Nic Koss has hooked muskies before, but always it has ended in frustration—including the time he was crappie fishing and nearly had a slab in the boat when a big lunge inhaled it. A July 18 outing in central Minnesota turned out different, though. Fishing with Tanner Talbot of Tanner’s Guide Service in Monticello, Minnesota, Koss boated a doozie of a first muskie, a 53-7/8-inch trophy with a 25-inch girth.
“We were casting in open water using pull-pause baits after finding some schools of tullibee,” Talbot told Field & Stream. “We were just covering water and jumping from bait school to bait school when we found a little wolfpack of muskies. We let the lure sink about 10 feet down before we started pulling and pausing a Beaver Bait, and the fish rose from 24 feet to take Nic’s lure at 15.”
The muskie pattern on this particular Minnesota lake (which Talbot prefers not to name) is to move out to open water after the spawn and start feeding hard on tullibee and other forage fish. “Some of those muskies are so big they don’t even do the spawn anymore and instead stay out there year-round,” Talbot says. “But there’s a population that moves out when the water temperature is around 60 to 75. They’re just roaming all over the place feeding.”
Caught on Camera
Video of the catch shows Talbot coaching Koss not to horse the hard-fighting lunker as he reels it closer to the boat, and the guide stands ready to pounce with the net as soon as his client maneuvers the muskie in range. He’s clearly hyped. “Please stay on, please stay on,” he pleads, erupting in jubilant shouting when the fish is safely netted. The angler himself seems subdued by comparison.
This was an awesome experience. Let me know if you want to get out on some minnesota muskies. 53 7/8X25”♬ original sound – Tanner Talbot
Koss says he wasn’t certain, initially, how big the fish was, but he could sure tell Talbot was excited about it. “At first I thought he was just trying to get me hyped up about my first muskie,” Koss recounts, “but then when the fish came to the top of the water and I could see it and he freaked out again, I thought, ‘This is big.’ I was trying to be all calm, cool, and collected at that point.”
The fight lasted about a minute and a half, “which is actually pretty good for a muskie,” Talbot notes. “That fish was built like a fish you see in the fall. The belly was absolutely insane. It wasn’t just a potbelly fish, it was filled out from underneath its chin to all the way back to its tail. You could barely get your hand around the tail.”
“I’ve never been intimidated holding a fish,” Koss says, “but as soon as he pulled it out of the net and handed it to me, I was like, ‘Holy crap, this thing is gonna do whatever it wants to do.’” They took a quick measurement, snapped a couple of photos, and released the fish to swim strongly away. At 53 7/8 inches, it was just 4.375 inches shorter than the certified catch-and-release state record caught in 2022 by Eric Bakke.
Koss fishes year-round—bass in summer, walleyes in winter—but not often for muskies. “I’ve hooked one here and there, but usually while I was fishing for something else,” he says. “The last time it happened, I had a crappie on and a muskie T-boned it right at the boat. I fought that one for 10 minutes before it finally broke my line.”
This is Talbot’s first year guiding, and he and his clients caught 69 muskies in the months of June and July alone. “It’s been an awesome first year,” he says. “I’ve put quite a few people on their first muskie, and I’ve put some on their biggest.”
And a few, it seems, he’s put on both. Koss couldn’t be happier to be one of them.
“I was having a hard time comprehending it afterward,” he says. “I knew it was a big muskie, a trophy muskie, but not until I looked at the video did I understand that this is a size of fish that not a lot of muskie fishermen can catch in their lifetime—and it was my first.”