July brought muskies and fun to a few anglers vacationing in the Minocqua area. A first and two ‘biggests’ would be achieved.
Steve Smith and his fiance, Bobbie Roundy, of Fall River, were staying at their cabin in the Minocqua area.
The first weekend of the vacation, they were joined by their good friend, Jon Jay, and his nephew, Preston David, both of Poynette.
Jay had introduced Smith to Roundy three summers ago. It was a good match. Smith said he and Roundy love fishing and spent nearly every weekend that summer fishing together.
The first Saturday of their vacation, the crew caught a few walleyes and perch, but the action would get hotter Sunday evening.
Smith fished alone in his boat and quickly secured a limit of walleyes. He motored over to Jay’s boat to let Jay and Jay’s nephew, Preston, know he was going to do some casting. Jay decided to follow.
They fished near each other, working a weed edge. The sun was starting to set.
“I had a strong hit from something,” Smith said. “It was on just long enough for me to feel how big it was.”
Smith said he was disappointed to have lost the fish, but that the hit had the trio excited enough to keep trying.
“Fifteen minutes later, I heard John say, ‘Woah.’”
Smith knew his friend had hooked into something.
“I looked over just in time to see the surface of the water erupting. And I could tell it was something big,” he said. “I set down my pole and took a seat and watched John fight his fish as his 10-year-old nephew assisted him.”
Jay had the fish boat-side within a few minutes. Preston’s first attempt to net the fish was a miss, but the fish stayed hooked and Jay quickly had it boat-side again. Preston didn’t miss this time.
“John set down his pole and grabbed the net from his nephew as he turned his back to him,” Smith said. “As John lifted the netted fish into the boat the handle of the net hit his nephew ... John was so full of adrenaline he didn’t even realize what had happened.”
The fish turned out to be a 47-inch, 27-pound muskie.
“I had just seen one of my really good pals catch his largest muskie to date,” Smith said.
Jay caught the fish on the eve of he and Preston’s departure.
Smith continued to work the same weed edge over the next few days. Each visit resulted in some action — a follow-up or a hit.
“But no matter how strong the hit, I just couldn’t hook into one,” he said.
His luck would eventually change.
Day six of Smith’s vacation, he planned to meet up with friend Dan Swatek of Rio, who was to be fishing the same lake.
Smith started out the day fishing alone, experiencing a slow morning of walleye fishing. About 9 a.m., he decided to head over to the weed bed and cast.
“I was just beginning to crank my bait in from my fifth cast. I felt a strong hit,” Smith said. “I set the hook and hoped that it finally hooked into a fish.”
Thirty feet out, the water exploded, and an amazing display took place.
“The muskie I just hooked into flew out of the water and shook its head as it tail-walked over the water and it splashed down and left a wake like I had never seen a fish do before,” he said.
Thirty seconds later, the big fish shot out of the water again, repeating the performance.
“I just kept thinking, ‘Don’t fall off,’” Smith said. “It splashed back down, and I fought it until it was boat-side. I grabbed my net and got it in the net on the first swipe.”
Keeping the fish in the water, Smith called Swatek. Soon, Swatek’s boat appeared. He helped Smith measure and weigh the fish.
“I had just caught the muskie of a lifetime — 49-1⁄2 inches and 29 pounds.”
Smith, his fiance and Swatek would return to the weed edge later the same afternoon. Smith said Roundy had never caught a muskie, or even had a follow. A chance would present itself.
They were on the boat, sharing fishing stories.
“Swatek shared one of wife Sue’s first follow. She had begun to lift her lure out of the water without doing a figure-eight and a muskie shot out of the water after it. All she could do was scream as she lifted the lure away from the fish until it splashed back into the lake,” Smith said.
For a while, the trio’s afternoon fishing excursion was relatively uneventful.
“An hour into casting I heard a scream come from Bobbie,” Smith said. “I looked over to see her standing with the lure out of the water and a large muskie swimming away — she didn’t figure-eight!”
Roundy was eager to try her luck again, though, and roused Smith at 5:30 the next morning.
“She had been dreaming of a muskie flashing-off,” he said.
The couple fished with Roundy’s brother-in-law, Justin Prochaska of Sun Prairie, that morning. Once again, they worked the weed edge. Prochaska caught a small northern.
“Bobbie had tossed her second cast and turned to look (at the northern). She turned back around, began to reel, and realized that she had a hit, and she set the hook,” Smith said. “Twenty feet in front of Bobbie a muskie shot out of the water and shook its head. Her face lit up and she began the fight.”
The fish went airborne and shook its head once more a few seconds later, but it was quickly subdued. Roundy had the fish boat-side within a minute.
“I netted it. Bobbie yelled, ‘I did it!’ and was just delighted. I think everyone on the lake heard her excitement,” Smith said.
The muskie, Roundy’s first, was a 43-inch, 20-pounder.
“I am still amazed that I finally caught my big muskie, but the best part of the vacation (was) that I got to see my fiance, Bobbie, and my good friend, John, catch big Muskies,” Smith said.
“A true fisherman can sit in a boat all day and not catch fish and still be happy, as long as watching someone he cares about catching fish,” Roundy added.
Craig Turk may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org