A Northern fish is king in Canton at the 51st Annual Walleye Rodeo

CANTON LAKE, OKLAHOMA -- If anyone knows the waters of Canton Lake in northwest Oklahoma it would have to be Curtis Hoskins.

He's been fishing here since he was a kid.

"Probably around 45 years," he says.

And making friends like Troy Everett.

"This will definitely be our biggest weekend," smiles Troy.

Or, more often than not, fishing with his wife Donna.

Hoskins says, "We live a short enough distance that we can get back and forth pretty easy."

But this weekend is a little different.

There are hundreds out here from Thursday through Sunday, many of them competing in what organizers bill as the state's oldest and largest fishing tournament, the Walleye Rodeo.

"It's awesome fishing," says Hoskins, who is also the Vice President of the Canton Lake Association. "Everybody needs to come out and enjoy the lake if they get the chance."

Now before you scoff and start thinking that the Walleye is a northern fish you should know they grow bigger as you move south.

Crowd past the cars outside the Overlook Restaurant and you'll find some of the big ones caught here in past years, a couple of them more than 9 pounds.

"A 5 pound Walleye is a nice fish," insists Charlie Gilchrist, who owns the Overlook.

"Do they strike hard," asks a lake visitor?

"Oh yeah," says Hoskins. "They pull like a log of the bottom."

At the weigh-in office the updated board showed one fish came in at 6 and a half pounds on the first day.

That's him there in the cooler.

Participant Barry Bonds only caught one Walleye but it was a keeper.

He said, "We've been catching hybrids. This was the first Walleye we caught today."

Patty Chaloupek keeps track of the fish and the people registering to catch them for prizes.

She said, "380 people have registered."

A few years ago this lake only carried half the water it takes to make it full.

The Overlook was closed and the Walleye didn't have any deep water to swim in.

Everett echoes the view of many Canton, OK business owners.

"When we don't have water, things really dry up in the economy as well."

But the rodeo kept going.

The waters eventually came back up, and the people came back.

One of the best Walleye lakes in this part of the United States has big crowds again hoping to hook them.

The 2018 Canton Lake Walleye Rodeo takes place May 17th through the 20th.

The biggest fish nets $1,000, the biggest stringer of Walleye fetches $500.

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