Walleye on the Fox River

My job is unique and physical. Sometimes I kick butt but often I do not!

I am an outdoor adventures writer and my travels take me to locations all over the map as I try to catch fish, harvest game and probably most important of all, spend as much time outside as possible.

This week’s adventure takes place on the Fox River at De Pere where I camped for two nights and attempted to catch walleye through the ice.

Monday, Feb. 5

High 16, Low Minus-8

My plan was to park at Voyageur Park in De Pere which is basically attached to the city of Green Bay. I would then haul six otter sleds of gear to a yet undetermined place to fish on the river.

The first thing that I did was talk to three fishermen that were unloading sleds and fishing gear from their trucks for the evening bite. I told each one of them what I was doing and asked where they would build a camp if they were going to live on the ice for 48 hours and hope to catch fish from their shack.

Long story short, I would pull two sleds at a time and I relocated three times before I was confident that I had found home. Building camp for me is a big job. First I put up my Eskimo “Fat Shack” which is a cabin on the ice. Next I run two propane lanterns off from 20-pound tanks and a heater off from another.

I have a table and I set up a kitchen with a two-burner stove and a good-sized cooler to keep my minnows alive. Last but not least, I put my bed together which consists of two sleeping bags which are put inside of one another and a pillow. All of this is put on a cot which is a must as sleeping on the ice generally means wet bedding.

Because of a late start and three moves I built my entire camp in the dark and with a steady wind and the temperature about zero. It was a job where you cannot think of how uncomfortable the conditions are.

A little side thought – sometimes I watch some of the reality TV shows on survivors that are so popular. Some of these folks are doing very challenging stuff, some are not!

I am working too hard to fish with anything more then two tip-ups, and a rattle reel which is located in my shack (in other words I don’t have time to jig). While winter camping on Waubay in South Dakota with the boys we used to have a blast at night with rattle reels.

I could not sleep tonight, actually not even for a minute. At 3:30 a.m. I was patrolling the ice “very alone” when I saw one of my tip-ups was up and the light did not go on as the spring was too weak to lift the light up for it to work.

I went to the shack and got my gaff, jaw spreaders, chopper and scoop, and holy moly I caught myself a 17-inch walleye.

Back at the shack I made a pot of coffee and was loving life when at 4:30 a.m. a hungry walleye took the minnow on the same tip-up, and I caught an 18-incher.

Once night became day and it had been light for about eight hours I put something together. My camp was over 13 feet of water. I had caught the walleye in 7 feet.

During the day I pulled a tip-up and tried jigging from the shack and could not get a hit and with nothing on the rattle reel I made a pretty good-sized decision. I was going to move my camp 40 yards to the shallower water.

My old buddy Jeff Moll was coming for the night as he works in Green Bay and I wanted us to have the best chance to catch some walleye and was hoping we would have some action in the shack.

About an hour before dark Jeff made it to camp pulling an Otter Sled loaded with gear and carrying a pack on his back. At this point I had been awake about 34 hours and Jeff would have to be to at work at 6:00 the next morning.

We went with two tip-ups apiece and kind of tried fishing in the shack with the rattle reel and jigging.

Jeff has been running in the outdoors with me for about 45 years and as usual we had some pretty stiff competition for the big fish. What we really did was listen to great music and laugh a lot. About 8:30 p.m. I caught a 21-inch walleye and much later Jeff caught a 16-inch walleye.

We had spaghetti for supper, went to bed at 1 a.m., at 4:45 a.m. were back up, and at 5:30 a.m. I watched my comrade leave the ice with the same load that he came to camp with.

That my friends is what I do for a living!


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