As an experienced outdoorsman I am a firm believer that the quality of the experience far outweighs the quantity or size of the success you may have when it comes to fishing. Not to say that catching a limit of walleye or releasing a large fish doesn’t still enhance the said experience.
I may be able to say that now, but like many, in my younger day my goal was to catch big fish. I had a goal as to how big a walleye it had to be before I put it on the wall and that in itself was my main goal.
I put in much more time and effort back then to achieve my goals. I studied weather patterns, kept a journal on wind direction, wind and boat speed, color of lures, moon phases and I tracked the results, all in the attempt to improve my success.
For a walleye my goal was 30 inches or 10 pounds. Fishing lakes as far as Lake Diefenbaker in Saskatchewan, Dog Tooth Lake in Ontario to Lake Erie in Ohio, just to name a few, all are known for trophy walleye.
These lakes all proved to be great in number but the closest I came to my goal was a 29 inch walleye from Saskatchewan.
I continued my quest mostly at night on local lakes including Winnie, Leech, Deer, Sugar and Pokegama. Once again numbers were great. There would be one night when my fishing partner Jim and I continued to move about Pokegama because we were only able to find 17 to 26 inch fish. That night ended with 54 walleyes released.
After several years of consistently releasing 28 to 28.5 inch walleyes I decided I was going to lower my expectations and I settled for a beautiful 28.5 inch Deer Lake walleye. Realistically a 28 inch walleye should be a trophy in anyone’s eyes.
The night had been extraordinary, with a beautiful full moon, a star studied sky falling way to an occasional shooting star, all topped off with steady action.
As I headed home I almost felt relieved. It was time to forget about how big a walleye I needed to catch and focus on what I had just described, a beautiful night.
Being that it was 2:00 a.m. and my freezer was full at home, I stopped by my parent’s garage, wrapped my trophy in newspaper and placed it in their extra freezer all in preparation for the taxidermist on Monday.
The weekend came and went and before I knew it, I found myself drinking coffee with my parents Monday morning. Before I could tell my story of Friday nights’ success, my mom brought up that they had finally got around to cleaning the garage. Dad had made several trips to the dump including a load of frost bitten food from the extra freezer.
“I even found an old fish wrapped in newspaper that hadn’t even been cleaned yet,” proclaimed my mom. Yes my trophy was gone.
Two weeks later I found myself on Pokegama Lake. The difference was there was no full moon, no wind, fishing was slow as I could have predicted but the evening was beautiful.
Finally around 1:00 a.m. my rod buckled. The first and only bite of the night pulled me out of solitude. Based on the pressure from the top of my hand all the way up to my forearm, I knew this fish had weight. The large swirl on the surface far behind the boat, followed by numerous runs first to the left and then to the right gave every indication that I had tagged a large northern pike.
Curious to see just how big this fish was I loosened my drag and played the fish until finally it slowly rose from under the boat. My eyes grew wide as the beautiful 31.5 inch walleye appeared.
There was no need to measure or weigh this magnificent walleye, I knew I had more than exceeded my goal.
As years passed I would release several more fish in that 30 inch range but more importantly I would get to witness my wife, two sons and fellow fisherman catch and release trophy fish.
Today I fish when I can, not when weather conditions are perfect. I find myself moving off larger fish looking for smaller fish in hopes of bringing home a meal to eat but most of all I enjoy the experience and fellowship. The peace and tranquility of the evening sky turning to the solitude of darkness as the stars appear right before your eyes.
It’s amazing how priorities change.