It's June... must be time for the annual pilgrimage to Lake Erie in pursuit of the elusive Walleye. My history with the Walleye go back to 1975 when a gang of us decided to hit the Boundary Waters Canoe Area up in Minnisota based on the advertised lure of great fishing. Once there, we discovered that Walleye was the targeted species of choice. We beat the lakes up there for 5 days - portaging between a number of different areas without any luck at all. In fact, all we caught were a few pikes. Given this experience, we concluded that the Walleye was a mythical beast - a creature of the mind; expressed into being soley through the campfire lore of the old timers - and certainly not a part of this reality.
Never thought much about Walleyes since then - after all - why lust after a mythical creature when bass and trout were plentiful and foolish - ready to fall to the deadly spin of a Panther Martin or well placed plastic worm? This all changed when I meet Jeff - a toughened soul who had fought and won against the Walleye. Clearly, he was scarred by his numerous encounters with this lusty fish as he was slow to open up to share the deep trauma of the experience. Much like a combat veteran, it was only after he understood and confirmed that I had shared similiar piscatorial challenges, did he decide to confide his deepest secrets; cluminating in the casual flip of a picture of himself and his Dad holding a huge harvest of massive fish taken in deadly combat over a period of several days!
Holy Mackeral! These creatures still exist! After a few rounds of Czechloslovakian beer, I weaseled an invite to visit on the next Walleye expedition to be mounted out of his Dad's "fish camp" in Huron, Ohio.Thankfully, being a guy.I am completely comfortable in a habitat that is cleaned once a year with a leaf blower, and I measured up under the hard eyed assessing stare of his Dad as worthy of sharing a spot in his boat. It did not hurt that I bought some beer either.
Jeff's Dad (aka/call sign "Hawg Hunter") is legendary in the small village of Huron. He and his buddies have ruled over the secret of the "Hog Pen" off Cranberry Cove Marina for over 55 years. I can't tell you how fortunate I am to be accepted into this exclusive club - it was either my sense of humor and ability to carry a spirited conversation or it was the betting pool on how many hours on the lake it will take before I succumbed to violent seasickness - adding chum to the water and improving the fishing for all. So it went for the last 6 years.
We knew we were hitting the lake late this year - the best fishing is in the May/early June timeframe or late September/October - but the pressures of work and women pushed us to last weekend. After a miserable flight full of weather delays as a 100 year storm pummelled Ohio, we finally rolled into the fish camp at 0030 (oh dark thirty precisely) and fell into a fitful sleep listening to the train whistles as the Amtrak and freights rolled past.
Up at the crack of dawn, we slammed down the usual manly fare of eggs, bacon and toast and headed to the Marina to discover no joy in the weather. The storm was only recently departed and the lake was full of chop - 4 to 5 foot swells stiffened by a raw north wind. With an experienced eye at the weather and prudence regarding his craft, the hawg hunter pronounced that there would be no fishing that day. Probably just as well as we were beat from the trip and were happy to head back to the camp and crash until it was time to go to the Eagles for our traditional Friday night Lake Erie Perch dinner.
The next day dawned bright and fair - reasonable chop and a light wind. After another good breakfast of pancakes braised in sausage grease, we were off. We followed the tracks shown above - trying to dodge the huge spread of brown mud the various rivers and streams that surround Huron churned into the pure lake. No luck. Not a nibble. The brown killed the action.
Even the hog pen - usually a sure thing - did not produce a peep - not a single Walleye or even a trash fish like sheephead and white bass.
We did everything to try and influence the situtation. We applied "lunker sauce" from ProGel - the Menhaden Shad flavor, we ran worms, we ran reef runners, we ran crankbaits, we ran no fail, custom created hawg baits made by the master himself out of carefully selected beads using top secret colors with hooks tied on with a knot so special it had no name .... nothing. As the individual who introduced the lunker sauce to the mix, I was under immediate suspicion of poisoning the pool with "fish repellant" rather than the advertised fish attractant. But it was the lure treated with the "sauce" that briefly foul hooked a sheephead for our only glimpse of a fish all day.
And the ultimate weapon, chum, was not going to happen this fine sunny day in spite of the breakfast - the seasickness patch held (although I did get quite queasy).
Bottom line: The Walleye remained highly elusive - but - we know they are present as proven by this picture taken on an earlier trip! We sadly left camp for cleaner pastures on Sunday - resolved to come back again next year and really kill 'em!
Gettting there: To find the hog pen, head due north from Cranberry Cove out to about 30 feet. Look West towards Sandusky and line up the lighthouse with the water tower behind it and troll East - that's the primo slot where you will encounter plenty of fish under normal conditions.