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FORT PECK – Norm and Gene, I feel your pain.

In last weekend’s Montana Governor’s Cup, Norm Sillerud and Gene Crawford, two fine walleye fishermen from Glasgow, were riding high after the first day of the tournament with a catch of 36.26 pounds for five walleyes.

It was a great day on the water that put them into first place heading into the final day of the hunt for a $10,000 top prize.

But the fickle nature of Fort Peck walleyes apparently caught up with Norm and Gene on Saturday. They fished hard, but weighed in just 1.06 pounds. They dropped to a still-very-respectable fifth place in the tournament with 37.32 pounds total.

Meanwhile, North Dakota fishermen William Vukelic and Marley Sprecher were racking up 59.92 pounds for the two days to win the tournament.

If it’s any consolation to Norm and Gene, their experience in the tourney was about the same thing that was happening to me on Fort Peck last week as I fished for fun and fillets with my Park City neighbor, Chuck Snow, far outside the tournament boundaries.

In fact, it’s about the same thing that happens to me and others every time I head to Fort Peck.

Like Norm and Gene, Chuck and I were riding high one day – bumping bottom the next. Fort Peck has a way of doing that to anglers – tournament and recreational.

This tendency of Fort Peck was never more apparent than after one tough day on the water last week when Chuck and I fished hard, covered many miles of shoreline, but caught only a few small walleyes.

I walked into the marina afterward just in time to hear another fisherman telling the owner, “Out there today, you couldn’t do anything wrong! Big walleyes! All day! They were everywhere!”

Well, that was his day. Walleyes apparently were everywhere he was fishing. They were nowhere that we had been.

In a way, that’s the challenge and fascination of walleyes on Fort Peck. No two days are the same. Everyday requires a hunt to find new areas where walleyes might be, figure out what depths they might be working and guess what they might be biting on.

Fort Peck walleyes are watery nomads.

Their major food source, a baitfish called a cisco, travels the open waters of the lake, at times in huge schools that appear as an underwater cloud on your fish locator.

All indications are that the walleyes follow the cisco – especially when they’re in a mood to feed and bite. And those cisco are always on the move.

The key is to find where those schools of cisco bump into underwater points, where walleyes can catch them on shallow bars or shoreline ledges, then figure out how deep to fish to get in on the action.

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Tactics that I heard fishermen were using in the Governor’s Cup last week were about the same things we were doing far up the lake. Frankly, sometimes they worked and sometimes they didn’t.

Some fishermen were trolling with lures like Shad Raps and Reef Runners and Wally Divers. Others were pulling bottom-bouncing lead weights and spinners baited with nightcrawlers or leeches. Some were fishing jigs and live bait.

All of those techniques took some walleyes, some of the time. They did for the tournament fishermen. They did for us. Other times, they produced nothing.

The key remains to find the nomadic walleyes – the nomadic walleyes which happen to be feeding – amid the hundreds of miles of shoreline, points, bays, bars and islands that make up this big lake.

Then, if you can do that, try to find them day in and day out.

That’s the hard part. It was hard for Chuck and me. Apparently, it was hard for Norm and Gene, too. And if you looked down the list of other Governor’s Cup teams, they had their frustrations, too.

So, if there are walleye days when you can do nothing wrong out there, there are just as many day when you can do nothing right when you chase the watery nomads of Fort Peck.

Mark Henckel is the outdoor editor of The Billings Gazette. His columns appear Thursdays and Sundays. He can be contacted at 657-1395 or

Governor's Cup ResultsHere are the official top finishers in the 2001 Montana Governor’s Cup Walleye Tournament held on Fort Peck Reservoir last weekend, according to the sponsoring Glasgow Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture:


William Vukelic, Mott, N.D., and Marley Sprecher, Carson, N.D., 59.92 pounds.

Bill Porter, Cheyenne, Wyo., and Alan Jensen, Park City, Utah, 58.0.

Steve Jellum and Jack DeBerg, Gillette, Wyo., 51.08.

Jim Gabriel and Cheryl Burkhard, Gillette, Wyo. 46.08.

Norm Sillerud and Gene Crawford, Glasgow, 37.32.

Sam Gill and Shirley Gill, Butte, 36.96.

Paul Aune and Todd Aune, Glasgow, 36.86.

Tom Chapman, Gillette, Wyo., and Ed Hoffman, Douglas, Wyo., 36.52.

Mitch Griebel, Glasgow, and Ron Sanford, Watford City, N.D. 36.48.

Craig Hallock, Glasgow, and Chuck Emmerson, Minot, N.D., 36.40.

Rick Herman, Miles city, and Don Peplow, Colstrip, 35.62.

Alec Young, Bloomington, Minn., and David Young, Lakeside, 33.90.

Myron Sylte and Calvin Sylte, Williston, N.D., 33.12.

Mike Cherrywell, Crane Lake, Minn., and Doug Komrosky, Havre, 32.34.

Charles Granholm and Linda Granholm, Billings, 30.62.

Jody Cutler and Roxanne Cutler, Belgrade, 29.92.

Wally Tuck and Jake Tuck, Great Falls, 29.82.

Jim Miller and Kelly Jones, Wright, Wyo., 28.77.

Ronald Cramer, Cheyenne, Wyo., and Gene Moore, Fort Peck, 27.92.

Bill Davis and Peter Gasvoda, Big Sandy, 26.52.

Ronnie Davis, Great Falls, and Wayne Davis, Winnipeg, Man., 25.00.

Governor’s Cup teams

South Dakota (Barb Peterson and Bob Souter, Sioux Falls) 22.91 pounds.

Montana (Dale Gilbert, Ulm and Luckie Bethel, Great Falls) 13.40.

Biggest walleyes

First day: Jim Miller and Kelly Jones, Wright, Wyo., 14.37 pounds.

Second day: Jamie Olson and Harlyn Olson, 11.74.

Biggest northern pike

First day: Kelly Bahls and Tim Messer, Sidney, 8.96 pounds.

Second day: Wayne Tuttle and Neil Tuttle, Minot, N.D., 20.00

Guys, Gals tourney

Walleye: Doug Komroski and Carol Blatter, 8.5.

Northern pike: Michael and Sheryl Johnson, 6.26.

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