DULUTH, Minn. — I drilled two holes with the auger but never needed the second one. I didn’t have time to set up a second rod.
That’s how good the ice fishing was on a recent morning on my favorite lake on a trip that wasn’t supposed to happen.
From just before 9 until a little after 11 a.m. I had a walleye on the line almost constantly. I stopped counting at 30. They were still biting when I stopped fishing. Oftentimes, the bait wouldn’t hit the bottom, the fish grabbed it before it could settle, before I could jig it. At times I swore the flasher was showing two fish going after the bait at once.
With only a few hours available to fish I had ordered just a dozen minnows at the store. I probably got about 20, more crappie-sized than walleye bait. I ran out of minnow heads and started using tails. Then I ran out of tails and started using Gulp, the scented soft plastic baits. Didn’t matter. Nothing would stop these fish from hitting.
I’m not big on product name drops (and Lord knows no one has ever asked for my endorsement of anything) but the lure was a ¼-ounce Northland Glow-Shot spoon in gold with a red glow stick. Gold and glow red or pink seem to work best in this bog-stained lake. Then again, on this day, I could have probably been jigging a Dardevle and still caught walleyes.
These weren’t trophy fish, mind you. Most of the walleyes were clones, about 14-15 inches long. Possible eaters if you were hungry. The biggest was 20 inches, fat and sassy. I kept a couple eaters at 17 inches each.
But what they lacked in bulk they made up for in unparalleled attack mentality. I can’t recall any fishing, summer or winter, panfish or game fish, that was this fast for this long. Uncanny. Crazy good. The ice was about 8 inches thick and unusually clear, with just a dusting of snow where I set up. It was fun to watch through the ice as the fish battled before they came through the hole.
And none of this should have been happening. I was supposed to have been in North Dakota that day chasing rooster pheasants. But I had to cancel that trip to finally rescue my truck that had been stranded at a small-town body shop for SEVEN WEEKS.
That’s right, for seven weeks, one day and 15 hours I was truckless. Sans wheels. A foot soldier. I had smacked a deer on a remote roadway at night back in October and felt lucky, at the time, to get the pickup towed to a town just big enough to have a body shop. But there was a strike going on at General Motors plants and the shop couldn’t get the parts.
So I waited. And waited. And waited.
Finally, the text came from the body shop owner. The last parts had arrived, apparently by wagon train. The truck was ready to go. But I’d have to cancel my pheasant hunt to go get it. No matter, it needed to be done.
So I burned a vacation day and my wife drove with me nearly four hours to the small town. But as she turned south to drive home, I opted to head the truck a little farther north to check out the duck shack.
And as long as I was at the duck shack, I might as well go fishing, right?
So that’s why I was catching walleye after walleye that morning. That’s why I happened into the fastest walleye fishing in my life. From something bad, something good came. In the great circle of life, I had traded seven weeks in truckless hell for two hours in walleye fishing heaven.
Let’s call it a draw.