On Saturday Mike Anderson picked me up and we drove over to Reardan, Washington where we met up with Mike’s sister, Mary. We were pulling Earl’s fishing boat and headed for the launch at Ft. Spokane State Park. We had heard that the walleye were biting and since the weather was real mild for this time of year we thought we would give fishing a shot.
The week before we went Mike had called and told me we were taking on the stealthy walleye, and since I had never fished for them before I started doing research. Two days into my investigation I realized that everyone who fishes for these elusive fish fishes them differently. They use slip sinker rigs, crank bates, jigs tipped with a crawler, leech or minnow, or all sorts of variations on those themes. Basically it is like fishing for any fish, you first have to pay to play.
During my information gathering, Mike called and said that Mary suggested that I look at jigs, but more specifically, tiger fire jigs. Tiger fire turns out to be a color or combination of colors. I looked all over two stores for Tiger Fire jigs. I thought they were a brand of jigs! Once I narrowed it down to a color combination I was looking for, then I proceeded to go directly to the jigs area and stand there looking puzzled. I even put out a call to my Facebook friends who fish for a report. The reply was vague, but they said you have to use pink jigs.
I was definitely clueless about all this fishing stuff and it must have showed. As I stood there with a handful of tiger fire colored jigs, and a second fist full of pink jigs, a guy walked up and looked at me. “You know you can put those jigs in a plastic bag right there and then you won’t have them sticking your hands.” I was a bit embarrassed, but that was my opening. “Oh yeah” I said “do you know much about walleye fishing?” He proceeded to tell me that he had been up in the same area where we were going and had caught a bunch. He said that I need to buy some black jigs because that is what he caught all his fish with. I grabbed a bag full of black jigs. Then just as he was leaving he pointed to a rack nearby and said “Don’t forget to get some stingers!” and he was off. I stood there with my bag of tiger fire jigs and my bag of black jigs looking at the nearby rack wondering “what the heck is a stinger?”
Once again my expression must have shouted “confused!” because another guy came by (I think he was a sales man) and said “What are you lookin’ for?” All I could say was “stingers” and he proceeded to point at these little packages of treble hooks with a short piece of monofilament on them. I grabbed a couple packs and was off to the front of the store. $40.00 later I had my three colors of jigs, stingers and my one day license for Washington fishing. All this gear and I still don’t know anything about fishing for walleye!
At Ft. Spokane we launched the boat and went up river. Mary was the master walleye fisherman guide and had a tem pounder in the freezer to prove it. She and her husband, James, had been walleye fishing for years and they had their favorite spots all over this river system. We arrived at a location where a friend of Mary’s was already fishing. While rigging our lines with jigs and worms, I set up the bet for the day. First caught, most caught and biggest caught, the usual fishing wager of beers. We all agreed and the lines went into the water. I knew the bet was a poor one, neither Mike nor I had ever fished walleye and Mary sounded like she fishes them every day! In fact I became real spooked when she told a story of fishing on Valentines Day, in the cold, till her fingers were numb! Wow, I think I was lucky to get to walk the dog outside after taking Linda to dinner on Valentine’s Day. Imagine getting to go fishing, I was in awe.
We fished by putting a worm on the jig hook with a stinger tagged on behind it so that if the fish short striked the worm we had more chance of catching it. The one guy I talked to said that about 80% of the fish he caught were caught on the stinger. That’s why I had to have them. Once we were rigged we dropped the jig down into about 30 feet of water until it was on bottom and then we would jig the worm up and down until a fish came up and ate our bait. We jigged and Mike worked the electric motor on the front of the boat. It wasn’t long until I felt something and set the hook. First fish was mine!
We fished for a while longer and caught a few. Mary and I were tied with the number we caught; Mike worked the electric motor on the front of the boat. We moved to three locations during the day catching a couple fish at each. We ended up on the main part of the river; they call it Roosevelt Lake, but at the same time call it a river. That got a bit confusing.
At this point Mary and I were tied for most fish caught. Mary had the biggest, I had the first fish and Mike was running the electric motor in the front of the boat. We were about to call it a day and thus a tie on the most fish bet, when Mary took out her cell phone and said, “I would like to phone a friend!” I had watched the show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, but I didn’t know that it was a possibility here on the river. Next thing you know I was behind by two fish and Mary had won the final bet. I was amazed and humbled at the same time. I learned that if you fish with the locals you have to also know the local rules. We returned to the dock, loaded the boat and drove back to Reardan where we cleaned our catch and divided up the filets. I still owe for the losses on the bets, but I am sure I’ll be able to pay in the future. The day was sunny and beautiful, we caught fish, and I learned the art of winning at the same time.