Using Markers Can Make A Difference
Craig Sandell 2010


This September day in 1999 started with the promise of a productive Muskie hunt. The overcast was thick, the West wind had the water just choppy enough and the water temperature had the Muskies prowling the bars in predictable patterns.

The early evening light set the fall colors of the trees aglow as my fishing partner, John Dettloff, and I slid quietly onto an extensive bar. The bar was heavily populated with stumps and had water ranging in depth from 7 feet, at the edge of the channel drop-off, to 4 feet in the center of the bar. The deep water on three sides of the bar made this particular piece of structure prime Muskie water.

The Muskie had been hitting on surface baits in the evening, so we outfitted our rigs with a globe and a wobbler and proceeded to work the bar. The weight of our lures stripped the 40 pound test white micron line from our reels resulting in long casts into the center of the bar.

Marker the LineWe were covering a lot of water with our long casts and our expectations were high that we would produce a Muskie. We were not disappointed. About 20 feet from the boat a Muskie rose, snapping at John's wobbler and churning the water into a foam as he rolled in the light chop. The Muskie hit short however, and didn't feel a hook. In an almost automatic action, a marker made its way over the side of the boat to mark the general area of the sighting. We continued to work our way along the edge of the bar toward the deep water drop-off. Ten minutes later it happened again. A Muskie followed my globe arching his dorsal fin out of the water as he lunged for my lure. This Muskie turned out to have the same failing coordination as the previous fish. As with the other Muskie, this fish didn't feel a hook either. Another marker was dispatched over the side to mark this sighting as well. We continued to work the edge of the bar toward the deep channel drop-off.

After covering the deep water edge, we turned our attention back to the edge of the bar we had just covered. Our markers, bobbing up and down in the chop, clearly marked our pervious line of assault. The markers provided a visible reference for our return casting attack. We started a slow troll back toward our markers casting over, what was then, used water. Using overlapping casting patterns, we cross-hatched our way back down the edge of the bar. As twilight set in, the September sky ignited in a palette of fall colors. We were the only boat on the immediate structure. The serenity of the evening, along with the singing of our reels, was almost hypnotic. We were about 15 feet away from one of our markers when an irregular bulge appeared behind the globe I was retrieving. I resisted the urge to slow down my retrieve as I anxiously watched the bulge behind my lure get closer. In an instant, all of my Muskie hunt preparations passed before my mind's eye. If I'd had more time, I probably would have worried about it but, thankfully, there wasn't. There was only time now to react to the Muskie that raised its head out of the water and lunged at the "defenseless" globe.

Lady luck was on my side this September evening. As I felt the Muskie strike I set the hook and the game was afoot. The initial excitement of a Muskie on my line turned into a feeling of dread. This Muskie was not coming out of the water. He was heading for the bottom, and I could imagine the crafty devil searching for a stump to wrap my line around and thereby accomplish his escape. With my rod tip held high I coaxed the Muskie toward the boat. The net was at the ready waiting to embrace him. With the exception of a swirl or two, we still hadn't seen this Muskie. As he approached the boat he decided to make a tour of the area. Luckily, I had found time to loosen my drag causing the line to be grudgingly freed from my reel. As he got close to the boat again, he decided to inspect the bottom of the boat, causing me to follow him with my rod tip. Finally, my Muskie opponent made his appearance at the side of the boat. With the low light conditions, I couldn't tell how big he was but I knew that he was "respectable".

John netted the Muskie without further incident. As I released the tension on the line, the hooks came free from the Musky's jaw. Keeping him and the net in the water, we prepared to measure and release this Muskie to fight another day. He measured in at 38 inches. We took a picture and sent him back to the safety of the stained water.

The key to this Muskie catch was the use of markers. Without markers we would not have been able to accurately retrace our path back to the proximity of our Muskie sightings. Many Muskie hunters say that they don't like using markers for fear that markers will disclose an area of high Muskie potential to the general fishing public. Perhaps that fear is well founded, however, using markers in the manner described in this article can increase your chances of hooking up with a reluctant Muskie that would otherwise have been a sighting story rather than a catch. Using markers wisely can increase your productivity and provide you the ability to stalk a Muskie rather than to just fish for him.