Veteran Door County guide Gary Nault was part of the winning team in a 50-boat Lund Mania Walleye Tournament July 12 on Otter Tail Lake in northwest Minnesota.
Nault, who has assisted anglers for decades on Green Bay waters and started the Sturgeon Bay Open Bass Tournament with his wife, Cheryl, 23 years ago, teamed up with Jason White of Chippewa Falls.
The winners had 23.53 pounds, easily claiming the top prize of a Lund boat valued at more than $20,000.
“Mr. Walleye,” Gary Roach, was part of the fifth place team while another fishing legend, Ted Takasaki, was on the 10th place team.
“I had no idea we had enough weight to win,” said Nault. “You know, you’re doing well and you figure, somebody else is too, but they really weren’t. It was a real thrill.”
Nault participated in the event for the second time after finishing in the middle of the pack a year ago. He partnered with White — the son of Lund’s regional sales representative for Wisconsin — in an event about nine hours away from his Sturgeon Bay home.
White is going to keep the boat, and negotiate a cash payment with Nault.
“With this one, it wasn’t the money or the boat, it’s to say that you won Lund Mania,” said Nault, who was paraded after the win through New York Mills, Minn., Lund’s world headquarters.
“The (Lund) president comes up and shakes your hand,” Nault said. “It’s a citywide thing, a big deal over there.”
Nault said leeches on floating jigs and a walking sinker were the winning combo. His team’s largest was a five-pounder.
Alumni hook up
Despite windy weather and a starting time more fitting to football practice than big lake trolling, the NFL Alumni fishing event in Sturgeon Bay Friday was a success.
Ten charter boats headed out on Lake Michigan two hours after sunrise while several walleye guides waited for a brief storm to blow through before chasing bass mid-morning.
Nault said Team Wickman/Frabill, aboard Playtime, won the best five fish salmon and trout weight with 73.65 pounds. Team Mercury Marine, aboard the Janet Eileen, was second at 56.70; and Team Associated Bank, fishing with the Outdoorsman, was third with 30.90, including the day’s heaviest salmon, a 23-plus-pounder.
On the bass side, Ministry Door County Health Care had 7.30 pounds on three smallmouths, including a 2.92-pounder.
It’s possible that more 20-pound-plus fish will be weighed today — opening day of the 31st annual K/D Salmon Tournament — than all of last year’s nine-day event combined.
While catches are down this summer, the size is up, and salmon action this week has improved significantly at spots like the Bank Reef in Sturgeon Bay.
Many seasoned anglers believe it’ll take a fish of 20 pounds to get in on the payout, and a 30-pound-plus giant to hook the $10,000 first place prize.
Door ticket outlets include Kap’s Marina, 57 Depot, Howie’s Tackle and Greystone Castle. The Sturgeon Bay weigh-in sites are a tent at Sawyer Park on the weekends and at Howie’s Tackle Monday through Thursday.
Anglers may see DNR and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service technicians collecting fisheries data and samples for the Great Lakes Mass Marking and Coded Wire Tagging program at the Sawyer Park cleaning facility Saturday and at the Kewaunee public facility Sunday.
DNR fisheries biologists are as surprised as anyone at the rapid turnaround on fish size and alewife abundance, though they caution that we saw something similar in 2011. Last year, with far less bait, the salmon were much smaller.
Right now, the bulk of the bait is fairly young, and recent die-offs and predation can quickly thin what would otherwise appear to be “unlimited” bait. That happened in 2011, after back-to-back die-offs a month apart and “too many salmon” from natural recruitment and stocking efforts caused one of the lowest-ever estimates of adult alewife biomass in two summer and fall netting and acoustic surveys.
Biologists learned from the Lake Huron alewife/salmon crash a decade ago, and moved swiftly to try to avoid that here.
— Kevin Naze is a freelance outdoors writer. Call him at (920) 883-9792 or email email@example.com.