Big Fish – Wally Walinda: Eyes the Size of Toonies

Big Bear Outfitters, Nova Scotia

John Mills

John Mills


Big Fish – Wally Walinda: Eyes the Size of Toonies

In memory of my life-long friend of 38 years, John Mills…

We all go fishing to catch the big one. Some of us do, and some of us don’t. This particular day would prove to be one we would never forget. My friend Millsie, who we just lost this year, is looking down with a smile as I tell the story of Wally Walinda.

As I would do every so often, I drove from my home in Peterborough to visit my good buddy, John Mills and yuck it up. As always, he was hard at work developing his condo project. It seemed like he had little time to fish, yet he always told me how many pickerel he would catch when I was not around — and had the fish to prove it — just in case I came home empty-handed. Which, I might add, never happened; if you knew how to find them, then you knew how to catch them.

It just so happened on this particular day that my buddy, Doug Little decided to go with me for the ride to John’s house. Doug is a real avid hunter and fisherman. We have been through many adventures together! Although this one caught him with his pants down. Literally…

It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon, and we knew it would be a great day to get out on the water. It also happened to be the day that John’s daughter, Krista was at the camp. Now, as we were getting ready to go out, she asked if she could fish with us. I jokingly said maybe she will be our lucky charm.

We trapped some very large minnows from a creek and were ready to fill the boat with my favourite eating fish. We fished for a couple of hours, and caught and released a dozen small bass and a couple 0f small pickerel. The sun was just starting to set, so I said to Doug and Krista, “You know, I have always wanted to go right into the falls, and fish the bottom!” They agreed, and we made our way over to fish. We were fishing for about a half hour when Doug decided he had to take a leak. Because Krista was in the boat, well you know, we had to take him to shore for the sake of privacy. We then went back out on our own, Doug choosing to do his duty (guess it was not just a leak).

I looked into the minnow bucket, and wow, these minnows were big. Just the way I liked them. Big bait; big fish. I still believe that to this day. I took a minnow about six inches long, a nice fatty, and said to Krista, “Get ready, we are going to catch a monster.” I put a big sinker on and went right into the falls. The hole was about 40 to 60 feet deep. Down, down, this delicious morsel went.

So, in our boat we had the biggest net that you can purchase. One that I have netted salmon over twenty pounds with no problem at all. I laughed when I said, “Well, we have the big net and you will be the netter of the biggest fish in your life.” She laughed and said she was ready for it. No sooner than I said this, I thought, damn I’m caught on a log. Until… The log moved! Now, I have caught big fish before, but not a fish that acted like this one. I thought, maybe a sturgeon….? This fish stayed on the bottom and went back and forth, like an expectant parent. What did I have on the end of my line? I said, “Well, Krista, we’ll back the drag off, and tire him or her out.” This went on for thirty minutes. All Doug could do was watch from the shore.

I was eager to see what this was. Finally, up from the dark depths came this mystery monster, Wally Wallinda. My mouth opened up and she gasped. It looked like a very long log, to be exact. It was also very obvious that the net, no kidding, was not large enough for this fish!

Krista asked, “Now what do I do?”

I said, “Get into my tackle box and pull out the measuring tape and scale! We only get one shot at this. Also– grab my fishing gloves for grip.”

So we guided the massive brute head-first into the net for measuring and the weigh-in. It turned out she was a female, and completely exhausted. We wrote down: 40 inches long and a girth of 33.3 inches. Honestly, she had eyes like toonies. When we tried to weigh her, and this is no tall fish tale, we could not lift her up! It was clear that because the net was not big enough to bring her into the boat, if we didn’t let her go she would die. So with heavy hearts, we let her go.

Doug saw this fish from the shore, too. Krista exclaimed, “Wait until I tell Dad! He will not believe us! He will think this is just some fish story!” I didn’t mind if he believed us. Really, it doesn’t matter; we got the measurements and this will certainly be a life-long memory.

When we got back to camp, Krista could not contain her excitement. I looked like I had seen a ghost. Doug was completely speechless, though he backed us up.

After hearing our story, John laughed and said, “Honestly you guys!”

“No, Dad,” Krista exclaimed, “I am not kidding! She had eyes the size of toonies! We got the measurements, but we could not get a weight because she was too big for the net!”

John had this grin that only he had and the laugh to go with it. He said to us, “Too bad you didn’t bring her home!” I told him the thought honestly crossed my mind, but she was probably the biggest producer of the lake. And, heck, if we kept her, that may well have wrecked the fishing for you and others.

Now I figure one thing is for sure; this took place back in 2001, that fish is either up in heaven with Millsie or still at the bottom of Burleigh Falls! John, if you do believe us now, please send the weight of this fish down to us! God bless you my friend. It was because of you that this memory was possible. Krista and I still talk about this fish, fourteen years later.

You had to be there to believe it. I am guessing she was 30 to 35 lbs. The biggest I have ever seen, and I have seen some big fish: Muskie, Sailfish, Salmon, and nothing ever replaces the memory of that day. Though it’s also nice to have two witnesses to back me up.

Not just another fish story from the Squirrell’s Nest at Big Bear Outfitters – Nova Scotia your fishing and hunting guides and outfitters. Story by Brian “Bear” Squirrell your fishing and hunting guide at

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