There was a little nervousness, a little anxiety, after all I had never gone after a predator with this reputation before. This toothy monster was a strong and formidable foe and would require both physical and mental endurance. So when Adam and I hit the river in his ten foot john boat a voice in the back of my head kept repeating “we’re going to need a bigger boat.” Our quarry, the musky!
Until this day I had never seen a musky in the flesh. My experience was limited to what I had witnessed on occasional outdoor television shows, but Adam was an experienced musky angler and we were finally able to work out our schedules to set out together. Preparing for the trip I felt as inept as a fisherman could. You see I am a bass and trout man from way back, fishing the small streams and farm ponds of the Maryland countryside. The largest fish I had ever caught was a 20 pound catfish out of the Potomac River, but he didn’t have the teeth of a musky and we were not going to be dropping chicken livers or cut bait over the side and waiting.
The night before, I went through my gear and readied my catfish rod, a 6 foot, medium action Shakespear Ugly Stik, and spooled 15 lb mono. Adam explained to me the sharp gill plate that muskies possess and in combination with their sharp teeth, so I added a few steel leaders to the assembly. The New River is also known as good smallmouth fishery and so I could not pass up any opportunity for some smallie action. I throw a few neverletmedowners, like white swirl tail plastics, broken back rapalas, and a crawfish crankbait, into the tackle box and bring a bass rod along just in case.
We hit the river and decide to do some bass fishing first at the mouth of a tributary near the boat ramp. The sun was warm, the sky clear and a beautiful blue, and best of all the lines were tight. We caught a few smallies, mostly on the white swirl tails, but Adam’s heart is for bigger game. So we put down our bass rods and head towards deeper water. Now I had heard that a musky is a fish of 10,000 casts, and I was hoping that we wouldn’t have to wait that long. But we abandoned ourselves to the current and fish one bank then cranked up the jet motor and make a quick run back to the head of the hole to work the other side. Adam had loaned me the largest roostertail-like spinnerbait I had ever seen and the thing must have weighed a pound when wet. I had a little bit of apprehension, afraid of losing his ten dollar spinner, I guess on a rock, snag, or overhanging branches. But after a few hours and through the increasing cramps in my arm, wrist, and shoulders……and ribs……and legs suddenly Adam gets a set on a big musky.
The fish fought hard for only four or five minutes but the excitement level in the boat shot a mile high. When he landed the fish, I finally could appreciate its beautiful markings and ferocious appearance. At 37″, it was a great representative of the species. But before
we could get the smiles off our face from Adam’s catch, a huge swirl over my line and a sudden disappearance of my spinner had me on the working end of another monster. Adam could hardly believe it when I yelled out “Got one!” The drag singed as the line was ripped from my reel. After a few minutes I started to get the best of him and soon he was in the boat. I wanted a photo of my first musky to remember this day by so Adam showed me the dangerous parts and handed me my trophy 37″er. As we fumbled for the camera and the picture, we failed to realize how close we had drifted to the fast waters. After some pretty hairy moments we nearly lost ourselves and the boat, but we finally made it to a rocky bar. We snapped a few quick shots and got this fish back in the water. Musky are notorious for exerting every ounce of energy they have in the fight and are susceptible to being overcome by exhaustion. When he shot away, relief came over us as we knew he would survive. The last thing we wanted was to kill an incredible fish for a picture.
To this day, this remains my only trip for musky. I am told that it is rare to catch one on your first trip or any trip on the New River these days. For this reason, Adam never keeps any of the fish he catches. So I consider myself pretty lucky, and hope that this is not the last time Adam and I make the trip.