Diary of an Outdoorsman: A Cold Night on the Fox | Columns

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I am currently in a crazy and busy time, but everything is positive. A percentage of walleye that live in Green Bay spawn on the Fox River below DePere Dam. Every spring, at the beginning of March, a rule is made that if you want to keep a walleye in this section of the river, it must be 28 inches or more.

I used to wade and cast bait, lots of lost lures and sometimes rough anglers changed that plan. For a few years I used my boat and did very well, but I got bored. For maybe ten years I’ve been paddling my canoe through the world of hundred thousand dollar boats, after trolling in the night and paddling. Simply put, I love it, in a year it’s the most dangerous thing I’ve ever done. One flip in the dark, in the freezing waters of the Fox and it would be a search, not a rescue.

I caught several walleyes over 28 inches!

It was meant to be a two day experience/adventure. Had to cancel three times due to flooding (chocolate milk) and/or wind. When I launched my canoe at the DePere Fairgrounds, I was literally off to Red Lake, Ontario the day after it was released.

I paddle troll using a kayak paddle, I pull three crankbaits, two on hoverboards, one left and one right and one right back. My main crank is the J12 blue chrome.

There are two obstacles to success, and they are both a constant. The cranks are still picking up debris, mostly leaves, and if you don’t check them, you’re paddling but not fishing. To check the lines, you have to float down the river with the nose of your rig.

The other obstacle and it is also a responsibility, especially after dark, is not to float or block traffic. For the most part I’m always 30 feet 100 yards from one or more boats and if they’re pulling planks each rig can be 50 yards wide. When paddling after dark, up the river, turning off my brain is not an option even for a minute or I might cause a very ugly mess with anglers who respect what I’m doing but don’t want to of problems.

I had three hours of daylight to paddle before dark, I squat on my knees and lean against a cooler with my hindquarters. Sitting on the cooler is not an option as my body weight would be too high and I would end up falling.

One of the most real tests when I fish like this is how long can I take it before something goes numb and that includes my brain. Around 6 tonight I was enjoying life and was paddling near the 172 bridge where I caught a really nice walleye last year when my right perch started to bend. I was paddling up the river so the first thing I needed to do was a 180 so I could fight the fish floating down the river and not mess up my other lines.

I took care of business and caught what was maybe a 19 inch walleye and I have to tell you I think it’s going to be a big night. In fact, the real story is that for days the north has had very cold weather and it’s not good for fishing.

So, I started paddling between the 172 bridge and the train trestle about a mile north, it’s dark and just like that it’s Christmas on the water. In other words, boats everywhere and most pulled six lighted planer boards. Twice I got caught in heavy traffic and you need to be on top of your game it’s a bit like driving on the freeway it’s fine as long as you go with the flow don’t stop in the traffic or do not back up.

The real story is that I thrive on it, I almost always smile, even when the boats pass me by in the dark going very fast and very close, it’s part of the game.

Around eight o’clock tonight, both ends of my paddle where the water drops were getting very frozen and my feet at the bottom were starting to go numb. Also, everything inside my canoe, including my reels, was 100% frozen. In this whole adventure, I only saw one fish caught other than my own and at eleven o’clock I was still paddling waiting for the big mummy from the deep to give me a big challenge.

It was also around this time that I realized that from my butt to the tips of my toes I couldn’t feel anything and couldn’t get up if I had to. Around midnight, I was very close to landing, thinking very hard about my trip home and to Canada and said, I’m running away.

If a camera was on me you would see a guy paddling in his canoe but he couldn’t get out, nothing worked from the navel down. I literally turned around, lay there armed, started loading gear and my canoe, thought about sleeping, but my lower half was too cold. I went home, I write this, the truck is loaded and it’s Canada here I am!

The winter has been long! Sunset.

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