My brother-in-law (Swab), and I were regulars on Lake Erie's Central Basin trolling for the monster walleye's we have come to know as the "best kept secret known to man". I can tell you that the walleye on an average are 28 to 30 inches in length, weighing 8 to 10 pounds. With fish of this size you quickly become addicted to the hunt for the monsters held within Lake Erie's depths knowing you could easily pull out a state record.
Our story of "The Electric Walleye" starts on a fine summer day in June 1998, it was a day with no air movement and temperatures that hit the 80+ degree mark. Swab and I had spent most of the morning in the traditional trolling pattern with six rods loaded with dipsy divers and a variety of "king Spoons" and deep divers hoping the tried and true technique would trigger a bite. Unfortunately, after several hours nothing would touch our rods, that is until the situation took a turn we will never forget. As our day progressed, Swab and I noticed that far off in the northwest section of Lake Erie towards the Bass Islands we could see a large dark mass of clouds rolling our way, the clouds course was slow but sure heading in our direction. Now we know that Lake Erie can be unpredictable and with dark storm clouds coming our way it would be best to wind in the lines and head for the dock...but we were experienced die-hards and we were going to ride it out, after all the clouds were moving slowly. However, it wasn't long until those clouds were over our heads and without much warning the winds started to blow with enough force that the boat began to troll on its own, no power needed. Then, lightning started to hit the water as if it was just outside my transom...we took cover under the hardtop of my 1984 Bayliner Trophy Fisherman and held on as Mother Nature beat down with a force.
It was about twenty minutes into the thunder and lightning when the storm started to break. Our rods were still in position with the lines as they were as if we were still trolling. It was at that moment the rods started to tip..."fish on" I yelled. I ran to the closest rod and grabbed hold only to let go as a shock hit my arms like a bolt of lightning came into the boat. Swab looked at me perplexed and said "what’s wrong"? I said that rod just shocked me good and I don't understand what happened? We then heard a slight, but definite humming sound coming from the rods and noticed more movement indicating a fish was on. Swab decided to try his luck and grabbed a rod and as fast as he grabbed it he dropped it and backed off. We realized at that point and where in disbelief that the rods and boat had been energized possibly by the lightning.
I began to get concerned about our safety knowing I had about 30 gallons of fuel in the tank and if the ground failed we would catch fire or explode. We had no recourse but to sit back and wait to see if the electrical current would subside. After about 30 minutes of sweating it out, the humming noise we heard in the rods stopped. Again, I reach out to grab a rod and this time no shock. I reeled it in only to find a dead walleye that by all indications had been dead the entire 30 minutes we waited. The fish was very pail, almost white green with fogged eyes. We decided to pull in the rest of the rods and found that we had two more walleye’s hooked, but as with the other they were dead. We still often debate if the current made its way to the fish and killed them? We motored back to shore as quickly as we could and told our story to some locals at the bait shop. It was then we learned that sometimes when lightning hits the water it can be absorbed into the fiberglass fiber in the rods and even sometimes in the boats housing. With that said, Swab and I have made it a tradition to run like hell the minute we see or hear of a storm...no more electric walleye's for us!