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Into the Outdoors - Walleye

Hepler Walley Charter success: A limit of Walleye on July 8, 2021 on Lake Erie. Matt Hepler, Brad Rapp, Rob Foust and Jerry Day. Jerry Day took home the largest fish at 28.5” Looking for a charter? Contact Monica Hepler at 814 -657-5776.


Well, folks, it’s that time of year again. Walleye season has kicked off and as far as I’m concerned, there is no better eating fish in either fresh or salt water. While I certainly have no problem with catch and release fishing, as many readers know, I also have no problem with catch and eat fishing. This holds especially true when it comes to walleyes. In fact, I have known people who usually don’t like fish who find walleyes delicious. Let’s take a look at these tasty, toothy scrappers.

Walleyes are, of course, the largest members of the freshwater perch family. In fact, their little cousins, the sauger and the yellow perch, are pretty much equally delicious. I was first introduced to walleye fishing back in the 1970’s. At that time, most of my fishing was done in lakes. On one occasion, my wife and I, along with another couple, flew into a remote lake in Canada. You could literally catch all the walleyes you wanted. They weren’t all that big, but they were delicious. We had fresh filets for breakfast every day we were there. I also caught a lot of them while fishing on charter boats on Lake Erie, and in my own boat on Pymatuning.

For the most part, during all those years of lake fishing, I used essentially one technique. That was tipping a weight forward spinner, most notably an Erie Dearie, with a nightcrawler, casting it out and retrieving it slowly. The technique is nothing short of deadly. Ironically, however, the biggest walleye I ever caught was caught on a Hot-n-Tot while trolling on Pymatuning. It won the walleye contest, and a healthy prize check for that year.

The Allegheny River is one of my very favorite fishing spots. To my dismay, I found that my old faithful lake fishing technique of weight forward spinner and nightcrawler didn’t do so well. The problem was not that the fish wouldn’t take the bait. The problem was that I would constantly get snagged. Each time I lost one of the spinners, my wallet would get a bit thinner. In the end, the cost just wasn’t worth it. I knew that I had to try something else.

What I arrived on was a bullet sinker, with a split shot in front of it, about eight inches ahead of a number 6 hook with a nightcrawler on it. This proved to be just as effective as the spinner method. I also got snagged just as much, but losing a hook, along with a sinker that I molded myself, was much less expensive. Fishing the river means getting snagged a lot, so it’s best to go the cheap route.

Here’s a tip from someone who learned from experience. Never try to lip land a walleye. Their teeth may look to be a bit on the small side, but they are very sharp. Also, the wounds have a puzzling tendency to get really sore, at least for me.

It’s hard to think of a way to prepare walleye filets that would not be delicious. My personal favorite is to deep fry them, after coating them with one of several of my favorite batters. When you come right down to it, they are just about as good if you fry them in a skillet. As the main ingredient in fish chowder, they are hard to beat. They also make a great account of themselves in the smoker.

Walleyes are wonderful. If you’ve ever caught them, you know that. What they lack in fight, they make up for on the table. Get out there and get ‘em.

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