Anderson: After 43 years of hunting, walleye returns to Gunflint Trail

The eye color that will live on forever in Minnesota’s hunting traditions is back home, or as close to home as possible.

The 17-pound, 8-ounce LeRoy Chiovitte was caught on May 13, 1979, a storied fisherman on an opening weekend of fishing.

When Chewvitt, of Hermantown, Minnesota, died in 2019 at the age of 82, he left no definite plans about walleye, a glass-covered mountain of which sat for 40 years in the home he lived in with his wife, Joan.

Now, in a deal blessed and favored by the majority of Duluth News Tribune readers who responded to stories written last summer by that newspaper’s outdoorsy writer, John Myers, the fish will be on permanent display at the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center, operated by the Gunflint Trail Historical Society.

The Ein Chewvit induction ceremony will take place from 4-6 p.m. on May 29 at the museum (more at

The museum is located a mile or so from the fishing spot, in the Sea Gull River between Sea Gull Lake and Saganaga Lake.

Chewfit, a seller of pipe valves, fittings, and tubes, was a hunter-gatherer and, given his passion for the sport, deserved as much as any Minnesota to capture the light gray state record.

The days leading up to the first fishing weekend in 1979 were so cold that, as it will be this year, ice remained on some northern Minnesota lakes in the early days of the season.

“Back then, I was hunting all the time, getting up early and staying up late,” Chewvitt told me the last time I spoke to him in 1995.

On the Friday before the 1979 opening, Chewvitt and his friend, Clocket’s Lauren Palmer, and Palmer’s teenage son Todd, lead to the end of the Gunflint track.

At midnight – the moment fishing became legal – they launched their aluminum boat, ready to be on the river for most of the night.

Each was forged with a slick polisher on an ordinary hook, weighted with split shots. The fishermen’s boat was moored in a whirlpool of a river, away from the current, in 10 to 12 feet of water.

“We were throwing in the water the fastest and letting the current swirl around our baits,” Chewvit said.

The first fish in the boat, caught by Chewfit, was a light gray 12-pound fish, a large female. The trio bumped into five other eyes weighing between 3 and 8 pounds before, at 10 a.m., they moved to a nearby cabin to sleep.

“We knew the fishing would be slower during the day, so we picked that time to rest,” Chewvitt said.

The waters where the three are caught are no longer open to fishermen in the early days of the season. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) fisheries managers believe that river spawn valleys need to be protected in order to disperse into Sea Gull Lake and Saganaga Lake.

In 1979, the Sea Gull River was popular with opening weekend fishermen. Plus, catch-and-release liquid white-eye fishing was only in its infancy at the time, if that was the case. So the keeping of the big fish was, as did Cheuvette and his friends, a common thing.

Back on the water at 5pm on opening day, the three were spot-fishing again on regular hooks.

“We were fishing until about midnight on Saturday, catching quite a few fish. Then we went to our cabin to sleep for a few hours before getting back into the water around 4 a.m.,” Chewvit said.

Chewfit captured a record light eye color at 8 a.m. on Sunday, May 13, 1979.

“A boat was moored near us, and when he left, I flung my streak over where he had moored. That was when I caught him,” said Chiuvet.

Fish wasn’t a great fighter. But complications arose when a large walleye wound itself around the boat’s anchor rope.

Finally, Lauren Palmer pulled the anchor. . . slowly.

“This is how we got the fish close enough to get it into a landing net,” Chewvit said.

Minnesota’s first record at the time was 16 pounds, 11 ounces, caught in Basswood Lake by Ewan, Merle Pulliam, in 1955.

“I will never forget the feeling I had when I was watching the scales (at a nearby resort). It just kept going up. When he hit 17 pounds and kept moving, I got weak in the knees,” Chewvit said.

Although some Hunters doubt that Chewfit’s record will ever outperform, others – myself included – disagree.

True, a large, stocky wallaby female is likely to claim the crown, and most places where they hang out in the spring are now off-limits during the early days of the season.

But on July 4, 1989, Bob Bruinicks, then-president of the University of Minnesota, did a 17-pound, 6-ounce, light-grey boat that had not been weighed for more than two hours after its discovery—a sign that all things being equal, the Bruinicks may have outwitted Chewvet. .

Additionally, in 2012, Bemidji-area fishing guide Don Michael said he caught a walleye in Minnesota waters of the River Rainey that measured 17.9 pounds on his hand scale. Meckel said the fish has a circumference of 24.25 inches and a length of 35.1 inches (Cheophytes were 35.75 inches long and 21.25 inches in circumference).

But because Mikkel was caught in catch-and-release waters only by DNR, it wasn’t considered a record.

However, whether the current record holds for another day — or forever — Chewvit was well and generous, the record holder Minnesota hopes.

He wasn’t bragging, except that he would speak of his record-breaking record to anyone who asks.

And a lot of people, over 40, Requested.

Now, with Chewfit dead, his big fish is being returned to her home waters, or thereabouts.

As it should be.


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