New Guy In The Boat Reprise!
By Craig Sandell © 2017

In 2006, my good friend Rob and I set out to introduce our good friend Dave Wittrock to the adventure that is Musky fishing.

Dave had gotten a new lease on life by virtue of a liver transplant. Dave’s circumstance encouraged him to adopt the approach to his new life to ‘not put anything off until tomorrow when it can be done today’. Dave had always talked about Musky fishing with Rob and me but never seemed to make the connection until then.

Back then, Dave was only a spectator in the boat as he watched me catch a 37” Musky; thereby re-enforcing the belief that there always seems to be action in the boat when a New Guy is on the water for his first time.

Fast forward 11 years to today. I invited Dave to come and fish with me again, in hopes that he would stick a fish this time. Rob was not available to be part of the adventure this time, so it was only Dave and me in the boat.

I spent a little time with Dave going over how to net a fish and then we set out on the hunt. The weather was not cooperating as the rain had raised the water level on the Chippewa Flowage to a bit over full. In addition, our first day on the water had us braving 25 MPH winds and 5' rollers that were bouncing us as we moved from spot to spot. That first day resulted in no fish, sore butts and the loss of a net to the windy bouncing conditions.

The next day we drove over to Jenk's Bait & Tackle to get a new net and then stopped for breakfast at the Robbin's Nest and then it was back on the water. We pulled up on an isolated weed bar topping out at 3' surrounded by deep water. We were protected for the continuing gusty wind, thereby allowing me to use the front trolling motor to methodically cover the weed bar. We were both throwing Janney Tails.

We worked over the bar for about an hour when Dave had a hit on his lure about 25' from the boat. I had Dave using an Okuma reel mounted on the Tackle Industries Rod. Dave did not set the hook the same way that a seasoned Musky angler would, but the rod has a bit of a rebound characteristic that has the effect of helping to set the hook. Dave kept his cool during the short battle as I encouraged him to keep his rod tip high and maintain a tight line. As the fish got close to the boat, I could see that it was a beefy fish but it was hooked in the fleshy side if the mouth by only one of the rear trebles.

The fish was "green" as Dave brought the fish boat side. I was anxious to get the fish in the net but when the fish approached the net it bolted; thrashing the water and making another run. Dave was doing a great job as he calmly dealt with the reaction of the fish and a few moments latter the fish was again boat side. Recognizing that the fish was still green, I put the net in the water as deep as I could so that I could simply raise the net as Dave maneuvered the fish to me.
Success!!! The fish was in the net and it was still hooked in the side of the mouth but the hooks were embrangled in the net webbing.

I told Dave to give me the fish-pic and the hook-outs. I slid the fish-pic in the fish's lower jaw allowing me to gain control of the fish as I freed the lure from the fish and the net. I kept the fish-pic in the fish's mouth as I removed the fish from the net for a bump board measurement and then handed the 37" Musky to Dave for a photo.

After the picture, I took the fish from Dave and put the fish in the water; holding onto the tail as I slid the fish-pic out of the fish's mouth. Since the fish was green, it only took a short time before the fish was revived and on its way.

Dave and I celebrated and then Dave turned to me and said "lets do that again".

Once we calmed down from the adventure and got the boat back in order, we continued our quest for another Musky encounter. We fished the rest of the day and into the evening but we did not see another fish.

As the light got thin and the sun made its way beneath the tree line, we took a few moments to reflect on the day as we enjoyed the the sunset.