Ahh yes, it's about that time again. Time for the big girls to come out and play. For most, November means deer hunting, pheasant hunting, or just hunting in general. For me, this still applies, but I also go hunting for the one. The biggest, fattest, meanest fish swimming in fresh water. I tend to give her a personal name like Diane, Edna or Ruth, but we all know her best as the state record muskie.
If you haven't followed my quest in the past, here is a bit of info to get you up to speed. Each fall, specifically the month of November, I begin a quest to land the next state record muskie. I know this might sound rather stupid to think that one can just go out and catch a state record fish, but it really isn't that out of line. See, in the fall these fish grow quite a bit larger. Given the right lake with the right forage, these muskies can literally weigh an extra 10 pounds heavier during November than at any other time of the year. Finding the right locations and timing things perfectly put the odds in your favor to land muskies exceeding 50 pounds. This isn't simple by any means and it takes great patience and persistence in the worst elements mother nature can throw out, but the rewards can be incredible.
For the last two seasons I have been concentrating my efforts on Lake Mille Lacs. It is no secret that this lake holds some of the largest muskies ever grown. Coupled with the tullibee population, these beasts reach peak weight just before the ice forms. It is cold, it is exhausting, but I have found ways to cope and I have found fish willing to strike. Two years ago I landed a fish that still leaves me wondering. She was a beaut that no doubt surpassed the 50 pound mark. The next day I scored another giant that might have only been a few pounds shy of the record as well. It was those two fish that fueled my fire to catch a fish larger than the current record.
Last season was another epic quest that gets me excited to start this years journey. I located 3 fish that I figured would have topped the scales around that elusive 54 pound mark. Two of them were near the record, and one of them totally blew the rest away. I nicknamed her Diane, and we fished her hard when the weather would allow for the better part of two weeks. I estimated her at about 60 pounds, and I am not making this up or exxaggerating. Some days I could get her to follow and others she would have none of my business. When she would come to the boat, it was a sight out of this world. Picture a five gallon bucket nearly 60 inches long following your bait and you will understand what I am talking about. She was almost surreal. I don't remember the date, but there was one time that we got her to eat. It was with my good buddy Mike that day, and after releasing a nice mid 40 inch muskie, we quickly drove to her location hoping the short window of opportunity was till open. I pointed to her home, and Mike landed the lure spot on. She devoured the bait the second the lure hit the water, and chaos broke loose. It was a battle that I will never forget, and one that left Mike in tears on the back deck of the boat. As the fish came around the boat, she did a barrel role and the over-sized lure popped free. It was an experience that you literally had to be there to understand. Sure it's only a fish tale at this point, but something so large and powerful still leaves me sleepless at night. I know what we had, and we had the next state record inches from the net.
So with that, I hope you understand my quest for the one. It is not made up, it is not exxaggerated, it is not a ridiculous feat to accomplish, but it is the most insane fishing one can imagine. As the water temps continue to fall to the perfect degree, I will soon be trailering the boat north. When you are in your deer stand, I will likely be on the water. When you are ice fishing the first frozen lakes, I will likely be chipping the access free to launch my boat. When the weather cooperates and the winds lay down, I will likely be somewhere on that big pond. This year I will have more guests than ever before. Clients, Newspaper writers, television crews and good fishing friends are all on the menu to join the insanity. It's all gonna be a hoot! What will we do when we land that beast? I just don't know, but I hope that you follow along and join me for the entire experience. Until the state record strikes, keep on chasing your dream!
Catch more at www.trophyencounters.com
What does it mean to be a legend? I had to ask myself this very question last week when I left my office for a small town in northern Wisconsin. I was venturing that way with one of our photojournalists, Cy Dodson, and we were off to spend a week with a man named Joe Bucher. Our mission was simple - tell his story. See, we produce this show on the Outdoor Channel called "Legends of Rod&Reel." We seek out fisherman across the country that have impacted the world of fishing in some way or another. Anglers that are very well known and respected in their parts of the country, or fishing genre, and others that you and I might not have heard of before. Regardless, they are all unique in their own way. We spend time with them, fish with them, and really get to know who this person is and what makes them tick. Then we share this with the rest of the country. It's pretty cool.
For myself, it was more than an honor to be given the opportunity to help produce the show about Joe Bucher. Joe has been muskie fishing, writing about muskies, and teaching about muskies well before I was born. In the 70's he was writing articles in magazines when nobody else wanted to talk about muskies. As Cy and I spent time with this man, it was really a pleasure to learn why he made the choices that he did in his life. Like many of us, he has a passion for the outdoors. A passion that spawned the creation of lures. Muskie lures to be exact. With the encouragement of Roland Martin and Al Lindner, he decided to start his own fishing show. Soon after was magazine dedicated solely to the sport of muskie angling. Muskie Hunter is still one of the only magazines focusing entirely on that Esox. Joe has written thousands of articles as well, and as we reviewed some of them, I found it interesting to read words from the 70's and 80's that pertain directly to my life on the water today. One of the unique phrases that stuck while Joe and I talked muskie fishing was, "if you think you have something new, just go back 20 or 30 years and you'll see someone else who has also done that."
Joe was a true legend in all aspects. He was very humbled by the fact that we were filming a show because of all of his accomplishments. We talked about the past, present and future of fishing, and bounced our ideas off of each other. Also, I'm not going to give out too many details here, but I think you might be seeing some pretty cool new muskie baits in the very near future. We met his unbelievably encouraging and wonderful wife Beth, his dog Raider, and several other key people in his life. We heard him rock out on the guitar, which he does in each of his shows, and finally, when the rain cleared, we went fishing. After all, this still is a fishing show! We filmed two seperate pieces to the show. One of Joe fishing with his good friend coach Kip, and the other on a solo mission. The first trip was with Coach Kip, and boy were these two fishing pals a hoot. It was destiny from the start the Coach would catch the first muskie, and par for the course, he did. That was the only fish they saw that morning, but it was perfect. Later that day, we returned to the water on a solo trip with Joe. Like all fishing trips that guys take, the lake is a place to unwind and relive past memories. We did just that. As the sun set on our last day with Joe, the water erupted and our prayers for Joe to land a muskie were answered. After all, what else would you expect from a legnd like Joe? From the legendary waters of northern Wisconsin, Keep on chasing the dream!
Travis Frank www.trophyencounters.com
It's a crazy world we live in. Sometimes too hectic for our own good. I am as guilty as the next guy when it comes to forgetting about what matters most to me and making time for everyone. Sometimes there just isn't enough hours in the day, or days in the week. There's nothing we can do about that, but I do know one thing for sure, we are positioned to make a difference. One of my biggest passions in this world is to share my pleasures with the youth of our sports. Taking kids out on the water or in the field can be one of the most rewarding pleasures we get to experience. I only bring this up, because sometimes it is easy to forget, or get caught up in "my next big fish," or "when can I get out again." It's very easy to forget about those unable to experience these joys on their own.
A few days back I was reminded of this when I had a very good friend named Pete, and his son Danny join me on the water. Danny is 8, but if you ask him, he'll say he's almost 9. While our mission was to land a big muskie, I found it more of an initiative on my part to make sure Danny had a great experience. The fish would be the bonus on this trip. Danny was a great steward at such a young age, and listened to my every word. He was new to muskie fishing, but you could tell that he was ready for the challenge. He worked on his figure 8 at the boat, and understood what was right and wrong. It was just neat to watch him learn and improve. After a short while, he soon found a beast of a muskie boatside ready to eat his lure. The action proved too much for the beginner, and the fish didn't come in the boat, but that wasn't the point. Just the fact that he put all the pieces together to have the trophy encounter made everything what it was. A 35 pound fish flaring its gills on a lure at the boat will get anybody excited, and for Danny, it was beyond excitement. His level of confidence went through the roof. He began talking at a much faster pace, and you could see how things clicked for him about what just happened. A short while later we were faced with another similar situation, and before our evening was through, a large bass exploded on his topwater lure. Not the muskie we were searching for, but I can assure you the excitement was beyond words for this lucky angler. What I thought was an excited fisherman was now on a whole new level. A level that his dad informed me a few days later had made him want to fish again the very next day.
I was lucky to have this opportunity to teach and share in the muskie joys. Danny was lucky to have a great father to bring him with. For me, this was just a friendly reminder about how easy it is to grow our sport and pass it down to generations. A few hours on the water has likely changed this young fisherman's outlook on fishing, and assured us that our passions are going to continue. It also reminds me that I should make a little more free time for some other anglers that I have been forgetting to take out. I won't let it happen again, I hope you don't either! Until the next time the muskie strikes, keep on livin' the dream!
Catch more at www.trophyencounters.com
Ahh yes, fall is in the air. I can smell change, and it sure smells good. For the last few weeks we have had one of the warmest Septembers that I can remember. The weather gal named Belinda said it's one of the warmest on record. Well, that's all behind us now. As I sit at the computer I look out the window and the trees are blowing over sideways. Gusting north winds are finally making fall a reality. Jackpot!
As I look back at one of the weirdest muskie seasons in my young memory, I only have to wonder what lies ahead. Fishing has been good, then great, then poor, and back to good again. All in a matter of a few months. Now that my favorite time of the year is here, I can only speculate how it will all unfold before the ice forms. I'm thinking big things, but first I will fill you in on what has been happening lately, and what I anticipate to come.
Our lakes are packed with muskie crazed anglers. Packed to the point that the fish have actually stopped following a muskie lure to the boat out of sheer curiosity. The fish that we have been seeing are the ones that end up in the net. This means that we have really had to pay attention to every detail. If we get a fish to follow to the boat, odds are it will eat. The figure 8 has never been so important. It seems that the days when a muskie would strike 30 yards from the boat are almost gone, and every year the details become more critical. If you take a nap for even one cast, your chances of converting the fish almost drop to nil. However, if you master the art of the 8 and are always ready, the rewards have been great. While this may sound bad, it really isn't. Once you are able to accept and retain the mindset that you aren't likely to see 30 fish each trip, you can get ready for the few sightings, because they almost always seem to convert into a strike. And I've got to be honest, it's been fun watching my clients tangle with the toothy critters at boatside. All the normal baits are still working, but vary the speeds and presentations, and sometimes thinking outside the box will get you a few fish when everyone else continues to fish the same way. Don't be afraid to experiment!
While it is very clear that the pressure on our lakes have had an impact, there are a couple of positives to look forward to. The fish still have to eat, which means that if you are in "fishy" areas during their feeding windows, you will still be taking the trophy pictures. Also, we really have some big fish on the prowl in our waters. Our lakes are at a peak right now, which means that the chances of a 50 inch caliber fish are out there on every cast.
While the weather turns to fall before our eyes, I anticipate much of the same from the fish. I'm looking for short feeding windows to be the norm 'til ice up, few follows, more takers, and extremely large rewards. I'm sure some days will be better than others, but hey, that's muskie fishing, especially in the fall. And, I'm anticipating a new state record in my boat as I once again start my "quest for the one!" I hope you stick with us as it all unfolds. Until the big one strikes again, keep on livin' the dream!
Catch more fish at www.trophyencounters.com
Muskie fishing is an addiction, it's as simple as that. Our sport is unique, exciting, passionate, addictive, and more importantly, it is growing. Growing at a rate that is alarmingly cool. If you've fished a muskie lake in Minnesota the last couple of years, then obviously you know what I'm talking about. It is hard to look across any muskie pond without seeing a boat with guys standing up casting huge lures. We are everywhere! While this is awesome stuff, it's important to remember where it all came from, and what we can do to protect our resource.
Coming up on Saturday October 2, one of the most instrumental fisherman to our sport is being honored and celebrated by another instrumental muskie supporting organization. I know that sounded like a lot of instrumental talk, but in reality, Muskies Inc. has really done a lot to give us the opportunities that we have to fish muskies in the metro area of our state. Not only that, but they are having a fishing tournament to honor the legendary muskie angler named George Wahl who was an important part in bringing our favorite fish to our lakes. This tournament is two-fold. To remember and honor the legacy of George Wahl, and to continue the stocking efforts of our local lakes and muskie fisheries. Yep, that's right. The more people that fish this tournament, the more money that goes back into our muskie fishery. It seems simple right? Well Muskies Inc. needs our support to make it a success. All we have to do is sign up to fish in the tournament. All the money, that's right, 100% of our entry fee of $50, will go to support the muskie fishery in our metro lakes. Once you are signed up, you will be able to choose between the top 12 muskie lakes in the metro, and there are $5,000 worth of prizes to win. Catch a muskie, win a prize and put more muskies in our lakes! Hmmm.... that sounds like a good day to me!
I know this might have sounded like a bit of an advertisement to you, but this is one of the few opportunities that we get as "muskie nuts" to help our own cause. Plus I think it will be a fun day on the water. Click here if you would like to learn more about the upcoming event. See you on the water!