One can’t experience the high highs in life if you have not experienced the low lows. Musky fishing presents a dichotomy of possibilities ranging from hope, energy, and enthusiasm to despair, waste, and stupidity. I find it is often best just to appreciate the opportunity to dwell in nature and enjoy the chance to be where the glorious noble beast lives.
As a guide musky guide I am defined by what I do. Muskies are not just my passion, they are my life. Hunting them, studying them, enhancing their habitats, educating people about how rare and special are, how they live, how to handle them, how to release them, how to manage musky fisheries, and sometimes making musky memories of a lifetime, I am a very grateful man. I say thank you at the end of every night for the life I live and the great people I get to share it with and I literally giggle myself to sleep. And I say thank you for the muskies.
Most nights end like the picture of Noah and the gang from a few weeks ago. They had a great trip and I made some terrific new friends and their faces tell you how much fun we had together. It is how musky fishing and life are supposed to be.
Then there are nights like I had with my friend Wally a few weeks ago. It was a nightmare come true. It was a day we had talked about a few times over the years but never dwelt upon because just the thought of it is uncomfortable.
I get called a conservationist in the media. I like it. Wally Robins is also someone who has very high standards of conservation and gives back countless hours of his time for the benefit of fisheries and fisherman. He is the driving force behind a massive effort to rehabilitate declining spawning habitat for bass in Otty Lake and ground breaking work with Jennifer Lameroux of the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority.
I can’t remember the last time I had a giant musky die in my boat. I have caught many muskies and it has happened before. The death of giant is rare and that is good because it creates a sick feeling inside of a musky fisherman that never fully leaves. It goes against everything we do because musky fishing more than any other fishing is about catch and release.
We spent going towards two hours working on that fish. I knew she was dead in my hands for the last half hour but we tried anyway just so we didn’t have to face our reality. The fact is she ate the bait deep in her throat and two hooks had gone through her gills and ripped them. She bled out in the net despite the application of coke in a vain effort to stop the bleeding.
Wally was the most upset I have every seen him. In the silence on the ride home in the dark Wally squirmed in his seat looking for a comfortable place to be but there wasn’t one. There wouldn’t be one for a long time. I came to the realization that I have been hardened by time on the water and most of the sick inside of me was just cold now.
I played the scene over a hundred times in my head. We are two very experience musky anglers. I handle muskies as well as anyone I think and I did my best and we still couldn’t save this fish. All my release tools and all my experience and there was nothing I or we could do.
There is a mortality rate associated with catching muskies. That is why it is so important to do everything we can as anglers to make sure we put them back to live their full 30 years.. Death is a reality in sportfishing even when one has the best intentions and so as anglers we must give back. Two ways you can do that are
Pay it forward. Make a difference.
John M. Anderson
We produce BIG fish!!
be good, do good, live well
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