It’s all about the “Eyes”
I was able to get out just after the spring and I achieved one of my main targets, to catch my first nice sized Walleye. Walleye typically are found in deep water and are easier to fish for very early in the morning or early dawn, dusk and into the nighttime hours. Their eyes are situated on the sides of their head and have a luminescent glow when light is shined upon them. Their eyes are very sensitive to light so anglers prefer dusk fishing for this particular reason. In the spring they make their way to the deeper waters after spawning in creeks and rivers, and subsequently I caught mine at the base of a river mouth.
I had put on a Rapala lure and covered it with Liquid Mayhem attractant. I thought that I would try something unconventional with my attractant that I had done in the past and it paid off. When we started trolling, my rod instantly had a large hit on it. There was no consistent fight that I am used to having with bass so I was unsure of my catch until I reeled it in. I was thrilled when I saw the size of my first ever Walleye.
The following weekend, with the excitement still running through me, I decided to set up the dipsy divers on the Shimano Telora rods and reel combos. The boat was set up with pickerel rigs and we set out for a day to find the Walleye. I ventured to an area known to seasoned anglers for being a great walleye location. However, after much rain and hours spent trolling, the bite just wasn’t on.
Feeling frustrated, I decided to take a stop to the 444 Walleye International Canada/USA tournament hosted in Port Colborne. The tournament this year was capped out at 100 teams, consisting of 4 people, 4 rods with a 4 fish limit per team. Each team pre-fish for this tournament days before the event as there is no season on Lake Erie, for walleye. The teams need to pre-fish on the Thursday and Friday in order to find and secure their places to find them as walleye are known to travel the lake and are not as territorial during the summer season. I wanted to watch the seasoned anglers to see the size of the walleye that they would catch from the depths of Lake Erie. The tournament fee is $444 and with 100 teams that secures a guaranteed first place payout of $10,000 and second place of $5,500.00. There are other chances to win, with the Calcutta (side bet) in which teams can win $200.00 each day for “big fish”. There is also a “big box” payout for both days which pays out an additional $100.00 for the total weight of the four fish limit.
The venue takes place at H.H. Knoll Park in Port Colborne and includes everything from personal dockage in the Sugar Loaf Marina, to campsites at the boat launch. This tournament has been producing great anglers from both Canada and the USA for 23 years in Port Colborne, making this tournament one of the most popular in the area.
When I arrived on the Saturday, I was surprised to see that this event is family oriented. There is not a lot of trailers or boats to be found as those are all kept in the Sugar Loaf Marina, making it convenient for teams competing. Teams are shuttled over to the stage along with their catch of the day and called on stage for the weigh in. As the captain, and his crew make their way across the stage, their “big fish” is weighed along with their total catch for “big box”.
This year the trophy was secured on the final day by Captain James Hall (Team Hall’ Em In). I recently had the opportunity to discuss his passion for fishing walleye and his team’s win, which included members Rob Crowe and Brandon Ottaway.
James comes from a family of commercial fishermen with both his Grandfather and his Father having spent their lives fishing out of Port Maitland and Port Dover. Since he could crawl, he spent his time on the water learning from his Father. They spent their time catching perch, walleye, whitefish and smelt. Now he operates his own charter business full-time during the summer months taking out clients on Lake Erie to find the large walleye. James said winning this tournament was particularly special to him since his Father passed away when he was just 13yrs old. He was honored as “the 4X4 tournament was on Father’s Day and he won the tournament where his Father was buried”.
When I asked James why he decided to take up tournament angling, he indicated that he likes the challenge and competition. He said that the blast off for the tournament is very unique as all of the 100 boats take off at the same time, leaving some pretty big wakes for some of the smaller boats to handle. There was an airplane the captured the blast off and actual fishing footage this year and it shows everyone rushing to their spots.
Every team has their own secret techniques for fishing and second place finishers, also Canadians, Ben Merritt, Daaron Joyner, Josh Miller and Kevin Tremblay. Traditionally bass fishermen, this team made a decision to fish the tournament to try their hand at walleye fishing. Whatever their “secret” was for hauling up the large ones, they succeeded and it was close to the finish line but one they could not grab.
This tournament is run by the Port Colborne & District Conservation Club and proceeds from this event and others help with its own walleye hatchery in conjunction with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Many walleye have been released into the Welland River where they are a native species. This in turn has helped with the natural reproduction of the species and it is now better balanced with other predator fish such as musky, and pike. If you wish to get out on Lake Erie to catch some of your own walleye, be sure to check out Hall’eminsportfishing.ca