The Thrill Of The Hunt ----
Is Its Own Reward
Craig Sandell © 2012
I greeted the overcast dawn some 15 hours
earlier and had been fishing all day; a day punctuated with rain and a persistent wind.
The late June weather was unusual in that a cold snap had caused the water temperature to
plummet from 71 to 64 degrees. The Muskies, in an attempt to stay in their comfort zone,
had reversed their normal migration into deeper water and were taking up residence on the
shallow sand and weed bars. It isn't often that Muskies are so predictable. The result of
this predictability was loads of Muskie action on surface lures. I had been raising and
boating fish all week and this day had been no exception. I had two fish up snapping at my
Best American Globe, providing me some knee shaking thrills but denying me a fish in the boat.
It was getting on towards 8:30 PM and I was going to my
last fishing spot on my way back to Indian Trail Resort. I crossed a large
expanse of open water, slicing through the white cap chop, and headed toward a couple of
island bars in wind protected water. As I approached the islands I throttled back the 20
horse motor, hit the kill switch, lowered the trolling motor and got ready to finish off
the fishing day with, hopefully, a Muskie in the boat. There was another boat working the
far side of the nearby island. As I placed my net in an easy to get to location and
readied my fishing rod, I watched the other fisherman to see how well he was covering the
I reasoned that if he was not covering the area around the
island with a good overlapping casting pattern, the water he was working could hold an
overlooked Muskie. Many a Muskie fisherman has had his hopes/ego bruised by seeing another
fisherman raising and even boating a Muskie from water that he had just covered.
I started a slow troll around the island that I was
working, casting my surface bait from 12 feet of water over the top of the submerged sand
and weed bar jutting out from the tip of the island. The other fisherman was working his
way toward me and I toward him. Courtesy demanded that one of us alter our course and,
since it was obvious that the other fisherman was not an accomplished Musky
responsibility for courtesy was mine. I altered my troll so that we would miss each other
in a figure eight around the island, thereby assuring each of us some virgin water.
I crossed the shallow channel between the two islands and
moved to the deep channel side of the other island. I tossed my surface lure over the
fallen wood that fingered out from the shore line of the island. My depth finder showed me
in 10 - 12 feet of water. I was casting into 5 - 8 feet of water. My slow troll was moving
me parallel to the submerged sand and weed bar that protruded from the point of the
island. I was now fishing water that had already been covered by the other boat. In my
mind I was just going through the motions. My lure stripped the 40 LB test white micron
line from my vintage 1976 reel as I bombed casts across the point of the island. As I
reeled in the surface bait, the Best American Globe gurgled and clicked its way
over the water. I found myself fixated on the patch of blue sky winking through the
overcast. It was quiet and restful and my thoughts strayed to decisions about dinner. Half
way through my retrieve this picture of serenity was interrupted by an eruption in the
water as a Muskie exploded onto my globe. Instinct caused me to pull back on my graphite
and fiberglass rod as I felt the Muskie bang my lure. The line stayed tight and I knew
that I had him. I set the hook again for insurance and reeled in the line to maintain the
tension. I didn't know how big he was, but from his fight I felt that he was at least a
legal Muskie (34 inches). He dove straight down under the boat. I could feel him shaking
his head as he tried to throw the lure. I was consumed by the dual emotions of
exhilaration at the fight and fear that the Muskie would throw the lure before I had a
chance to even see him. As he came up from under the boat, he propelled himself out of the
water, his gills flaring and head thrashing. I couldn't tell how big he was but I did see
that I only had 1 hook in him. I knew that it was only a matter of time before he threw
the hook. With one hand firmly grasping the rod, I reached for the net. With the net in
one hand and the rod in the other, I tried to maneuver the Muskie into position. He made
another run, stripping line from the reel. I threw the net down and re-established tension
on the line. I grabbed the net again and coaxed the Muskie into position. With the rod tip
held high, I lead the Muskie into the net. Success!!
I put the rod down and, keeping the net and the
Muskie in the water, I assessed the size of my catch. He was legal but he was of a size
that demanded release. As he thrashed in the net he managed to hook himself with another
of the lure's hooks. I got my compound bolt cutters and proceeded to cut the hooks to
remove the lure as a source of potential harm for Muskie and fisherman alike. That done, I
wet my hands and secured the Muskie under the gill plate. I lifted him out of the net,
laid him on the ruler and then quickly put him back in the net and the water. He was a
healthy 36 inch Muskie and I was determined to keep him that way.
About that time the other boat that had been fishing the
island motored over to see what all of the commotion was. I asked him if he would take a
picture or two of me releasing the Muskie. He was happy to be part of the experience. I
lifted my Muskie out of the net and placed him in the water, taking care to keep him
upright. Even though he had not been out of the water very long, he was tired from the
fight. As I cradled him under the belly with one hand, my other hand had hold of his tail.
It took a few minutes, but soon I could feel strength return to his body. As his tail
movements became more exaggerated I gave him a little squeeze on the tail and off he went.
We all fish for Muskie with the hope of hooking into the
fish of a lifetime, however, there is nothing to compare to the feeling of satisfaction
one gets from a successful Muskie encounter, alone in a boat and armed only with your
I was fortunate to have picked up on the Muskie pattern of fish on sand
and weed bars in wind protected water.
I was fortunate to have taken the time to position
the net where I could have easy access.
I was fortunate to have put into practice the
knowledge from Muskie articles that preach persistence when working an area with good
potential for a Muskie.
The Muskie was fortunate to have been caught by someone with a
compound bolt cutter and a catch and release mentality.
All in all, it was an excellent
way to end a great day on the water.