Heading into the 2015 University of Esox Canada Musky Adventure school on Lake of the Woods, Musky Hunter magazine Editor Jim Saric and Managing Editor Steve Heiting figured a milestone was about to be reached — or at least they hoped it would be reached.
“We needed 79 muskies to reach the 2,500th fish at our University of Esox events,” Saric said. “If we couldn’t get 79 for the week on Lake of the Woods, it would have been a very tough week!”
As it turned out, Saric and Heiting didn’t have to worry. The 2,500th musky was boated at 9:20 a.m. on Thursday, July 23, by Ken McAfee of Lisle, Illinois, who hooked the fish on a bucktail in a figure-8 maneuver from a sandy bay. It was netted by his partner, Brian Fitzgerald of Naperville, Illinois, and measured 39 1/2 inches.
Later, when students and staff returned to Sandy’s Blackhawk Island camp for dinner and a discussion of fishing patterns, all of the muskies caught during the day were charted. “We had a bunch of fish caught that day — in fact, it was one of the more productive days in the history of our schools with 34 muskies,” Heiting said. “We checked and double-checked the times the fish were caught, and it was apparent Ken had the one.”
McAfee was presented with an 8-foot-6 St. Croix Legend Tournament Long Ranger rod inscribed with “University of Esox 2,500th Musky” and a Shimano Calcutta 400D baitcasting reel. “St. Croix and Shimano have long been supporters of our schools,” said Saric, “and they provided a terrific prize for Ken.”
McAfee was stunned by the prize. “I still can’t believe I won the rod and reel,” he said later. “What a thrill it was and still is. St. Croix rods are great and I’m looking forward to trying the Shimano reel.”
Saric and Heiting launched the University of Esox in 1996 and have conducted schools in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and Kentucky, as well as Ontario, during that time. Muskies up to 54 1/2 inches have been caught in University of Esox events. “Even more importantly,” Heiting noted, “no musky has ever been kept at one of our schools. We not only teach our students to be better musky fishermen, but to be respectful of other anglers and the musky resource.”
Watch Musky Hunter for details of the 2016 University of Esox Musky Schools, or visit www.muskyhunter.com/university-of-esox/