Thanks to Barry Battista for this picture of a beautiful golden rainbow trout caught opening day on Lake Glenwild in New Jersey. Barry says it was a bit chilly, but it looks to us like the fishing was well worth the extra clothes!
I’ve been told by more than a few how fishing can become an obsession. I suppose I could use myself as proof, especially if you include musky fishing.
I think it was about the time I was in the 8th grade that I had my first encounter with a musky. We were fishing on “K” (Katamahoganak) Lake in Northwest Ontario, which we had flown into for a 3 day excursion out of Nestor Falls, Ontario. My cousin Kenny had accompanied us and Dad allowed us to fish in a boat by ourselves while he and his fishing buddy, Jim, took another boat (and our guide) hoping to land a trophy or two.
Kenny and I were competent fishermen to be sure, but also somewhat “kiddish” given our ages. We tooled around the lake, occasionally dropping a line now and again, but were really more fascinated with our newfound freedom of having been assigned our very own boat and motor. We explored many small bays and reefs and only well past noon did we settle for a spot to actually fish.
We loved to cast and this reef had some nice weeds that surrounded some ledges. Probably a good spot for a northern pike or even some smallies. Using Mepps No. 4 spinners with bucktails we worked that reef from both sides, but produced only a few hang ups and no fish. Not unlike any other fishermen, we decided to make “one more cast” and then move on. Kenny tossed the reef center, I took the point. And then boom!
Just as I was about to lift my spinner into the boat the water exploded. Startled, I pulled my rod back just as I saw the biggest fish head I had ever seen. Quickly I composed myself and leaned back over the side of the boat just in time to see this monster fish’s head in the water under my side of the boat, his tail sticking out on the other side Kenny was on!
We cast again and again, but the monster never returned. When we got to the cabin we both ran up to Dad and Jim, and barely able to construct a comprehensible sentence, did our best to describe the monster fish we had seen. “Musky”, said the guide. Dad and Jim nodded affirmatively.
My encounters with muskies continued sporadically for the next few years. By my junior year in high school I was doing some guiding in the summer while in Nestor Falls and one week I had a fellow who would only fish for musky. We would get out on the lake late (he insisted musky were not “morning fish”) and fish until dusk. In that week I probably saw more musky than I had in my entire life. He was that good. And at that point I was hooked. On musky fishing.
Years passed, I married the love of my life, Dixie, and we had three beautiful daughters. But whenever I could I went back up to Nestor Falls and fished for musky. Sometimes with friends who were equally obsessed, sometimes with our daughters.
One year when our middle daughter, Jennifer, had just graduated from high school and the whole family was at our cabin outside of Sioux Narrows, Ontario on Lake of the Woods I suggest it would be a perfect time to hit some musky spots. It was mid morning and the rest of the family was content to hang around the cabin and enjoy the mild August weather. But Jennifer was game.
We loaded the boat with gear, making sure to bring the oversized musky net and an assortment of oversized spinners, jerkbaits, etc. We decided we would work our way south from the cabin and call it a day when we had worked the 10 to 12 spots that I knew were perfect structure for musky.
Our first 6 or 8 stops didn’t even produce a follow. We tossed all kinds of colors and contraptions to no avail. We worked in close, snuck up outside, trolled the drop offs, but nothing seemed to get their attention. By now we were pretty far south with only a couple of spots left before we would have to head back to the cabin. The next spot was one I hadn’t fished before, but I knew from passing that reef guarded a point that went into a dead end bay, and that looked like a perfect musky hang out. Rocky reef, some wild rice stalks all around, and cabbage grass rolling out here and there from the rice stalks.
I decided to shut off the motor a ways out and skull the boat toward the reef. Jennifer took the point and I took the middle. We cast the center and the points. I was using a black Marathon Musky Hawk which was one of my favorites. I looped my cast and then did a hard jerk on the line just as the lure hit the water which created a large, loud splash. I would then fast retrieve the lure, rod tip up in so the Musky Hawk sputtered just below the surface creating as much commotion as possible.
About the third or fourth cast there was an huge explosion of water about halfway between the boat and the reef. “Hook up”, I yelled to Jennifer.
She reeled in and gawked. “Get the net”, I screamed, “this is a BIG fish!
As I fought the fish closer I could see this was not a big musky, it was a monster musky! Now I’ve been fishing all my life and I honestly I have developed a discipline of not exaggerating a fish’s size by too much, but this was by far the biggest musky I had ever seen, whether one I had hooked or a picture of a fish caught by others.
“Jennifer, I’m going to bring him alongside the boat, back to front,” I said after about 20 minutes. “You need to put the net in the water and scoop him up, making sure not to raise the net until most of his body is in the net”, I said with dead seriousness.
She nodded in the affirmative.
Slowly I worked this behemoth alongside the boat. Time and again he made a run, burning the drag for what seemed like forever. Finally, after uncountable runs and what seemed like hours, he was spent. I keep tension on the rod and gingerly pulled him alongside the boat as Jennifer dipped the net in the water. I coaxed him from back to front, all the time coaching Jennifer about landing net technique.
Just like that his head entered the net and then, shockingly, I saw Jennifer start raising the net up. The fish made one last desperate lunge, catching the Musky Hawk trailer hook on one of the net loops. Jennifer held on, but in an instant he was gone, the Musky Hawk dangling from the edge of the now empty net.
Now I doubt that there isn’t any of us who have had a similar experience. Maybe not with a trophy musky, but with some sort of fish that has real trophy potential. Just after it happens there’s a pause of speechlessness, a moment in time where everything is going by at half-speed. And so it was then.
I love my daughter. She did what she could given here very limited experience, not to speak of zero experience with a fish such as this. She tried her best. I didn’t get mad. I really didn’t say much at all. I sat back down in the boat, looked at Jen’s sad face sitting next to me, and then just gave her a big hug and a kiss. It was a magnificent fish. One like I had never seen in my life. But it got away. And I think that was for the best.
Sometimes God creates a creature that gives us more joy being free than being captured. I have no doubt that was the case here. God didn’t want to see this giant entwined in a net. He wanted him to continue to enjoy Lake of the Wood’s freedom. So He set him free. With some help from Jennifer!
I don’t fish for musky anymore. I figure that fish that got away was about as good as it will ever get for me. As time passes and I have gotten older my respect for old guys like that musky has grown. He deserved his freedom and the opportunity to live his life freely roaming that great lake. And I know that if I were to fish till the end of time it is highly unlikely that I would ever see such a fish again. So I am content to enjoy the memory of that special day, a day that cured me of an obsession and made me appreciate all living things just a bit more.
This week we’ve got some exciting news about what we think is the Best Rods G. Loomis has ever produced. They’re amazing and now in stock. Details are below. We’re also featuring some products that we rate as Best Bang-for-the-Buck. These are products that our staff (all tournament fishermen) and our touring pro, Jacob Wheeler (FLW Cup winner), think are simply awesome. Again, check below for details.
As always we sincerely thank you for your wonderful friendship and patronage. You make our days wonderful and give us reason to be thankful at night.
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