One Hour, One Spot, One Fish!!!

By Craig Sandell 2006

A large part of the Muskie fishing adventure is the chance to renew old friendships. During my regular visits to the Chippewa Flowage, I have been very fortunate to meet and fish with some really great people. This year I hooked up with Brian Rittmueller and Mike Szczepanske for a morning Muskie adventure.

Low WaterThis September the Chippewa Flowage was showing the effects of a very drought like summer. In fact, the Chippewa Flowage water level was down about 3.5 feet from its normal level exposing stumps, rock humps and sand bars not normally visible.  Although the low water level made navigation very dangerous, it also allowed a glimpse beneath the surface and provided a fresh perspective. All too often we begin to take a body of water for granted thinking we have a good grasp of the water. My September trip demonstrated to me that there is a lot I don’t know about the Chippewa Flowage despite my regular pilgrimages over the past 10 years.

MapWith this backdrop, we set out before sun up in search of Mr. Muskie. With Brian at the helm, we motored past the Dangerous Rock Bars and Willow Island down the slot to a series of islands known as the 3 sisters. As you can see from the map relief at the right, the sisters is a prime Muskie location. It is surrounded by deep water and has a multitude of subsurface structure making it a real Muskie haunt.

Any of you who fish with more than two Muskie anglers in a boat know how important it is to have accomplished Muskie anglers with you. With three Muskie anglers aggressively casting lures, the air is filled with wood and pointed steel so everyone has to know what they are doing. Indeed, there is a certain rhythm that develops as the hunt progresses. And so it was with us this September morning.

The time of year coupled with the warm weather and low water had the Muskie liking surface lures. We all installed a surface lure onto to our rods and began the casting ballet familiar to all Muskie anglers. Mike was throwing a water thumper, Brian a creeper and I was tossing a globe. In no time, the water was beat to a froth as the lures plopped, popped and gurgled their way through the water.

As we cast our way around the structure we reminisced about prior seasons. It is always a great experience to have other Muskie anglers share their adventures on the water. Muskie anglers will get philosophical, comical, and serious during these ‘bonding sessions’ and we were no exception.

mike39.JPG (22457 bytes)We worked over that piece of structure up one side and down the other. We threw next to stumps, over weed beds and uptight to shore. We were all confident that this spot held a fish; all we had to do was find him. As Brian repositioned the boat for another pass at a high potential piece of structure, Mike commented that he had never caught a Muskie on a water thumper. Well that was probably just what the Muskie spirts were waiting to hear. As we all were finishing off our retrieves at about the same time, a Muskie came up from under the boat and exploded all over Mike’s water thumper.

With Mike fully occupied with a thrashing and jumping boat side Muskie, Brian passed the net back to me while he got the trolling motor up and secured his rod. As you might suspect, things were pretty intense with Mike caught in the heat of battle. As Brian passed me the net, I let the bag drop a bit and the net got caught up on some lures on the boat floor. Now here is poor Mike being pulled all over the boat waiting for the net while Brian and I tried to untangle the morass of lures and net.

mike39r.JPG (9696 bytes)After what seemed like days, the net was free…I positioned myself close to Mike waiting for the opportunity to position the net under the Muskie and bring the battle to a successful close. All of a sudden it was all over. The Muskie was in the net, and the post catch routine began. While Mike sought to free the Muskie from the lure, Brian stood by with the tool kit and I got out a camera to document the catch. Mike got the fish free and it measured out at 39 inches. It was skinny for a 39 incher but it still likely went about 17 pounds. We got a picture or two and then the fish was on his way.

As you might suspect, we were all pretty pumped by the experience. Muskie fishing is among the few sports where the bystanders have as rich an experience as the person catching the Muskie. As we prepared to move onto our next morning spot, Brian looked down at his watch and commented: "One Hour, One Spot, One Fish."