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What's Your Best Surprise Muskie Story?

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May 15, 2013

What's Your Best Surprise Muskie Story?

By Joe Cermele

I would say that most anglers, whether they specifically target muskies or not, understand that catching these brutes on purpose is a challenge. While the pay-off may be one of the biggest in freshwater fishing, the victory often comes with hours of boredom or frustration. Nobody understands this better than me, I promise. At the same time, I've met very few anglers that don't have a good surprise muskie story, because these fish just love to show up when you're not looking for them, and when your tackle is completely undergunned for the 'skie that's suddenly on the end of the line. 

I bring this up because it happened just last week. That's my friend and guide Frank Campbell in the photo above. We were slinging jerkbaits and spinnerbaits against some of the walls in Buffalo Harbor for smallmouths, and the bite was kind of slow. I picked a few smallies on jerks, but Frank hadn't turned a single bass on his spinnerbait. Then all of a sudden...muskie time. Frank just barely hooked this tiger in the top lip and manged to keep the fight short and put it in the net. He got lucky, but most people don't.

I have one buddy who's only muskie encounter was a big girl flying in and cutting the crappie he was fighting right off the line. Another friend and fellow member of my trout club had a big 'skie shoot out from under a log and rip his 16-inch rainbow to shreds. To this day, we have no idea why there was even a muskie in this stretch of trout stream or where it came from. Though I've never actually had a muskie grab my trout or bass lure, or take a fish off my line, I once had a solid 45-incher ghost up behind a carp I was fighting, and another turn on stickbait I was tossing for pickerel. It about scared the pants off me. What's your surprise muskie tale? 

Comments (21)

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from DSMbirddog wrote 48 weeks 3 days ago

They must like crappies. I was bringing a small crappie to the boat and was just about to lift it out of the water when a muskie came from below the boat and grabbed it. He just hung on for a few seconds, let go of it, and swam into he brush we were fishing.

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from TM wrote 48 weeks 3 days ago

I was casting for bass from a Muskoka dock. I hooked a small rock bass on 6 pound test. I must have hooked him in the gills because the rock bass did not fight at all. Instead he did his best topwater bait impression. He was less than 10 feet from the dock when SPLASH -- a large muskie grabbed him and severed my line. For a second, I thought it was a Canadian alligator.

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from Micropterus24 wrote 48 weeks 3 days ago

Just about every time a big one shows up is a surprise, but most recently I was fly fishing for smallies in northern wisco with a few friends and as my buddy was pulling in a decent sized one a musky grabbed it and towed his kayak around for 10 min before breaking off.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from themadflyfisher wrote 48 weeks 3 days ago

Last year I was fishing off a friends boat for bass with our girls. Throwing spinnerbaits my girlfriend's rod bent over and the look on her face when she saw the muskie was priceless! Having never seen a muskie or pike before she was freaked out by the size of the teeth on it. It was hillarious and now I pick on her that they'll bite her toes when she's swimming.

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from buckhunter wrote 48 weeks 3 days ago

While trolling Leesville Lake in Ohio(I rarely troll) I was approaching a group of party boats anchored in a remote part of the lake. As I slowly approached the loud music and party I hooked-up. I cut the motor and fought the fish, landing the muskie directly in front of 15-20 cheering and applauding party goers. I never measured the muskie but I know it was the biggest I ever caught. I acted cool but truth be known I was shaking inside.

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from mike0714 wrote 48 weeks 3 days ago

A few years back my 6 year old cousin was fishing with us on the St. Lawrence for the first time. Me and my uncle where bass fishing and he was using a rod left over from salmon fishing earlier that year to catch sunnies and blue gills. the next thing we knew we heard the drag on the salmon rod start off. he had foul hooked a sunny when reeling in and a roughly thirty pound muskie hit the sunny hooking itself. When we got the muskie to the boat every person with in 50 mile knew that he had caught the fish. the picture still hangs in my uncles metal shop to this day with a my cousin smiling from ear to ear and a fish nearly as big as him at the time.

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from rootju wrote 48 weeks 3 days ago

I've had a couple, but most notable was walleye fishing in Lake St. Claire, MI during the same morning had two hits. After hooking walleye, one musky grabbed my uncle's fish and fought it all the way to the boat, and then just spit it out and floated there for what seemed like 2 min (probably closer to 5 seconds) before swimming off. The second started similarly, by hooking a walleye, and having something big hit it, but this time after about 15 seconds of fighting it there was a shake of the head and all we got back was the head of our walleye.

My brother got spooled by one perch fishing on the same lake when we were really young too! Great fish!

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from Buckshott00 wrote 48 weeks 3 days ago

I wish I had story like that I have been trying to catch a muskie for years :(

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from bbainbridge wrote 48 weeks 3 days ago

When I was young my family went to the grandparents cabin on a small lake outside Minocqua, WI every summer. It's where I learned to fish and thankfully is still in the family. A few muskies and northerns were in the lake, but a young kid they were all the same fish and he was named Ol' Fighter. I was about 7 or 8 and wandered down to the peir by myself in the middle of the day and was casting a small lead-headed crappie jig off the peir, mostly cause I was bored at mid day. I was reeling in off the front of the peir when I though I hooked a log. The lake has alot of tannins in it so it isn't all that clear. I pulled up on the rod and the "log" slowly floated to the surface right in front of the pier. With one big swoosh of his tail, Ol' Fighter splashed me soaking wet, jetted around the pylon and under the pier. I screamed all the way back up the hill to tell mom, dad, brother, grandma, and grandpa (soaking wet from when he took off). He straightened the small lightwire hook and I never bent it back. I'm 31 now and can still see that fish - and he's still there I know!

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from nuclear_fisher wrote 48 weeks 3 days ago

My old man and I were out smallmouth fishing one morning up at camp a few years ago and right about when it really started getting hot, I got a follow up from a muskie that was closing fast on my xrap. I saw him, and I was fishing ~10lb mono and didn't like the prospect of loosing 5 or 6 dollars worth of tackle so I yanked hard on the rod and pulled it out of the water. I waited a bit and pitched it again when I didn't see him anymore, and sure enough he came back. This time however, after I yanked my xrap out, he seemed more interested in prop of our 10 horse. He followed us as we idled around for probably 2-3 minutes, moving back until almost out of sight and sometimes getting really close. We only lost him when another muskie came up to him and they started competing or whatever and we crept off. Not the most interesting story, but as I was watching it I just kept thinking... I don't know how many times, as a kid worrying about swimming in the lake, someone telling me "they're more scared of you then you are of them" is total BS.

(side note: I didn't want to stop bass fishing b/c it was going so well, but we went out again the next morning all rigged up for muskie; couldn't even get a follow up.)

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from Joe_Cermele wrote 48 weeks 3 days ago

These are awesome stories, thanks for sharing everyone. I'm particularly fond of Nuclear's tale, because I've been in that situation...you seemingly find a muskie or two that are fired up and you think, OK tomorrow I'll be back with wire leader and a big wooden jerkbait and the fish are either gone or could give a damn.

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from walt in wi wrote 48 weeks 2 days ago

My son and I were fishing for bass in 3 ft. of water using jigs in northern Wi. We landed a 47 incher with 10 lb. line and no leader. Probably the best fishing memory I have so far!

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from nuclear_fisher wrote 48 weeks 2 days ago

They certainly are a finicky fish.

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from Kenton wrote 48 weeks 2 days ago

While fishing for largemouth in a bay on Lake Erie we ran into a pack of huge muskies. Over a 3 day period we hooked 13 fish but landed only 4. Two we did land and release were 50" and 51". We caught them on Shimano Spirex 2500 reels and 6'6" Ugly Stick Lites. Was the most exciting 3 days of fishing ever. The pics are on my profile.

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from fliphuntr14 wrote 48 weeks 1 day ago

fishing bass and pike with a tube jig at the mouth of the fox river, green bay wisconsin this week and hooked up with a 50 inch fish (my third muskie). 1st thought was wow! second thought was Ogreat ill probably never catch a bigger one... The battle was pretty intense for a few minutes and at the time thought about cutting the line not to wear the fish to death (out of season). Ended up landing it in about 7 minutes back in the water in less than 2 after that, couldn't live with myself if it it floated up on me.
Had a muskie pick a blue gill off a stringer on me once and i see them a good amount fishing north eastern wisconsin. ill never forget seeing a fish roll over on a bait in vilias county, mouth was open and the view of the fish haunts me to this day. last summer i brought a friend out on my home lake and he was throwing a craw snagged up i grabbed the pole and popped the snag and handed it back to him and he flipped it once to hooked up with a 38inch muskie. They are an awesome fish with tons of power i could see one day going insane chasing after them.

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from jhjimbo wrote 47 weeks 6 days ago

I was in Portage Lakes area near Turkey Foot Lake Akron,Ohio) when i hooked a 40" Tiger Muskie on bass tackle. Luckily before i got it in the boat i remembered to close my tackle box - there is a good reason for that. I a split second it got loose in the boat and i chased it all the way to the front and back again before i caught it the second time. Lots of power and snapping jaws on that fish.

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from Clinton R. Hamilton wrote 47 weeks 3 days ago

Living in St. Petersburg, FL near Tampa Bay the closest you get is surprise Snook. Many of the freshwater lakes around here are actually slightly brackish and the Snook don't seem to mind that it's not actually ocean. I've heard that some species of sharks will go many miles up some of the local rivers but I've never seen it personally.

I've never had one take a lure but I've had alligators follow lures, especially noisy topwaters. A big 10' gator one time was following me down the shore line at a stormwater retention area near West Palm Beach. I kept throwing the Hula Popper out because when it was out he would follow that. When I reeled it in he was slowly swimming towards me. Caught up in a clump of weeds on one cast and he went in to overdrive when he saw me reeling something in. Decided to move and fish a different shore after that. Was really making me consider carrying a big knife on my belt in the future.

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from Tim Platt wrote 47 weeks 14 hours ago

My grandmother had a house on Lake Chautauqua in NY and I used to catch perch off her dock with a green Johnson Century. I was 10 years old, worms and a bobber.

One time I thought I had a snag while reeling one in and I heard the drag scream for the first time in my life. I fought it for 10 minutes and finally pulled a huge muskie up to the dock only to have it spit out half a perch. It sat in the water and looked at me forever... seems like this happens to everyone.

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from shane wrote 47 weeks 12 hours ago

We just landed a muskie in Campbell's old boat (Captain Joe Marra's) on the Niagara last weekend. Ours was bigger.

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from shane wrote 47 weeks 12 hours ago

8lb fluoro leader, by the way.

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from Tim Platt wrote 46 weeks 2 days ago

My 12 year old sister came running up the dock when I was screaming and trying to pull in the giant fish and saw the Muskie... we didn't swim for a week. I feel your pain nuclear_fisher.

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from Tim Platt wrote 47 weeks 14 hours ago

My grandmother had a house on Lake Chautauqua in NY and I used to catch perch off her dock with a green Johnson Century. I was 10 years old, worms and a bobber.

One time I thought I had a snag while reeling one in and I heard the drag scream for the first time in my life. I fought it for 10 minutes and finally pulled a huge muskie up to the dock only to have it spit out half a perch. It sat in the water and looked at me forever... seems like this happens to everyone.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tim Platt wrote 46 weeks 2 days ago

My 12 year old sister came running up the dock when I was screaming and trying to pull in the giant fish and saw the Muskie... we didn't swim for a week. I feel your pain nuclear_fisher.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from shane wrote 47 weeks 12 hours ago

We just landed a muskie in Campbell's old boat (Captain Joe Marra's) on the Niagara last weekend. Ours was bigger.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Buckshott00 wrote 48 weeks 3 days ago

I wish I had story like that I have been trying to catch a muskie for years :(

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Joe_Cermele wrote 48 weeks 3 days ago

These are awesome stories, thanks for sharing everyone. I'm particularly fond of Nuclear's tale, because I've been in that situation...you seemingly find a muskie or two that are fired up and you think, OK tomorrow I'll be back with wire leader and a big wooden jerkbait and the fish are either gone or could give a damn.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 48 weeks 3 days ago

While trolling Leesville Lake in Ohio(I rarely troll) I was approaching a group of party boats anchored in a remote part of the lake. As I slowly approached the loud music and party I hooked-up. I cut the motor and fought the fish, landing the muskie directly in front of 15-20 cheering and applauding party goers. I never measured the muskie but I know it was the biggest I ever caught. I acted cool but truth be known I was shaking inside.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from shane wrote 47 weeks 12 hours ago

8lb fluoro leader, by the way.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Kenton wrote 48 weeks 2 days ago

While fishing for largemouth in a bay on Lake Erie we ran into a pack of huge muskies. Over a 3 day period we hooked 13 fish but landed only 4. Two we did land and release were 50" and 51". We caught them on Shimano Spirex 2500 reels and 6'6" Ugly Stick Lites. Was the most exciting 3 days of fishing ever. The pics are on my profile.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from TM wrote 48 weeks 3 days ago

I was casting for bass from a Muskoka dock. I hooked a small rock bass on 6 pound test. I must have hooked him in the gills because the rock bass did not fight at all. Instead he did his best topwater bait impression. He was less than 10 feet from the dock when SPLASH -- a large muskie grabbed him and severed my line. For a second, I thought it was a Canadian alligator.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from rootju wrote 48 weeks 3 days ago

I've had a couple, but most notable was walleye fishing in Lake St. Claire, MI during the same morning had two hits. After hooking walleye, one musky grabbed my uncle's fish and fought it all the way to the boat, and then just spit it out and floated there for what seemed like 2 min (probably closer to 5 seconds) before swimming off. The second started similarly, by hooking a walleye, and having something big hit it, but this time after about 15 seconds of fighting it there was a shake of the head and all we got back was the head of our walleye.

My brother got spooled by one perch fishing on the same lake when we were really young too! Great fish!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from fliphuntr14 wrote 48 weeks 1 day ago

fishing bass and pike with a tube jig at the mouth of the fox river, green bay wisconsin this week and hooked up with a 50 inch fish (my third muskie). 1st thought was wow! second thought was Ogreat ill probably never catch a bigger one... The battle was pretty intense for a few minutes and at the time thought about cutting the line not to wear the fish to death (out of season). Ended up landing it in about 7 minutes back in the water in less than 2 after that, couldn't live with myself if it it floated up on me.
Had a muskie pick a blue gill off a stringer on me once and i see them a good amount fishing north eastern wisconsin. ill never forget seeing a fish roll over on a bait in vilias county, mouth was open and the view of the fish haunts me to this day. last summer i brought a friend out on my home lake and he was throwing a craw snagged up i grabbed the pole and popped the snag and handed it back to him and he flipped it once to hooked up with a 38inch muskie. They are an awesome fish with tons of power i could see one day going insane chasing after them.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from bbainbridge wrote 48 weeks 3 days ago

When I was young my family went to the grandparents cabin on a small lake outside Minocqua, WI every summer. It's where I learned to fish and thankfully is still in the family. A few muskies and northerns were in the lake, but a young kid they were all the same fish and he was named Ol' Fighter. I was about 7 or 8 and wandered down to the peir by myself in the middle of the day and was casting a small lead-headed crappie jig off the peir, mostly cause I was bored at mid day. I was reeling in off the front of the peir when I though I hooked a log. The lake has alot of tannins in it so it isn't all that clear. I pulled up on the rod and the "log" slowly floated to the surface right in front of the pier. With one big swoosh of his tail, Ol' Fighter splashed me soaking wet, jetted around the pylon and under the pier. I screamed all the way back up the hill to tell mom, dad, brother, grandma, and grandpa (soaking wet from when he took off). He straightened the small lightwire hook and I never bent it back. I'm 31 now and can still see that fish - and he's still there I know!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Micropterus24 wrote 48 weeks 3 days ago

Just about every time a big one shows up is a surprise, but most recently I was fly fishing for smallies in northern wisco with a few friends and as my buddy was pulling in a decent sized one a musky grabbed it and towed his kayak around for 10 min before breaking off.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from nuclear_fisher wrote 48 weeks 3 days ago

My old man and I were out smallmouth fishing one morning up at camp a few years ago and right about when it really started getting hot, I got a follow up from a muskie that was closing fast on my xrap. I saw him, and I was fishing ~10lb mono and didn't like the prospect of loosing 5 or 6 dollars worth of tackle so I yanked hard on the rod and pulled it out of the water. I waited a bit and pitched it again when I didn't see him anymore, and sure enough he came back. This time however, after I yanked my xrap out, he seemed more interested in prop of our 10 horse. He followed us as we idled around for probably 2-3 minutes, moving back until almost out of sight and sometimes getting really close. We only lost him when another muskie came up to him and they started competing or whatever and we crept off. Not the most interesting story, but as I was watching it I just kept thinking... I don't know how many times, as a kid worrying about swimming in the lake, someone telling me "they're more scared of you then you are of them" is total BS.

(side note: I didn't want to stop bass fishing b/c it was going so well, but we went out again the next morning all rigged up for muskie; couldn't even get a follow up.)

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from nuclear_fisher wrote 48 weeks 2 days ago

They certainly are a finicky fish.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from themadflyfisher wrote 48 weeks 3 days ago

Last year I was fishing off a friends boat for bass with our girls. Throwing spinnerbaits my girlfriend's rod bent over and the look on her face when she saw the muskie was priceless! Having never seen a muskie or pike before she was freaked out by the size of the teeth on it. It was hillarious and now I pick on her that they'll bite her toes when she's swimming.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jhjimbo wrote 47 weeks 6 days ago

I was in Portage Lakes area near Turkey Foot Lake Akron,Ohio) when i hooked a 40" Tiger Muskie on bass tackle. Luckily before i got it in the boat i remembered to close my tackle box - there is a good reason for that. I a split second it got loose in the boat and i chased it all the way to the front and back again before i caught it the second time. Lots of power and snapping jaws on that fish.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from DSMbirddog wrote 48 weeks 3 days ago

They must like crappies. I was bringing a small crappie to the boat and was just about to lift it out of the water when a muskie came from below the boat and grabbed it. He just hung on for a few seconds, let go of it, and swam into he brush we were fishing.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from walt in wi wrote 48 weeks 2 days ago

My son and I were fishing for bass in 3 ft. of water using jigs in northern Wi. We landed a 47 incher with 10 lb. line and no leader. Probably the best fishing memory I have so far!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from mike0714 wrote 48 weeks 3 days ago

A few years back my 6 year old cousin was fishing with us on the St. Lawrence for the first time. Me and my uncle where bass fishing and he was using a rod left over from salmon fishing earlier that year to catch sunnies and blue gills. the next thing we knew we heard the drag on the salmon rod start off. he had foul hooked a sunny when reeling in and a roughly thirty pound muskie hit the sunny hooking itself. When we got the muskie to the boat every person with in 50 mile knew that he had caught the fish. the picture still hangs in my uncles metal shop to this day with a my cousin smiling from ear to ear and a fish nearly as big as him at the time.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clinton R. Hamilton wrote 47 weeks 3 days ago

Living in St. Petersburg, FL near Tampa Bay the closest you get is surprise Snook. Many of the freshwater lakes around here are actually slightly brackish and the Snook don't seem to mind that it's not actually ocean. I've heard that some species of sharks will go many miles up some of the local rivers but I've never seen it personally.

I've never had one take a lure but I've had alligators follow lures, especially noisy topwaters. A big 10' gator one time was following me down the shore line at a stormwater retention area near West Palm Beach. I kept throwing the Hula Popper out because when it was out he would follow that. When I reeled it in he was slowly swimming towards me. Caught up in a clump of weeds on one cast and he went in to overdrive when he saw me reeling something in. Decided to move and fish a different shore after that. Was really making me consider carrying a big knife on my belt in the future.

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