Trophy Muskie Catch

     My partner (Steve Washler) and I were fishing a steep point for walleyes and bass in 22 feet water with good success on lower Lake Minnetonka last Saturday, July 6, 2002 just southwest of Big Island when I hooked what seemed to be a very heavy fish.  I played the fish for about 15 minutes without ever knowing what I had hooked and we gradually drew a small crowd of recreational boats who had paused hoping to see what had been hooked.  The fish then made a spectacular jump, completely clearing the water, right in front of this gathering audience.  They all cheered like they were watching the 4th of July fireworks.

     I was stunned by the size of this magnificent muskie right here within eyesight of downtown Excelsior.  It was then I realized my medium sized landing net and lightweight rod/reel (6’ light casting rod, spincast reel, loaded with 8lb line with a jig/minnow) were not a good match for this fish-of-a-lifetime.  Using my electric motor, I attempted to drift the boat out over a little deeper water to keep this fish from getting buried in the heavy weeds near shore, and by some miracle, the fish cooperated.

     After ten more minutes and numerous runs and dives, the muskie came along side the boat and on the third attempt, Steve managed to get the head half of the muskie into our walleye size landing net.  He had considerable difficulty raising the net due to the muskie’s weight and as the fish and net cleared the water for all to see, the crowd began to clap and cheer again.  At that moment the aluminum landing net frame snapped in two, Steve fell backward into the boat, the muskie thrashed his head tearing a large hole in the netting, dropped back into the water and swam free.  The crowd’s cheers immediately turned to groans.  We looked at each other in disbelief for a moment, until I realized the fish was still hooked, only now the fishing line was threaded thru the hole torn in the broken landing net floating on the lake surface.  After a few frantic minutes we were able to retrieve the net and feed my rod and reel thru the hole torn in the net and resume playing the fish.

     After another 10 minutes my reel began to malfunction whenever the fish made a run until I could no longer let line out or reel line in.  I disassembled the reel cover to find my line hopelessly tangled in the spool gears, and began to play the fish with the rod in one hand and the line in my other hand.  Another 5 minutes of short runs and dives passed and by some miracle the muskie was still hooked, now tiring enough to gradually come alongside the boat at the surface.  While my hands were full with a bent over rod and bunches of fishing line, my partner attempted to grab the fish by the gill covers with his bear hands, but each time the fish thrashed and dove as soon as he felt Steve’s touch.  Finally, on the 5th pass, Steve was successful in getting a hand inside each gill cover and hoisted the muskie, falling backwards into the boat with the fish on top of him.  The small crowd went wild – seriously.

     In my lifetime, I’ve hooked and lost many fish, but I have never had as many things go wrong and somehow still manage to land the fish.  The good Lord must be credited with an assist on this one.  So does my partner, Steve, as there is no way I could have landed that fish alone, while handlining the fish.  We took a quick picture, put the muskie in the livewell, and then motored over to Maynards in Excelsior to call a friend to bring a tape measure, as we had no means of measuring a fish of this size.  As it happens, some of the crowd who had witnessed the whole battle had already gone to Maynards, and the story preceeded us to the outdoor bar.  Dozens of people came down to the boat to see the huge muskie, and I benefited from a couple of free beverages provided by our boating audience witnesses.  The best part of the whole event was listening to some of those who witnessed the whole battle, re-tell the story over and over to other patrons at the outdoor bar.  It is really joy to hook and land a great fish, but even a greater joy to have such a true classic fishing tale to tell for the rest of my life.

     Unfortunately, the muskie did not fare well from such an endurance battle and I was not able to successfully revive the huge fish to release her.  She now hangs in a place of honor in my home.  The fish is 50 inches long and from everyone’s estimate to be somewhere over 30 lbs. as I did not have a chance to get her officially weighed.