Friday, July 24, 2009
"Make the Next One Count"
As my alarm went off this morning at 6AM, I peered out my window only to see the trees bending in a steady wind and rain falling at a 45 degree angle. Nevertheless, I dragged myself out of bed and over to Matt Clay's house. I was a bit anxious to get to the ramp and see if we'd encounter the same downpours that barraged us inside Ottawa's city limits. Spirits were high though as this was surely looking to be a perfect "muskie" day.
Arriving at the ramp we were greeted with a moderate east wind which, although moderate, was kicking up decent waves. Matt and I unpacked the truck and I took out a transmitter to make sure it worked. As I dug for my backups I realized I only had two transmitters! DOH! What if the bite was hot? What if we caught two 30"ers (still OK, but let's go bigger shall we?) and then caught a 55"? We wouldn't be able to put a transmitter in the 55 because *someone* forgot extra tags!
We fished a couple spots first thing that yielded nothing. Clarity was good, cloud cover was good, rain was OK (not good, but not bad either), and the slight chop was good too. I decided to approach our third spot from downstream and work upstream letting the wind push us along a slow drift. We made it past the "best" part of the structure with nothing to show, but I continued to follow the drift into an area I hadn't fished before.
The steady pull of my Dinnerbell was interrupted by a sharp strike and immediate hookset. In roughly 1 minute we had a fish in the net! Small (36"), but we'll take it! This fish got the "gentle" treatment with no air exposure, so no photo op with the little guy. The next fish would receive the "normal" treatment with 90 seconds air exposure (to simulate picture taking, admiration, and an out-of-water measurement) with time for pictures.
We tracked the fish at the 10 minute post-release mark to find it merely swam to the bottom and sat there. I put the tracking equipment down, picked up my rod again, and bent my bucktail back into its proper shape. Quick boat-side check to make sure it ran straight and I was back chucking and winding.
As we began casting again, I said to Matt, "OK, we just used one of two transmitters on a 36". Now it's time to catch that 50" we've been looking for. Make the next one count!" The Big Guy upstairs must have been smiling down on us....
I launched a cast out and watched the bait bulge back to the boat over the milfoil. In a nanosecond a golden streak of lightening lit up the water behind my bait and nearly ripped the rod out of my hands! As the fish tore through the weed bed both Matt and I kept muttering, "BIG FISH! It's a 50!" As a side note, you know the fish is BIG when they shake their heads side-to-side and there are noticeable pauses between the left and right shakes.
Matt scooped the beast with ease. When I saw the tail go into over the hoop I let out a big sigh of relief. I was literally shaking from head to toe. Matt popped the hook out and worked on getting it free from the net. As he did this the fish thrashed... all I heard as I was busy digging in my sampling kit was, "It's in past the barb." This is something no fisherman wants to hear, so I quickly grabbed the Knipex. Matt had me wait a second to see if he could push the hook through the skin, but the hook point was in parallel to the bone so I snipped the hook and left a little curve of the shank exposed.
So here we are: fisherman with hook lodged in his hand and a giant muskie in the net, AND we still needed to work the fish up. Matt put his discomfort aside and helped me sample the fish. She taped out at 50.25" with an incredible girth (a measurement we did not get). The fish's caudle peduncle was so THICK the needle we use to get blood with barely reached the backbone (there's a vein that runs down the bone which we use to take blood from). I was able to get a tiny bit of blood, enough to take glucose and lactate data, but not enough to fill a vial. I could not reach the backbone again.
The fish swam away strong and actually moved around a bit in the two hours we tracked her. I just received an email from Matt and it sounds like the hook removal was... not fun. Here's to Matt and his dedication to the cause! *Clink*
Enjoy the photos folks. I sure am!