Fishing for Walleye

Six hours later Japhy and I pulled into our first stop of the trip, Port Clinton, Ohio – more commonly known as the Walleye Capital of The World. We were sweating because the Jeep didn’t have any air conditioning and the humidity was likely around 100%. A brief drive-through of the town revealed businesses closed for the season, boats wrapped in white plastic, a few cars going in and out of some sort of factory, and that was it. We pulled over to the side of the road near the shore. I put the leash on the dog and we walked down some rocks to the water, which was cold. A few boats were anchored a few hundred feet out and people waded in the water on either side. The view was completely average. To the right there was a very small rocky peninsula, more like a jut out, with houses on the other side. To the left, across the water, was the nuclear power plant from The Simpsons.

With nothing better to do we decided to get an early lunch at one of the few open restaurants. We picked a place called “Shoreliner”, walked in and sat at the bar. An unfriendly barmaid with a great ass but a poor attitude took our order and brought us menus. I decided to be adventurous and try a crab cake. As we waited for our food we watched several TVs. On one TV the local news was showing highlights for the upcoming Buckeye’s game. Japhy starts to tell me something about the Buckeyes, but as soon as he says “Buck-“ the old man next to us screams “I love the Buckeyes!” To be friendly Japhy says, “Me too” and starts to go back to our conversation. But the man started again, “What brings you boys to Port Clinton?” Japhy replied, honestly, “We come looking for the biggest walleye these waters will give us.” The man swallowed his beer, set it down, and rubbed his hands together. His eyes were black. “Boys, you done come to right place.”

So we’re out on his boat, “ONE EYED WALLEY”. A sixteen footer with pole holds down to the hull. We were using live minnows for bait, because as our new friend Lowell explained it, “Catching a walleye is like catching women; ya don’t want to throw just anything out there; ya want to give ‘em something alive, something to munch on. It’s more than bait, it’s a meal. “ Everyone kept casting out and reeling in with no luck. But Lowell kept telling us, “Oh you’ll catch one, this is the walleye capital of the world. Just be patient. Rest assured you’re getting one”. This picked up our spirits and we kept fishing for another four hours. At this point we were all pretty fatigued, except for Lowell who was as intent as ever, his pony tail flopping in the win, tan shoulders glistening. We were almost out of minnows and all of our failed attempts, about two hundred, were now floating around our boat. Japhy put his pole in the holder and sat down. Just as he was about to bite the head off of a minnow for sustenance, his pole dipped. Lowell jumped up: “HEY! YOUR POLE! THIS IS IT BOYS! A WALLEYE!”. Japhy started reeling and after a few good cranks the walleye jumped out of the water in a magnificent fashion, thrashing side to side and showing his teeth. Japhy kept reeling and Lowell prepared a net. I stood there offering any sort of support I could offer.

When Japhy finally landed the fish we were all stunned. Lowell was speechless. Finally, after a few minutes of silence with the walleye flopping right there on the deck, Lowell spoke: “I ain’t never seen one that big before.” We weren’t sure on measurements yet, but we knew it was legal to keep because it met Ottawa County’s field-book requirements; it was larger than the largest goose we could see on the shore. It was nearly dark so we boated back to shore with our catch in a very large bucket. We tied “ONE EYED WALLEY” to the dock, grabbed the walleye, and followed Lowell to the home of Rick Bennington, President of Port Clinton Chamber of Commerce. He was apparently the only one with an official measuring tool, as well as the keeper of information on standing records. A retired guy, he opened the door in slippers and a robe. As soon as he saw the fish his breathing became more rapid and he reached for a unique looking tool from an inside robe pocket.

The device was sort of like measuring tape, but instead of numbers there was a series of cuneiform type drawings. Lowell explained this is an Ottawa County form of measurement, exclusively, and did not offer any further information. There were marker lines and dates written on the other side, and their frequency dwindled as Lowell pulled out the tape. Soon there weren’t any marks as all and the rusty machine began to scrape and break free of rust. It was clear we maxed out the tape. Japhy not only caught a walleye, he caught the biggest walleye Lake Eerie. Rick Bennington, The President of Port Clinton Chamber of Commerce. Shook his head in disbelief. “I never thought I’d see the day” he said, and took two keys off of a large keyring pulled from another robe pocket. He handed them to Japhy. “Congratulations. These are for you–two keys to the city. And now, by default, you are the new President of Port Clinton Chamber of Commerce. And your friend is now Port Clinton Stenographer. These roles are effectively immediately, and are to remain intact until someone catches a larger walleye”.