Walleye & Sauger
A prized game fish, fresh walleye in season are succulent, sweet and rich, primed with pristine lake flavors. Of course, additional deliciousness can only be as good as your batter.
Cooked over cast iron and campfire coals, this is the quintessential summer shore lunch.
05/13/17 - 02/25/18
Where do I find walleye waters?
Where do I locate walleye in those waters?
What bait or lures should I use?
How do I rig those lures?
How do I cast and present the lure?
How do I fight and land this fish?
How do handle a fish like this?
How do I clean and filet a bass?
HOW TO BE THE WALLEYE
Walleye can be found in waters throughout the state. They prefer moderately deeper, colder lakes with gravel, rock or sandy bottoms. 1,700 lakes and 100 rivers in Minnesota hold walleye but these 10 major water bodies account for 40% of angler’s annual catch; Rainy, Mille Lacs, Leech, Lake of the Woods, Upper Red, Winnibigoshish, Vermilion, Pepin, Kabetogama and Cass Lakes.
In the spring, during spawn, walleye will migrate from lakes into feeder streams or onto shallower bars and shoals to lay their eggs. During the heat of the summer, they tend to prefer the deeper darker water. Try fishing on overcast days with rain and some wind or from sundown to midnight. As it cools in the fall, walleye move back to shallower water and feed aggressively, filling up for a winter spent in deeper water.
HOW TO RIG YOUR ROD
They will eat virtually anything. If you can, preference live bait; leeches, night crawlers, minnows - shiners, or fatheads will do . Go to artificial lures include plastic grubs on painted jig heads, crank baits, spoons or small spinner baits.
To keep them fresh before heading into camp, fish are kept alive in and in the water, typically on a stringer. Risks to this include damaging the fishes gills or tearing the lip and losing it. Another technique that minimizes kill potential and is least invasive to the fish is to keep them in a mesh bag with a cinch closure. You can even include a weight that keeps the fish in deeper, cooler water.
If you’re going to handle it, keep it horizontal as much as possible. The safest way to hold a walleye is to grasp the fish behind its head. By placing your palm across the back of the head and extending your fingers and thumb down around the sides, you not only get a firm grip but also protect your hands from the walleye's bite.
The most humane way to dispatch your fish before cleaning it is to take a blunt object, a rock say, and bring it heavy onto the back of the fishes head, crushing the skull quickly.
HOW TO CLEAN YOUR WALLEYE
This is a good beginner technique that saves a lot meat and familiarizes you to the bone structure of the fish. After collecting your filet knife, a cutting board, and some water for rinsing;
Dispose of your fish entrails after traveling well away from campsites, trails, portages and shorelines. Leave them on the forest floor for the animals to pick clean, do not bury them, as they will unnecessarily disturb the ground digging them up. Or take them out over deeper water during a sunset paddle and release them overboard.
Lay your fish out on the cutting board with the back and dorsal fin towards you.
Your first cut will enter just behind the fin and gill plate and cut in a 45 degree angle towards the head, until you reach vertebrae of the backbone.
Turn your blade. Without penetrating more than a quarter inch, run the tip of your knife along the backbone, staying above the dorsal fin. When you reach the second back fin, you’ll be past the rib cage.
Run your blade all the way through to puncture the stomach. Keeping the blade at a downward 45 degree angle, listen for the clicking, as you run the cut along the backbone vertebrae, all the way through to the tail.
Your two filets are now connected only by the ribs. On the top of the fish, begin peeling back the filet, slicing along at a downward angle. When you reach the lateral line, where the coloration on the skin changes, you’ll meet the ribs. Peel away and slice along the arched curvature of the ribs, through the thin line of pin bones and separate the filet from the fish. Repeat on the other side.
Holding down the tail end of your filet with your fingernail, run your blade at that downward angle along the skin, separating the filet from the flesh.
The remaining row of pin bones stand straight up. Run the point of your blade along the row of bones on both sides, then remove this thin strip.
Don’t forget the cheek. Poke the knife just back from the eye and pivot the blade along the cheek bone. Instead of slicing clean through, let the skin hold while you peel off your freshwater scallop.
Rinse your filets in water before cooking.
HOW TO COOK WITH CAST IRON
Cast iron cookware is virtually indestructible, easy to clean and care for if you know whats up:
Seasoning; If your cast iron isn’t new and pre-seasoned, do this. Take some steel wool and mild dish soap, then scrub each square centimeter of the skillet down fairly well, removing any rust and gunk. Rinse under water and scrub again with sponge or pad.
A good rule; water breeds rust. Always dry it off. You can leave it over a burner for a bit to heat off remaining moisture. Once dry, you’re ready for seasoning.
HOW TO HANDLE YOUR WALLEYE
Walleye have sharp teeth, spiny dorsal fins and razor like gill plates. For your safety and comfort, the best practice when handling walleye is to land your fish in a net, keep it in the water and using your pliers, unhook it.
This means you’ll lather it in a good dose of oil. Flax seed is the new standard. It dries the hardest and is the most durable non-stick solution. If you just can’t with the price, use canola oil.
Distribute the oil in a thin even layer around the piece of cookware, allowing it to enter all of the pores. Then, with a paper towel, attempt to wipe off as much of the oil as possible.
Place the cookware in the oven for about an hour, at 450 to 500 degrees. This will take the oil past its smoking point, to bond it with the cast iron. If it’s still brown and sticky, the oven wasn’t hot enough. The result should be a hard, glassy surface that is non-stick.
Cooking; Take five to ten minutes to pre heat cast iron before cooking with it. You can feel the heat emanate from the pan when it’s ready to go.
Cleaning; Try to wash the cookware soon after using, before remnants cool. The most gentle way is with a little hot water and salt and the scrub of a rougher brush. Towel dry it and apply heat to remove all moisture. Best practice is to apply one last thin layer of oil and evenly distribute with a paper towel, apply enough heat until it’s smoking, let it cool and then store. It will last you for a lifetime.
Strain your oil back into its container and save your oil for the next fry, or burn the remainder in your fire.
ROD & REEL
A medium action spinning rod with 6-10 pound test line. Two pieces is more portable for portaging.
Leeches! Or artificial twister tails on a painted jig head. Live bait is more attractive to fish but more difficult to keep fresh.
A small assortment to fit in one portable box; live bait hooks sizes 6-4, worm hooks 2/0, 1/4 oz gumboil jigs, plastic leeches, twister tails, some shad raps and slip bobbers.
An optimum filet knife is 7.5 inches, will bend an inch or so when flexed and has an easy to clean plastic or rubber handle.
Pick up a poly stringer to hold thy bounty.
A stowable size landing net strikes a solid balance between capacity and portability.
PERSONAL FLOTATION DEVICE
Fit and comfort is most important and a trip to your local outfitter is highly recommended. Look out for a fishing specific feature set.
A full brimmed bucket hat with waterproof/breathable fabrics protect against variable elements.
A great all-around pair of fishing glasses includes the superior clarity of glass lenses with polarized, color-blocking technology that expose the presence of fish beneath the surface.
Look for a UPF protected, breathable long sleeve with integrated vents and chest pockets.
For those sudden squalls, put on a hard shell jacket made from durable, waterproof, breathable fabrics.
Synthetic or wool briefs that wick moisture and prevent odor.
A pair of pant/short convertibles made from four way stretch, quick drying and breathable can be adapted to changing conditions in the backcountry.
To protect sudden from wind and precipitation, put on a hard shell bottoms made from durable, waterproof, breathable fabrics.
Avoid waterproof footwear for the BWCA. You will inevitably take on water over your ankles when landing at portages and will not be able to drain and dry. If you’re sticking to the boat for a fishing outing, a hybrid water shoe/sandal are great.