by Matthew Breuer
As a fishing guide, a lifetime angler and a fishing promoter, I pride myself in being able to say that I’ve caught this fish or that fish, the one fish was blah-blah pounds, while the other was blah-blah inches long. I caught a limit of that species in 10 minutes once. 6 fish on 6 casts another time. You get the idea — stupid ego stuff that means nothing to anyone, aside from a child. They’re easily impressed, and believe that anything is cool if you tell the story with enough enthusiasm. Well, what if I told you that it took me 12,837 days to catch my first muskie while actually targeting them?
To be fair, I’ve caught quite a few muskies. I’ve also landed more than my fair share for clients, and watched more muskies come off or break lines than I can count while guiding or fishing. They love eating small walleyes or perch that are being skimmed across the top while pulling crankbaits. I’ve caught muskies on small crankbaits, I’ve caught them on jigs and shiners, caught them on bouncers and blades with a crawler, caught one on a perch while ice fishing, 3 on walleyes while reeling them in, 1 on a small largemouth bass, 1 on a spinnerbait used while bass fishing, snagged one, and caught roughly 5-6 on crappies that I had hooked on the lake my parents lived on until their retirement. These fish all had one thing in common. None of them were caught while actually targeting them.
The story isn’t that depressing, as I was able to catch a 51.5” fish on 6lb. test while pitching jigs for walleyes. Very cool moment. But to spend half a lifetime without being able to put a muskie in the boat for myself on muskie gear was beginning to feel like a monkey on my back. I was tired of netting them for other people, and wanted to feel what they felt..
2016 was going to be my year. That was my only goal in fishing for the year.
This summer has been like many others here in northern MN. Extremely busy. I’ve hardly had time to hang out with my kids, let alone find time to get out muskie fishing. When a call came in from Okuma/Savage Gear/Waterwolf asking if I’d be willing to take Mads Grosell muskie fishing, a big yes went to the mastermind behind Savage Gear and their ultra-realistic baits. Mads and Mike Bennett from Savage gear, along with Chad Sandstrom from Team Okuma Midwest arrived in Bemidji, and before we knew it every bait they wanted to test was tested, and we had raised 7 muskies, got Mads his first ever muskie, and caught an 8lb. walleye to boot. I decided right then and there that I was going to put in the time, and work the new baits over, and get myself a muskie.
I knew I’d need help and motivation, so I looked to my wife and one of my best friends. My wife; who is always begging to go muskie fishing would provide the motivation, and Brian Jones, owner of First Choice Guide Service in Cass Lake, MN, to provide the location, boat skills, and comradery.
The first trip out yielded a nice fish for Brian, several other follows, and I lost a nice fish that surfaced and shook my bucktail. It was a heartbreaking moment that dug at me for weeks. Our second adventure provided less action, but I was able to connect. I was tossing the new 12” Line-Thru SS Trout from Savage Gear, and was determined to catch a fish on it. About halfway through our evening, I was hooked up. I watched the bait slide away from the fish and the hooks, just like it was meant to. A fun tussle, a pile of adrenaline, and a perfect hoop job and we had my first intentional muskie in the boat. Lots of high fives ensued, hugs were given, and a monkey was peeled from my back. It was a great moment, shared with two of my favorite people.
I’m unsure where the fisherman’s tale of muskies being the fish of 10,000 casts came from, but in my research and experience, I think that it’s part fiction, and part science. I’ve never heard of someone actually counting, and actually hooking one on their 10,000th cast. I have, however, watched a client cast once, troll 200 yards, and then hold up his first muskie. I also have a very good friend who is averaging a muskie every 3-4 hours this season. Muskie numbers are on the rise, the number of muskie anglers is on the rise, and technology is helping anglers cut the curve by a long ways. Some baits are so realistic that I want to fillet them and deep fry them. It’s easier now is my point… for some…
After I finally caught my first, I really thought hard about the amount of time I’ve actually spent chasing the elusive esox masquinongy. I figured that I’ve fished for muskies about 37 times. I spent an average of 4.5 hours on the water. If I averaged out burning bucktails and casting pounders or jerk-baits, I figured that I casted roughly 55 times per hour. That accounts for small breaks for water, stretching, whining about my back pain, cussing at muskies that followed and didn’t eat, and moving from spot-to-spot. If you’re any good at math, you’d realize that I was pretty close to being the guy from the age-old tale. A guy who casted 10,000 times… almost. I beat the odds. It took me roughly 9,157 casts to catch my first “on purpose” muskie.
My wife has one muskie trip under her belt, and is next in line to scratch the itch. She was along when I caught my first, and I hope to put her on her first in a much shorter period of time than it took me. I also hope that I don’t have to wait another 9,157 casts until my next fish. If I do, I guess whoever came up with the old tale about muskies being the fish of 10,000 casts will be close once more.
Northcountry Guide Service
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