A full moon weekend saw an afternoon bite on the Manitowish Chain that led to one angler’s biggest walleye to date. And a bit of deja vu all over again.
Eighteen inches of ice covered the lake and the temp was around 20 degrees Jan. 26 when Gary Huck headed out fishing with his son, Corey Huck.
The pair checked a familiar weedline break, using electronics to find the right depth and an underwater camera to investigate the health of the weeds.
Noting a hazy layer over and around the decaying weeds, they moved off in search of baitfish.
The hopeful anglers located a large school of perch over a flat, sandy bottom in seven feet of water and set up around them, equipping their tip-ups for multi-species fishing. In the middle, they set up their shelter. They would see some action there.
“We were on a hot perch bite and couldn’t pull them out of the holes fast enough,” Corey said. Eventually, a bigger predator would show.
They got their first tip-up at 3:30 p.m., and Corey caught and released a 30-inch muskie. The ball was rolling.
At 4 p.m., as wife and mother, Christine, and Corey’s yellow Lab, Titan, came running across the lake to check out the action, the next tip-up went up. Gary would handle this one.
He bided his time, letting the fish make a couple of runs before trying to set the hook. But set that hook he did – and it was soon obvious that something good was on the other end of the line.
“When I felt the pull I knew it was a good-sized fish and immediately became less aggressive with the pull-in,” Gary said. “I could feel the head thrash as it made another run or two.”
A marble-eyed surprise was in the making.
“I thought for sure it was a northern or muskie by the weight until Corey saw it flash across the hole and he yelled, ‘It is a walleye!’”
Gary handled the big fish with due caution as he tried to seal the deal.
“As soon as I got to the leader I slowly brought the head into the hole and pulled it up on an angle to get it on the ice,” Gary said.
Gary noted that one curious onlooker was eager to get in on the action.
“Just about at the time I was ready to pull the fish out, Titan ... started poking his head between our legs and trying to help.”
The walleye was one of the biggest Gary had ever seen. Measurements would soon reveal a 28-1⁄2-inch length and a 16-1⁄2-inch girth.
The fish beat his previous best walleye by 6-1⁄2 inches and was the biggest fish of any species that Gary had ever hauled through a hole in the ice.
The catch was a near-replica of a feat from a season ago.
“He caught this walleye no more than a stone’s throw from where I caught my personal best, a fish of near equal stature, the year before,” Corey said.
Corey had also caught a 28-1⁄2-incher, his sporting a 17-inch girth, back in late December 2011.
They took time for high-fives, photos and celebration, then got back to fishing.
Father and son would also catch a nice pike and ended up catching a total of 50 or more perch. About 5 p.m., the bite stalled.
One other group of hard water anglers was on the lake that day. They revealed that they caught only a couple of small perch. In light of that, Corey said he and his dad were “extremely fortunate.”
A relative newcomer to the sport of ice fishing, Gary has grown to enjoy it.
“I have only ice fished in the past three years and now that I have all the electronics, house, etc. I am really enjoying the time on the beautiful Vilas County lakes,” he said.
Well, father and son seem to have found a pattern that works.
“Catch one walleye of this size on a spot you’d call it luck or fate,” Corey said, “but if you catch two in consecutive seasons you might be on to something special.”
Craig Turk may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org