Sometimes It’s Not Really Fishing
By Craig Sandell © 2009

Early June can produce some great Musky action but, in general, it requires a tougher and more thoughtful approach.

My good friend and fishing partner, Rob Meusec, and I hit the water in early June to test our Musky skills. The water temperature had been hovering around the mid 60's and other fish species were in a ‘boom and bust’ cycle. The weeds were still sub-surface in depths from 3 to 5 feet and Musky were being caught on all of the Musky lure categories.

In these types of conditions, Musky anglers are keen to discover a pattern to Musky movements and feeding preferences hoping that this will give them an edge on the water. Accomplished Musky anglers will re-visit areas where they have had success in the past. Rob and I had decided to engage this type of ‘search and catch’ approach. We visited deep water connections, drop offs next to isolated bars and shoreline connected shelves at different times during the day.

We did enjoy some action with this approach but the fish had been hitting short and we did not have any fish in the boat as we pulled up on an area known as ‘The 3 Sisters’ during the late morning on June 12th. Being a regular on the Chippewa Flowage, I was very familiar with this area. This area had a reputation of ‘turning on’ in late summer and early fall but without an established pattern, all areas were in play.

We started our slow methodical fishing effort in front of the first sister positioning ourselves to be able to pass lures over a variety of depths from 11 to 3 feet. We each were changing lure types to be sure that we were covering the whole water column.

Rob was using a Hawg Wobbler when a respectable Musky came up behind the lure and displayed some fleeting interest in the lure but did not really make a serious move on the lure. We tried a few more casts in the area but could not re-interest the Musky.

We continued to move the boat to cover the rest of the area around the 2nd sister and then we circled back to the area where we raised the Musky, giving the water about a 30 minute rest. Rob was throwing a bucktail and I was throwing a Best American Crawler. As I retrieved the lure, I noticed some movement at the surface of the water as our Musky displayed some interest in the lure but again, did not strike. We were in about 4 feet of water and I could see the fish sitting near the bottom sort of sunning itself. We tried a few more casts but we could not interest our Musky quarry. As Rob and I moved off to fish other areas, we resolved to re-visit the area again later in the day when the sun was not as high in the sky. This was the moment when this became a hunt.

After taking a mid-day break, Rob and I hit the water again about 6:30pm. We fished a couple of spots as we made our way back to ‘The Sisters’. We pulled up on the spot as the sun was inching its way lower in the sky. Rob started casting a Best American Crawler as we entered the zone where we had seen the Musky earlier in the day. After about 15 minutes of casting, I saw our Musky come up behind Rob’s lure and assault it…the fight was on.

The fish hit about 15 feet from the boat in about 6 feet of water and immediately went down thrashing its head trying to free itself from the Owner™ hooks of the Crawler. As it breached the surface, I could see that the fish was connected to the rear treble. The fish was still green when Rob brought it within netting distance. I began to move the net toward the fish when it made another run. As I moved the net away from the water, the handle bumped into an unused rod with a bucktail parked into one of the rod’s eyelets. The rod fell on the floor of the boat and as luck would have it, one of the exposed trebles snagged onto one of Rob’s shoe laces. I dropped the net, got a compound bolt cutter and freed Rob’s shoe from the hook.

Rob continued to fight the Musky for a couple more minutes. He finally coaxed it back into netting distance and as he brought the fish to me, I scooped the fish into the net and the fight was over. Rob and I howled our excitement and then Rob began to free the fish from the lure and the lure from the net. The fish measured in at 40 inches. I snapped a photo or two and then Rob set about releasing the fish into the shallow area in front of the 2nd Sister.

We started out fishing for Musky and ended up hunting. After locating this fish, we had high confidence that the area held the fish and our casting approach reflected that confidence. A valuable lesson in Musky fishing was learned as was the importance of having the right tool available for those ‘unforeseen circumstances’.

Tight Lines