bite and as you are about to read it is a fast paced, go for it, experience.
I launched at the county fairgrounds at DePere and once again was amazed at the literally hundreds of rigs either going in the river or being pulled out. It was 5:30 pm and the fishermen that were finishing for the day had good reports, especially as most said, “once the sun came out.”
So, I start paddling down river and put out a left and right planer board and each one was rigged with the blue chrome. On my straight back rod, I would try a half a dozen crankbaits but as usual the blue chrome was the fish catcher.
Almost all of my fish are caught well after dark and so was I ever surprised when my left board got hit hard and the crazy show of catching a good walleye while sitting on your knees in a canoe began. Everything worked out well and in the end I netted and released a 21- inch walleye.
My plan was to canoe about three miles south and work the body of water that is below the 172 bridge and when I hit that area it was getting dark and was really crazy as there was probably fifty boats pulling boards and of course I am the only guy in a canoe.
You have two constant situations; one is that the boats behind me as well in front of me and also coming at me are all pulling boards and they can be spread out about 40 yards wide. Not running into other boards or getting yours run into is literally a nonstop game, especially since in many situations, you cannot see the boards. Just as important is that literally the longest that you can go without checking your lines is 30 minutes. If you do not you are dragging a long line of leaves on your cranks and literally are not fishing just paddling.
When I check my lines, all forward momentum stops and if I am not on top of my game I mess up the parade of boats that are behind me.
So, I said that I literally sit kind of like a jockey rides a horse and this keeps me balanced and my weight low. Because no one else is in a canoe, everyone talks to me as I pass by them and for the most part it was a slow bite tonight with mostly small males being the regular reply.
I was paddling upriver on the east shore and decided to cross over to the west shore which was about a 600-yard paddle and I would have to pass two boats in the channel, and both were pulling boards. I just got in front of these guys and had no problem as long as I paddled hard when the blue chrome was hit for the second time tonight and it had been exactly four hours.
Lots of thoughts and actions take place, I am canoeing upriver, it is dark. As soon as I stop paddling my other two rigs are going to get tangled, the guys 50-yards behind me cannot see that I have a fish.
I held the rod up that had the fish on it and slowly reeled in my two other lines and also grabbed the kayak paddle and made some hard pulls every once in a while.
This fight was really about as fun and challenging as it can get. I am wearing chest waders; one mistake and I am in trouble. There is no thrill like catching a good fish in the dark, in current, in traffic. In the end the old girl “she was 23 inches” got to swim another day and perhaps on this very day is laying eggs to provide all of us with walleye for the future.
I fished five more hours without getting out of my canoe or getting another strike. I loaded up my rig and drove home just as night was becoming day and kept thinking Mississippi, big crappie, and lots of laughs with the bro’s!
Check out previous weeks’ columns at: www.outdoorsmansjournal.com