A month off every year, whenever we want, wherever we want to go, or a time machine to be at different places at an instant. That’s not too much to ask for, is it? Surely not in the pursuit of big walleyes, and most certainly not in the quest for the most gargantuan walleyes swimming today.
Even if we were so fortunate, time is only one critical element in your pursuit of a walleye of a lifetime. You also need to be there at the right time, with the right lure or bait, and on the right side of manifold other factors, including a bit of good luck to string it all together. With some planning and homework, we try to make luck less of a key element in this pursuit.
It starts with being on the right water. Not just waters for big walleyes. There are many of those—too many to mention here—across North America that steadily produce 8-, 9-, and 10-pound fish. These are special places in their own right. But 13s, 14s, 15s, and larger—freaky big—that’s what we’re talking here.
We see these giants pass through our offices among the In-Fisherman Master Angler walleye entries, like a recent 34-incher from the Columbia River, a 15-pound 12-ouncer from the Detroit River, 16-plus pounders from the Menominee and Detroit rivers, and one just shy of 35 inches from Lake Erie. That was a catch-and-release entry so it wasn’t weighed. If it were in better-than-average body condition, it could have gone 18-plus. Master Angler fish are just a sampling of the biggest walleyes caught each year.
We’re also fortunate to fish various locations that are known for legendary walleyes as we gather footage for In-Fisherman Television and material for In-Fisherman Magazine and Annual Guides. Staying current with these terrific fisheries and top times and presentations also keeps staff editors and field editors in contact with local guides and other experts.
The ultimate milk run for giant walleyes today, looking west to east, would start on the lower Columbia River, where we’d pull spinner rigs and crankbaits for huge ‘eyes from fall into winter. It’s a phenomenal fishery for fish to 16-plus pounds. From there we’d make stops at Saskatchewan waters, Last Mountain and Tobin lakes. Both lakes regularly give up fish over 13 pounds, many through the ice, but fall also is prime. The 18.3-pound world ice-fishing record was caught on Tobin.
In Manitoba, giant, fertile Lake Winnipeg and connecting rivers grow big numbers of huge ‘eyes, with fall runs in the Winnipeg and Red rivers producing memorable fish on trolled crankbaits. Fish over 15 pounds are caught through the ice out in the big lake from December through March. Lake of the Woods, shared by Minnesota and Ontario, consistently produces 10s and 12s.
Then we’d visit the phenomenal Great Lakes fisheries, starting at Green Bay, in top form now for big walleyes, with tributaries like the Fox and Menominee rivers best in spring. Several Master Angler fish up to 33 inches have been submitted from the Fox, with a 16-pound 4-ouncer from the Menominee in recent years, all in April. Upper Green Bay also is a notable summer fishery for big ‘eyes. Moving along, fall trolling on the Bays De Noc of Lake Michigan produces walleyes to 12 pounds. Many more must-stops—western basin of Lake Erie, the Detroit River, Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay, and the Bay of Quinte, which in late October until freeze-up might be the best fishery in the world for huge walleyes. At the east end of Lake Ontario in New York, the Henderson Harbor area offers giants, as does the St. Lawrence River, particularly the area near Kingston, Ontario. Also look into sections farther upstream, such as near Cornwall.
We could go on, with world-class waters like Bull Shoals in Arkansas, McConaughy in Nebraska, among others. As for being in the right place at the right time, though, this should get you started. As for the rest, we do our best, such as in this Walleye Guide, to help you along the way—to make luck a smaller player—in your quest for walleyes of a lifetime.
- <h2>Devils Lake, North Dakota</h2>Spanning roughly 160,000 acres, Devils holds hordes of eaters under 3 pounds along with trophies topping 10. And it’s rich in flooded cover, offering fishing options to fit virtually everyone’s strong suit. Feeder creeks and current-washed bridge areas produce early, followed by weedy bays, deep timberlines, rocks, and flooded roadways as the season progresses. Classic patterns include slipbobbering cattail edges in back bays, as well as gnarly tangles of standing timber. But don’t be afraid to think outside the box. In August 2012, Scott Busteed and Dave Harmon topped 228 anglers competing in the Cabela’s MWC-Devils Lake Chamber of Commerce dual tournament by targeting hungry ’eyes gorging on freshwater shrimp in two feet of water. The hot zone was a mudline within eight feet of the bank, created by heavy equipment building up a shoreline roadbed. The killer tactic was trolling Berkley Flicker Shads 1.8 to 2 mph behind planer boards. Contacts: Guide Jon Dircks, 701/230-9469; Ed’s Bait Shop, 701/662-8321, edsbaitshop.com; Mitchell’s Guide Service, 701/662-6560, fishdevilslake.net.