Last Friday, when I came in from fishing I met a DWF club member, Steve Sheldon, as I was pulling in my boat. Apparently he had been trying to track me down to ask me about handlining. He had been going out but was only catching one or two fish here and there. He figured he was doing something wrong and he was hoping I could help him out. He asked if I could take him out some night and Friday (4/21) was going to be that night.
I had contacted Steve earlier in the week and told him to be at my house around 8. I also told him to bring his stuff so I could check to make sure his shank/leader set up was correct. I have found that when someone isn’t catching fish it is either that or his boat handling skills. At least I would be able to eliminate one variable. After a quick check of his stuff we were packed up and headed out. The weather tonight was damn near perfect. Once again a slight NW breeze, overcast skies and not to cold. The water was still clear and my only concern wasn’t those other fish, it was undersized fish. I had been hearing reports that the river was now full of 13 inch walleye.
The reports were right.
We started around 8:30 pm and in the first 10 minutes I landed 5 fish and all of them undersized. I eventually caught a couple of keepers but during this time Steve hadn’t caught anything. I was just about ready to switch seats with him so he could fish my set up when he got snagged, BAD. After making a few donuts around the weight the shank busted and he lost the whole set up. I rigged him back up with one of my shanks and a 40 foot and 6 foot leader. After that it didn’t take long and Steve was flipping fish in the boat. For the next 45 minutes it was game on. We still caught a few undersized ones, and of course those other fish, but we were catching plenty of legal ones as well. By 10:00 pm we were all done and putting gear away. Steve was amazed how one small change, albeit an important one, could make all the difference in the world. He went from spending hours and maybe catching two fish to catching a limit in just under 45 minutes. Needless to say he was happy. We put everything away and headed towards the dock. Other than the snag, which turned out to be a good thing, it was a near perfect night. When we got back to the house we chatted some more about strategies for different conditions and what to watch for concerning boat control. I gave Steve one of my shanks and a weight for him to copy. He probably spent part of today making new shanks and leaders. Hopefully he will be able to get out again soon.
As I had mentioned earlier the water was still clear and no debris. Most of our fish came on #11 blue and silver Rapala and a #11 Downriver Tackle Custom Rainbow Trout, which has a blue back, pink sides and a white belly. We tossed back just as many as we kept and we only caught a handful of those other fish. Most of them being big females. Very few boats out for a Friday night which was surprising. It’s go time and I really couldn’t understand why so few people were out. Their loss.
The smaller fish is a great sign. Successful hatches the last few years is starting to show and it looks like we will have plenty of walleye for years to come. Based on what I have been catching it should be a good mix of fish from 15 to 24 inches for some time. We’re going to need it because I’m afraid the hatch this year is going to be a bust. Any eggs laid before those two big storm events we had probably covered all the eggs with silt which means they will have suffocated. I certainly hope I’m wrong.