Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Chufsky's First Musky

A 30-inch tiger musky caught ice fishing on a snowy day in New Jersey. My first one.
When:Saturday, January 8th, from 8am to 3pm
What:Ice Fishing with Nick Niles
Weather:Cold, cloudy and snowy. 10 mph NE wind. High not much past 30.

The name Chufsky was given to me by my close friends in high-school. No one has really called me that in awhile, but it happens to rhyme with "musky." There you go.

For those who don't hang out at tackle shops and spend your evenings on http://www.njfishing.com/ or http://www.iceshanty.com/, the muskellunge, or musky for short, is a fabled freshwater fish. Most will go their entire lives without successfully landing one; a fate that I have been determined to overcome.

This was my first musky and I would hope that it's not my last. Given my recent obsession with ice fishing, it's also pretty sweet that #1 came out of a hole.

Note:The musky pictured above is a tiger muskellunge; a hybrid of a northern pike and a musky. Although tigers tend to grow faster, they do not grow as large as true strain musky. This fish is a small specimen by all means, as these fish are growing to lengths close to 50-inches in Lake Hopatcong. The New Jersey State record weighed 42 lbs. and 13 oz. and was caught from Monksville Reservoir by Bob Neals in 1997. The world record is close to 70lbs. and was caught in Wisconsin in 1942. 

To be clear, although this is the first musky that I've landed, it was not the first one that I've hooked. There have been 3 others.

1)Monksville Reservoir, circa 2000. I was getting comfortable with my new Loomis GL3/Shimano Calcutta that I had gotten as a gift. I was tossing a Booyah spinnerbait from the rip rap alongsided the road when a green flash followed by a boil made my spinnerbait disappear, and was gone.

2)Lake Hopatcong, circa 2002. I was on a rented boat from Dow's with herring in the livewell when I noticed that one of herring was abnormally large. Like as big as a trout. I figured "what the hey" and stuck it on 2/0 hook. Shortly thereafter, my rod doubled over and in a heartbeat the herring and hook were gone. Now I can't be 100% sure that this was a musky, but as the magic 8-ball would say, "signs point to yes."

3)Stonewall Jackson Lake, West Virginia, 2009. I woke up on a beautiful morning after spending the night in a tent, lakeside, with my lovely fiance. Before I fired-up breakfast, I decided to toss a Booyah Boogie Bait through the chocolate-milky water in the cove where our site was located. After a few casts, I felt a ton of weight, then saw the long body of the musky that had taken my bait. Unfortunate for me that I got a little ahead of myself. I was thinking about how difficult it would be to land the fish from the 8-foot embankment on which I was standing. I forgot to actually fight it first. As I tried to get to lower ground, I gave it slack and once again, my musky was gone.

So, as Nick and I were walking onto Secret Lake X that is known to have its share of toothy critters, there was only one thing on my mind. Many of my ice fishing trips boil down to getting that one flag, and for the second time this winter, I got it.

My four tip-ups were all armed with 40-lb. fluorocarbon leader, #8 treble hooks and a huge shiner. There were probably about 5 hours when not a one flag was tripped, but that changed. We had jigged up a bunch of small bluegills, and as Nick took a break to go check the traps, one of my flags went up right in front of him.

He gave me the notice, however as I got to my tip-up, there was no line running out. I pulled in the slack regardless, and when I felt resistence, jerked the line and lodged the hook in the mouth of my first musky.

The fight was fairly short as the fish only took 3 short runs, but it stayed on and eventually came through the hole. After taking the hook out, getting my Kodak moment and reviving it, he slipped back down the hole lived happily ever after.
Thanks to Nick for the assist on the landing, the photography and the awesome memory.

Next Up:Um...ice fishing. Most likely Monday (MLK day) if the weather holds. The 8-ball is predicting Lake Hopatcong.

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