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Muskie

There are two kinds of men – those that have caught a fifty–inch muskie and those that haven't. Like to join us, the first kind? Okay, I can tell you how. Approach it properly, use my system:

  • Avoid Canada and Wisconsin
  • Fish a prairie lake in the Minneapolis metro area
  • Fish a lake where the last muskie you caught was three years ago, a lake you've pounded for those three years, heroically and fruitlessly
  • Fish a spot where you've never caught a muskie
  • Get up at 4 am to drive to the lake
  • Be still half asleep, at 6 am, when you start fishing
  • Pay way more attention to the glorious sunrise than to anything in the water
  • Use a bucktail lure that you've never caught a muskie on
  • Use the lure "as is," out of the box, without sharpening its single hook
  • Use your oldest yellow "pool cue" rod, the one that's way too stiff for the lure you're using
  • Use your oldest, smallest red Ambassadeur reel
  • Make sure that not a drop of oil has touched the reel for the last three years
  • Make sure you haven't retied your black Dacron line since the Muskie tournament last September, ten months ago
  • But make sure you have your Good Luck Charm along
  • – And one more thing –

    Time On The Water

Got all that? The rules are easy. I followed them faithfully for my Muskie Of A Lifetime. Return with me to that Sunday morning, July 4, 1999, and I'll tell you how it went.


*************************           LET US BEGIN             *************************

Man, that sunrise sure is something! A red Turner painting shining through the sailboat masts, but brighter colors than his. Pretty, warm morning, wind feels good in my face. I like this. Muskies do too, don't they?

And, I'll get one today? Sure...

Like I did three years ago, right here, Lake Waconia. Home of the frequently visible never catchable monsters. Three years, one fish. Since then lots of fishing, no fish.

But, that's muskies. They're not crappies, thank goodness.

Beautiful Red Sunrise

Well, where's Legvold? Supposed to be here by now, six am, boat launch, to go with us. We're ready. I'm standing here on the dock, Peters is puttering around, straightening out the boat, itching to go. We're ready. Where's Legvold?

Well, we'll wait. Maybe I can cast a few off the dock. Who knows, might catch something. Wouldn't that frost Peters? He's fooling with the motor, I catch a muskie right under his nose. Gotta give that a try.

Okay, my best outfit, St. Croix rod, 6500, nice Blue Jackpot. Here goes, back, over the shoulder, swing, up, out, toward the open water, click the reel, start reeling.... What the crap?

The damn reel is broke! It won't reel! I can spin the handle like a top – it just won't work! It did last week, right here, but now it's shot. Damn!

Now what? Try to fix it? Forget it – I'll just lose pieces of the reel.

Well, okay, bring in the line, wrap it around the pole, and forget that for now. Good thing I brought along my other outfit - ten year's old, but it still works. And I never had it break on me. But catch a fish with that?

Hey, forget it for now, look who's here, a half hour late, trotting down the dock, rod and tackle box in hand, Leinie's beer hat and a grin on his bearded face.

"Mike, how you doin', buddy? Glad to see you!"

And that sure is right. We can't catch muskies without the man. Last year, August, that fish of his, first time out with us, first time muskie for him, a 34–incher, frisky, pretty fish. And the next time – Peters got his Muskie, 42–inches, right here, Waconia, The Reef. Legvold with us again.

All summer, though, no Legvold, no fish. Classic Good Luck Charm. Or maybe it's that white hat of his, or maybe the beard? Do they attract fish? Suppose we should bottle pieces of that flaky looking character of ours and sell him as "Fishing Luck"....

Forget it – Legvold's in the boat, one practice cast for him, and have to get Peters going.

"Hey man, get a move on, fish are waitin'."

Sure. Waiting for hell to freeze over, three years...

"Do it Peters, go!"

And he does it. Turns the key, choke in, the motor cranks, coughs, spits water, smokes, coughs...

And then that solid roar...

Legvold Taking First Cast

And we're finally moving – boat tipped up, spray, wind in the face, blowing hair, spray on windshield, sky brighter now, yellow, orange... Man, I love this! Muskies? Maybe, maybe not, but this is great. I love it....

Okay, where's Peters going? Right. The Reef. Sure, he got his fish there last year. He remembers that, talks about it, a lot. I remember the spot, too. All summer I got weeds there, a lot.

Well, we'll do the bay, cabbage patches, the island later on. Right now, for Peters, The Reef.

Depth coming up, LM–350, 18 feet, 15, 12... Peters sure can find this spot – His Spot! – the lucky bastard, 42–inches, not bad, and I don't have anything bigger.

All right, throttle closed, bow down, coasting, slower, spray down, we're here.

So now to fishing. Wish I hadn't broken my good rig, but can't help that. It'll be Outfit #2, first muskie pole I ever had, $20 Eagle Claw, yellow, fiber glass, long time ago, should've made it a pool cue years back. And my Ambassadeur 5600, red, 15 years too. Say – did I oil this thing last year, September, Leech, Muskie Tournament? Arghgh! Don't think I did. Or year before that? Hmmm... Well, hope it works, can't fish without a reel.

But hey! Do muskies care about the reel, or what?

The lure – that's what.

And what do I use? Man, I've fired everything here, three years. Except this – yellow bucktail – my "Brooktail Bulger" – haven't used that, muskie show, Blaine last spring, sure looks good, yellow, orange, perch. And muskies like that too? Yeah? Well, give it a try.

Okay, snap open, bucktail on, boat rocking, hard to do this, snap closed, wind up line, rod over shoulder, thumb on reel, swing, thumb up, first cast – always think I'll get a muskie on first cast – here goes, lure into Turner's sunrise...

Splash! Rats!

Close – too close. Damn – rod's too stiff, hard to cast, bucktail's the wrong thing with it, into the wind, too light...

Well, reel it back, try to make it bulge, hard to do that, lure underwater, reel's too small, not fast enough.

Try again, one more cast.

Over shoulder again, swing, up, out, splash, let it sink, reel, and....

Whack! A fish! Can you believe it? Second cast! A fish! Three pound Northern? Lot's of these... Not this time!! Line's tight, solid! Real tight! Muskie! It's on, a Muskie!

"I got one! Muskie!"


Juris Fighting The Muskie

And look at Peters and Legvold! Staring at me, frozen! But forget 'em, things happening, can't screw it up, man, line is really tight, rod bent, wish I had retied the line, still there from last year, fuzzy, can't help it now...

And she's running, really running, out, taking line, singing it through the water, have never felt this... Damn, drag is sticking, pull out line, keep her head up, line coming up...

Ohhhh... She's up, splashing, head up, splash again, water, spray, just look at that, look at that head! Can't see body, but I've never seen this...

And she's coming back, at me! Reel, gotta reel, keep line tight, keep her away from boat, motor... Watch the damn motor, rod out, up, keep her head up, and another splash!

And then past the boat and out and away and just look at her! Fifty–inch fish, she really is! Gotta be! Never ever, have never done this... Why aren't my knees, hands shaking? No time, can't mess this up, keep line tight, not too tight, back off drag, reel, can't move her, tighten drag, line running out...

And, oh man, our net's too small, I know it is, an overgrown walleye net. We'll never get her in there. Should I try to hand–land her? Damn, no time to worry about that, watch the pressure, wish I could back reel... 50–inch class fish... And she's still running out, and turning, and she's coming back... Splashes... Another run, slower, tiring now, another splash... Keep the head up...

And she's at boatside, right here, surface, no fight left, and Peters tries to net her and mangles it and tries again and the fish is somehow doubled up in the way–too–small net... and he lifts her up over the side into the boat...

She's mine!

And she breaks through the net! Stuck half way out, floor of the boat, lure falls out, now what? Where's the wire cutters, or knife... how do we cut the net...

And then she's free on the floor of the boat and the net is off in pieces tangled in the other rods and the steel ruler is stuck and we can't measure her and she's been out of the water too long and I hate the thought of that and Legvold's camera is out of film and I've got to give him mine and she's finally on the ruler 49, 50 do it right 50 and a half that's what she is... 50 and a half!

And that's enough – I gotta pick her up. She's slippery, hard to hold, up against me. My 40–pound bags of water softener salt are lighter... Picture, another one, am I hurting her, that muskie smell...

Quick now, over the side, into the water. Oh no! She slips from my hand, away, and floats off on her side, not moving... Damn! If I killed a muskie... Peters, get the boat over there, back to her, she needs help!

Juris Holding The Muskie

Juris Swishing Muskie Back and Forth

Okay – I've got her, tail in hand, swish back and forth, again, more, better now, a wiggle, a sign of life. swish more, and a stronger wiggle... Let her go... She swims off, slowly, too slowly, should be giving us a tail splash, diving down, but still just on the surface... What a pretty, pretty, dark spotted fish, huge head, still can't believe it... Come on, girl.......


And she sinks, dives down, tail up, splash, into the water, gone... And it's over, my fish of a lifetime, a moment given to me, gone, back where she belongs.

by
Juris Ozols
Apple Valley, Mn




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Date Created: July 6, 2000
Last Modified: February 27, 2004
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