The Peluso Report: Walleyes Turn On for Tourney

Mike Peluso

By Mike Peluso

I’ve seen a lot of things over my 40-plus years of fishing the Missouri River. But the May 6 Big Muddy Tournament was one for both the record books and the memory bank.

This spring has been a tough one. The walleyes were slow to arrive in the Missouri River around Bismarck, coupled with lots of them sliding off into all the tributaries from South Dakota all the way through North Dakota to do their thing. This took a lot of fish out of the main river system.  Add in the cold weather, muddy water, and low flows and we have had terrible fishing conditions this season.

Enter this week with three days of warm, stable weather, internal instinct, and a system full of giant walleyes and the weights of the Big Muddy tournament broke the all-time six-fish weight record four times in one tournament! Can you imagine catching 40 pounds of walleyes and not winning? Craziness!

The Walleye Wizards Fishing League, a group I started 20-plus years ago, has some of the best walleye fisherman in the area competing in it each week during the spring. Normally it’s a good gauge as to how the fishing is going. The format is simple: catch fish, measure them, record each with a photo and release. At the end of the day, you add up the lengths of your three biggest fish.

Why am I talking about this? The league has fished the previous two Sundays ahead of the tournament.  The winning three fish were a mere 50-some inches combined over the last two weeks. If the league was yesterday, with the fish caught in the tournament you would have seen a three fish total of almost 95 inches! That goes to show you how fast this system can change!

It also goes to show you how healthy the big fish population is out here. To see 17 fish over 30 inches come out of one spot is mind boggling. The Great Lakes don’t even do that!

How were a majority of those fish caught? Well, let’s just say big live bait pulled upstream slowly. Jigs and plastics also took some huge fish. That’s good news for me as a guide. With all those big hen walleyes finally coming up into the river we should see some good fishing for a couple weeks on the backside of this. The males usually come in behind all these big girls and go crazy!

Featured Photo: Walleye Winners.  Seventeen walleyes over 30 inches were caught in the recent Big Muddy fishing tournament on the Missouri River, heralding a huge shift in angling conditions.  The NDG&F Dept. allows for release of those walleyes following a quick weigh-in and photo. DEO Photo by Mike Peluso.

Mike Peluso is a Dakota Edge Outdoors contributing writer and a licensed ND fishing guide specializing in walleyes on the state’s premier waters.

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