Kudos to the DEEP Inland Fisheries for their walleye stocking program.
My first encounter with walleyes came on a spring safari to Lake Champlain on the Vermont side many years ago. I had just started my outdoor writing career and had joined the New England Outdoor Writers Association and the organization was up in Vermont to sample and write about the fishing in Lake Champlain.
While many of my fellow writers were after salmon, I and some of the others targeted the lake’s walleye population. I was hooked up with some of the local walleye fishermen and caught my first walleye while fishing with them.
Their technique was simple enough: a nightcrawler, a split-shot sinker to get the bait down and simply drift with the wind or slow troll.
But the best was yet to come. My guide said he would cook the walleye up for me to try and see if I liked it. “Like” could never describe the excellent table fare provided by that first walleye pike. It was delicious beyond description and made a walleye fanatic out of me forever.
Shortly after that, we purchased a place in New York State and I found that a river that ran by our property also held walleye. It was the Chenango River and I would catch my next walleyes in this river for the years that we had our place in New York.
I caught them on lures, but my favorite was a nightcrawler on a floating jighead with a small sinker about a foot above the jighead. Most of the fish I caught were in the 18-inch range. I would catch and keep only one each time I went to my favorite fishing spot.
This went on for a couple of years. One morning, I went down to the river and, on the first cast, hooked up with a large walleye. It wasn’t until I weighed it later that I found out it weighed in at seven pounds!
It was a beauty. Because I caught it on the first cast, I broke my self-imposed limit and continued to fish. This resulted in two more walleyes that both tipped the scales at four pounds each. Just imagine: 15 pounds of walleye in three casts.
I would never duplicate that feat again. However, I became hooked on walleye fishing!
My next encounter with walleye fishing was a trip to Duluth, Minnesota on Lake Superior. I did make a couple of trips with local fishing guides, but I only had to go to any of the local restaurants to sample the goodness of fresh walleye fillets. Just about every restaurant in Duluth and surrounding areas featured fresh walleye on their menus.
And I have to say, each and every one of them only left me with a hunger for more of this delectable freshwater fish.
Next would be Gardner Lake in the Salem area of Connecticut. I fished Gardner many times and had heard about the walleye program that the DEEP had introduced to the lake, but had yet to catch one as I really did not target them in my fishing ventures. That soon changed, and I finally connected with a walleye while fishing with my buddy, Mike Hanlon. Over the years, I caught a few more walleyes out of Gardner Lake, but they were few and far between.
My next walleye excursion came with a fishing trip to Gogama Lodge in the northern reaches of Ontario, Canada. The trip was made with walleyes on my mind and would prove fruitful.
We stopped at a couple of restaurants on the way and I noticed that the menu had “pickerel,” but no walleye. Being too “smart” to ask, I passed on the pickerel and it wasn’t until much later that I found out the Canadians called walleye — “pickerel.”
Gogama Lodge was interesting because they featured float plane trips to the various lakes in the region. Each day would feature a different lake to fish, and each lake offered up some fantastic fishing and walleye were some of the fish we caught along with smallmouth bass and northern pike.
But it was still the walleye that my attention was focused upon. On the final day, I hired one of the local guides to take me fishing strictly for walleyes. It was a learning experience that I still hold dear, and I still use one of the techniques shown to me by my guide.
He used a spinner with some colored beads ahead of a hook that had a piece of nightcrawler on it. We then trolled different areas, including a creek that was known to have walleyes. We went as slow as the motor would go and sometimes even let the wind on the lake move us.
And we caught walleyes. The rig that they used was called a “Go Getter” and I have yet to find any in our area with that name. In fact, I made some of my own with spinner blades, beads and line that I got at Fishin’ Factory in Southington.
This led me to my next local walleye hotspot: Lake Saltonstall, owned by the Regional Water Authority. Over the years, I had heard that Saltonstall had some nice walleyes in it, but I was too busy doing other things to even go there. Fishing at Saltonstall is privately regulated, although the DEEP does stock it with trout. You have to rent a boat at the boat livery at the lake and you can use your own electric trolling motor and battery or rent one from them.
Saltonstall is a beautiful piece of water, as a reservoir should be. You may only use electric trolling motors or “Armstrong” (a.k.a. rowing) to get about the lake.
Over the years, I have caught some really nice walleyes (up to six pounds) out of Saltonstall, and it was my old favorite, the Canadian Go Getter with a nightcrawler on the hook, that did the job.
I have also had success with just a floating jighead (orange) with a nightcrawler and a split shot sinker about a foot above the jighead. The “secret,” if you want to call it that, is to move your lure as slowly as possible. The slower the better.
Lake Saltonstall also provides some excellent bass fishing and I was really surprised to get into some really heavy white perch. I have to say that they really were excellent table fare coming out of the clean water at Lake Saltonstall.
Here’s a tip for you: Go to your computer and look up Lake Saltonstall. You can even get a video on the lake as well as some hints on how to fish for walleyes — and, yes, they will take jigs and lures as well.
Believe it or not, my last encounter with a walleye meal came from a local supermarket. My darlin’ Edna was shopping and saw a sign advertising walleye. Knowing my love for this species, she inquired and found that it was indeed the freshwater species that I love, so she made the purchase.
It was fantastic, which raises the question: Why don’t these supermarket sell more freshwater fish like walleye? If they start selling walleye, I will be at the head of the line.
That’s it gang, gotta run. I’ve got a lot of catching up to do. See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops wherever they may be.