Anderson: Fish in the elements and payoff can be big

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 9, 2012 - 10:12 PM

Giant muskies can be had if you're willing to endure snow, rain, wind and finger-numbing low temperatures.

hide

Roger Ecklund of the Twin Cities last month caught and released what almost surely would have been a state record muskie while fishing on MIlle Lacs with guide Jason Hamernick.

Photo: Photo courtesy of Jason Hamernick,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Late-season muskie anglers pursue their sport nearly invisibly. Long after swimming beaches have closed and cabin owners have pulled their docks to shore -- and about the time deer hunters take to the woods with rifles -- these cold-weather fishermen are backing boats into lakes and rivers, ready to do battle.

Not only with big fish, but with the elements: snow, rain, wind and finger-numbing low temperatures.

But the payoff can be big -- as in state-record big -- as muskie guide Jason Hamernick (www.muskiebreath.com) of the Twin Cities can attest.

"Most muskies are caught in summer, during the warm months,'' Hamernick said. "But the true giants come super late in fall. Although it can be slow fishing at that time of year. In November, you're looking at an average of one bite a day.''

One can be enough.

On Nov. 3, Hamernick and a client, Roger Ecklund of the Twin Cities, were on Mille Lacs looking for a monster.

One of his favorite lakes, particularly in late season, Mille Lacs, Hamernick believes, holds muskies of unique dimensions -- long and with disproportionately fat girths.

Both Hamernick and Ecklund were throwing "rubber,'' Double Dawg Pounders, baits that over time are big enough, and heavy enough, to wear out wrists, shoulders and elbows.

"I pretty much stop throwing blades [in-line spinner bait-style lures] when the water temperature falls below 50 degrees,'' Hamernick said. "Rubber baits you can slow down a lot more.''

At 12:30 that afternoon, "right on the moon rise,'' a big fish hit Ecklund's bait just after it splashed into the lake.

A slashing fighter, the behemoth when finally boated measured 56 inches long with a 29-inch girth.

"I kept talking to Roger about whether he wanted to keep it,'' Hamernick said. "But he was adamant he wanted to let it go.''

Using a formula that has proven accurate, the fish would have weighed nearly 59 pounds, or about 5 more than the state record, set in 1957 and taken from Lake Winnibigoshish.

Weather is Hamernick's most critical consideration when choosing fishing times, but moon-rise and moon-set times also are important.

"If you're going to be on the water every day, you want to fish during the best times.''

Seven days a week

Now 39 years old, Hamernick has had the muskie bug for more than 20 years. He was a teenager fishing for bass on Forest Lake just north of St. Paul when he lucked into his first muskie.

He's been chasing them ever since, first as an obsessed angler, then as a part-time guide and for the past 10 years as a full-time guide.

"I try to be on the water seven days a week,'' he said. "I go at it pretty crazy for about five or six months.''

Ecklund's wasn't the only potential record breaker brought aboard Hamernick's boat last month.

On Nov. 9, two 20-something anglers from Iowa had been casting on Mille Lacs less than half an hour with Hamernick when one of them, Ryan Becker, hooked into a muskie that would measure 57¾ inches with a girth of 28¼ inches.

That fish likely also would have broken the state record, weighing more than 56 pounds.

"When we were motoring onto the lake that morning, I said to the guys, 'If one of you catches what might be a state record, are you going to keep it?''' Hamernick said. "One said he would. The other said he would let it go.''

It was Becker who said he'd release such a fish.

Though Hamernick casts while his clients cast, he does so from the stern of his boat, allowing his customers the first crack at prime spots.

He'd rather have a client catch the next record muskie than catch it himself.

"It's better for business,'' he said, adding that his customers come from all 50 states and from countries as far away as Sweden.

Each is drawn to Minnesota for its muskies, competition for which is keen, day and night, summer and fall.

And not just on Mille Lacs, but on other big-water lakes up north such as Vermilion and Lake of the Woods.

Minnetonka and other metro lakes get hit even harder.

For one simple reason: People like to catch big fish.

Sometimes to hang on a wall, a record-breaker for all to see.

Other times, as Hamernick can attest, to be set free, perhaps to be caught again.

Dennis Anderson danderson@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

Los Angeles - WP: C. Kershaw 14 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: E. Jackson 5
Boston - WP: J. Tazawa 5 FINAL
Baltimore - LP: D. O`Day 3
Milwaukee - LP: J. Broxton 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: J. Holdzkom 4
Toronto - LP: M. Buehrle 3 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: H. Kuroda 5
Washington - WP: D. Fister 3 FINAL
Miami - LP: T. Koehler 2
Chicago WSox - WP: J. Quintana 4 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: J. Hellickson 3
NY Mets - WP: Z. Wheeler 5 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: J. Teheran 0
Cleveland - LP: K. Crockett 4 FINAL
Minnesota - WP: J. Burton 5
Detroit - WP: J. Verlander 10 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Vargas 1
Seattle - WP: T. Walker 10 FINAL
Houston - LP: B. Peacock 5
Arizona - LP: C. Anderson 3 FINAL
Colorado - WP: J. Lyles 15
Cincinnati - LP: D. Holmberg 1 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: J. Lackey 2
Philadelphia - LP: D. Buchanan 1 FINAL
Oakland - WP: J. Lester 3
Texas - WP: L. Bonilla 12 FINAL
LA Angels - LP: H. Santiago 3
San Francisco - LP: T. Hudson 0 FINAL
San Diego - WP: O. Despaigne 5
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
(5) Auburn 20 FINAL
(20) Kansas State 14
Connecticut 14 FINAL
So Florida 17
Old Dominion 11:00 AM
Rice
Troy 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 11:30 AM
Syracuse
Tulane 11:30 AM
Duke
Hawaii 1:00 PM
Colorado
Marshall 1:00 PM
Akron
North Carolina 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:00 AM
NC State
Duke 9/27/14 2:00 AM
Miami-Florida
North Carolina 9/27/14 2:00 AM
(22) Clemson
Colorado 1 FINAL
Real Salt Lake 5
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Montreal 9/26/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 9/26/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/27/14 5:30 PM
Winnipeg
Brt Columbia 9/27/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close