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.
This 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 dont know about the Chippewa Flowage despite my regular pilgrimages over the
past 10 years.
With 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.
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 Mikes 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.
After what seemed like days, the net was free
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
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."