Wiltz: Catch limits of walleyes on Francis Case without a boat
From the late 1970s until about six or seven years ago, Dave Isebrands and I headed down to river after supper two or three times a week through the month of May and nailed the walleyes on a regular basis. We fished from about 7:30 p.m. until dusk, and we fished from the bank. Occasionally we went on a Saturday morning and fished from first light until we had our limits. It didn't take very long.
We kept walleye limits that averaged about 17 inches in length — good eatin' size. Unless it was slow, something that didn't happen very often, we didn't need to measure our fish as we were choosy. We also enjoyed good smallmouth bass action. White bass and northern pike came along on occasion, but because we tied our jigs directly to the ends of our lines, the pike usually sheared our lines as we weren't using steel leaders. A supply of jigs was necessary.
Although Francis Case walleye numbers are down compared to the past, the walleyes are still there. We proved that to ourselves last May when we returned to a familiar stretch of bank for an evening of action. Why don't we go as often as we once did? Dave has back and shoulder problems. He "paid" for that outing. Because of peripheral neuropathy, my balance is gone, and climbing around on rocks is dangerous. Age can have a down side.
Fortunately there's a way to get around my dexterity problem. I beach my boat on a stretch I want to fish, and I either fish from the back of the boat or pick shoreline with few obstacles.
We use six-pound test monofilament line and 1/8-ounce or 1/4-ounce jigs tied directly to our line. Don't use a leader! Wind helps determine what weight to use. I prefer chartreuse for a color, but white or bright orange works well. When the action is hot, any color will do. It's the minnow they want, and the jig is a means of delivery. We tip our jigs with minnows, and when the action is slow, we are particular about the minnows we pick from the bucket. Silvery or shiny minnows work better than the black ones.
There is structure in the form of a ledge straight out in front of us, and the walleyes love that ledge. After the cast, we let the jig fall to the bottom. In full daylight, that jig is often picked up as it falls in the deeper water, and a fish is on when I begin the retrieve. When coming in just over that ledge as it grows darker, I am tensed with anticipation. As it grows darker, the walleyes move into shallower water. It isn't unusual to hook a walleye as the jig is being lifted from the water.
We always out-fished the boats on the water, and it was irksome when the boats came in and fished on top of us. It didn't help them one bit. From the bank, we could work the ledge by coming up over it. Boats didn't have that angle of retrieve.
By and large, 90 percent of the boats quit for the day when we are getting started. Many anglers like to put in around 9 a.m., fish for the day, and quit at sundown. They catch fish, but for the most fish in the least amount of time, Dave and I have this slam dunk figured out.
You're thinking, "Roger, I believe you, but where is this magical stretch of bank?" Many of the places you can drive right up to have the necessary bank and ledge structure. In the North Point area, across from the swimming beach can be good just east of the boat ramp. Try the banks in Prairie Dog Bay, the point near the North Point cabins, and both sides of Swatos Bay and its points. Near Highway 44, the Buryanek Area is time tested. The stretch of bank south of the White Swan boat ramp is easily accessible. Pease Creek has lots of accessible banks.
If you want to get this down to a science, go out next winter when the water on Francis Case is way down and check out the structures when they are above the water. Your mind will race with ideas for May 2019.
See you next week.