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               Fall/Winter 2005 Issue

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The Hunt for Trophy Fish
 by Ted Takasaki and Scott Richardson

Who has ever dreamed about catching a trophy walleye of lifetime?  We all yearn to see an 8, 9, 10 pound fish or even larger splashing on the surface as we slip it into the net!

Walleyes are a challenging fish to catch consistently and trophy walleyes are even tougher.  Perhaps more than any other game fish, walleyes can be found utilizing many different types of habitat.  Trophy fish just don’t happen without some effort and time.  To boost the odds of catching a giant, you must go to waters where monsters are most common and be there when they’re at their biggest and most vulnerable.

Start by doing your homework.  Consult sources like the April/May issue of In-Fisherman magazine which publishes a list of Big Fish Awards based on trophy walleyes submitted by readers.  Pay attention to the “where’s” and “when’s.”   Take notes as to when a certain lake keeps coming up at a certain time of year and on what tackle.

Public records from state Department of Natural Resources list the results of creel surveys, electro-shock surveys and netting.  Check with other sources, such as Web sites like Walleye Central.

Once you’ve targeted the water where you want to travel to, talk with the resort owners and guides in the area, and book your stay to coincide with big fish times.  That’s likely to be near the spawn when egg-laden females are at their heaviest or in the fall when fish begin to fatten up for winter.

From experience, several spots in North America fit that bill.  An obvious choice is the Western Basin of Lake Erie.  (Ted holds the one-day Professional Walleye Trail five-fish limit of 53.2 pounds caught in April 2002.)  Others include the Detroit River/Lake St. Clair, the Bay of Quinte, Georgian Bay, Saginaw Bay, Sturgeon Bay, Fox River/Green Bay, Lake of the Woods and  Bay de Noc, to name a few.  Destinations farther north in Canada can offer big fish and often less fishing pressure.

Guides are a good idea for several reasons.  For one, their boats are big enough to handle the big waters where trophy fish live and they’re equipped with the necessary safety equipment.  For another, they’re on the water day after day.  They know where the big schools of the biggest fish lurk.

Make sure that you allot enough time during your trip to put the odds of a big fish in your favor.

Trophy fish are the wariest of the wary. Anglers must be versed in a variety of presentations to nab one.

For example, trolling is often the ticket when fishing the Great Lakes. It allows you to cover large expanses of water quickly and allow you to cover water both side-to-side and up-and-down in the water column.

Crankbaits are a good choice when the water temperature is 50 degrees or less.  Spread your lines to the sides of the boat using planer boards.  Troll slow and make wide “S”-turns to vary the speed of the lures.

Spinner rigs and night crawlers work well when water temperatures are 50 degrees and over. 

Look for signs of suspended walleyes on your screen.  If they’re holding tight to the bottom and you don’t get any bites, move on until you find active, suspended fish.

Big baits often catch big fish. Jigging with large plastic baits, like Lindy’s new Munchies Thumpin’ Grubs or Ringworms, may be the key at spots such as the Detroit River or Mississippi River.

Lake of the Woods gives up a ton of trophies in fall on Lindy Rigs worked slowly up and down breaklines near many of the humps in Big Traverse Bay and towards the mouth of the Rainy River.  It's hard to beat a big redtail chub during the fall when the trophies haunt steep breaks nearest deep water.

Big fish often avoid primary structures when fishing pressure peaks during the day. Armed with excellent night vision, walleyes are active after dark. That may be the best time to catch them.  Try a simple slip-bobber rig with Nite Brite lighted bobbers.

Remember that preparation prevents poor performance. Make sure hooks are sharp, line is new and free of nicks, and your partner knows how to handle a net without knocking a fish off at boatside.  Show them how to net the water around the fish head first, not just the fish itself.  

Second, keep a positive mental attitude.  That very next bite could be the bragging fish you’re after.

Do your homework, be prepared, put your time in, and get ready to make some space on your wall for that trophy walleye of a lifetime!