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Guiding for Walleyes with Johnnie Candle

Johnnie Candle of Devils Lake, North Dakota, fishes the National Walleye Tour that holds four tournaments a year, and he fishes all of them. He’s also fished other circuits in the past. The walleye competitive circuits started before the bass fishing circuits and have continued longer than the bass ones. Candle cashes checks in about 50% of the tournaments he fishes. In 2010, he won the National Walleye Championship and finished 43rd in his last tournament of 2019 out of 161 boats. He is also a member of the North Dakota Fishing Hall of Fame.

Johnnie Candle walleye fishing

I really enjoy guiding fishermen to catch walleyes. I’ve been guiding since I was 17 years old. My father started Lake Erie Charter Boat Service, and I was a deck hand on his boat. The experience I had there really helped me once I started guiding in the Dakotas. 

I guide every day I can between walleye tournaments. As a guide, I really don’t fish very much. I try to have a rod and reel in my hand for some time each day, but I don’t fish the entire 8-hour guide trip. My job as a guide is to help other people catch fish. Guiding is more teaching and educating fishermen on how, when, where and why to catch walleyes. I’m as much of a host for the day as I am a fishing guide. My number-one job is to keep my customers entertained and happy. 

One of the things I really like about guiding is every day on the water is a new day. I have no idea of the skill level of anglers I’ll guide that day. I may have a group of people who are really good walleye fishermen and fish for walleyes often on their own. Then they may want to simply fish a new body of water for walleyes. The opposite end of the spectrum are the people who get in my boat and say, “This’ll be a first.” And I’ll ask, “First time to fish Devils Lake?” and they’ll answer, “No, first time to go fishing.” So, I have to be ready for all skill levels of anglers when I go down to the lake and get in my boat. And, I won’t trade that experience of guiding for anything in the world.

My guide trip is usually about helping my anglers catch as many walleyes in a day as they possibly can. Most of my anglers drive a long way to get to Devils Lake, and they’re not really interested in catching a wall-hanger fish. They want to catch and keep enough walleyes for dinner and catch and release all the other walleyes they can. So, my job is to find locations where my customers can catch good numbers of fish, stay busy with bent rods and stretched drags and have smiling faces. On Devils Lake, my anglers can keep five walleyes per day and take 10 fish home with them. There’s no restrictive size or slot limits on the walleyes we catch at Devils Lake. I encourage my clients to keep the eating-size fish and put back all the bigger fish.

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