"It Was Just Another Big Fish"
The 1996 Idaho Walleye Record still stands at 17 pounds, 2 ounces, 33.5 inches long and 19.5 inches around. Bill Sorensen of Kuna, Idaho was about to cut it up so it would fit into his cooler last June when his buddy suggested he weigh it first. Sorensen has become famous as much for his nonchalant remark -- "I thought it was just another big fish" -- as for actually catching the big walleye.
by Sharon Watson
Idaho Record Walleye shown by taxidermist Chuck Barto of Angler's Art, Boise.
Sorensen was fishing with his old fiberglass rod with the brand name completely worn off. His line was 8-pound test and he was baited up with a Mister Twister plastic jig with a piece of worm attached. It was 7 a.m. He threw out his rig one more time and let it sink to seven feet deep. He was about 20 feet out from shore in his boat near the "Gravel Pit" at the upper end of the reservoir. He wrestled the fish in and could see clearly it wasnít going to fit in his ice box.
Another angler convinced Sorensen to take the big walleye to the nearest sporting goods store in Rogerson, Idaho. The Rogerson Store and Gas Service has a scale certified for weighing-in record fish. Often the store has the taxidermy display of the current record walleye from nearby Salmon Falls Creek Reservoir. The Rogerson folks verified that Sorensen had more than just a few delicious meals here!
The previous state walleye record was caught in 1987 by Jim Mullen. The fish weighed 15 pounds, 9 ounces and was caught at Salmon Falls in October. Mullen luckily has held the record for almost ten years.
And before Mullen there was David Forsyth of Chubbuck who caught a 13-pound, five-ounce walleye at Salmon Falls on July 17, 1987. Forsyth caught his at 10 a.m. on a Mister Twister jig while trolling. It took only three months before his record was broken, but the record holder before him held it for only a couple of weeks!
Randy Williamson of Filer, Idaho caught the state record walleye (12-pound, 4 ounce) also in July of 1987 at Salmon Falls and lost it quickly to Forsyth. The record before that was also held by Williamson, however, so he had a little more time to bask in his achievement.
In 1985 at Salmon Falls on a September morning at 2 a.m., Williamson caught an 11 pound, 15 ounce walleye. Previous to this, he had many 10-pounders to his name. He uses Rapalas, Shad Raps and Thin Fins to tempt the larger-sized fish. Randy Williamson has long since proven his local reputation as a Master walleye fisherman.
Fishing the late afternoon and early morning hours are recommended by successful walleye anglers, since walleye feed mostly at night. Concentrate your fishing efforts on sandbars, shoals, ledges, and rocky points. Salmon Falls was created by damming a deep canyon, so a fish locator is important in finding the ledges and sandbars beneath the murky surface.
Salmon Falls Creek Reservoir is about 12 miles long. It lies between Twin Falls, Idaho and the Nevada state line. Itís a large body of water subject to sudden, dangerous thunderstorms, so if youíre out in your boat and the sky darkens, head for shore. The dam area is located seven miles west of Rogerson and provides a concrete boat ramp and a campground. Another gravel launch site is about 10 miles south of Rogerson, has restrooms, but no campground. Look for access roads off Highway 93.
Walleye were first introduced into Salmon Falls Creek Reservoir in May, 1974. The spottail shiner was later stocked as a forage fish for walleye. The walleye is the largest member of the perch family and is related to the darter and the sauger. Its common name comes from its milky-looking bug-eyes. Walleye are sometimes misidentified as pike because of their long rows of sharp teeth. Walleye can reach up to 20 pounds, but rarely get over 10 pounds. They spawn in the spring in water temperatures as cold as 38 degrees. To spawn they need moving water, so they often move into tributaries or onto gravel beds with constant wave action. In the heat of the summer, the fish retreat to deep water.
Walleye filets keep well in the freezer since the flesh contains only minute quantities of oil, and they taste superb. Delicious rainbow trout, perch, bass, and crappie also cruise the deep waters of Salmon Falls.
Salmon Falls is open year-around for fishing and some anglers are already intensely dedicated to catching the next record walleye. But Bill Sorensen wonít be watching his back. Heíll be out there just trying to catch his dinner.
There are two other Idaho waters that contain walleye: Oneida Reservoir on the Bear River near Preston, Idaho (the oldest town in the state) and Goose Creek Reservoir near Oakley, in South Central and Southeastern Idaho respectively.