It must have been a slow year for muskies, at least where I was fishing. The local resort had maybe a dozen fish posted on its board for the whole season which is a fraction of a typical number for this late in the year. We spent something like 7 or 8 hours a day looking for muskies and only got our first action on the next to last day of the week long trip. We had two hits that afternoon, neither of which ended up in the boat, but at least things were looking up.
On the morning of the last day, we made a sucker run to the bait shop, and got on the water a little earlier than usual. Like every other day that week we spent most of the morning staring at our floats and trying to keep the bait reasonably positioned. We had two suckers out, each about 12 or 14 inches long and rigged up on home made, 3 hook, quick set rigs. Nothing much had happened throughout the overcast morning, but at least it wasn't as windy as it had been and the time passed quickly except for the specter of the "now or never" deadline looming over us.
After a particular repositioning, my bait had made off with unusual haste and as always I tried my best to interpret this as a good sign (does this mean something?). The bait crossed the river channel and stopped just short of a rocky bank with the sucker's dorsal fin barely poking up above the surface. Suddenly (isn't it always suddenly?) a huge swell of water rose up and engulfed the sucker and I was compelled to pay attention to the fact that my 3 inch chartreuse styrofoam float had plunged under the water and was headed off at an unmistakably musky-like speed. Whatever was down there was making directly for a nearby rocky point, and rather than think about it much, I set the hook. This bugger was hard to budge. Even though I had only 20 or so feet of line out, there was a whole lot of give and take before the fish got to the boat. I even felt compelled to release the spool once during a deep thrust that seemed to be challenging my drag (a huge risk but so far so good).
Small problem at the boat - we'd been anchored in the river just to keep us in place, and in a location like this we usually just leave the anchor down so that we don't get the boat into any trouble during the confusion. Most times this doesn't create a problem, but this time it finally did (another huge but calculated risk). The fish managed to get wrapped around the anchor rope and was working on a second circle when the line went slack. But it didn't go suddenly slack. Instead it just sort of let up. I'd essentially written the fish off at that point but I reached down and pulled up on the line a little and realized that there was more going on down there than just the sucker. So I pulled a stunt I'd seen before (but never on a musky) where I released to spool again and snaked my whole rod & reel under the bow of the boat and the anchor rope to unwind the line. In spite of the almost barbless rig I was using, miraculously, the fish was still engaged.
The now tired fish was quickly wrangled up and excellently netted and hauled in for photos and such. As luck would have it, the fish unhooked itself in the net, but as too often happens, I lost control of the fish during the "grip & grin" session and couldn't keep it from hitting the bottom of the boat. Apparently, the fish handled all this as well as could be expected because after my somewhat sloppy release, it took off like a green torpedo.
Oh yeah. I posed nude with it for no apparent reason (but not in the picture above).