It was a long winter here in Northland. I’m not sure it’s gone yet, although the calendar says spring has come. You could really go for some fresh fish. Unfortunately, the ice on the lake persists and fishing is weeks away from starting.

So I’ve come to the Mississippi River, where walleye season is continuous. A few dollars buys admission to a “fishing float,” which is essentially a giant raft parked just below one of the dams. The captain picks me up on the shore and takes me to the float. With any luck, he might come back with enough fish for a dinner or two.

The guy on the float sells me a ball of minnows, and I hit the road. Since the current is strong, the deal is simple: minnow on a jig head, tossed to the bottom, and retrieved.

The river is really rough. It soon becomes obvious that it will take every trick in the book to keep the bait in the strike zone. I switch to the other rod already rigged with small diameter braided line and tie a heavier jig. My scissors, half of Smith’s Scissors and pliers combo—it’s hooked to my bucket and always ready to cut off the ends of the label. Another minnow is impaled and brought into action.

It doesn’t take long to feel the first tug. The hookset feels good initially, but the jig comes loose. A quick check reveals that the hook may be too blunt.

I look in my backpack for my retractable diamond sharpener. Designed for serrated blades, hooks, knives and other sharp edges, it comes in handy on an almost daily basis. A few pulls through the hook sharpener part makes the subject feel nice and “sticky” again. I prime again and I’m back in the game.

The next time a fish takes my jig, there is no doubt that it is hooked solid. After a good fight, the eager minnow thief comes to hand. It’s a beautiful golden walleye and a great start to the day. However, the hook is a bit deep and pliers are required. Luckily they are always around.

Since each walleye must be over 15 inches, I shoot the portable fish ruler from my jacket pocket and unroll it onto the deck. The official measurement is a little over 16 inches, definitely long enough to fit the fish on my stringer. Hopefully he will have a partner soon.

Since the flexible rule is wet, it enters the Fishing and hunting tool bag. The mesh back of the bag allows wet items to drain and dry. Plus, items won’t get tangled or lost when contained.

Having cast and jigged countless times (and lost the battle with a few hiccups), it seems a change of pace is in order. Many other anglers have caught Giant Perch in the gentler current near the float. So, I set up a slider rig and minnow on my mono-spool rod and sit down.

It looks like the hanger may have called for a break in the action as well. After 30 fruitless minutes, the impatience grows too great to ignore. I’m casting jigs and minnows again during my last hour on the float.

The midday action is slow everywhere. The sting has clearly gone cold, as other anglers aren’t having much luck either. I am rewarded for my effort with another couple of bites and small walleye that do not reach the minimum length. A walleye to save isn’t the kind of jackpot I was expecting when I arrived, but it’s enough to break the winter blues tonight with a meal of Fish & Chips.

Beer Battered Fish & Chips

A battered and fried way to enjoy walleye, perch, yellow or white bass, or northern pike. Choose a lager or IPA for a light, crisp batter, or something like a porter or stout for a darker, richer experience. Pair with hot fries and serve with malt vinegar, mustard, or tartar sauce.


  • oil for frying
  • 1 C. flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 C. cold beer
  • 1 pound. fish fillets, cut into finger-size strips
  • extra flour to coat the fish

Mix the flour and baking powder in a bowl and mix in the beer. Pour enough oil into a skillet so that the fish floats, and heat to 350 degrees. Dip the fish in flour and shake off the excess. Dip the fish in the batter and fry until golden brown. Flip once to achieve even browning of the dough.


Smith’s Consumer Products is an Arkansas-based company that traces its history back to 1886. Smith’s produces the broadest line of knife and scissor sharpeners available, ranging from simple fixed-angle sharpeners for consumers who want quick and easy sharpening to sophisticated precision kits. Designed for the knife sharpening enthusiast. Our offering includes manual and electric sharpeners that incorporate many different abrasive materials, including diamond, carbide, ceramic, bonded synthetic abrasives, and of course, Arkansas natural stone. Smith’s Consumer Products Edge Experts also design and manufacture a wide range of tools for the outdoor enthusiast, as well as knives for everyday carry, tactical, shop, kitchen, hunting and fishing needs.