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.


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 ( 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

  • 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.


Houston 7:30 PM
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Chicago 63 3rd Qtr 7:39
Cleveland 62
New Orleans 56 3rd Qtr 9:01
Washington 31
Milwaukee 45 2nd Qtr 6:05
New York 42
Philadelphia 33 2nd Qtr 4:45
Brooklyn 40
Charlotte 33 2nd Qtr 4:40
Atlanta 46
Sacramento 7:30 PM
San Antonio
Memphis 7:30 PM
Tampa Bay 8:30 PM
Arkansas State 10/21/14 7:00 PM
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Ottawa 6 FINAL
Hamilton 16
Montreal 20 FINAL
Toronto 12
Calgary 33 FINAL
Winnipeg 23
Edmonton 24 FINAL
Saskatchewan 19
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

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

Weekly Question