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National fishing tournament helped kickstart Walleye Weekend more than four decades ago

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Posted at 5:48 PM, Jun 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-13 01:55:06-04

FOND DU LAC, Wis. (NBC 26) — Thousands of people were in Fond du Lac all weekend for its 43rd annual Walleye Weekend.

But the festival did not start its yearly tradition on its own.

As folks enjoy themselves at Lakeside Park, hundreds of fishermen are reeling in their best catch on Lake Winnebago for cash and prizes.

"No pressure," Mercury National Walleye Tournament director Ken Krueger said. "It's all about the fun."

The fishermen are competing in the walleye tournament, a tradition that's been around for 44 years — before Walleye Weekend began.

"The walleye tournament started the whole thing," Krueger said.

Krueger says families of the fishermen gathered for grill-outs during the tournament.

And the festival just kept getting bigger.

"Now, there's over 20 organizations that are benefitting from Walleye Weekend, getting donations towards their specific groups," Krueger said.

It's safe to say if there was no walleye tournament, Walleye Weekend probably wouldn't be where it is today.

"It's a great partnership," Fond du Lac Festivals executive director Peter Wilke said.

Walleye Weekend has grown to feature live music, fun rides, and dog dock diving.

"What people love most about Walleye Weekend is it's a tradition," Wilke said. "It's a tradition for a lot of families that have been doing this for 40+ years."

A tradition that families of all types can enjoy, thanks to some fishermen more than four decades ago.

Krueger says each team's entry fee in the tournament is donated to help preserve the walleye population.

Thousands of dollars have been raised over the years.