Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Sampling Of Fishy Excuses

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I’ve chased muskies in many locations over a period of many years. Most of my muskie trips have been in Michigan, Wisconsin or Ontario waters, and I’ve sampled the pleasures of these great game fish in other states as well.

I fished for, caught and lost muskies in Kentucky, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, New York and several other places. I’m always fascinated with the excuses anglers, myself included, have used after losing a fish. Some of these excuses show imagination, ingenuity and a sense of humor.

Someone who is a known angler, and is trying to protect his sterling reputation may refer to a lost fish as “a professional release.” Another angler may call it a “long-distance” release. They mean the same thing; the angler messed up.

We’ve heard all the common excuses. People have been known to blame too much sun for weakening their line, and one guy offered up the excuse that storing his reels with heavy monofilament near the furnace said nearby ozone weakened his line, which caused him to break off on a big fish one day in Ontario’s Lake of the Woods.

Anyone who has cast all day with big jerkbaits or spinnerbaits speak of having a sore arm and wrist from the tiring repetitive exercise of continuous casting. They blame their missed fish on a weak wrist. “My wrist didn’t have enough strength left to set the hooks properly.”

Most muskie addicts I know use their whole body to set the hook, and not just once. My tactic is to pound the hook home at least twice.

There are thousands of reasons why people miss muskie strikes. The major reason is people often are asleep with their eyes open. They’ve become lulled into daydreaming by inactivity and begin nodding off while fishing. They come back with some hair-brained excuse such as:

I laid my rod down with the lure in the water to fire up a smoke. (A good reason to quit.) Many people are midway through a cast, and as the lure leaves the rod tip, they notice the snap swivel is still open after switching lures. Guess which cast the muskie will hit?

You’ve noticed the line is frayed, and figured: “Hey, the fish aren’t hitting. I’ll make another cast.” Again, that’s when muskies hit and when anglers lose the lure and the fish. Sometimes, though not often enough, the muskie isn’t hooked. He opens his mouth and the lure bobs to the surface, giving anglers time for a spiffy quote. “Boy, look at that. She give me my lure back.”

I was fishing Tomahawk Lake in Wisconsin one time, and my buddy and I were working a weed line. I was working a jerkbait, and he was buzzing a spinnerbait, when a muskie was spotted behind my jerkbait. The fish smacked it as it rose to the surface, and I set the hook.

The fish didn’t have the lure, and it came sailing out of the water at my friend’s face who was turned slightly away. I stuck out my hand to keep the big Suick from hitting him in the face. That buried two hooks in my hand, and I muttered some not-nice words while he pulled the hooks out. We poured some iodine in the wounds, put Band-Aids on them, and went back to fishing. Muskie fishermen are tough.

Another guy and I was fishing at night once for Northern muskies in a Michigan lake, and there can be a coincidence between casting after dark and getting a backlash. He was working on what appeared to be a huge backlash (a.k.a., professional over-run), and his muskie-size Jitterbug lay idle on the surface 20 feet away. He pulled on one of the loops, and it twitched the lure and the line, and the Jitterbug jittered on the surface. A big muskie slammed that lure, gave a vicious yank, and the line broke.

So who is going to believe a guy who says a big muskie hit while he was untangling a backlash? No one except someone who has had it happen to them once or twice.

I was fishing on a trolling boat on Michigan’s Lake St. Clair for muskies one time, and we were using Homer LeBlanc’s method of keeping lures in or very close to the prop wash. One rod on each stern corner is a “down” rod, and it has a heavy weight to keep the lure about six feet behind the boat in the most violent part of the prop wash.

I was bored, and decided to hold the rod instead of leaving it in the rod holder. I was looking around at all of the lines when a muskie hit my lure and nearly yanked me overboard. The fish took out 50 yards of line and stayed deep, the sign of a big fish. We eventually brought in all lines, and stopped the boat so I could fight the fish.

Fifteen minutes went by and the fish stayed deep, and then the line started to rise in the water. The fish rolled on the surface, and we’d already landed a 30-pounder and this fish was bigger than the earlier one. It stayed 30 feet behind the boat, and then it rolled on the tight line, and the hooks fell out.

How big was it? Thirty-five pounds, probably, and it could have been even heavier. I looked around, everyone looked at me, and no one spoke until I broke the lengthy silence.

“How can someone have a muskie on for 20 minutes only to lose it right behind the boat and just out of netting range? It must have sprung the hook or broke off a hook.”

Yeah, sure, everybody looked away and we began setting lines again as I checked the lure. There were no sprung or broken hooks. The whole secret to this muskie fishing game is to come up with an original excuse that no one has heard before.

It never works but it makes us feel better.

Posted by Dave Richey on 10/18 at 09:02 PM
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