For years, James Cieslica, of Plato Center, Ill., has enjoyed time spent at his aunt and uncle Nancy and Frank Wackerlin’s cabin on a Vilas County lake.
He caught his first fish on the lake as a toddler and, as a 16-year-old, hauled in his biggest – a 45-inch muskie that tipped the scale at about 28 pounds.
Cieslica, an avid fisherman, was fishing alone, in pursuit of bass, July 19, when the mighty muskie made its appearance. Despite being armed with bass tackle and having no help aboard, Cieslica would manage.
“I did it all by myself. I actually caught it on a bass swim bait,” he said.
Cieslica was using a baitcasting rig with 14-pound line and keying on a weed edge in about 9-10 feet of water. He had landed a couple of bass in the 14- to 15-inch range, but was about to latch onto something a lot bigger.
“I was out there fishing and I saw some splashing going on, and then I saw fins pop up,” Cieslica said. “I went and casted over there and I was bringing it in and I saw him following it and I gave it a little twitch and he just jumped and ate it. I set the hook.”
The battle was on. Cieslica and his tackle proved up to the test, but getting the big fish aboard wasn’t easy.
“It didn’t take long to get him to the boat, but it took a long time to get him in the net,” Cieslica recalled. “I mean, he was everywhere. I had to hold the rod in one hand and net him with the other hand.”
The net was undersized, too.
“It wasn’t very big – I just got his head in the net, really. It was just a bass fishing net,” Cieslica said. “I got half the fish in the net and I kind of lifted him up.”
He said the 45-incher was his biggest muskie “by far.”
Luckily, Cieslica’s dad and brother were on the way to pick him up and were able to get a picture of the successful angler before he released the big fish to fight again.
Cieslica said he’d like to make another trip north this year and try for some fall muskies.
Craig Turk may be reached at email@example.com.