Just upstream from Red Wing, Griz settled his boat into a handful of the countless currents that braid the Mississippi, top to bottom. Boat control is a big deal, and from the stern Griz flipped a switch on his electric trolling motor, firing it up. Soon we drifted downstream slowly, moving strategically among the currents, Griz with one eye on his depth finder, our lines vertical in the water.
Before I had impaled my first fathead on a jig, Griz had a walleye in the boat.
Then he caught another and another
We weren’t competing, exactly. Except with Griz you always want to at least hold your own. Otherwise from the stern he’ll stack walleyes like cord wood while you’re in the bow wondering just what’s going on.
“People pass this spot up,’’ Griz said. “It don’t look like much. But if you watch your depth finder, it’s different here. It holds fish. Always.’’
These weren’t big fish. Most were less than 18 inches. And some saugers were in the mix. But the day was unfolding as we had hoped: Our rods bent routinely to the heft of these feisty river prizes, while above, patches of blue sky hinted at a midday warmup.
Yet the Mississippi, with its low water and snowy banks, still seemed in winter’s grip. Some backwater bays held ice. Fewer eagles perched in trees than we usually see on March trips. Spring and its flood would arrive in time. But for now, the river lay waiting, even dormant, with winter still calling the shots.
Using a counter he keeps for that purpose, Griz recorded each fish we caught, the tally quickly climbing past 10, then 15 and beyond.
“The key is to keep your line vertical, and your jig on the bottom,’’ Griz said. “You’re not on the bottom, you’re not catching fish.’’
As Griz spoke, his rod doubled over.
This would be a big fish, perhaps a channel cat or a flathead or a dogfish or even a paddlefish.
But Griz knew by the way it fought, long before it breached, it was a walleye.
And it was: a behemoth with a fat tail, a 9-pounder that was quickly released.
The day never really did warm up. Clouds reclaimed the blue sky, and the wind picked up from the north.
As usual, we stayed on ’Ol Muddy longer than we planned. Finally, we found a joint with a river view and a frozen pizza, and called it a day.
Spring will arrive soon, and with it the flood. But Tuesday was still a winter’s day on ’Ol Muddy.
Editor’s note: Dick “Griz’’ Grzywinski and his guide service can be reached at 651-771-6231.
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