THE MUSKY BUCKET LIST
By Dean Davenport
After 4 months of preparation and anticipation, I fulfilled another lifetime dream; I was getting my picture taken while holding my first ever musky.
My adventure started on a cold -36 February morning when I attended the Edmonton Boat and Sportsman show. I had had two main goals that day: 1. Meet up with a few friends I see every year to swap stories about our fall hunting trips and 2. Find a fishing trip for the summer of 2014.
After a few hours of looking around and talking with fishing guides, we ended up at the Shimano booth and my friend Stan, started talking to one of the reps about a new reel that he was looking at buying. I was talking to another rep I knew at the booth when I overheard Stan’s conversation; more specifically I heard the word “musky.”
It has always been a dream of mine to catch a musky. Being from Saskatchewan and now living in Alberta I had never even seen a musky, but had read articles and watched shows on them. Catching one was definitely near the top of my bucket list.
I joined in on the conversation and Stan introduced me to the Shimano Pro Staffer, John Hayes. I asked John questions about musky. John confirmed with me that he had a cabin on Lake of the Woods, Ontario, and he was a professional Bass fisherman and a guide on the lake. He now lived just outside of Edmonton but he grew up on the Lake of the Woods and had fished on the lake for over 40 years.
Four months later I left Edmonton for my 1,600 km trek. I arrived at the Clear Water Bay Shell station at 4:00 Thursday evening.
As I was walking through the parking lot John pulled up and I was quickly in my truck following him to his cabin. When we arrived at the cabin we went inside and I had a quick tour. He asked me if I wanted a bite to eat and some time to unpack my gear and get settled in. I grabbed my boat bag and looked at him and responded:
“I WANT TO GO FISHING!!!!”
The next morning we were at the lake by 6:30. The goal was to catch big walleye. John sat down with his map and mentally marked 11 different walleye holes that he had fished.
It wasn’t long before we caught a few walleye. The fish were hitting hard but we were not pulling in anything big. We fished 4 different holes and caught lots at each hole but still nothing big. About 9:30 we hit hole #5 and I caught a beautiful 59 cm walleye. We quickly netted it and took a few pictures and released it.
John told me he never kept any walleye over about 45 cm. After the small bass he took me to a spot where traditionally the fishing was a little slower but has some big walleye. We found our spot and dropped a marker 10 feet north of a sharp ledge that went from 12 feet to 34 feet.
We again attached the leeches onto the jigs and dropped the hooks to the bottom. John ran the trolling motor and moved us back and forth over the ledge. On the first pass I told him the fish finder was showing 4 large fish right on the bottom. The words were barely out of my mouth when I had a strike and brought in a beautiful 61 cm walleye. It was my first Lake of the Woods walleye over 5 lbs.
Over the next 2 hours John and I caught about 30 walleye; 6 of them were over 60 cm. We were both getting hungry so we decided it was time for a break and a quick bite to eat. John eased his boat over to the marker and started rolling up the string. I started to reel in my bait and had a hit. He turned to me and asked if I was ready to go and I responded as soon as I brought in the last fish.
John asked if I needed the net and I told him it felt like a great fish. As the fish got closer to the surface I caught my first glance of it and John turned to me and said, “It is huge, be careful with him.”
The Walleye ran on me 3 times and on the 4th time when it hit the surface John netted it and brought it into the boat. Just as he set the net into the boat I saw his fishing rod scoot across the front of the boat and I grabbed it. Instantly I set the hook and handed the rod to him. He told me to bring it in as he had to get the first one out of net. After a short fight, I brought the fish to the surface and John scooped it up.
We landed 2 fish within minutes of each other that were 74 cm and 67 cm with estimated weights of 9 lbs and 6 lbs.
After a nice fresh walleye lunch with a side of elk sausage pasta we talked about the plan for the next 2 days. I had never caught a bass before so we decided that Saturday would be dedicated to bass and Sunday would be a day of throwing big baits and targeting areas that should have musky in them.
About 5:00 we went back to the boat garage and I looked through John’s crank bait collection. I found a nice yellow perch crankbait that I wanted to try. John told me that it was a deep diver and would probably get snagged on the rocks. He suggested I used the one size smaller as it would not dive as deep. He tied it onto the same rod I had used the night before and we headed back to the spot we had trolled the previous evening.
Next morning we trolled along the shoreline without a hit on the first pass. On the 2nd pass, John caught a nice 63 cm walleye. We took a quick picture and discussed how it seemed the abundant smaller ones had moved out but it looked like some bigger ones had moved in.
On the next pass John caught another very nice walleye that was just over 54 cm. I was starting to wonder if I had made a mistake changing my crankbait color and mentally decided that if he caught another one, I would go back to the ghost crankbait. That thought was barely out of my head when I had a hit, a hit much harder than any of the walleye of the trip and my rod was bending and jerking. I thought for sure this had to be the biggest walleye of the day. I moved to the front of the boat as far away from the motor so I would have lots of room to play him.
After 5 minutes I had not yet seen the fish. We were in 22 feet of water and the fish was right under the boat.
I finally made some gains on it and it broke the surface just feet from the boat. As soon as I saw its big orange tail I yelled to John:
“THAT’S A MUSKY”
John responded to me, “It sure is”
The fish broke the surface and the huge tail splashed water into the boat getting me wet in the process.
.After 20 minutes and seeing the fish surface 7 times, we were about 400 meters from where I had originally caught him. We did not have a musky net with us but John decided that the walleye net would be big enough for the fish. As it came up for the 8th time I brought it towards the boat; John placed the net in front of the musky and as it lunged for another escape he caught the fish in the net and scooped it up. I immediately jumped down from the front of the boat and helped him lift the net.
It was one of the most exciting moments of my life. I let out a huge cowboy call and was grinning from ear to ear! I had fulfilled one of my life long dreams.
I had landed a 116 cm (45 inch) musky.