The One That Didn't Get Away

Picture of Dan with fish.

Me with my walleye.

For the forth of July, Katie invited me to visit her family in Northern Wisconsin. They rent a beautiful north woods cottage every year on Big Sand Lake near Phelps. Everything's so relaxed there, I took three naps on my first afternoon; it was the perfect location for a lazy vacation.

An hour before sunset on my first night, Katie and I went fishing with her parents, brother Greg, and friend Ryan on a pontoon boat called the Gill Getter. I don't fish often, so I was excited to catch my dinner.

We drove across the lake past some nesting eagles, swimming loons, and other fishing boats, and dropped anchor. Over the next hour, we caught a variety of species, including bluegills, perch, crappies, bass, and northern. Everyone was laughing and having a great time.

Except me – I had yet to catch a thing and wondered how it was possible to be bad at fishing. At one point I got a nibble, but then felt nothing. When I reeled in my line, my minnow was missing. I hooked some fresh bait, cast, and crossed my legs in the traditional fisherman's position, hoping it would help me catch a bluegill.

I felt a tap, then another and yanked my rod upward to set the hook. From the size of the bite, I figured I had something small, but then the fish fled and almost broke my pole. Greg got excited and reached over to set the drag on the reel, declaring that I had hooked something big. He guided me on how to let the fish run out, then reel him in when he got tired. My heart started pounding and I focused and fought a long battle. Eventually I got him close enough to the boat for Greg to scoop with the net.

I couldn't believe what I was looking at. This was a walleye, and it was huge! I was so excited, I didn't even notice that after I set him on the floor, he started to chew through the net and got his fangs within inches of my toes. I jumped back and helped to hoist him into the live well, which was too small for his massive body. We joked that the next time we opened the lid, the other fish would be sitting in my walleye's belly.

We tried to keep fishing, but it was pointless – everyone wanted to know exactly how big the walleye was. We called it an early night and drove back to the cottage, where the tape measure and scale waited. The fish's dimensions were confirmed at 28.5 inches, 6.5 pounds. It was by far the nicest fish I had ever caught, probably a once-in-a-lifetime score. We had a celebratory beer and went out to the pub, where I became a local legend.

I didn't get any other keepers all week, but that didn't matter. I caught the one that didn't get away.

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