A young Wisconsin outdoorswoman recently pulled off the holy grail of ice fishing when she caught a monster muskie through the ice. 

Leah Saffert, a 10-year-old from Rice Lake, Wisconsin, went ice fishing with her father Jamie and 12-year-old brother Scott on December 31, 2023. That morning, the family decided to set tip-ups on Lake of the Woods’ Zippel Bay, intending to target northern pike. The group used sucker minnows for bait in 13 feet of water. Around 9:30 a.m., one of the tip-ups flags went down. 

“Leah set the hook and was pulling it in, and it felt really heavy,” Jamie told the Grand Forks Herald. “It was like she was dragging in a log almost. And it swam past the hole, and I’m like, ‘Holy smokes, that’s a big fish!’”

“At first it was really easy, and then it would start to, like, pull a little bit,” added Leah. “My hands were so cold I’d have to try and use my sweatshirt to grab it. But it just felt like my sweatshirt was just gliding across the string and not pulling it.”

Eventually, Leah was able to get the fish near the 10-inch ice fishing hole and her father pulled it out through the ice. Jamie had a scale on hand and weighed the behemoth in at 34 pounds. It was also several inches longer than a 48-inch piece of plywood. The family released the fish soon after catching it. 

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Remarkably, catching a muskie near the south shore of Lake of the Woods is rare, let alone one of trophy caliber. “Leah managed to finish her year off with a bang and a fish of a lifetime,” wrote Jamie in a Facebook post. “Congrats girl. I’m a proud dad.”