WALLEYES, WALLEYES, and more WALLEYES was the name of the game for The Iowa Connections Walleye Derby organized by Dennis Baker of Clemons. Baker has been going on walleye expeditions to Halley's Camps north of Minaki since 1980. Each year he recruits central Iowans or people with former Iowa ties to accompany him on the road trip to Minaki and the subsequent float plane fly-in to a remote lodge along the shore of the English River. Twenty-nine people plus Baker made the Aug. 1-5 trip this year.
A summary of the entire fishing experience was a huge success for everyone. The weather was perfect for fishing. Expect rain while out on the lakes, and it did rain. Expect cloudy skies and we got that too. Expect sunny days like our second day on the water was clear blue sky, light winds and very cooperative fish. Expect walleye shore lunches prepared by experienced guides that made ones mouth water with anticipation. No one went away hungry.
The essence of the Iowa Connection Walleye Derby was to enjoy fishing with friends in a very friendly competition. Catch walleyes and record their lengths. The 30 people were divided into two teams. Each team tallied only those walleyes 20 inches long or longer, took photos and immediately released the fish back to the lake. The goal was to attempt to catch at least five 20 plus inchers if possible per person each day. Each eligible catch was verified by another person in the boat. At the end of day one, Team 2 had the higher score by only 19.5 inches. That is the equivalent of one fish difference, a very close competition.
T-R PHOTO BY GARRY BRANDENBURG
The just completed 'Iowa Connections Walleye Derby' gathered 30 Iowans, former Iowans, or others with Iowa connections at Halley’s Camps, a float plane fly-in operation to a beautiful lodge located in the boreal forests and lakes region of northwest Ontario, Canada Aug. 1-5. Garry Brandenburg of Albion was a participant this year, a first timer at this site, and he was not disappointed. It was a fantastic fishing excursion. The three top angler awards went to (above right,) from left to right, third place Bob Clarke of Fort Meyers, Fla.; second place to his son Scott Clarke of West Des Moines; and first place Master Angler Award to Roger Beitz of Hopkinton. Beitz’s 10 qualifying walleyes averaged 23.75 inches long.
T-R PHOTO BY GARRY BRANDENBURG
The three top angler awards went to, from left to right, third place Bob Clarke of Fort Meyers, Fla.; second place to his son Scott Clarke of West Des Moines; and first place Master Angler Award to Roger Beitz of Hopkinton. Beitz’s 10 qualifying walleyes averaged 23.75 inches long.
T-R PHOTO BY GARRY BRANDENBURG
Day two was nearly identical in terms of total inches of walleye submitted for the record. Team two did win but the margin was only 33 inches ... or two fish. Prizes and awards were given to everyone with special recognition for the smallest and the largest walleye caught. Prizes were made possible through Jax's Outdoor Gear store of Ames. New fishing rods and reels were top prizes given to people in various categories. Lures and other fishing tackle rounded out the gifts.
Roger Beitz's walleye work was fantastic. He entered 10 fish with an average length of 23.75 inches. His biggest walleye was more than 27 inches, a fish that exceeded 7 pounds. Twenty-four-inch "eyes" will tip the scales at about 5.1 pounds. Twenty-inch walleye are closer to 3 pounds. Everyone caught and released all the fish, except for a select few for shore lunch needs. A few northern pike were captured also along with some really nice smallmouth bass.
This trophy fishing lake region is well suited to the Halley family. Starting in 1945, Louis and Yvonne Halley began with two guest cabins on Black Sturgeon Lake near Lodge. The operation has grown tremendously since then featuring rustic log cabin lodges, plus facilities that allow guests top stay in top quality cabins, eat great home cooked meals, and enjoy fishing in remote wilderness settings under the watchful eyes of guides who know all 35 miles of the English River and its interconnected lakes. Access to the water is provided by specially built Lund Alaskan boats custom made for Halley's Camps needs. Float planes are always on the move to transport people or provisions.
However, the remoteness of the lodge is not without modern conveniences. Satellite television is available in addition to Wi-Fi internet connections. Each modern cabin has comfortable furniture, private baths and full electrical service. From this scribe's perspective, being away from electronic gadgets was just one part of why this fishing excursion was a success. Part of the joy of fishing is leaving the rest of the world behind for a few days. One can do this in this part of Canada.
The list of the 2014 Iowa Connections people included Gerald "Doc" McDaniel of Nevada, Marv Ozinga of Oskaloosa, J.W. Wright of Scottsdale, Ariz., Gary Harrington and son Scott from Michigan, Craig Torgeson of Radcliffe, Darwin Merrill of Marshalltown, Gary Kerley of San Antonio, Texas, Clay, Steve, Brad, Tom and Jeff Reints of Shell Rock, Matt Reints of Minneapolis, Minn., Curt Mackie of Grundy Center, Bryce and daughter Clara Dee of Marshalltown, Bob Clarke from Fort Meyers, Fla., Scott Clarke of West Des Moines, Brett and Kyler Hodnefield of Ellsworth, Todd Hill also of Ellsworth, John and Tanner Volkmann of Jewel, Seth Hill and Rob Thomas of Story City, Roger Beitz of Hopkinton and the ring-leader of the entire event, Dennis Baker of Clemons.
Baker has already secured the dates of July 31 to Aug. 4, 2015 for the next Iowa Connections Walleye Derby. To learn more about signing up for this trophy walleye fishing vacation/adventure, email Baker at email@example.com or call him 641-751-4484. This scribe highly recommends the Walleye Derby. You will not be sorry if you go. Then the only problem is wondering why one waited so long to take advantage of Baker's planning efforts to allow Iowans to gather in the beautiful clear water lakes of northwest Ontario.
Somewhere in the attic, or basement store room, may be grandfather's old fishing tackle box. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is looking for photos of old and ugly tackle boxes. If you know of one, submit a photo of the gem by this Monday. A winner will be selected via a Facebook competition. The photo with the most likes will be declared the winner. Send ugly tackle box pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org. Photos will be posted on the DNR Facebook page, www.facebook.com/iowadnr. The winner will get a new tackle bag and lures courtesy of the Des Moines Chapter of the Izaak Walton League and Mid-Iowa Bassmasters.
Fishing is fun. Fishing can be humbling. Before fish, all men are equal.
Garry Brandenburg is a graduate of Iowa State University with BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology. He is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. Contact him at PO Box 96, Albion, IA 50005.