The inaugural “Walleye Wars” between tourism officials on Lake of the Woods and Devils Lake is in the books, and the trophy went to …
Lake of the Woods.
Billed as a celebration of ice fishing and a celebration of two very good lakes, the final fish count in Thursday’s event — which pitted Joe Henry of Lake of the Woods Tourism against Tanner Cherney of the Devils Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau — was 71 fish for Lake of the Woods and 14 fish for Devils Lake.
That total included eight keeper walleyes and three perch on Devils Lake and 47 walleyes, 18 saugers, two perch, three tullibees and one eelpout on Lake of the Woods.
Big fish for the day was a 23-inch eelpout and biggest walleye of the day, from Lake of the Woods, stretched the tape at 22¾ inches.
As part of the event, which began at 9 a.m. and wrapped up at 4 p.m., Cherney and Henry each had guests fishing with them throughout the day, with Facebook Live reports from Lake of the Woods at the top of every hour and live reports from Devils Lake every half hour.
One point was awarded for biggest walleye, 1 point for the biggest fish and 1 point for the most fish.
While Henry spent the day in a permanent house, Cherney took a more mobile approach, fishing a number of different sites in a portable house and a Sno Bear during the day.
The contrasting strategies illustrate how differently the two lakes fish in the winter.
Considering what January weather can be like, organizers couldn’t have picked a nicer day for their social media extravaganza. Temperatures on Thursday soared into the 30s with fair to partly cloudy skies and relatively mild winds — a marked contrast to the previous Thursday, when a blizzard brought the region to a screeching halt.
Trying to fish under such harsh conditions wouldn’t have been much fun.
Henry and Cherney announced Walleye Wars on Nov. 30 at the St. Paul Ice Fishing and Winter Sports Show. The two promoters, who are friends as well as competitors, had plenty of fun with the event in the weeks leading up to Thursday’s fish-off.
Cherney, in particular, put his video chops to work with a series of creative, well-done segments on the Visit Devils Lake Facebook page in the weeks leading up to the event. Henry took a lower-key approach with the video, but he got a chance to show off the Walleye Wars trophy Friday morning for a group of students in teacher Lance Sage’s Outdoor Career Education class at Warroad High School, posting a video clip from the occasion on the Lake of the Woods Tourism Facebook page.
“(The trophy is) going to be staying at Lake of the Woods, but I will say this: Devils Lake is a heckuva fishery, and on any given day, that lake can light up, too,” Henry said in the clip. “We just happened to light up yesterday for the one-day tournament.”
The goal going into Thursday’s fishing event was to make the day as unproductive as possible for people checking in at work, and judging by the number of people who watched the live updates, the goal was achieved.
The event definitely stirred up some enthusiasm in fishing circles, along with a little bit of fun trash talk. Any way you measure it, that makes the day a success.
“Some days, the bite just doesn’t go the way you’d expect it to,” Cherney told Henry in a phone call shown on Facebook Live at the end of the event. “We enjoyed the last month and having some fun with the videos we’ve been doing and creating a little buzz in the fishing world.”
Cherney said he’s already strategizing for next winter — or perhaps issuing the challenge for a similar event in open water.