When Opportunity Knocks
By Craig Sandell @ 2019

If you hadn’t noticed, this season has had some crazy weather conditions; from late ice out to wildly fluctuating heat, cold and rain.

Those crazy weather conditions greeted me as I arrived at Indian Trail Resort on the Chippewa Flowage on June 11th. I thought that waiting a couple of weeks to embark on my regular yearly visit would give the water and the weeds a chance to recover from the late ice out, but mother nature was not cooperating. The weed growth was 3 weeks behind and the water temperature was still in the lower 60s during the day with the cold nights sucking out the daytime heating from the water.

Musky were being caught, but the fish were still in their post-spawn funk so there was no pattern. The only lure the fish seemed to go after was a black bucktail with an orange blade and then not always.

My good friend Rob Meusec joined me for a about a week of hard fishing. During the week, Rob was lucky enough to have an encounter with a couple of nice fish, but nothing in the boat…just disappointment.

The fish that were being caught seemed to be caught in the early evening, so hitting the water abound 5:30pm and fishing until 9:30pm was the window most of the Musky anglers at the resort adopted; myself included. After Rob left, I worked the evening window myself.

It was the evening of June 25th, as I meandered down to the dock around 5:30pm. I had checked the weather on the Internet and things looked to be uneventful weather wise; so, it was a surprise when I looked to the West and saw a healthy storm hanging on the horizon. From the looks of the storm front, I figured that I had about 10 minutes before the storm broke to try my luck.

There is a lot of good water only minutes from Indian Trail Resort. I hopped in the boat and motored a couple of minutes to one of those spots…a spot that I had had success in the past.

As I lowered my bow mount trolling motor, I could see the storm was inching its way closer. Undaunted, I picked up my bucktail rod that was loaded up with a black bucktail with an orange blade and started to search for an active Musky. As I came up on some emergent weeds after about 5 casts, I felt the lure stop…I set the hook but there didn’t seem to be any weight pulling back. I figured that I had likely hooked a Northern that was mired in the weeds.

I began to play the fish when suddenly there was some healthy resistance being offered by this still unseen adversary. The amount of resistance convinced me that I had a Musky; how big I did not know.

During the fight with the fish, I could see the storm getting closer. I could hear distant thunder and the smell of rain was in the air. The fish finally made an appearance and I could see that it was a respectable fish that had the treble hooked in the fleshy side of the fish’s mouth.

Because the water was still in the mid-60s, the Musky was aggressive. I knew that I had to be careful not to “horse” him. The Musky inspected the bottom of the boat and I gave it line being careful to keep the line tight. He did a tour around the boat and he also jumped out of the water shaking his head attempting to throw the hook.

I was talking to fish as he continued to try to free himself…encouraging him to behave himself. He was beginning to settle down, so I reached for the net. Of course, the fish decided to make another run as I got the net in hand. I dropped the net and turned my attention back to fighting the Musky.

He began to settle down again and as I reached for the net, I realized that the webbing was tangled with a lure that was on another rod. Damn, now I had to free the net while still fighting the fish. To complicate matters, the storm was inching closer and the thunder as no longer in the distance.

I managed to free the net and got ready to try to lead the Musky into the net. After what seemed like forever, I had the musky in the net. The lure came out of the fish’s mouth and hung up in the net. I had to be careful to avoid hooking myself as I wrestled with the Musky to remove him from the net to take a picture and a measurement. The fish did manage to cut a couple of my fingers with his gill rakers…I was bleeding like a stuck pig as I measured the 35 inch fish on the bump board and snapped a quick photo.

I put the fish in the water for what I hoped would be a quick release, but the fish had other ideas. I spent time hanging over the gunwale and coaxing the musky to be on his way. By this time the storm was just about on me. I could feel the rain beginning and the thunder continued to threaten.

Finally, the fish began to tense its tail an after a little tap on the head, he was on his way. I hurried to pull up the trolling motor and get back to the resort. I had a boat towel wrapped around my fingers to keep the blood from soiling me and the boat as I made my way back to the dock.

The whole adventure took only 15 minutes although it seemed like an hour. I got back to the dock as the storm broke. I was wet, bleeding and shaking from an abundance of adrenaline but I had a fish to register on the Musky chart and claim a button for my hat proclaiming that “I caught Mine At Indian Trail Resort”.

Tight Lines