The One That Got Away - "What Muskie?"
If a picture is worth a thousand words, than would a thousand words be worth a picture?
I think we are all very fortunate to live in the age of social media. Everyday moments and encounters can be quickly captured and broadcasted with just a few swipes on our smart devices. Throughout the world, anglers are able to upload photos and quick captions about the fishing in their area. If the fishing was bad, you can almost bet on a few pictures of the sunset. If it was good, you can rest assured it will be posted with quite a few hashtags attached to it.
I spent this past weekend like many others, fishing. I was pre fishing for a tournament for the MidAtlantic Kayak Bass Fishing Series. I am fairly familiar with the waters but didn’t want to leave anything to chance. Most of the day was spent paddling and graphing. I would find a spot that looked promising and fish it hoping to get a quick bite. If I got bit, I would set my way point and move on. If not, I would make a note of it and maybe try it again later in the day.
I knew a few guys that were on the lake that day pre fishing for the same tournament. One of them was my good friend and longtime fishing buddy Chuck Bieller. We started kayak fishing together in 2005 and every time we hit the water, there is always a little friendly competition. Fellow Wilderness Systems Pro Staffer Jeff Little was also there. We stayed in constant contact trying to figure out what the fish were doing.
The fish have been relating to sparse grass on points in about 17 feet of water. After fishing at that depth for quite some time, I think we all realized they have moved a little deeper. Around 11:00 am, we all met up on a large island in the middle of the lake. This particular island has a good grassy point that has deep water all around it and usually holds fish.
I believe Jeff was throwing a black chatterbait, Chuck was fishing a drop shot and I had a swing head football jig tied on with a Gene Larew Biffle Bug trailer. I started casting from 18 feet of water in to deeper water on top of the point. As time went on I inched my way out deeper and deeper.
I was sitting in about 25 feet of water and was casting into about 40 feet of water and slowly dragging the bait back to my Wilderness Systems ATAK. Jeff broke the silence by commenting on a fish he marked on his depth finder. “That’s a musky that has to be a musky down there” Jeff said with certainty. I looked over at him and then got back to dragging my Biffle Bug along the bottom.
Minutes after that comment, I hooked into something huge! “There he is,” I yelled with excitement. The fight was on. After a few minutes, Chuck began to pedal closer in curiosity. The fish was pulling me around like it was nothing. I was hoping for a monster bass but as the fight went on I started to think maybe it was a catfish.
I finally got the beast to the surface and see it was neither a bass nor a catfish. It was a musky. As I struggled to land the beast, Jeff paddled over to give assistance. I have never caught a musky before so I didn’t know what to expect. I knew it was a good fish when Jeff commented that this fish was over 40” and fat.
As we attempted to land the fish, it thrashed its head and wrapped my fishing line around my anchor line. As the fish attempted to swim back to freedom, I could hear my fluorocarbon grind around my paracord anchor rope. I slowly reeled the beast back up and I was astonished to see him come back to the surface. It was only a matter of time before the friction would render the fluorocarbon useless and it would just snap.
Jeff quickly got into position and attempted to apply his Boga Grips to land the fish with ease. As he reached down to grip the fish, it lunged at him and headed back down into the lake. There was no way I was going to get this fish back up without snapping my line. I was wrong again.
The fish surfaced one last time and Jeff was finally able to get his grips on the fish. We were both able to take a breath before starting the photo process. This was a good fish and my first musky so getting the picture was the only thing on my mind. We transferred the fish to my grips and got set up for a few good pictures. I wrapped the bungee strap around the grip handles to ensure they wouldn’t open. I do this with my bass as well so I can allow them to swim and there is no risk of the grips to open.
As Jeff pulled his camera out of his dry bag, the fish made one last head shake. If I close my eyes, I can watch the whole event unfold. It was like everything happened in slow motion. The beast came loose from my grips and paused in the water for a moment. After a few swipes of its tail, the fish was headed back down to the depths below.
I sat there in shock. For the rest of the day I just wondered how I tell this story. Fish stories are told every day. Some are true and some are not. We believe most of them and the ones that are hard to believe are usually missing one thing: A photograph. I finished out the day fishing with Chuck. I would bring the musky up from time to time and couldn’t stop thinking about not getting that photo. Chuck couldn’t do anything but look over at me with a smile and say, “what musky?”