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Where's the World's Walleye Capital?

By ERIC SHACKLE, in Sydney, Australia

Captain Wylie

Written before the event. By the time you read this, Captain Wylie (pictured) may be back on his lofty perch.

On the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve, Captain Wylie, a 20-feet 600-pound. plastic replica of one of America's favorite fish, will be lowered from his usual "perch" on the roof of a building in the town center of Port Clinton, Ohio, to join cheering revellers at ground level.

The small fishing and boating town's citizens and visitors have ushered in the New Year that way for the last 12 years.

Port Clinton proudly proclaims itself Walleye Capital of the World. Visitors can buy Walleye chowder, Walleye sandwiches, Walleye cinnamon chips, and Walleye popcorn. A local winery sells Walleye white wine.

A Port Clinton website said: "Located on Lake Erie's Western Basin, Port Clinton and the nearby area house more than 16,000 docks and more than 1,000 U.S. Coast Guard licensed charter captains who fish the lake...Fishing is a year- round sport, even attracting ice-fishermen when the shallow Lake Erie waters freeze over in January, February and March."

Anglers are notorious for stretching the truth, so it's no surprise to find that several other places in the United States, Canada and the Netherlands also claim to be the World's Walleye Capital.

Among the claimants are two towns of the same name - Garrison, Minnesota (population 200) and Garrison, in neighboring North Dakota (population 1300). Others, according to are Baudette, Isle, Ray, and Rush City, all in Minnesota; Mobridge, South Dakota and Umatilla, way out west in Oregon.

There's also one Canadian contestant: Quinte West, in Ontario. "The beautiful Bay of Quinte is a link to all of the communities and is a natural feature that makes us the Walleye fishing capital of North America," trumpets the City of Quinte West website. "The City... is ideally located two hours east of the City of Toronto and just four hours west of the cosmopolitan city of Montreal."

On the other side of the Atlantic, in Europe, even larger walleye are caught. But these are classified as saltwater fish, so are barred from competing against the American freshwater variety.

Keith Daniels and Greg Jaroch won the 2006 World Walleye Championship at Fond du Lac, Wisconsin with a total catch weighing 42lb. including two 7lb. fish.

Walleye anglers seem to speak a different language. This report in contains so much jargon that non-anglers will find it difficult to follow:

The duo was fishing in pool 9 on a wing dam outside of the big slough. They were throwing rigs tipped with willow cats, using mosquito hooks and egg sinkers, a simple methodology that worked. They went through more than 100 hooks and over 25 dozen willow cats in the last four days.

The key to their tournament success was finding wing dams that held more current than others. They were lucky enough to identify twelve such spots during their pre-fishing, but their number one spot paid off for them big time.

The walleye, a favorite game and food fish, is the largest member of the perch family in North America. Found in most of Canada and in the northern states of the US, it has glassy, marble-like eyes and a mouth full of sharp teeth. Walleye are also called pike-perch, walleyed pike, pickerel, jackfish, jack salmon, doré (French for golden), and Ol' Marble Eyes.

The world record freshwater walleye, tipping the scales at 22lb 11oz (10.29kg) was caught in Greers Ferry Lake, Arkansas on March 12, 1982 by Al Nelson, of nearby Higden.

If you want to know anything more about walleye, you would do well to visit Walleye Central, a Fort Collins, Colorado website that offers "more information than you can handle," with the advice on its home page banner, "Shut up - and fish!"


Story first posted January 2007

Copyright © 2007

Eric Shackle

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