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Walleye Fishing Goes Extreme From Lurenet
Fishing-Walleye fishing will likely never be confused with the risk of ski jumper Vinko Bogataj's nasty spill that defined the term "Agony of Defeat" on the opening of Wide World of Sports, but a number of fishermen in the upper Midwest do appear to be taking their sport of fishing to a new extreme. John House, 33, is one of those anglers. House, who owns an engineering company in Elk River, Minn., says trophy walleyes are easiest to catch when the conditions are at their harshest.
"I started fishing for big walleyes on Mille Lacs Lake in late fall and early winter about 15 years ago," House said. "There's a lot more people doing it now then there was then. It's awesome fishing. I caught a 27-inch walleye Thursday night thats belly was so huge it looked like it swallowed a football. The big fish are putting on the feedbag as they get ready for winter."
House said he fished five miles of water on Mille Lacs that night and didn't see another fisherman. However, he also said it was 30. And that's not counting the wind chill factor. Below freezing temperatures may seem extreme to most, but House and others who capitalize on this bite say the fishing gets a lot better as the conditions get a lot worse.
"This bite lasts all the way until ice covers the entire lake," House said. "I've fished many nights when the lake is almost covered in ice. I've had to beat the rod on the edge of the boat to get the ice out of the guides to reel the fish in. I've fished in blizzard conditions. I do admit it is more of a pain when you have to break the ice on the shoreline to reach open water."
House said there's good reason for braving such inclement conditions. He said it's hard to catch fish under 24 inches at this time of year. His biggest late season fish is 30 inches. Contrary to traditional walleye fishing techniques, which usually involve deep water, House said he catches most of these trophy fish by trolling in shallow water.
"The areas we fish top at 3 to 4 feet with a fast break down to 7 feet," House said. "Some areas fast break into 10 to 12 feet. Most of the fish are hanging on the initial wall in 3 feet to 4 feet. The fish seem to steadily feed throughout this season. The trick to walleye fishing is to find the weed edges, rock reefs or sandbars that are holding fish. Once you find them you'll catch them."
House primarily trolls floating models of Bomber Long As and Smithwick Super Rogues in Fire Tiger and Chrome Black Back and Chrome Blue Back color patterns. He lets 100 to 150 feet of Silver Thread Fluorocarbon line out and stays between 1.3 and 1.7 mph.
He said he's found Silver Thread Fluorocarbon gets more bites, even more so than changing to a smaller diameter monofilament line. Fluorocarbon lines are renown for their virtual invisibility when under water.
House said he also increases his catch by utilizing S-turns when trolling. He said bites seem to come on the turn, no matter if it is on the inside or outside turn, when he lets his rod sweep back to allow slack line. The Long A or Rogue will float up and trigger bites due to this action.
"Most of these lures run 7 to 10 feet, so they're pounding the bottom when we troll," House said. "So when we make a turn the lure rises while in the critical 3 to 4 feet strike zone. That little hesitation happens right where the fish are sitting on top of the reef. That's where you're going to catch your trophy."
Motocross, snowboarding and skateboarding might have some company if House and his buddies keep catching these late season trophies. Will walleye fishing some day appear on the Winter X-Games? Crazier things have happened.
Like trolling in a blizzard. Even Vinko Bogataj would call that extreme.
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