Another year, another musky trip. The weather had been rainy and windy for several days, but things had settled down a little and at least the anglers were more comfortable. It was cool, but not cold, and the overcast skies were sending down only the occasional drizzle. On the day before, Mike had caught a small musky and I had been hit by a large musky that never got properly hooked. It seemed like things were picking up.
This particular day, we had headed off to our favorite hole - the mouth of a small river that fed into a shallow lake with a relatively deep hole right at the mouth. After a slow start, we got some action on one of the suckers. It turned out to be the first hit in a long day of hits, where essentially every sucker we put in the water got molested at least once. We fished there all day, and eventually lost track of the hits we got, but we know it was at least eight. One problem - we weren't landing any of these fish.
We noticed that almost invariably, after a truck stopping hook set (or two - or three - or five), at some point the line would just go slack, and inspection of the bait revealed a banged up sucker that was still properly rigged. As this exciting but frustrating day continued, we began experimenting with the bait rigging in order to get it to break loose more easily from the bait and more likely into the musky. Part of the problem was that we had graduated to fishing with "the biggest suckers you've got", and they proved too tough skinned for the rigging methods we were using. Finally by the end of the day, a very lightly rigged sucker broke loose upon hook set, and the the musky got hooked.
It was pretty cool. The sucker had decided to swim up by the boat, and I was actively trying to convince it to swim out a little ways. The water was unusually clear and I could plainly see my sucker down about three feet from the surface. I noticed a nearby flash of gold, then another, then some bubbles, then some more bubbles, then I noticed one of those cute little dog-like faces staring point blank at my bait. With a smooth but deliberate thrust, the dog head moved forward and chomped my bait around the middle and calmly swam off. I checked my trousers and set the hook, this time for good. A few good turns of the crank and the fish was in the boat for its photo session, and then back into the water little worse for the wear.
By the way. During the period of bad hook sets, I saw the biggest musky of my life. Mike had a hit that he eventually drug up to the boat close enough for us to see the fish. The two-foot sucker crossways in its mouth looked tiny, and the big, silvery musky looked as big around as my prodigious thigh. Apparently the fish had been pulled up to us by greed or hunger alone, and when the fish saw us, it just let go and swam off. It was cool all the same.