Close your eyes and think about the biggest musky that is swimming in your home body of water. Imagine its immense girth, bulging and stretching its scales and skin apart to its brink yet, supported nicely by the ice-cold water surrounding it. Her head is massive and the jawbone is long. I am talking about a giant. A true beast. The musky that I am dreaming of perhaps weighed 35 pounds in June but now, by late October, she is exceeding 40 pounds. This fish has seen very few lures this season, a few in early June, but that is it. She has spent the majority of the open-water season suspended over the main lake basin, chasing pods of pelagic baitfish, but now she has made her way to the primary breakline as the cisco (tullibee) begin staging for their spawn. If you do not wet a line and put a lure in the water, this monster will likely never see a manmade piece of plastic with hooks this year. The ice will form and she will hibernate yet again.
So what is stopping you? Well, for one thing, it is cold out. Really cold out! And the water is really cold too! Dangerously cold. One slip on an icy rail, one careless movement and you could land yourself overboard in water that will paralyze you in less than thirty seconds. Your PFD will save you but still, this is a dangerous mission. And on those ominous days in the late fall period the water looks dark, almost a bit spooky. The beautiful greens and yellows that turned to deep oranges and reds are now gone. Brown, with hints of forest green, surround you now. And the weeds? Most of the weeds are gone now. Walking the shoreline it can seem as if all life has vanished. Now why on Earth would you ever launch your boat now?
The Packers play the Bears at 3 PM, there are cold beverages in the refrigerator and that chili in the crockpot is just aching to be warmed up and served with some sharp cheddar and hot sauce. Plus, those leaves in the yard still need to be raked and you haven’t gotten around to organizing all of the toys that were brought out for the 4th. You’re right. Stay inside. Warm up that chili, sip on that Pepsi and go to bed. And then dream of holding that giant that is posted up on the breakline. She’ll be there next season after all! Right?
Unfortunately, at the age of 32 years, after all of the COVID-infused boating traffic and the stresses of the wake boats blasting music and pummeling the shores this summer, this behemoth musky won’t muster another season. This will be it. Caught only twice in her life, once at 24 inches and once again at 42, she has retired to her final resting place. Boy, Joe Fitantte would have loved to make a replica of this bruiser! Heck, this fish would have been one of the largest to have ever come out of the lake in the last 30 years!
Ok. But let’s backup a bit and rethink this whole plan again. So let’s say you do muscle up the strength and venture out onto the ice-cold waters. Let’s pick up a few suckers from The Musky Shop and get out there and hey, if the livebait bite isn’t on maybe we try trolling for a few hours? But the suckers are cold…and wet. And rigging them up with a quick-strike rig is hard, not to mention dangerous! By the time you get the darn thing rigged up your hands will be too cold to even cast! You have a better idea?? Yes! Maybe we will just take a drive down to the boat launch and take a look at the conditions. Just to make sure its safe. Then I’ll feel better about going out tomorrow.
Wow, there is someone at the launch! This guy is crazy! Interesting boat this guy has. An old navy-blue Ranger 680 tiller. Looks like a 1990 model, the one that Joe Bucher designed way back in the day. That’s cool! That air feels pretty cold on my butt after stepping out of the truck, it’s gotta be brutal out there on the water! Who is this guy? It’s me.
There are many reasons why we love our great sport of musky fishing. The friendships, tradition, nostalgia, the pump, the rush……… the toughness. Musky hunting is a labor of love. And often times it can be as mentally demanding as it is physically demanding. Putting yourself out there in the harshest of elements is not for the weak of heart. In fact, it’s not for most. That is fine by me. While I am blessed with my youthfulness, I will endure the cold, the pain, the ice and the rain. And I pray that as I age my youthfulness and desire to push the limits never leaves me. My bones and body, they will hurt. But the mind can overcome! Because when that 40+ pound giant decides to slip up onto the break, who’s lure will it see? No one’s?
That is perhaps the scariest dream of them all.
Get out there, push the limits, make sure safety plans are in place but…go. Because at the end of our days, none of us will ever regret another cast.