|An exploration of glass-eyed fish|
|Wednesday, February 15, 2012|
By JOHN L. SLOAN
Why must such a great tasting fish insist on biting best when it is cold enough to freeze the balls stacked around the canon at the Civil War museum? (Forgive the long sentence). Why must the wind always be blowing strong enough to jerk the words out of your mouth? Why must you stand there shaking like Wobble Gear Delong in an earthquake? Why is February such a good month for marble eyes?
I have no answer to the above questions but I wrote them just to set the tenor of this article. You may have guessed it is about walleye (sauger, saugeye) fishing. That of course is something about which I know pitifully little. In fact, I know less about it that Larry Woody. That is just about nothing. One thing I do know. I aint jigging no minner on a heavy jig up and down in 20-degree weather till my arm falls off. However, I tend to catch my share and then some, most of them weighing four pounds. I have no explanation for it just as I cannot explain how the Reflector keeps from sun burning his head. Here is an example.
The forecast is for a high for of 29. Twenty-nine, to me, is not high. Winds predicted to be from the north at 10, gusting to 20. Central Hill will be white capping like a wave on a milk bucket. Of course, we went Nashville’s Bob Julian and me. According to him, it would be perfect for walleye fishing. I dressed as follows: light weight long underwear, heavy weight long underwear, expedition weight long underwear, fleece union suit, wool sweater, wool pants, fleece heavy weight jacket, rain suit top to break the wind, fleece hood, a hat and all the gloves I could find. On my feet, I wore Schnees, arctic pacs and three pair socks. Moreover, that was just for the truck ride there. Resembling the Pillsbury Dough Boy, I could barely move.
We launched at the Hurricane Bridge Ramp and went somewhere up around that other place. Bob assured me they would be tearing up a minnow tipped, light jig in 26-feet of water by a dropoff that falls to 90-feet. They were. I must admit, they were doing exactly that. Cast up on the ledge, slowly pull it off and let it slowly sink. TAP!
Bob Julian, at that time, worked for Robert Orr Sysco and somehow got free minnows. We went through five dozen and had two limits of great walleye. I caught 75% of them and have no idea why. Bob never took me walleye fishing again. It took me three hours to quit shaking and the windburn on my face is still there. That was on February 20, 1999. I think.
After the 35th fish in an hour, I was actually able to unzip one of my three jackets. My fishing partner/guide was one Wade Laborde of Dyment Ontario. He was/is a Canadian and knows a great deal about walleye fishing, so he said. Some guy named Charlie went with us. That was his first name. I never knew his last name. He ate candy continuously. He also had no teeth. None.
I had been up in that country giving a seminar on whitetail deer and had a day off. Expecting that to happen, I took some clothes fit for walleye fishing along. The forecast was a high of -3 Celsius. That is above freezing but not by much and besides, when it says -3, that is as far as I read.
Wade picked me up in his one-eyed Ford truck that was designed to break down every six kilometers. Fortunately, it was only three to the lake. Of course, at some point we would have to get back. I can almost see three klicks so I was not too concerned.
Wade made me want to puke! The guy was wearing shorts and a light warm up jacket. Come on give me a break. Okay, it was April, supposed to be spring. I will grant you that. But shorts! It was wicked cold, ehh. It was -3 and that is cold I do not care what scales you use.
We motor back into a cove where the water is slick as glass and not a breath of wind touches us. Wade explained that we would be casting ¼-ounce chartreuse jigs with a white twister tail on top a ledge that was 26-feet deep with big boulders. As we retrieved, the ledge dropped straight down to 90-feet. What did they do, move the damn thing? He allowed the fish would hit as the jig dropped and that he would show me how.
I had seven over four pounds in the boat before he got a strike. I told you I usually caught my share and then some. I am not Jim Duckworth or my man, Woody (shudder). I don’t know jack about walleye. I am a smallmouth man. I just seem to catch them even when I am not fishing for them. My second wife even slightly resembled a walleye.
That day I actually got warm enough to unzip my rain suit and one jacket. Every time I looked at Wade in his standard Canadian spring fishing attire, shorts, white socks and leather hunting boots, I had to zip up a layer.
So why do walleye like to hit in cold weather? My only guess is because fishermen, being crazy, will fish for them and they, the fishermen, need something to do in February. I have heard it told, just recently, the walleye and sauger fishing is good all along the Cumberland River from the mouth of the Caney to Cordell Hull Dam. Maybe someone will check that out for me.
I refuse to go anymore unless the temperature is over 55-degrees Farenhugle. However, if I went, I would catch my share and then some.