Sometimes they come easy...and then there are the others. In muskie fishing, it's often the latter. I usually don't like to talk about the "ones that got away," but this story has a happy ending so it's worthy of sharing.
To make a long story short and get to the good parts, I'll recap and get to the point. I've been craving Mille Lacs muskies for the past two weeks. Hot water temps in the metro have limited my muskie desire around home to nil. With big fish on the brain, I've had three opportunities at the big girls on the big pond. The first time came a few weeks back with first time Mille Lacs muskie junkies, Ben Brettingen and Eric Wolf. The action came fast and occured often, but after 4 hours of fishing, we found ourselves with 8 encounters and nothing in the net. A night outing and a short morning before a storm revealed 4 fish that missed our topwater, 3 intense figure "8" opportunities and 1 hot follow that simply vanished. A fun outing, but nothing to show for our efforts.
With all the action I was eager to return. Fast forward to the 4th of July weekend and two new guests named Mike Ernst and Matt Hennen. On our journey north to a Brainerd area cabin, we couldn't resist the chance to toss a few muskie baits. Knowing we only had a short amount of time, we went right for the juggular and hit some "prime spots" that have produced countless times over the years. Once again the action was there, and once again we had fish miss wildly on our topwater offerings. Four to be exact. Our 2 fishless hours on the water set things up perfectly for the climax of the story - Friday night.
It seems every time I am lucky enough to have Todd "Muskie" Mosher in the boat, good things happen. This past friday was no exception. Joining us was my other lucky charm, Matt Hennen for his second shot at the slimy Mille Lacs beasts. This time we weren't on a time schedule, and this time we were going to fish until the muskies were ready to do the darn thing. With two extremely lucky anglers in my boat, I was confident that my persistence would finally pay off.
As the sun started to fade, the conditions set themselves up for an epic night on the water. You could feel the intensity with each cast, and for the first time in a while, I could sense that my "Muskie Mojo" had finally returned. Todd was the first to thrash the surface with a ski. Shortly after the lights went out, a muskie grabbed his bait boatside and took him for a wild ride. Fortunately, for the fish, Todd was not on the winning end of the tug-o-war.
A few moments later came our first monster sighting. A giant appeared like a ghost in the darkness and chased Matt around the boat several times. The fish brought the game to a whole new level. Knowing that we were in the presence of a giant, we were all on high alert.
With the increase in activity we knew that it was only a matter of time. A few casts after the monster appeared I was throttled on my "8". This time the muskie ran full steam into my rod while trying to T-bone my bait. I assure you that I was more startled than the fish, and afterwards I had to check my shorts to make sure I was still clean.
Was it the big one? That, I didn't know. As I started to wonder that very thought, Todd stole the show when he hooked a beast. A boatside strike that sent the water churning in every direction. It was absolute chaos! The monster threw water in every direction, and just when I thought that we had finally done it, she came unhooked and swam away. Heartbreak was an understatement and I thought Todd was going to cry. Deep down, I think I was too. She was "the one" and all Todd was left with was a mangled bait.
Still, we pushed on. Hopeful for another opportunity. After all, it had only been an hour into the night. As we circled our pod for another chance, I started to count up the number of fish that had recently won the battle. In my head I was up to 16. An astronomical amount over the last three outings. Luckily, Matt was determined to win the boatside battle and make sure that the number didn't reach 17. As luck would have it, we didn't have to wait very long.
A quiet grunt and a whisper revealed a muskie beneath our feet yet again. I guess that was his cue that he was hooked up. This time Matt was ready for the boatside game and this time he took the bull by the horns. As I turned my headlamp on, I was surprised to see a dandy being drug around the boat like a dog on a leash. A tactic that I was hoping to see when a big one ate boatside. This textbook maneauver resulted in chaos at the boat, but also Matt's first night muskie and his first one on the figure '8.' Not to mention the end to a horrific streak of "the ones that got away." The second the fish hit the net we exploded with excitement. It was like a 500 lb weight had just been lifted off our shoulders. The skunk was gone, the jinx was broken, and we had finally taken back our spot as the top predator on the food chain.
The picture will forever retain that memory, but words cannot explain the moment the three of us shared. As Matt released the fish back into the darkness, I patted him on the back and said "thank you for bringing my mojo back!" Our evening ended shortly after and as we drove across the dark water I thanked the big guy up above for such an incredible opportunity to fish, persevere and succeed. In the muskie world, persistence does pay off. Until the next monster strikes, keep on livin' your dream!