By Larry Ramsell
After an exceptionally windy mid-week cold snap that had caused us to not even fish on Wednesday, extending our trip for an extra day to compensate paid off big.
Trolling with Captain Mike Lazarus on the St. Lawrence River on November 24, at about 6 p.m. the graph indicated a large fish below the boat. Since the boat was grinding through small floating ice chunks, Mike said the fish would “never hit with all that ice noise.” But seconds after the boat cleared the last of the ice, the reel went off and the chaos ensued.
My fishing buddies Klaus Trieb (who had caught a 56 1/2-inch, 48-pounder from the same area just five days earlier) and Patrick Delaney quickly cleared the other rods and the fight for me was on. The huge fish went immediately to the bottom in 30 feet of water and dogged it out from there. I first thought that the reel drag was too loose as cranking the handle retrieved no line, so I tightened the drag three times to finally begin gaining line — but quickly loosened it again when the captain admonished me about it.
While not a long fight, it took several minutes to get the big girl to the surface. We could see that it was indeed a good fish, but we had no idea how big. After a brief battle on the surface, I was abletolead the musky into the waiting, none-too-big, Frabill Big Kahuna net. In the net, it became apparent to me that she was a very long fish, with a very wide back and bulging belly!
The black-and-orange jointed Bucher DepthRaider was firmly affixed in her jaws and she was unlikely to have gotten free short of breaking the line. After removing the hooks and quickly taking pictures, we then placed her on the Muskie Bumper “FatBoy” bumpboard, which is 10 inches wide she measured exactly 57 1/4 inches long. We then weighed the fish on a certified digital scale and she pulled the “zeroed” scale down to 54.40 pounds. She was then quickly released back into the river and immediately swam away strong.
Needless for me to say I was overjoyed because the fish stands as my personal best in both length and weight after 62 years of chasing muskies.
Believing that our Hayward Lakes Muskie’s, Inc. Chapter length record was 57 inches, ironically caught by my grandson Caiden two years before from Lake Vermilion, Minnesota, I had, unless there was a longer fish caught since by a chapter member that I am unaware of, just set a new chapter length record. After giving it further thought, I realized also, that this fish weighed two pounds more than the Muskies Inc.’s 52-year International historical weight record. My hope is the club will accept a witnessed, certified weight of a fish that had been released in its weight division.
The scale was subsequently checked by the Wisconsin Department of Weights & Measures on December 5 and found to be “dead on” with zero deviation.
While I am sure there have been muskies caught and released by Muskies Inc. members that would have exceeded the club’s 52-pound 6-ounce weight record (caught from the St. Lawrence River by Gale Radtke in 2002), I don’t know of any that were weighed on a certified scale and submitted. The final decision on my fish will of course be up to the club, but I’m happy either way!