Anyhow, I thought I’d send you off with a tale that is uniquely Minnesotan: Muskie on Minnetonka.
Saturday morning, Jason Aleshire and I set out onto mighty Minnetonka to try and sucker a few muskies into biting. We were semi-successful. We had two legit muskie takes and landed one.
First things first, how we hunted them: Jason had a bunch of key areas in mind, from the outside edges of flats and humps to little holes near channel mouths or the channels themselves. He was looking for areas with bait, areas with depth, or places that muskie might move though or be attracted to because of current. He had a pretty solid game plan and we definitely were around fish, as we marked several that didn’t bite and had a few takes that could have been toothy critters, as well as a few pretty panicked suckers.
The rig we were using was pretty sweet. In retrospect, I wish I had been a bit more thorough in studying it. It was basically a slip bobber, a flouro leader, weight, and a wire harness with two or three treble hooks. Jason had a particular way he hooked the suckers, but a lot of the magic was in how he planned to go about hooking the muskie, something that went well against my instincts. Hooking a muskie on a 15-inch sucker takes some waiting, not because the fish can’t get the bait right away, but because they seem to have a knack for taking it without getting the hooks. It might also have something to do with the physics of the rig – a typical bait had basically a direct pull line on the fish, and having multiple wires all distributing the force of the hookset, combined with a big sucker in the way, could put a cap on the hookup percentage you can get with a bass approach.
Anyhow, back to the story. Our first really good chance came in a channel, when I spotted a muskie as she swam past the boat. Jason navigated the boat in the direction that it went, spotted the fish, and with the boat almost in the bushes she bit. The fish bit basically under the outboard and I watched it slowly chomp at the bait and meander away and argued with Jason that it was time to set the hook. Jason wasn’t so sure, but my insistence that the bait was in its mouth might have won him over. I’m honestly not sure what exactly happened, but I set the hook and leaned back on the fish.
All hell broke loose as soon as I started cranking. Some lady on the shore started freaking out about the size of the fish as it came to the surface and I hauled it toward the boat. Jason had the presence of mind to realize that it was actually not hooked, and just stuck on the sucker, and he netted it quickly and deftly. It was over in a blink. It was like when you flip a 3-pounder into the boat, no prolonged struggle at all, just a brief period of furious action and then a result.
I held the net and grabbed a pair of gloves and changed my hat as Jason readied the camera. Then I looked down and the fish was gone and there was a corresponding hole in the net. I was shocked. Jason had instructed me to keep her head up, and I had definitely not understood the full seriousness of his order. The aged net was the one weak spot, and ye olde muskie had diligently exploited it to escape documentation.
In reality, it all happened so fast and I was so excited that I have no idea how big the fish was. I can’t estimate anything besides a bass anyhow. That said, Jason assured me that it was 47 inches, and I’d be a fool not to believe him. One of the hallmarks of an expert is being able to process information at a high rate, and Jason blew me out of the water in that respect – at least when it comes to muskie fishing.
Our next opportunity came late in the day, sun going down, and the stiff breeze beginning to fail. We had a tremendous take – it set the clicker off right away and yanked the bobber far below the surface. We idled on top of the bobber, and I set the hook, probably too soon and too hard. It was on for a second and then off. I never saw the fish.
Actually fishing for muskie with someone who knows what they are doing was a pleasure. They are certainly intriguing fish and I can absolutely see why people get so eaten up by them. In fact, I have half a mind to make an effort for a few of them sometime down in Kentucky…