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Fishing for the freshwater king — the musky

By Staff | Nov 11, 2022

Recently I took a trip to Tennessee to deal with a family health emergency and while there found that I had some time to kill. Always trying to make lemonade from life’s sometimes sour hurricane lemons, I made a call to a nationally known but local guide and found that due to client health issues he also had a few days available as well. Timing!

I truly enjoy lite tackle Southwest Florida saltwater fishing and the reason I live here, but when it comes to freshwater fishing I’m a musky nut. Freshwater stripers, smallmouth bass, trout are all favorites but in freshwater, the musky is king and the greatest challenge, which is why it’s commonly called “The fish of 10,000 casts.”

Some folks spend a lifetime of weekends chasing them and never even see one. More often than not, if you do see one it’s just following your lure out of curiosity then simply fades away at the last second, which is why musky anglers do the “figure eight” at the end of each and every cast even if you don’t see a following fish.

As you retrieve your lure, get it to within 12 inches of the rod tip and without stopping the lures movement, bend and stick the rod down in the water a foot or two and draw a large and wide underwater figure 8 with your rod tip and lure. The rod being underwater pulling your lure doesn’t seem to bother a fish that’s really interested in eating your offering. Often the musky will follow your lure from below unseen during the straight retrieve then come up and strike during the figure eight. Most pro guides will tell you that 50% to as much as 65% of their musky strikes happen on the figure eight and why you must spend the extra effort to do a couple at the end of — each and every cast.

A 45 to 50-inch, 40-pound fish like a musky strikes any lure hard but that same big fish unexpectedly striking at boat side with only 12 inches of line out, is nearly heart stopping.

Now for the down side; unless you are blessed with beginner’s luck, musky casting is simply hard work requiring real dedication and physical endurance. Musky anglers don’t call it fishing they call it “grinding.”

These always unpredictable fish often bite best in unsettled windy, rainy and cold stormy weather so good quality rain and snow gear is a must. Muskies are at the top of the lake’s food chain and eat animals as big as muskrats and raccoons, ducks and, of course, other big fish, which is another reason musky lures are so large (Yes, there are full-sized muskrat and duck lures!)

This is where the dedication and endurance part comes to play. Cast a 10-foot-long, heavy action rod, equipped with a 24-inch-long, 1.5-pound rubber lure non-stop for 10 hours in the cold pouring rain, while doing a figure 8 at the end of each cast, for multiple days. That’s musky fishing and why it’s not wildly popular with everyone. For me, it’s a fish and fishing challenge that fascinating. In saltwater I’m used to seeing big fish but to see and actually catch a large super predator like a musky in freshwater, is always a special thrill.

Folks think of the musky as an “up north” fish but the muskies’ population is widespread with Tennessee and a few spots in northern Georgia at the very bottom of its range. Waters below that are simply too warm to support this oddball, super predator.

If you’re up for a change of scenery and a true angling challenge, world class musky lake Melton Hill near Knoxville, Tennessee, is calling your name and is only 12 hours away. The fishing goes on all winter with giant stripers and 30-pound brown trout as by-catch!

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or captgeorget3@aol.com.