Let’s Have Fun Out There
“A good fisherman has fun, the best fisherman has the most fun.” . . . Aunt Bea 2003
By: Richard A. Minich
Muskies for Young Persons (Part one of three)
The Muskie Hunter is on a quest for the trophy of a lifetime. He needs to overcome great odds. A need, causing the hunter to be disdainful of dinks and impatient with partners not similarly afflicted, that threatens to take the benefit to the body, mind, and spirit out of fishing. You’ve seen the ones out there scowling in concentration, coming over the radio to threaten anyone they perceive to have cut them off, “If you ever cut me off again, I’ll rip your blankety-blank face off.” They bear down on the “spot on the spot” with intent to ram those ahead in line on the car wash. They stop right next to your boat, thrash the water with a peppering of casts, destroy your rhythm and reverie, and roar off to the next hot spot. These guys need to lighten up and remember the days when they enjoyed time on the water. How to do this? Take a young or inexperienced person out for some Muskie magic. Watching a guest have the fun of that first toothy critter can bring back the significance of the sport I had a great year a few years back, my best ever. In July I caught a fifty-inch river fish that was a snake, but long. The fish probably weighed in the low twenties. Then in October, on the day that sunset and moonrise, were almost simultaneous, I caught the fish of a lifetime, she was fifty three inches and had eaten a Vietnamese potbellied pig just before I caught her. She weighed twice what the fifty-incher weighed. The feeling I had then was unlike any other and ranked with life affirming experiences like the birth of a child. I didn’t care whether I caught one for the rest of the season. I floated through that whole winter. I know trophy fish can be satisfying. I don’t mean to put down the guys who still seek that horse, slob, or monster. Taking a child out for a shot at a ski is problematic for several reasons. Casting, as done by Muskie fishermen, requires an energetic and fatiguing approach that is unsuited to the young, old and infirm. The lures are big and heavy. The rods and reels subject to backlash without a lot of practice. The situation can be dangerous with Suicks and Bobbie’s flying off in the wrong directions. It’s too difficult, and the guide is likely to get cranky when the inevitable mistakes are made. Trolling for the big ones suspended over deep water is time consuming and takes hours of steady work and concentration to get a strike. Again, this is inappropriate, for the most part. Live bait fishing with big suckers is a possibility, but has a tendency to be a strictly seasonal fall pattern when the young folks are busy with school, sports, music lessons, friends, etc. What is the answer? Two kinds of trolling still present the possibility for action and can be done with a restless child or newby Muskie hunter. Short-line trolling in the summer months and bottom bouncing flats in the spring will bring in marauding male s and the odd upper forty-inch female. Casting for pike is another possibility that has the added bonus of the odd smallmouth or largemouth bass. And even an exploding musky unfortunately, here the Muskie may break the line faster that a man can react. Early in the season before the weeds are up it is easy to entice Northern Pike in the marinas, emerging weed beds, and shoreline riprap. This is ideal fishing for kids, the casting lures are lighter, and the strikes can be seen. The excitement is heart pounding and the occasional Muskie joins the party. When things get boring, go for Pike and wait for the adrenaline to flow. Steve and I were waiting for Bill and Cy one day last fall. They were late and I was puttering in the boat. Steve pushed the stern into the marina channel and began casting for Pike. This time of year is usually too weedy to be productive but he was watching his casts and picked up a 14-inch Pike followed by a 23-incher and then out of the depths came a Muskie that snapped the lure off and disappeared below. I didn’t see this fish but heard the splash. Wow. That’s the only problem with this pattern, to use gear light enough to not affect the lure action on Pike, one is vulnerable to break off by s. Bill Roeser’s son is a young man who can outcast the pros, having won the NMA picnic’s annual casting contest over guys that thrash the water all season. They had been trying for s with no luck for a long morning. As the afternoon wore on, they moved into the shallows edging the marina and Kelly picked up several Pike. Then out of nowhere he too got the big Muskie bite. Sometimes you can do best not trying so hard. Pike will get the young person that exposure to Esox slime that infects the blood.
Muskies for Young Persons (Part 2) Bottom bouncing spring flats
Before a child is eighteen, she can fish on Dad’s license in Canada without a fishing license of her own. For that reason, I took my daughter along one Saturday morning, when I planned to cross to the Canadian side several times during my runs. We pounded for a while, ticking the tops of ridges and weeds with Depth Raiders. No luck. As the morning wore on the Cigarette boats and other speedsters began to fly by, two or three here, a pause, then three or four there. They were having a poker run, a recreational race, invented by the oil companies, to sell more gas. Some were too loud. They were coming upstream and we were hitting runs across current. It became time to move. I went to the deep water flats known as Eddie’s run, a good early season place before excessive boat traffic and floating weeds made it unfishable. I had resisted starting there because it was a bottom-bouncing pattern and I had only one lure that could crash bottom with out an unduly long line. It was a Legend Perch Bait. My Mundier lures, locally made deep divers, were all gone, caught on pipelines, or shipwrecks. The last one, a jointed model had come in with only the front half remaining. It now hung on the wall of fame. It was late for a start on Eddie’s, 10:30, we’d only get in three or four runs before the booze cruisers headed upriver from the marinas to the Lake. When that started, the constant boat wakes make fishing no fun. We started working, about fifteen minutes downstream, crashing bottom, trolling, then, a fast run back up to start again. The Perch Bait was bouncing bottom and the Depth Raider that was off bottom several feet. Just as we passed the mid point of the run, a fish hit and Holly grabbed the rod. In short order she boated a 35-inch male and was one happy girl. After release, we began a second run. This time the deep diver weeded up, the boat got off line, and the run was a non-starter. Back up for the third run, I got the right amount of line out, so the lure was banging bottom, but not getting hung up. I let out the second line and took the wheel back from Holly. The best speed on this downstream troll lies between 5 and 6 on the GPS. Two thirds of the way through Eddie’s run you cross the first of two underwater pipelines. These are laid in trenches on the bottom and the Muskies lay down there facing up-current and pick off good stuff swimming down stream. Both the pipeline and the Muskies eat lures. A good way to trigger a strike is to throw the boat into neutral just when you see the pipeline cut on the depth finder. That causes the lure to rise a little just as it crosses the trench, triggering strikes and coincidentally keeping the lure out of the clutches of that nasty pipeline. Fish on! The drag began to scream as Holly struck the rod and started whooping. I cleared the other line and laid out my tools for catch and release. After a spirited battle the 45-incher was boat side and I reached for it with my relatively new Beckman net. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the locking mechanism that keeps the basket fast to the handle engaged, Straight to the bottom next to the fish, there went the basket to Davy Jones locker, with my first move toward the fish. This was a problem I would experience once more until an improved design obviated this difficulty. I released the fish in the water and Holly had her best ever fish and we were out of time as far as the booze cruisers were concerned. Over the next several years Holly and I had some special times in both weekend morning and weekday evening jaunts on Eddie’s run. Over one Independence day weekend, we had a two fish night, a three fish night, and another two fish night all on the off peak times. Kids grow up and get there own lives, Holly, a college girl now, doesn’t wish to be photographed in fishing clothes and Saturday mornings are spend in dreamland. But we had some fun times as she caught lots of marauding males and learned the appreciation of Muskie fishing.. Last year my friend Steve brought his son John along for a weekday evening shot at a ski. It was getting late in the year for Eddie’s run, as the weed mats stirred up by boat traffic become a hazard around mid July. They don’t clear at all on a prevailing wind. Earlier in the month Wednesday and Thursday evenings are clear most weeks. We set out two deep divers, I’m much better equipped with lures now, adjusted for bottom crashing and began our downstream troll. Mid-run, one of the rods went off and John had his first Musky. Less than fifteen minutes of trying and he was successful. He will be disappointed if he thinks it will be that easy again, but John has a photo to show his friends. The season after I caught my personal best trophy Muskie had some rough going in it. On day two of the season, while pounding Eddie’s run with Holly, I threw a rod in my 260 Mercruiser. I was out of commission for three weeks, I went out for one run with the new engine and the Sterndrive exploded. That meant another month in the shop. I did have one good experience in between. My pal Steve’s and I got his best friend, Mike Szymoniak, A beautiful river female Muskie. That is another story.
Muskies for Young Persons (part 3),Ticking summer weed tops
Downstreaming on Eddie’s run is an early season pattern. A method for warm water trolling is short lining. Snaking weed edges, rolling over the tops of weeds or ticking the tops of ridges and hills all work. It’s hard to keep out of the weeds and short lines help when you’re always reeling them in to clean. This is an effective technique. Several years ago when my friend John Tepas had his 27 foot Stamas in the water, he and Bill Gardner and I would fish most Wednesday nights and often on either Saturday or Sunday. One Wednesday, we took out Lou Tepas, John’s son and Jason Mattina, Bill’s nephew. Both boys were nine years old. We were looking for fish for Jason’s first and Lou’s second, and trolling hard to get one. Luckily, John’s boat is a large one with a flying bridge and cabin and pilothouse so the boys, when bored, could move around a little bit and play. They were active youngsters and would have become pests if glued to their seats in a small boat. After trying several spots, we settled on a run we called Todzrip, where we ticked the tops of the mid-river ridges as we cruised over them in a perpendicular pattern. It’s a back and forth thing that requires a lot of cleaning of weeds. Luckily with three men on board we had enough workers and Bill finally got a screamer on his favorite, “Blind Willie, the one-eyed Walleye Depth Raider. Jason was young enough at the time that he needed help holding his rod tip up while fighting a forty-five and one half Muskie to the boat. She was released in good order and we were unable to get a fish for Lou that evening. Jason has since been exposed to Lake Ontario trout and Salmon action with multiple fish days and the screaming runs of King Salmon as well as the acrobatics of lake run Steelhead. Muskie fishing seems boring in comparison, but he still has a place in his heart for the big Muskies. In a horrible accident in November of 2000, my niece Jamie broke her back. She had had several operations and was facing paralysis when I went down to help out with her family’s difficulties. Jamie was in Atlanta Georgia and her three brothers were miles away in school in Americus. My mission was to help run the household while mom and dad worked with Jamie in the spinal clinic. At this time, they were trying to evaluate how bad it was and how bad it would be. Atlanta was on the way to Americus, so I stopped at the hospital to see Jamie. She was wondering where her life was going and, naturally, every one was tense and worried. When I visited her, I handed her a photo of the trophy Musky I had caught about one month earlier. She was astounded and asked why she couldn’t catch a fish like that. I promised her that she could, if she did her rehab and got herself better, we’d get her a musky next spring when the season reopened. Her father, David, told me that she needed something to strive for at that point and the idea of a big Musky provided the impetus. She arrived with her father in the early part of the next season, and the pressure was on me, put there by myself, to get her a Musky. Jamie had made remarkable progress, and while having no feeling below her hips was able to get around on crutches, and enjoy our extended family time together. We had a three day weekend to fish: all of Friday, all of Saturday and part of Sunday. I’d stuck my neck out to get her a fish and I needed to produce. Neither Jamie nor Dave put any pressure on me, but I put it on myself. With none of them being experienced, I had some trouble handling the boat and letting out lines. I ended up with tangles, lost lures boats out of control. That’s when I brought out my ace in the hole, Snooky. A regular fishing partner, Snooky knew how to handle rods, what to look for in their action, how to check if a lure is tuned, and the added bonus of an endless supply of witty conversation. We had tried Eddie’s run in the daylight hours and began trying a run up along the gas dock weed beds as dusk began to settle in. Snooky’s reel screamed. There it was Fish On! The blind willie Depth Raider had done the trick. After a good fight, Jamie reeled in her a 43-inch Musky. I do all the releasing of fish on my boat, as I have sometimes been unsatisfied with other guys work, and then I get testy. If the captain ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. Jamie peered over my shoulder as I let her fish revive and made sure it swam away in good order. She was one happy girl, but I may have been happier. We were a mutual admiration society and Snooky had played the key role. Jamie razzed me for being fussy with my brothers before we got her a fish. My behavior improved when Snooky’s favorite one-eyed Depth Raider took the pressure off. Richard A. Minich is the author of The Accidental Musky, The Quest for Girthra, and Becoming a Musky Hunter. E-mail him at email@example.com or visit the website at www.AllEsoxPublications.com