The sunlight was beginning to fade, and a chill was beginning to set in as I cast my line out for what seemed like the millionth time. The last month I had become obsessed with catching a Musky. The Musky, or Muskellunge, is a large predatory fish native to the northern U.S. and Canada. They are a prized catch among anglers due to being notoriously hard to catch. Their nickname is “The Fish of Ten Thousand Casts” due to their unpredictability and because it can take people years to catch even a small one.
Casting and retrieving the lure with no bites in weeks had made me almost robotic. Cast. Retrieve. Cast. Retrieve.. Doing such a repetitive act with no form of encouragement puts you into a very monotonous state, and hooking into a big fish in that state is a great way to lose one. I knew that I was getting fed up and wondered if I would ever see the tip of my rod bend with a strike. The light was fading more and more, and I knew I was running out of time. The Musky is a sight predator, and as far as I am aware, are not active at night.
With the last light of day still present, I saw them. Two Musky swimming in shallow water, maybe 3 feet in depth. They were swimming upstream to where I was on the bank. My heart began to race and I knew if I were to have a chance this would be it.
I cast my lure in a line that would intersect where they were swimming to. Nothing. I cast again. Nothing. After dozens of more attempts and still nothing, frustration set in. Why weren’t they biting?!
I don’t know why I remembered this, but I knew from research that Muskys spawn this time of year and when they do they stop eating. In hindsight, my whole fishing excursion had been pretty much pointless because of this, and dropped my chances to essentially zero. I also knew that other fish stop eating during mating season, BUT, they will attack in defense or out of instinct.
This was it. The missing piece.
I reeled in quickly and cast again, but this time HARD. I wasn’t trying to imitate a bait fish with a loud threatening presence that could encourage a retaliatory strike. I reeled in fast and cast again. It was dark at this point but my eyes were adjusted. I had no idea where they were, or if they were even there, but I cast my lure again and again waiting for the fish I had been after for so long.
I cast again and after reeling in my lure about halfway my entire rod bent in half. FISH ON!
I knew this was it and it was a big fish! The rod I was using was really not made for this type of fight and before I could react, it snapped. I quickly reeled in my line to recover the slack from the busted rod; the fish fought hard and I could barley reel it in. And then again. SNAP. My rod had snapped again! The rod and even reel at this point were useless. I threw them down and began fighting as if using a ‘hand-line’. I wrapped the line around my arms and pulled. After about 5 minutes he broke the surface and was in shallow enough water I could pull him the rest of the way. Success!
I got him to the bank and went to remove the hook. I’m still not sure if it was a tooth or the hook, but he flung his head side to side and my thumb was sliced open. I ripped off a piece of t-shirt, wrapped my hand and got the hook out. I took a few pics and brought him back to the water.
After a big fight a fish needs time to recover, and shouldn’t just be thrown back. I supported him and pushed him back and forth to get water over the gills. After a time I let go.. he floated to one side.
I tried for almost an hour to revive the fish, but the fight was just too much.
I will always remember that fish, hee taught me a lot: how to fight a fish, hold a rod, and the importance of strong gear. The faster you get the fish in, the less stress and the easier it is on the fish.
Fishing has always been very fun to me and very enjoyable, but after catching this big one.. it’s an obsession, and for all of you who may catch a big one; let them go. Big fish are rare and should be respected. They are usually very old, and taking them as trophies is pointless. Catch and release. ESPECIALLY the big ones!
Oh, the fish was 39.5” long and 23 lbs.