Aug 1, 2006

Mr. Magoon

     Navigating the intricacies of life as a newlywed can be daunting.  You have to learn to put the toilet seat down, discuss your feelings ad infinitum, and figure out some way to impress the in-laws.  I'm sure there are others, but as far as I can remember, those are the three most important pillars upon which a successful fledgling marriage is built.  For your sake, I'll spare you my insights on the first two pillars, and to be honest I still haven't quite cracked the nut that is the third pillar, so you're on your own with that one too.  However (here comes my Dr. Phill moment), I will say that catching a fish that is notoriously difficult to catch is a great way to get your foot in the door, and catching two of them is even better (seriously, I've already got the mustache, I just need to shave my head and I could have my own talk show). 

     I talked my wife into marrying me in the spring of 2006. A few months later we loaded up our Jeep and headed across the country to visit her family in Wisconsin and Ohio.  
Mt. Rushmore
We Stopped and saw the sights along the way. Here's Mt. Rushmore.
Not too many people take the time to hike around to the backside of Mt. Rushmore. I'm sure glad we did!
The Badlands in South Dakota were one of my favorite parts of this trip.
     Since this is a fishing blog I'll skip most of the trip and get to the scaly stuff. My wife arranged for us to go visit her Grandpa Magoon at his lake house in Northern Wisconsin for a couple days so I said as innocently as possible, "Gee honey, what ever will we do there?". Her grandpa knew his stuff when it came to fishing up there, evidenced by the several huge musky and pike mounted on his wall.  I drooled when I saw them. I wanted one of my own! So musky was our quarry.
     Since the lake-house was right on the lake we could come and go out onto the lake as we pleased. Grandpa Magoon also had a lunar fishing chart and planned our fishing trips around it.  We only went out for a couple hours each time, but we only went when the chart suggested we would catch fish. I had never used one of those charts so faithfully before but this time I was glad we did!
     Musky are known as the "fish of 1,000 casts". Recently I've heard that moniker applied to other fish like steelhead and Atlantic salmon and while the description may not be too far off for those fish as well, muskies are the original. A musky fisherman's arm is almost always tired after a day of fishing, but not from reeling in the one or two fish he caught (if he's lucky enough to get a bite), his arm will be tired from casting all day the huge plugs, spinners, or even flies that are themselves big enough to eat lesser fish. What I'm getting at is while I vigorously hoped to add a musky to my species list, I certainly wasn't counting on anything.  I knew it would require a little smile from the fish gods. 
     The first morning I thought it was weird that we were waiting until mid morning to go out, but that's what the lunar chard said to do, so that's what we did. I began hurling my big bucktail spinner towards the weeds and dutifully retrieving it hoping for some sign of life. Surprisingly, it didn't take long until Grandpa Magoon saw a fish swirl on his lure. I thought there might be hope after all!  A few minutes later he hooked up and quickly brought to hand a small musky. They evidently could be caught!
This was the first musky of the trip.  I wasn't bothered at all that it wasn't attached to my lure.
     That fish gave me some needed new hope.  After all I had been casting for at least a half hour without any bites!  I was starting to lose hope. I kept casting. And casting. Then FINALLY, one especially well placed cast right up next to a weed bed was rewarded by a bite. I set the hook into what felt like a decent fish! I gingerly reeled it in mentally preparing myself for the disappointment that was sure to come when he spit the hook.  But he didn't and he was soon in the net! All this and just a half hour into my first day musky fishing!
My first muskellunge arrives boatside!
Of course I wanted a picture of it.  Unfortunately the fish didn't want his picture taken and this happened... If you can't tell what's going through my head, I'll give you a hint: musky have huge teeth, and where are those teeth headed? -hence my look of understandable concern.

I finally wrestled the beast into submission and he cooperated for the picture.  And yep this is what I look like under all that facial hair and table-muscle...
     I had done it! It certainly wasn't a wall hanger at 28 inches, but the musky was officially on my species list! Perhaps most impressive of all was that it happened about 80 or 90 casts into the day. By conventional wisdom, I should have had to make 920 more casts before having as much action. Apparently those lunar tables aren't just made-up after all.
     We headed out three more times in the next day and a half whenever the chart said to. On the second trip I added the northern pike to my list which was almost as exciting as the musky! Unfortunately, that fish really didn't want his picture taken and he swam away calling me names before I could document the catch. Finally on the last trip out onto the lake we were casting over a submerged weed flat and I got a bite as soon as my spinner hit the water. Sure enough lightning had struck twice and I reeled in my second musky of the trip! This one was a couple inches smaller than the first but it certainly still counts, although I don't have any photographic evidence to back up my story. 

     We don't get to see Grandpa Magoon often for a variety of reasons; not the least of which being that he lives 1,800 miles away.  However, when we do see him, musky fishing is always on the list of topics of conversation. So in a nutshell, if you're in a pinch and need to make a good impression with the in-laws, try catching a musky or two; it couldn't hurt! Your still on your own about discussing your feelings and learning to put the toilet seat down though...

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