When the Muskies Went Wild
by Tom Davis
With the possible exception of those who pursue Atlantic salmon, no other anglers endure such barren expanses between strikes as muskie fishermen, for the muskie is the most capricious, the least predictable of gamefish. It may rise like a U-boat to follow a lure only to dissolve into the depths as the bait approaches the craft; but it could just as easily strike when the lure is inches from the rod tip, bending your rod as if it were a willow wand and stripping line with such fury you’d swear the pitch of the wailing drag could shatter glass.
That’s what muskie fishing is all about. Because the fish is so cunning, and the passions of those who practice the sport so intense, it’s natural that legends have arisen. The great muskie waters all boast their own stories. From Ontario’s Rainy Lake to Wisconsin’s Chippewa Flowage to New York’s Thousand Islands, these are accounts of muskies whose heads and tails were simultaneously visible on opposite sides of the boat; of muskies attacking water-skiers; of boats sunk by anglers trying to subdue muskies with .22 pistols; of reels that puked up their guts like beer-drunk teenagers; of splintered rods and shattered nerves.
There’s even a mystery novel, The Muskie Murders, about a man dragged overboard by a huge muskellunge and drowned when he became entangled in the heavy line. Yet one well-documented legend exists that overshadows all others. As Ron Schara wrote in Muskie Mania: “Of all the tales and tribulations . . . none matches the events that began on a hot, muggy July day on Minnesota’s Leech Lake.”