Ed Beers’ first three hours of musky fishing may have produced the largest musky to have been caught from the storied St. Lawrence River in 50 years.
Beers, 39, a longshoreman from Port Newark, New Jersey, was fishing with Captain Bob Walters of Water Wolf Charters on Tuesday, November 30, when he hooked a musky that later measured 59 inches and carried a 28-inch girth. Though they tried to release it, the fish died and pulled the scales to 56 pounds.
“I have watched the musky catch for years and years, and this fish, as far as I know, is the largest to come out of this river in 50-plus years,” said Dave Berger, who used to own the 1000 Island Bait Store in Alexandria Bay, New York.
Beers was joined by friends Robert Kalesnik of Keyport, New Jersey, and Frankie DeFelice of Old Bridge, New Jersey, aboard Walters’ boat. “We’ve been fishing with Bob for salmon and brown trout in Lake Ontario for the past four years and this year we booked four days to musky fish. Robert and Frankie said I could have the first strike since this was my first musky trip,” Beers said.
About 10:50 that morning, the 59-incher struck an 8-inch Believer rigged with a Williams Whitefish spoon in “Berger King” fashion. “I won’t put a Believer in the water unless it’s got a spoon on it, unless it’s a 13-inch Believer,” explained Walters. “It looked like [the musky] hit the Believer. It had the Believer in the side of its mouth with the spoon in the bottom of its mouth.”
Walters said the rig was being trolled 165 feet behind the outside planer board. A 2-ounce sinker and 3 1/2-foot wire leader took the rig to depth.
Walters has used underwater video cameras to experiment with his rigs. “This is how I perfect my patterns with the Berger King rig,” he explained. “I want the spoons climbing and diving. They don’t just spin. I work with the camera all the time so I know what my spoons are doing.”
Apparently, Walters’ rig was exactly what the giant musky wanted.
“I just happened to be in the back of the boat when the strike came. It was a heck of a fight,” said Beers. “He immediately pulled out to about 340 feet and when we got it to about 200 feet we saw him come to the surface and start rolling. I got it to 92 feet and then it took off to 150 feet and jumped. About a quarter of its body came out of the water and once we got him into the net the line snapped because it hit his teeth.”
Walters, who said the largest muskies in his boat prior to this had measured 57 inches, said he thought this fish would measure 55 to 57 inches when he first saw it. He said he did not realize how big the musky was until he measured it.
The rolling during the fight proved to be the fish’s undoing. “It rolled so hard it had 12 to 15 wraps around its head and gillplate,” Walters said. “When we got it into the boat I started to cut the line off and then I had to get the hooks off. It was really hooked up. I told Ed we were going to have an awful hard time getting the fish back. She couldn’t breathe at all when she was wrapped up. I have a washdown pump to wash out the boat and put the hose into the fish’s mouth. Another charter captain taught me that to revive fish, and the fish will accept it. I picked her up and put it back in the water and worked with it. I finally released her and she went belly-up immediately. We worked with it and worked with it and she just didn’t want to go back down.”
Walters said the fish was weighed on a digital scale with a cradle-like net at over 60 pounds. Subtracting the net’s weight put the fish’s weight at 56 pounds. “We didn’t weigh it ‘officially’ because I didn’t think to do it because I’ve never done one before,” Walters said. “We are a catch and release program. Every fish we catch goes back.”
About the fish dying, Walters said, “You get an empty feeling. You’re excited about a 59-inch fish but then it’s dead and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
The musky was the 100th in Walters’ boat since he began chartering for muskies in 2002. “I fish into December all the time. My quest is to break the world record, and I think we are going to do it sometime in the next five years. The St. Lawrence will break the world record because the amount of baitfish has just exploded. I know the fish are there. It should come,” he said.
Beers, the first-time musky fisherman, is now hooked on the sport. “It was absolutely amazing. I will come back every year, now,” he said.
For more information about Water Wolf Charters or to view some of Walter’s underwater strike footage, visit www.stlawrencemuskiefishing.com.