June 6, 2014 Share

Small Boy, Small Boat, Giant Muskie

A couple weeks back I headed into the woods behind the family cabin to retrieve a small aluminum boat that had been dumped there nearly a decade ago after 40 years of faithful service. The transom was rotted out, so Maddie and I replaced it with some treated lumber, then attached an old 6-horse outboard. Maddie seems to enjoy her new boat as much as I did when I was her age.

In front of the house is a breakline that tops out at 8 feet, with some scattered rocks mixed in with the sand. Of late, it has been holding walleyes and I’ve enjoyed great success trolling cranks at dusk. So Thursday night I grabbed Pierce and he and I piled into Maddie’s boat. The wind was blowing about 15 MPH so the lake was rough, which was alright with Pierce as he loves wet boat rides.

We started upwind of the hotspot. Pierce had on a small gold crankbait and let it out as I cast a similar bait. Almost immediately, something slammed Pierce’s bait, nearly pulling him off his boat seat. As he hung on, I cleared my line then tried to back down on the fish without swamping the boat in the big waves coming from behind up.

Pierce fought the fish well, given all he had was a light spinning rod loaded with 8-pound test. Still, it was a full five minutes before we saw the fish, a giant muskie, which porpoised about 40 yards behind the boat.

For the next 15 minutes, the battle raged. I learned during the time Pierce has grit, determination and when pushed beyond his level of coping, anger will boil to the surface.

I took the rod from Pierce after he had worked the fish close to the boat. The long fight had sapped him of his strength and he was near tears. We had no net, so I tried to gill the fish the first time I worked her boatside. She exploded at my touch, dousing Pierce and I with gallons of water. The next time I’d worked her close I was able to grab her by the base of her tail with my left hand, then slid my right hand to her gill plate. She was too spend to resist much this time.

When trying to remove the hooks with the fish still in the water proved impossible, I pulled her in the boat and laid her on the middle seat between Pierce and I, then stuck my hand gingerly into her maw and worked the hooks free. I was stunned to see the light mono (8-pound Stren Brute Strength) was wound though the teeth on the roof of her mouth. Why it never broke remains a mystery.

I’ll be honest. My initial response was to crank up the outboard and head for shore. We had no camera with and I wanted a picture of Pierce and his muskie. But I quickly realized the right (and legal) thing to do was release the fish, and did. It disappeared with a couple strong tail beats.

Pierce had a weird look on his face when the encounter ended. It was then I realized the fish was so big he was afraid of it.

When the doctors told Karen and I 11 years ago our son had Down Syndrome I never thought we’d ever share this type of memory. –Steve



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