I Was A Rookie, Not Anymore! by Tom Pinckney
I read about Muskies in several magazines and decided to give it a try. I actually found a lot of material about Muskies, purchased books, tapes, etc. to educate myself about the fish, methods to catch them, and also learned what tackle to buy, and where to buy it. I did not want to catch a musky by accident, but on purpose! This is the story of my quest to catch the “fish of 10,000 casts” – the mighty Muskellunge!
Trolling large crankbaits behind in-line planer boards seemed to be the best method for me to catch a musky. I had no equipment, not even rods, and had to start from scratch. A local park was replacing its rental fleet and was auctioning off its older boats. I Purchased a Lowe, 14 foot Jon boat for $340. Although it was old, I figured it had plenty of serviceable years left.
Floors of 3/4″ plywood were installed in the front and back of the boat for better footing and indoor-outdoor carpeting for cushioning. A pedestal seat was attached to the floor in the front for casting and a removable padded seat was installed on top of the rear bench seat for the boat operator. Two Minkotta 44 lb. electric motors were purchased to power the boat, as the only musky lake around is electric only. Rod holders were attached on both sides of the boat and two rod holders were attached on the rear for fishing the prop wash. Power to the motors is supplied with four marine batteries. Three, six-foot, heavyweight Ugly Stix were purchased for trolling the lures. Reels were Ambassador 6500 C-3s.
Since then, the trolling outfits have been replaced with Daiwa linecounter reels mounted on Falcon, Extra-Heavy – 7-foot graphite bait casters spooled with 17 lb. Trilene XT Mono and then upgraded to 30 # saltwater mono & 50 # braid. I make my own wire leaders from 90 lb. seven strand wire and Berkley components. I felt that straight-model 8″ Believers and Suicks similar in color to the lake’s sunfish and golden shiners, would be the best baits. These were bought from a mail order catalog. A Humminbird portable depth finder is used to maintain trolling depth and to find structure. The transducer is attached to the boat front with a bracket. A life vest, which I always wear it in a moving boat, finished out my arsenal. I had some knowledge, the right fishing equipment, and was ready to catch my first Musky!
In the area that I live there is only one lake with Muskies, Little Seneca Lake. Very few people fish for muskies there but an occasional small Musky is caught by Bass fisherman. I talked with a park employee and learned that Tiger Muskies, which are not “naturals” in Maryland, had been stocked in 1992 but that she had never seen a large one caught.
Little Seneca Lake is a watershed backup, located in Black Hill Park, Boyds, Maryland. It’s a beautiful lake with abundant wildlife including an occasional Bald Eagle. Maximum depth is 68 feet with abundant structure. Plenty of trees were left standing when the lake was filled. It is a trophy Largemouth Bass lake; size is limited to 15″ min. to increase the quality of the fish and receives a lot of fishing pressure. I felt that this was basically a “Virgin Lake” for Musky fishing. I started fishing for Muskies in early April and I caught several large bass including one that weighed 8 1/2 pounds, but no Muskies. After hundreds of hours of trolling I finally got my first Musky on September 3, 1997, around 5:00 pm.
I was alone, trolling 8″ Perch Believers in 15-20 ft. of water with lines out on both sides of my boat. One lure in approximately 20 ft. of water, the other outside the weed beds in approximately 8 ft of water. All of a sudden my deep-side planer board was pulled completely under the water. I thought I was hung up on a stump, this happens frequently, but when this huge fish surfaced I realized it was a Musky!!! As my heart pounded I fought him to the boat. Boy was he strong! After several boat-side deep dives, I finally landed him, which was very difficult without a net. What a thrill! He was thick-bodied and measured between 38 and 40 and a half inches, I had a hard time measuring him and. A passing fisherman photographed him as I practice CPR and I released the fish. However the story does not end here.
On September 7, at around 5:15 pm, I was alone trolling on Little Seneca Lake for about four hours and was ready to quit. I remembered reading somewhere that Muskies sometimes follow your boat in the prop-wash. I figured, why not give it a try? I dropped a Perch, 8″ Believer behind the boat and let out approx. 50 ft. of line. Five minutes later I was coming across a weedy point when all of a sudden, my reel alarm was screaming! A Musky was flying in the air behind my boat! He was attached to my line!!! Holy smokes! Another one! This one was different; He did all his fighting away from the boat. After numerous cartwheels, jumps, etc., I finally landed him. He was measured at 36″, and was photographed by another angler. I’ll never forget the look on his face as he saw me release this beautiful fish to fight and grow larger for another day.
I am now known to some people as the “Musky Fisherman”; remember few people fish for them at Little Seneca Lake. When they ask me how I catch Muskies, I tell them that I owe it all to the time I took to do the research on this magnificent species.
Thank God, for the wonderful opportunity to catch these great fish!