In mid-August last year, Buck, my golden retriever, and I were pre-fishing for a bass tournament on a nearby lake. My plan was to move quickly from spot-to-spot, making only a few casts to test each location. A couple of hours later, I had caught several smallmouths in deep weeds near the main channel. After that, I wanted to find a couple of good largemouth spots.
Buck and I pulled up to a large cattail bed on a shallow mid-lake hump, surrounded by sparse pencil reeds. On the deeper side of the hump were several isolated patches of lily pads that looked promising.
The lake was calm, the sun was high and I could clearly see bottom in more than 10 feet of water. As I moved shallower, into the pencil reeds, a large muskie casually swam away. It stopped a few yards from the boat, as if to consider what I was, then continued swimming out of view.
I shot a couple of casts toward the pads, but my line draped over the intertwined reeds and the weightless worm I was using didn't want to sink. The cover was just too thick to fish that bait. I could have Texas rigged the worm, but I had a homemade spinnerbait already tied on another rod, and I thought that would overcome the problem.
The bait had a 1/2-ounce yellow head, fire-tiger skirt and a nickel willow leaf over gold Colorado blade set. I had it rigged on my heaviest bass rod with 30-pound Fireline--perfect for dense cover like this.
I was momentarily reluctant to throw the spinnerbait, knowing there was a muskie in the area, but I still wanted to know if there were any largemouthS around. I rationalized that I had already seen the resident fish swim off, and if there was another muskie in the immediate vicinity, it probably had also moved off or was at least extra wary as a result of my disturbance.
My first cast was toward some pads down an alley between the pencil reeds. The cast fell just short, but on the second crank of the reel, the lure stopped dead. I leaned back to set the hook, and the water boiled. A split-second later, a 43-inch fish leaped completely out of the water! The muskie splashed down and headed straight for dense cover amongst the cattails.
Suddenly, Buck gave a surprised bark and then launched himself with a flying leap into the water! He was in hot pursuit. I stared in amazement as both dog and fish splashed at the surface, dove and then started circling the boat.
As the fish began to tire, I wondered how I could possibly land a large fish and an even larger dog at the same time. I decided to try and retrieve Buck first, so I put the reel into free spool and the rod into a holder. With all the strength I could muster, I hoisted the sopping wet dog up into the boat.
Now, back to the fish.
I only had a small rubber-coated bass net onboard, so I had to pull the muskie alongside the boat and hand-land it, precariously placing my fingers under the gill plate.
After unhooking the fish and taking a quick measurement, I released it and we resumed our pre-fishing. I didn't cast the spinnerbait for the rest of the day and Buck was tied securely to a seat post!
Member Garry Thornton is retired and lives in the Kawartha Lakes area of Ontario. He moved there for the fishing, and spends most of his time on the water with his golden retriever, Buck.