I ONCE CAUGHT A FISH THIS BIG....on camera
Meet Willie Walleye, the 40-foot, 2.5 ton ambassador for Lake of the Woods, who resides in Baudette, Minnesota.
Baudette is a city and county seat of Lake of the Woods County, Minnesota, United States. It lies across the Rainy River from the town of Rainy River, Ontario, Canada, and southeast of the Lake of the Woods. Baudette and Rainy River are connected by the Baudette-Rainy River International Bridge (which can be seen in the background of the above photo). The population of Baudette was 1,106 at the 2010 census. It is known as the Walleye Capital of the World (a title which is self proclaimed) due to the abundance of walleye in Lake of the Woods. The walleye also happens to be the state fish of Minnesota.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the walleye, the name "Walleye" (often called pickerel in Canada) comes from the fact that the fish’s eyes point outward, as if looking at the walls. The fish’s eyes allow them to see well in stained rough waters which give them the advantage over their prey. Thus walleye fishermen commonly look for a day and location where there is a good “walleye chop” (rough water).
Both juvenile and adult walleyes eat fish almost exclusively, frequently yellow perch or ciscoes, moving onto bars and shoals at night to feed. In darkly stained and turbid waters walleye also feed heavily on crayfish, minnows and leeches. Usually in spring, walleye are located near the shallower areas close to the spawning grounds, and move to deeper rocky points and reefs as the summer season progresses.
Walleyes are largely olive and gold in color and grow to about 31 inches in length, and weigh in at 10-12 lbs. Don’t expect to catch them that big every time you fish walleye, for their average size is 12-20 inches; However, if you are a dreamer, the world record is 42 inches and weighed 25 lbs. The only way you'll ever catch a walleye the size of Willie is on camera. I should also mention that walleyes taste delicious
The above plaque located beside Willie summarizes how the giant Walleye came to be. Essentially the plaque states that Arnold Lund had the idea of creating a giant walleye sculpture for Baudette Bay back in 1958. Mr. Lund presented his idea to the Baudette Civic and Commerce Association. With Mr. Lund doing much of the organizing for the project, the Civic and Commerce group took the job of building the fish statue.
By April of 1958, Al Anderson had translated Lund's idea into a blueprint, using as a model a 32-inch long, mounted walleye which was on display at a local hardware store. Within a month the concrete footings had been poured and work started on the frame. Walter C. Olson, assisted by his son, David Olson, and Luverne Larson, had the difficult task of forming a frame of steel and wire mesh to the shape of a walleye.
While Mr. Olson and his assistants were busy welding, cutting and welding some more, the Civic and Commerce Association was trying to decide on a name for the giant walleye. The first suggestions were Mr.Walleye and King Walleye. It was decided to choose the name democratically and a ballot with five names on it was printed in the Baudette Region. Wally, Walter and Willie were the additional names on the ballot. After several weeks of voting, the name Willie won.
At about the same time, George Ayotte and his helper, Russell Halvorson, finished plastering the skin.
Dick Wilson had contracted to paint the statue, and the paint was applied the next spring. The statue was dedicated during Walleye Days, June 19 and 20, 1959.
Since then, Willie has been captured by thousands of cameras.
As I travel across the country, I can't help but smile when I see an attraction like Willie Walleye.
So, if you ever find yourself in Baudette, Minnesota, make sure to take a few moments to stop and say hello to Willie Walleye. If you have the time, you may want to try your luck at walleye fishing, just make sure to check local regulations first.