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Five-year-old catches four trophy walleyes on Lake of the Woods

Maxson 31 inch walleye.JPG
Maxson Hangsleben, 5, of East Grand Forks, with the 31-inch walleye he caught Saturday, Aug. 10, on Lake of the Woods. He talked his dad, Matt, and uncle, Mike, into keeping the walleye for mounting.
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Wow.

Just wow.

That pretty much sums up the weekend of fishing 5-year-old Maxson Hangsleben, of East Grand Forks, had Friday, Aug. 9 and Saturday, Aug. 10, on Lake of the Woods, catching four walleyes measuring from 26 inches to 31 inches.

Many anglers don’t do that in a lifetime, much less a single weekend.

Especially when they’re only 5 years old.

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It all started Friday night, when Maxson released a 26-inch walleye. He followed that up the next day with walleyes measuring 26½ inches, 29 inches and 31 inches.

The 31-inch walleye will be going on the wall.

Wow.

Just wow.

“Maxson loves fishing and yes, has raised the bar very high,” his dad, Matt Hangsleben, said. “He might not have another day (or) weekend of fishing like that in his life. He is the type that will happily spend the whole day on the boat whether the fish are biting or not, and will have a line in the water every minute.”

According to Matt Hangsleben, they were pulling spinners on the mud flats of Big Traverse Bay in 34 feet of water, an area that has been kicking out a tremendous number of big walleyes in recent weeks.

Many of those walleyes have been on the upper end of the 19½- to 28-inch protected slot, fish that must be released on Lake of the Woods.

Hangsleben, whose sons Brooks, 8, and Wyatt, 9, also are avid anglers, said the boys often ask about mounting fish.

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“I tell them if they catch a 32-inch (walleye), I’ll mount it, thinking they probably never will,” Hangsleben said.

Matt’s brother, Mike Hangsleben, sweetened the deal over the weekend, saying he also would pay to mount a 32-inch walleye if one of the boys caught one.

Twenty minutes later, Maxson hooked into the 31-incher, and Mike netted the fish.

“We both burst out laughing because we thought it could be 32,” Matt said. “Max yelled, ‘We’re mounting it!’”

Mike agreed to cover half the cost since Maxson’s fish was within an inch of the magic 32-inch mark.

“Later, when he was fighting the 29-incher, I was sweating a little because it was fighting harder than the 31 did,” Matt Hangsleben said.

Not to be outdone too badly by a 5-year old, Matt released a 30½-incher Sunday, Aug. 11. Usually, he said, they catch a walleye measuring 25 inches or more every other year or so. Brooks released a 27½-inch walleye earlier this year, and Wyatt released a 27-incher last year.

This past weekend, the bar was raised to a whole new level.

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“It was pretty wild getting five (trophy-size walleyes)” in the same weekend, Matt Hangsleben said. “I usually quit fishing in August and start getting ready for bow hunting when the fish move out deep because I don’t want to downrig. But I have heard more lately about people having success with spinners out there so decided to give it a try. It was slow at times, but when we found them, they were big.

“What a weekend!” he said.

Maxson 29-inch walleye.JPG
Maxson Hangsleben, 5, of East Grand Forks, with the 29-inch walleye he caught and released Saturday, Aug. 10, on Lake of the Woods. The fish was one of four big walleyes he caught during the weekend.

Maxson 26.5 inch with brother Brooks, 8.JPG
Maxson Hangsleben, 5, East Grand Forks, holds the 26½-inch walleye he caught Saturday, Aug. 10, on Lake of the Woods. Pictured with him is his brother, Brooks, 8. Brooks had his picture in the paper earlier this spring with a 27½-inch walleye he released on Lake of the Woods, and oldest brother, Wyatt, 9, released a 27-incher last year.

Maxson Hangsleben 26 inch.JPG
Maxson Hangsleben, 5, of East Grand Forks had plenty to smile about after catching this 26-inch walleye Friday, Aug. 9, on Lake of the Woods. He didn't know it at the time, but the next day would be even better.

Related Topics: FISHINGLAKE OF THE WOODS
Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at bdokken@gfherald.com, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
What to read next
Remember no ice is 100% safe. Have a plan, carry safety equipment and let someone know where you are and when you expect to return. If possible, fish with a partner.
Show hours are noon to 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10; and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11.
Some part of my life has been spent in search of red-breasted nuthatches, especially on winter bird counts. Most winters, I was successful in finding red-breasted nuthatches. They are reliable winter visitors here.
To get an event in the Outdoors Calendar, contact Brad Dokken at (701) 780-1148, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1148 or by email at bdokken@gfherald.com. Deadline is 5 p.m. Wednesdays.