Regular readers of this column have followed my quest to hook and land a monster musky.
Some of you have been very understanding as this ordeal continues to stretch out month after month and year after year, somewhat soiling my reputation as fisherman of legendary status.
Others most notably those who have shared the pleasure of fishing out of my boat and sponging infinite fishing wisdom from me have shown absolutely no sympathy whatsoever. In fact, I conclude they are enjoying the heck out of my musky misery.
Kim Fundingsland is a staff writer for The Minot Daily News.
As I wrote in an earlier column, it has been my intention to silence my musky critics once and for all by joining the ranks of elite musky hunters as soon as possible. With that notable quest in mind I've been planning to fish, fishing and fishing for more plans to rid myself of this unenviable burden.
My most recent effort at landing the big one was at Big Detroit Lake in Minnesota. In the interest of modesty, I'll refrain from writing about the details at this time but will consider sharing them with you in a later issue. I'm sure you understand.
What I can do, and what I will do in the lines that follow, is attempt to recreate some of the more interesting flavors from the land where monster muskies are said to have devoured some big, blue ox named "Babe." Yup, I'm talking about Minnesota, where musky lore runs deep and where a growing fraternity of seemingly crafty fishermen continue to spend countless dollars, and who knows how many hours of time, seeking to catch a fish that most anglers don't believe exists.
In the bait shop
A "must stop" in musky country is the local bait and tackle shops where guys in goofy hats know absolutely everything about fishing, particularly regarding lakes that are only a stone's throw from their front door. Getting information from them is the key to finding big fish. Knowing that, I walked right up to the counter of a local tackle shop where an obviously senior angler who, I later learned, was also the trusted proprietor of the shop and asked him simple question.
"Where am I going to find that monster musky?" I said in as friendly a tone as possible.
"It's not how deep you fish, it's how you wiggle your worm," he replied with a grin.
"You told me that stuff last year. What's new?" I responded.
His comeback? "Nice hat."
"Yeah, I paid too much for it the last time I was here," I said, getting an affirmative laugh from another customer ogling the myriad of musky tackle hanging from walls and counters.
With that comment, a very serious look came over his face. I wasn't quite sure what might happen next.
"We rely on guys who fish regularly and really know the lakes," he said in his most wisdom-like, veteran fisherman voice. "They say, right now, you can see seven one day and none the next. Need a net?"
"That's the last thing I'll need," I said, getting another laugh out of the nearby customer.
"I'll tell you what the guys are buying and it's because it's working," he said.
Now I was getting somewhere! At least to the stage where I know I'll be reaching into my pocket for money to buy something I probably don't need.
"It's those walleye Double-Dawgs. There's that many on the rack because I can't keep them in stock," he claimed.
Of course, I own one now. Chalk one up for the proprietor of the tackle shop. Whether or not he won round 2 remains to be seen. I going to fish with that monstrous thing until I lose it, catch a musky with it, or simply knock one out by hitting him on the head with it.
At the ramp
Before I could even launch my boat to shadow some musky geeks with a boatload of lures large enough to snag the Titanic and pull it up from the bottom, a grizzled old fishing veteran sauntered, maybe moseyed, over to the boat ramp. His weathered look identified him as either a great source of fishing wisdom or a ridiculous nutball who had never come close to landing an angry musky. Now too old to tangle with a toothy goliath from the deep, he proceeded to warn me about what might happen if I boarded my small craft.
He explained to me that he had been hanging around the boat ramp for several days, learning what he could about what the muskies were doing and how the fishermen were faring. I explained to him that I was a writer looking to do a story with somebody landing a big musky.
"The state record is in here. A lot of musky people believe that. Guys are coming in from all over," he said.
I'd seen the license plates in the parking area and knew that statement to be true at least the part about fishermen coming in from all over. Whether a new Minnesota state record is swimming in Big Detroit is a matter of opinion.
"Two guys from Wisconsin are down here on a mission," he added. "Yup, they've seen 52 muskies in seven days. They hooked seven and landed two. Had a 51-incher darn thing grabbed the prop on the electric trolling motor and wouldn't let go. Took 'em a while to get out of that fix."
Minnesota's state record musky is a 56-incher that weighed 54 pounds even. Now I'm hearing about a 51-inch musky trying to remove the electric from some guy's fishing boat. The worst of it is, the story is true.
On the water
Once on the lake, presumably with muskies below, I began shadowing a few musky boats in the hope that I'd be able to witness and photograph an epic battle. Quite naturally I took the opportunity to try and hook a musky of my own. Again, I'll spare you the details at this time. Suffice to say, for the moment, that the action wasn't fast and furious in any boat I was eyeing. One guy landed a nice northern pike, much to the disappointment of all!
Somewhere along the way Gary Leraas of Hillsboro, an accomplished fisherman and inventor of the Leraas Leader Spin, had a musky make a half-hearted rush at a big spinner bait and disappear under the front of the boat. We tried for several minutes to entice that fish, but to no avail.
My daughter Kelli, worn out from casting and growing weary from the heat of the day, sat down on the back deck of the boat and let a purple-skirted, double-tailed, dual copper-bladed spinner drag lazily in the boat wake. She was alternately nodding off and trying to keep from falling in the lake. I was sitting at the wheel, watching other fishermen and trying to keep the boat along the edge of the sunken island where we had encountered a musky a few minutes earlier.
I turned to look at the back of the boat about the same time that Kelli woke up and shouted "Oh my gosh!"
"It's a musky!" she yelled with both eyes wide open and a look of complete shock all over her face. "I got him. No he's off! Whoa!"
While I would have loved to have seen that musky meet my measuring tape, the way the watery episode turned out was perfectly fitting. I'd lost a musky in similar fashion a year ago. Now I've got a bigger problem she's hooked on muskies too!
I fear that I now am completely immersed in a never-ending story. I'm considering painting the blades on my electric trolling motor in a fire-tiger pattern and outfitting it with treble hooks.
It just might work.