Finally, less than a week after my 70th birthday, I can proclaim loud and long:
I have been to Walleye Paradise, by which I mean Lake Oahe in the Dakotas.
What lies beneath this wonderful, winding body of water ripe with points, coves and great bays is the original channel of the Missouri River. The lake begins at Bismarck, North Dakota and runs south to Pierre, South Dakota. That’s 231 miles for those of you playing along at home.
This most rare opportunity came about because son Aaron in Kearney has a years-long friend named Raleigh McKillip who is, in addition to being a working man, husband and dad to a couple boys and their little sister, is plumb eat-up with walleye fever.
That this fabled walleye lake has been on both Aaron’s and my bucket lists more or less forever made acceptance of Raleigh’s generous offer to hop aboard his amazingly fitted-out Lund Sunday and Monday the no-brainer of the century.
We fished out of Akaska, S.D., where we enjoyed the lodge, bait shop, bar and grill owned and operated by Chad Schilling. Those of you who are conversant in big-time tournament walleye fisherman will remember Chad as the 2012 season champion on the FLW Walleye Tour. Chad and his family live next door the bait shop/bar. Raleigh has been a friend to Chad for a number of years so it was natural for us to spend much of our off-the-water time hanging with him and his father. Dad’s name is Brad Schilling, however he doesn’t answer to that. For reasons I suspect only he knows, Brad Schilling answers only to Buckley.
The family operation, Oahe Wings & Walleyes, provides a number of options for lodging and deluxe guide service to pursue walleyes, ringneck pheasants and, in deep winter, fish beneath the ice.
Chad was a wonderful host who even ducked into his own kitchen to brew a cup of steaming, strong coffee to help this old man ward off early-morning caffeine deprivation chilblains early Monday as we pulled the two magnificent Lund boats together in his boat storage building and prepared them to launch for a day of fishing in the bays and on the underwater points and sunken islands of Oahe.
The bite had been double-tough since the fish turned off a couple/three days before our arrival, so it was challenging. That said, did we catch fish? You bet, and not just walleyes, either. We ended up with a jumbo white bass, a non-jumbo yellow perch, a whiskered catfish, smallmouth bass and one carp that nearly t tore the rod and reel out of my hand when it hit my slow death rig like a locomotive. By the way, a slow death (that’s its nickname) crawler harness is what Raleigh is tying up in this photo.
We came home with three plump bags of fillets, sunburns, worm slime under our fingernails, biting fly welts on our ankles, priceless knowledge gained from watching how the pros find and catch fish and, best of all, new friends and priceless memories.
Interested? Mose says, “Check it out!”