I pulled in to the deserted parking lot and stared in utter disbelief. The forecast had called for calm winds the night before, yet stepping out of my vehicle to evaluate the situation while turning on the Wind Compass app on my phone, there were white caps on the lake. Twelve miles per hour, hardly calm winds especially for a kayak this sketchy time of year.
Just then, a police officer pulled in, rolled down his window and asked, “Are you actually planning on taking that out there today?”
“Well, I am having second thoughts,” I replied. The officer smiled and said, “Good because it`s only 32 degrees right now.” With that, he drove away, as I unloaded the kayak.
While I`m a very experienced kayak angler, I was a tad nervous. I was using a sit-in kayak for the first time because my sit-on-top was pretty much out of commission due to cracks, the sit-in style being nowhere near as stable as the sit-on-top as it puts you closer to the water.
As I was loading gear into the kayak, I noticed a decent size hole in my net. “Damn it,” I said to myself as I had no cord or string to fix it. I quickly grabbed one of my metal stringers and snapped off one of the stringer eyelet clips that you attach your fish too. This made a perfect, quick-fix net repair.
I began my hour-long paddle into that cold biting wind as the white caps splashed abruptly against, and sometimes over the kayak. Cautiously I decided to paddle the edge of the lake in case I got into trouble as I made my way to my favorite drop-off. Let`s face it, one mistake this time of year and you might not make it back.
With the strong southeast wind, I strategically placed the yak close to shore. I cast the blade bait away and brought it back up the drop-off, rather than casting on top and walking it down. This type of horizontal jigging is very effective for walleyes this time of year. I snagged and snapped off both of my fluorocarbon leader set-ups in the first hour and a half, which happens a lot because of the abandoned old anchor ropes that lurk in these waters. As I searched my pockets, I realized I had lost my spool of fluorocarbon while paddling out. My day could`ve ended right there as it was too far to paddle back again as days are very short this time of year.
Time to improvise; I paddled into the steep, rocky drop-off shoreline looking for old tangled lines. Finally in a half-submerged bush I pulled out a couple yards of tangled-up mono of approximately 10- to 12-pound test. I snapped off a branch and wrapped my found makeshift leader-line around it. I then made leaders from the discarded old line and tied them into the braid line on my set-ups, putting me back in action.
No long after I had my first walleye on the end of the line. After a short battle, I was just getting the net under him when he literally shook off and fell into my repaired net! I quickly snapped three eyelets of the metal stringer into its mouth and tied the stringer off on my leg the way I`ve done countless times. I had jigged up another `eye and a pair of crappies over the next couple of hours, when I spotted a killer deep-diving plug in some blown-down brush close to shore. I paddled into the shallower water and cut it loose.
Admiring my new-found lure as I paddled back out, I suddenly realized the stringer around my leg was limp! I lost my walleye! The stringer had gotten caught and broke off; I was totally disgusted and ready to quit for the day. After regrouping (read: cussing and swearing) I paddled back out to try for another. After about 20 minutes I made my way back to the area to look one more time where I had lost that ‘eye. Nothing.
Sometime after, I was about ready to give up, when approximately 30 yards away I saw the tail sticking straight up out of the water! It was my walleye! He was alive but the three eyelets were weighing his head down so he was straight up and down in the icy water! I quietly paddled over not wanting to spook him; but as I got close he did just that, diving deeply into about 15 feet of water.
Being late fall, the water was crystal clear and I could see him quite easily. I took out a large Mepps spinner and quickly cut off the bucktail in order to have a bare treble hook to try to catch the stringer. On the fourth try, I snagged the metal stringer and netted my `eye for the second and final time! “What a way to end a helluva day,” I said to myself while deciding to call it a day.
I paddled into the launch area as the late afternoon light started to fade and a gentleman strolled down to the launch and said, “Hey, nice walleye! Looks like you had a heck of an adventure out there today.”
I smiled and replied, “Mister you have no idea.”
Truth be told, I almost lost my `eye!