Full Moon Trophy Walleyes
by Jennifer Swanson for Fishing Minnesota
…is probably the best word to describe fall full moon walleye fishing on Mille Lacs Lake. Because no matter how I tell it, how many times I tell it, or who I tell it to, my story sounds like a certified fish tale. But let me assure you, folks, everything you've already heard and what I'm about to tell you is true.
My two-night adventure began around the full moon, as our Fishing Minnesota Full Moon Walleye group started to gather at McQuoid's Inn (Isle). Andy and I were the first to arrive, then Tim Grems and Rick Paquin (Editor, Fishing Minnesota), followed closely by Chuck (Fishing Minnesota Full Moon Trip Winner). Exchanging anecdotes and sharing trade secrets, we all anxiously awaited the night ahead.
Each member of our crew was slated to go out with one of the professional guides who generously volunteered their time and expertise to provide us the fishing experience of a lifetime. Guiding us tonight were: Ron Anlauf a Two Time PWT Champion and McQuoid's Mille Lacs Lake Fishing Guide, Todd Dankert of Twin Cities Guide Service, Terry Hagstrom of Terry's Guide Service, and James Holst.
Before launching from Mac's Twin Bay just north of McQuoid's, Ron Anlauf-not only a professional guide, but an accomplished tournament fisherman, outdoor writer, public speaker, and TV personality-presented a highly informative seminar on the intricacies involved in fishing for Mille Lacs walleyes at night. From recommended equipment and requisite precautions to prime locations and professional tactics, he offered excellent advice and answered any questions we had.
The game plan for these two evenings was to do long-line trolling over shallow reefs (5' to 12' deep). The most popular and predictably productive lures were crankbaits. Each guide had his own "magic" lure size and pattern in mind, but as we soon discovered, ounces, inches and coloration really didn't seem to matter much to the walleyes. These famed fish have an appetite to match their behemoth size and, boy, were they hungry!
The first night, Andy and I had the pleasure of fishing with James Holst. An enthusiastic guide, James assured me that he felt no pressure to pull in the biggest walleye, land the most fish, or stay on the water the longest. But I couldn't help but sense that there was a small amount of friendly competition among this group of consummate pros.
As we started out at around 9 p.m., the moon was trying desperately to shine through the thin veil of clouds that had moved in earlier in the evening. For almost an hour, we fished (and caught a few) in near pitch-dark before the moon and the stars graced us with their luminous presence. Still, the water was quite choppy and the wind a might brisk, but it all added up to one thing-huge, hungry walleyes.
We drove out about a mile from shore and opted to explore one of the lake's many shallow reefs. On his signal, I let my line out about 113' and waited patiently while we trolled in about 10' of water. I didn't have to wait long. Passing back and forth along the reef's edge, we very quickly were getting one walleye after another. In just a few short hours, we had a several 14"- to 18"-inch keepers, many around the 25" mark, and a couple that measured close to 30".
Such fantastic fishing in almost surreal surroundings made the whole experience dreamlike. And although angling in the dark seemed like second nature to our guide (who also was extremely well-equipped), it did take some getting used to on my part. That first night I made it only three hours before experiencing the initial symptoms of seasickness. Prone to occasional bouts of nautical nausea even in daylight, I hadn't taken the necessary precautions to prevent-what in my case usually is-the inevitable. So around midnight, I reluctantly relinquished my pole and headed back to the camp.
The next night, I came prepared to fish and was fortunate to come under the tutelage of our host Terry McQuoid, proprietor of McQuoid's Inn and operator of McQuoid's Mille Lacs Lake Fishing Guide Team. A professional guide for 28 years now, Terry knows this body of water like the back of his hand. In addition to several of Mille Lacs' notorious walleye-producing areas, he also guided us to some of the more "secret" trophy-harboring holes. It became very clear, very early on, that this was Terry's lake.
We weren't on the water more than 15 minutes when we landed a 27" leviathan-a grand harbinger of great fishing to come. For six hours, huge walleyes consistently gobbled whatever we threw (mostly Firetiger and Crawdad Husky Jerks). Eventually, I lost track of just how many and just how big. And these monsters showed no signs of stopping. If we had stayed on the lake past dawn, I'm positive the action would have remained just as strong.
Well, what more can I tell you? They say a picture is worth a thousand words (see the phenomenal photos accompanying this story). But even in a million words I would not be able to adequately describe the absolute thrill of full moon walleye fishing on Mille Lacs Lake.
It truly was an unbelievable experience. An absolutely unforgettable adventure.