There Is No Substitute For A Good Net Man
By Craig Sandell © 2009

This story starts on September 10, 2009. That was the first day of the Chippewa Flowage Musky Hunt Tournament. I don’t do tournaments, but this tournament is probably the best organized Musky tournament and the ‘Invitation Only’ registration does serve to keep the tournament a “family affair”…But I digress.

The weather this September was beautiful unless you are fishing for Musky. The Blue Bird skies and very warm days made fishing tough.

The first day of the tournament, my fishing partner Rob Meusec and I didn’t see a fish. We were not alone and the expectation for the tournament turned to the next tournament day.

On the second day, Rob and I were camped out on our first spot at 5:30am. At 6:00am we started casting the isolated group of islands with a couple of surface baits. About 10 minutes into our slow troll, we had a Musky blow up on my black globe…it did not come back for a second try. About 10 minutes later, in a different section of the island complex, Rob had a Musky swirl at the boat on his creeper. About 20 minutes later, in another section of the island complex, Rob had a follow on the bucktail that he was now offering. We worked this area for another hour without any more action…Long story short, we did not produce a fish for the tournament, but we did have Musky sightings.

Over the next week and a half, we revisited that island complex at many different times during the day without a fish in the boat.

We need to talk about the patio outside the bar at Indian Trail Resort. In the evening, the patio is a bonding place for Musky anglers. There, you can hear stories of fish caught and lost. As I was sitting on the patio, I noticed an old bucktail without a blade that appeared to be discarded. I had noticed this errant bucktail on a couple of other nights and after I was sure that no one was going to do anything with it, I picked it up and decided to re-shaft it and add a green blade to compliment the thick black hair of the bucktail.

The next day, almost a week and a half after raising fish on our island complex, we pulled up on the spot about 6:30pm. Rob was throwing a surface lure and I decided to toss the “patio bucktail”. About 10 minutes into our casting exercise, a Musky came up behind my lure and aggressively stopped the lure in its tracks. I could see the fish roll on the bucktail about 20 feet from the boat. I could feel the weight of the fish and commented to Rob that it was a bit of a beast. Well, the battle was on and the Musky charged the boat, did a little dance on the surface and then allowed me to lead it toward Rob who was ready with net in hand.

As I brought the fish boat side, I could see that the line was wrapped around its gill plate and the line was also in its teeth. Then it happened…the line broke. My heart fell to my feet as I stood there helpless watching the Musky hang boat side with a lure in its mouth but free of the line. About that time, I saw Rob out the corner of my eye as he lunged over the side of the boat with net in hand. He made a couple of swipes with the net and, as luck would have it, his effort resulted in a fish in the net.

42 Inch Musky

As you might suspect, Rob and I were pumped. We were both riding the adrenalin roller coaster and as we worked to free the fish and get a measurement and a couple of pictures, we both shuttered from the experience.

With the Musky back in the water and on its way to fight another day, Rob and I sat down in the boat trying to collect ourselves. Neither of us could really grasp what had just happened.

When we got back to Indian Trail to register the fish and 'hob nob with our fellow Musky wizards' and it was then taht the adventure took on another twist. It turns out that the patio bucktail had been hanging around for about 5 years. John Dettloff had found it inside a dead Musky and kept it around just because it was unusual.

You learn a little bit from every fish you catch and every fish you lose. In this case, there were many lessons.

  • Once you find a fish, keep on hunting even though it may seem futile.

  • Don't throw away those battle weary lures.

  • There is no substitute for a good net man.

Tight Lines