I have talked (maybe too much?) about our first ever fly in trip to Pickle Lake with White River Air My First Fly In It was a magical experience for 4 “citiots” This trip was also the first that our groups primary target for the week would be walleye. Don’t get me wrong, we had fished for walleye before but on our other trips we also targeted bass and Muskie. Pickle Lake has walleye and pike, but overall walleye was to be our main quarry. Lucky for us Pickle Lake was full of them.
Over the course of this particular trip Whitey was to be my boat partner aka The Jigging Gnome We had started this pairing on our previous trip together at Brennan Harbour Lodge Brennan Harbour Trip Whitey and I in one boat and Dave and Willy in the other. Whitey and I already had a good system and rapport going when it came to fishing. Sometimes he drove and chose the spot, sometimes I did and in general if we weren’t connecting with fish both of us were inclined to reel up and go check out something new.
Finding fish on this trip was straight forward. Basically, all we needed to do was find drop offs, could be a gentle slope but overall a sharp break was best. A lot of times we probed an area trolling bottom bouncers and worm harnesses looking for fish. On the old portable fish finder, I had brought we called it looking for logs. On the black and white LCD screen a group of walleyes looked a lot like a log. It got to be a bit of a game between us. Whoever was driving would call out “logs on bottom” and you started to really pay attention because chances are you were going to get a hit soon. If we spotted a good concentration of fish, we generally kept on the spot drifting over it with jigs or just hovering on the spot vertical jigging. For us it was fish heaven.
The title of the story refers to another tactic we developed. One morning we were exploring a new spot at the far end of the lake. Trolling along a shoreline we had started to catch lots of pike on stick baits. It was slow going as it seemed like every time your bait settled into it’s wobbling cadence, bang snot rocket! For the first little bit it was a hoot but since we really wanted walleye or at least a pike with some shoulders we started to really crank the fish back to the boat. Well at one-point Whitey hooked into another snot rocket. He started to crank that sucker in and just as it neared the boat we both realized “Holy s#^^ Whitey that’s a nice walleye” it popped off. We were devastated. From what we could see it had potential to be one of if not “the” biggest walleye of the trip so far. We paused on trolling run, sipped on our coffee, shared a cigar and commiserated over our misfortune. At this point my memory get’s a bit vague and I can’t confirm who coined the term, but I do know one of us distinctly said “you know what, we just gotta fight it like it’s a walleye”
For the rest of our trip this became our battle cry, Whitey hooks something that feels bigger than normal and there I was over his should reminding him (okay more than likely screaming at him (Angry Andrew on the Net) “FIGHT IT LIKE IT’S A WALLEYE WHITEY”. Mark also took the battle cry seriously, although Mark is a gentler soul than I and more than likely was calmer than I “ Andrew, per chance do you think that could perhaps be a walleye” One morning Whitey pulled us into a spot where the shoreline plunged from 7 feet to 18 feet really quickly. We had switched to jigs and were just slowly drifting from the shallow side to the deep side. The fishing was slow, and I was honestly just about to say let’s get out of here when my jig just seemed to stop dead. Setting the hook, it was obvious that whatever this was it was bigger than normal. As I stood up to fight it Whitey reminded me to heed our battle cry. As we first glimpsed the flash of the fish I muttered “pike” based primarily on the length, once again Whitey reminded me of our creed. After a few very solid head shakes we finally got a look at the fish “Drew, that’s a walleye” The fish rolled into the net and I remember both screaming quite loudly and being amazed at the size of this walleye. 27.5 inches. For many trip vets maybe not a true giant but for a citiot like me it was the stuff dreams are made of. Al Lindner eat your heart out! We snapped a few photos of the fish, exchanged more than a few high fives and sat down for a celebratory cigar. After a few moments of silence Whitey look over at me with a glint in his eye and said “That’s why you fight em like it’s a walleye Drew”
Over the years this battle cry has served me or others fishing with me or Whitey well. This summer I was fishing off the dock at the cottage and got a nice hit. I have never caught anything other than bass or pike off the dock but when the second big head shake reverberated up the line and into my arms I remember “Fight it like it’s a walleye” Shortly thereafter she rolled up and BAM, 25 inch walleye in the net.