Thursday, February 23, 2012

Day 287: BAMMMMMM!!!!!

It doesn't get much sweeter than this.
When: Thursday, February 23rd, from 9am to 1:30pm
Where: Lake Hopatcong
What: Musky fishing, solo, on a rented boat from Dow's
Weather: Mild, windy and partly cloudy, high of 53 degrees, winds up to 12mph from the NW and gusting to 23mph
Barometric Pressure: 29.51in and rising
Moon: Waxing, a day or so past new
Water Conditions: Lake was 30 inches low, partly stained, main lake was 35 degrees, found water as warm at 41

Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow.

This is...without question...the greatest fish I have ever caught. 

Not only was it most likely a few inches longer and a few pounds heavier than the musky I took on the Allegheny, this fish was all me. I found it, I hooked it on my gear and I landed it all by myself. Heck, I even propped my camera up on the cooler and took the picture myself.

I'm not saying that to brag, I'm saying that to convey the sheer satisfaction of doing 100% of the legwork in hunting a trophy like this and then finally watching the net come up underneath it.

Absolutely fantastic.

I guess fate was a little on my side here too. I was going to make a trip to the Big Lake on Wednesday, but changed my mind to get some errands done. When it turned out to be a beautiful day I regretted the decision...but not anymore. After seeing the weather on Thursday was going to be a carbon-copy, I wasn't about to make the same mistake twice.

I called Laurie at Dow's who told me she had a boat in the water, and my decision was made.

It was a bit breezy as I shoved off Nolan's Point just before 9am, but I wasn't worried. I've learned from countless hours on the Interweb that musky often feed in windy conditions. Plus, I knew exactly where I was headed and suspected there would be some shelter from the blow. Although I've never heard of anyone fishing musky this early in the year, in this part of the lake, my Spidey-senses told me they had to be there. 

I would have bet the ranch on it.

And I should have.

I had to battle the wind and the weeds a bit, but after a few fruitless hours I found myself casting a big jerkbait on a perfect drift down a nice weedline.

That's when she hit.
I think I kind of blacked-out after that, but I do remember backing-down on my drag, playing the fish next to the boat and seeing my second musky in three days right there in the Stowmaster.
Although this fish was a bit different.

This one....was a monster.

Musky tend to be big fish by all standards. This was a BIG musky by all musky standards. I did not find the tape measure to get an accurate length, but a handful of musky sharpies have put this fish at 48 inches and close to 30 pounds.

That's one heck of a musky.

One thing that I want to point out is that I have invested a lot of time and money to be prepared to catch these fish. I use St. Croix Legend Tournament Musky Rods, Shimano Calcutta reels and 80-pound braided TUF-line. Musky should be brought to the boat and released as quickly as possible to ensure they survive. A quality musky net to keep the fish in the water while it is unhooked and a pair of GREAT hook-cutters are also absolutely necessary. If it wasn't for a pair of $60 Knipex hook-cutters, this fish would have died.

But it didn't. I was able to snip the hooks, take a quick photo and hold her in the water until she was ready to swim away on her own strength.
I cannot describe the incredible satisfaction I get from putting so much effort into catching musky and then looking at a photo like the one up top. However, I can tell you it feels a whole lot better to be able to set the fish free.