Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Leech Lake Monster Muskies

Catching a monster musky, one goal that is on many anglers bucket list, but not something that will always gets the check mark.  So I got the call from Scott who said he was planning a trip to the Leech Lake area with his family and that he wanted to fish muskies with his son George (14 years old) and possibly do some walleye fishing with his daughter Lauren (11 years old).  Momma was going to do some relaxing!  We set them up at Chase on the Lake. (click here to view).

I met both Scott and George early in the AM on the first day as our plan was to fish Leech Lake.  As a fishing guide it's my role to find out their skill level and adapt from there.  In conversation Scott mentioned that he had been fishing Lake of the Woods for several years with his son George and they have caught muskies up there.  Sweet!  I knew they would be ready to put in a good shift of fishing to try and boat these goofy muskies.  

This is where I will let George take the story from here.

"The Fish of a Lifetime"
Written by George:

Before we made our trip to Leech Lake, I was scanning through the pages of a book of famous quotes by athletes. One that particularly caught my eye was a quote by a cornerback on the Pittsburgh Steelers that said, "You only get a once in a lifetime chance so many times" That's what we were up here for, the chance to catch a muskie, an accomplishment some anglers never get, let alone the chance of hooking into a 50" muskie.

We started off the first day a little slow. We met our guide, Jeff Andersen, at the docks at The Chase on the Lake.  We fished for about an hour with not one follow. We pulled up to a new spot and had a fish that barely bumped Jeff's buck tail, a hot follow on a fish that turned away on the figure eight and was never to be seen again. We fished 3 or 4 spots proved to be slow, with only 1 follow, but on the bright side the weather was clearing up and was very soon warm and sunny. Good for us, but not for the fishing. We pulled up to a rock ledge that went on for hundreds of yards. Jeff told us that this was a very good spot to catch a mid-sized muskie.  We casted for about 1 minute and soon enough a fish shot up out of the deep and engulfed Jeff's buck tail right next to the boat. He quickly handed the pole to me and the fight was on, I fought the muskie for a few minutes and brought the fish to the boat. What a good fight! First fish of the trip and my biggest to date!  We netted the fish, but one problem; the fish was hooked very deep and it was bleeding a little. After a few minutes of trying to get the hook out, Jeff finally got it and we got some good pictures with the fish. He gently worked the fish back and forth to get water going through the gills. To our surprise the fish darted back into the deep and swam away.

On the first day we also caught a hard-fighting 32" northern pike while fishing for muskies and had another big fish follow. We later fished for Walleye for about half an hour and caught one walleye and three perch.

The second day was going to be very windy, so we decided to try a nearby smaller muskie lake. Jeff had advised that we might see a few more fish there. The fishing was once again slow early. We fished 4 or 5 spots and only had 1 follow.  That all changed when we pulled out in front of some reeds and cabbage along the shoreline of an island.  We casted and casted, and to be honest my hand was getting sore, and I was getting a little bored. Then I heard Jeff tell my dad he had a follow, and I looked over a sure enough there was a good-sized muskie following my Dad's copartner, called a Pacemaker. The fish was ready to eat, but unfortunately after 3 or 4 figure eights the fish turned away. Bummer! About 3 minutes later, I was looking at my buck tail, which I was casting, and out of the corner of my eye, I watched Jeff get ready to cast and quickly stop the cast and start to figure eight. I was a little confused until I saw an enormous, fish sluggishly following the lure and then as quick as it came, disappeared. Jeff told us to reel up, and that we were going to make another pass through the area to pick up those fish. We made a pass with no signs of the giant. Jeff said we better wait 10 minutes or so and try one more time. We casted and casted, a little bummed out that neither fish showed up again! Then Jeff switched lures from a buck tail to a huge rubber bait with a big tail. The lure was enormous. After a few casts with that he pulled it out and looked ready to cast the other way, but instead casted it to the same spot. Thank God he did! A few cranks in he set the hook. "George, George, this is a big fish, be ready." I fought the fish with all my strength and effort. I was grunting as I was trying to prevent the fish from going under the boat. We fought the behemoth for 5 minutes until it finally surfaced. Everyone was shocked, Jeff netted it and pulled it out of the water. I was speechless!  I had never seen a fish that big! I was shocked. Barely any words could come from my mouth. We took a few pictures and let it go. It swam away slowly, with its enormous back sticking out of the water and finally disappeared into the deep waters. High Fives were given all around! My new shirt and shorts were drenched in fish slime and my arms were ready to fall off! The fish was incredible! A 51", 34 pound muskie! A once in a lifetime fish! Just what we came here in hopes of doing, but we still had 1 1/2 days left.

We returned to the lodge, where we fooled my mom and sister that it was just a small muskie, but we had some cool pictures of it. Boy were they surprised!!! Neither had ever seen a fish that big! My sister, Lauren who was new to fishing and 11 years old, had decided to try fishing for a little bit, and Jeff took us to a little area where we caught 7 Northern Pike all about 2 feet long and a few perch! Lauren caught her biggest fish so far, in a 23" pike! Everyone of us had fun battling the feisty northerns. What a day!

The 3rd day was tough, very tough we fished all of 8 hours and not one fish! That's muskie fishing though!  A few northern were brought to the boat, and I did catch a 8" Rock Bass on my 8" Buck tail! Jeff recommended we stop at Dairy Queen on the way back, and boy did that Nutter Butter Blizzard taste good after 8 hours of casting!

So we were down to a half day of fishing left before we had to go home. We fished walleyes for 4 hours and we all had a blast. We had caught probably 10 walleyes including two 17" fish and a 22" and a 24" walleye. Dad, Lauren, and I each caught big walleyes and we were having tons of fun. We were down to the last 5 minutes of fishing before 11:30 am. We brought out the rally caps and prayed for luck! Jeff hooked a big walleye that we unfortunately lost at the boat and another one that Lauren missed at the hook set. With 2 minutes left I was working my Jig N' Rap as hard as I could. I slowly let it down and all of a sudden, WHAM! I hooked into something, something big. The fish stayed down a long time, we all thought that it was a really big walleye. I fought the fish with all my strength, but it stayed down. After 5 minutes of it staying down, it finally made a run, ZING! The fish took off. By then we knew it was no walleye, I saw the enormous head of a Muskie charging towards the surface 30 feet out from the boat. Then it made a spectacular leap out of the water, every inch of the fish was 2 feet out of the water! Snap. I reeled and no Muskie on the end! Bummer! We all just looked at each other talking about how amazing that leap was and hooking a muskie while walleye fishing with 8 pound test! Where were you yesterday when we had 80 pound test?!

Well, what a fabulous way to end the trip of a lifetime!

Thank You Jeff for the incredible experiences, and fish of a lifetime.

George, 14
Lauren, 11

Thank you Scott, George and Lauren!  What an amazing memory!

A story and a photo that will never be forgotten by George and his Dad is what makes my job rewarding.  

Just a little bit about the fish we caught:
The first fish was caught on a Blue Fox Twin Turbo 10 blades.  This bait is made right but you have to be willing to put the work in as the blades are heavy and move a ton of water.  Bottom line is they catch fish!  Speed was the name of the game here as it seems the fish are just following slower retrieves.  Get that thing rocking if you are having follows give the one two crank and burn those arms and you will soon convert those follows to bites.  On the second fish, the big one, we landed was a fish that many anglers would have passed by.  As George mentioned we had this fish follow off a steep edge.  In most cases once you move a fish on a piece of structure the fish will eventually move back to that same piece of structure, but in some cases they stay out off the edge as this fish did.  We made a few passes and the fish didn't follow or show itself.  A perfect scenario to work a large soft pastic bait like the Storm ThunderBeast Click Here to see the lure.   Again, as George mentioned, I made several cast to the same location the fish came from but out off the edge.  Pretty much where the boat had just traveled.  Making several cast to the same location over and over and just as I was about to give up I made one more.  That was all the fish could handle!  

Musky fishing is all about ups and downs as I have written in the past.  The quote George mentioned, "You only get a once in a lifetime chance so many times" is spot on when coming to musky fishing.  When you get that "chance" you better be ready and sometimes an angler does everything right and that "chance" still slips away.  Guess what!  Keep casting my friends.....

"Get Hooked and Make a Memory"
Jeff "Breezer" Andersen 

Here are the photos from the trip...  (Click on image for larger view)



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