France’s First Musky Almost Wasn’t and How to Net a Musky.

France’s first musky almost wasn’t. And her second larger-than-that-one musky definitely wasn’t…..

As a guide I can tell you that a lot of fish are lost at the side of the boat. Netting the trophy is a big part of the giant smile and special memory equation that comes with successfully landing your fish. There are only two possible outcomes when the fish is beside the boat and it is time to seize the moment; great joy and team elation on the entire boat, or, the exact opposite, multiplied and seared into one’s memory forever. In fact, as time goes by the lost fish becomes bigger in the memory of many anglers….

I have guests come to me and tell me they are with me because the last so and so guide that they entrusted to capture the object of their dreams did %&@!!! With the net and it got away. And it was FRIGGIN’ HUGE! Message received very loud and very clear. Don’t mess up. Doing a great job netting a fish is really important!

It was a perfect evening. Muskyboy Christian Zimmer, awesome beau Alex, my partner France, and myself had enjoyed an excellent steak, fine wine, great conversation (about muskies of course), and the sun was low in the sky. The only way to end this awesome riverside experience was to go and throw a little top water and hopefully watch one of the girls get a great big fish in front of another perfect sunset.

As I type this I am exacerbated at the lack of attention paid to me and my guests in the last couple of days in this giant wave of heat in this year of the heat by the musky community one and all. Reflecting on the times when musky fishing is simple and easy like it was only a few days ago makes one realize why we love this sport so. There are no high highs in life without understanding the low lows and ones’ appreciation grows with experience.

After only 20 minutes France watched her topwater get eaten just 20 feet in front of her. My girl gave it an awesome hookset too and we were off to the races. After a short fight and only minor trepidation it was over. She was in the net. Then, as I turned to hug France she was out of the net. The video (stay tuned), reveals an amazing 360 pirouette by the big fish and the ultimate stressor for a guide, a fish stuck on the outside of the net. 90 percent of the time this goes bad. Today we got lucky and the fish was netted a second time. Elation achieved!

Now fast forward through the pics, laughs, and team joy only 10 minutes and France’s topwater gets eaten at boat side. The wallowing thrashing fish was making it very tough to bring the fish close enough for a good shot with the net but I thought I could get the bag of the net under the fish and drop her in. Big mistake. Tip number four featured below………

France was so happy with her first musky that she didn’t worry at all about me missing the second one. Me, I will remember that and giggle about it, in the way that a giggle feels when you have broken or bruised ribs, for a long time.

It has been over 200 muskies since I blew one with the net. I threw my sunglasses off as I often do when netting a fish and when she went around the other side of the boat I had perhaps a one second shot at her but the glare of the sun off the water was right in my face and I hesitated. She turned and swam away lure free only a moment later. The one before that was 700 fish ago and when I got the lure stuck on the side of the net as the fish thrashed it was like a dagger in the back and I remember falling to the floor with my forehead stuck on the bottom of the boat like steel to a magnet. We laughed about it later, like you laugh when you have broken ribs, as we had four fish already in the boat but she was big and I still remember every painful detail.

To avoid these feelings I suggest the following:

Top tips for being a successful netman:

Have a giant net. Not a big one, a giant one. This is better for you AND THE FISH. Your net is your live well and the best release tool you will ever have in your boat.

A larger net is a larger target and makes it less likely you or the fish will get the lure stuck on the side of the boat.

Always net the fish head first. Don’t horse the fish at the side of the boat to get this shot but wait until you do.

Try to ensure the head of the fish doesn’t touch the netting until it is deep in the net. At this point the lure will most likely grab net and the fish will be secured deep in the net. Having the fishs’ head, where the lure is planted, touch the net near the top of the hoop is often big trouble. Pinning the fishes head to the bottom of the net ensures the fish will sit with its’ head under the water more of the time during your handling and release process.

Don’t take a shot at netting the fish unless you have a good one. Often a big fish will turn and run hard when you show her the net the first, second, or even third time. As an angler, be ready for it. As a net man, be patient and wait for the right moment.

As you hold the net waiting for your shot have the bag of the net secured in your handle hand and only release it to sag in the water when you go to net the fish. Trying to move a net in the water with the bag extended is a losing and slow battle that risks not being able to get the net away from the hooks of a surging musky.

The angler and the net person must work as a team. Don’t reel the fish up to the rod tip, ever, something will break. 4 or 5 feet of line out and have the angler lift the rod tip over the net persons head or shoulder to put the head of the fish on the surface and allow for a clean net job.

High fives, hugs, giant smiles, or singing the team song are all appropriate now.

Peace out,


Next up: An article reflecting summer time musky blues called I Hate Muskies……

John M. Anderson
We produce BIG fish!!

be good, do good, live well

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