First musky, and questions about handling.

Discussion in 'Warm Water Fishing Inland LP Lakes' started by jaid, Aug 21, 2002.

  1. Well, my first musky story isnt what I hoped it would be. I caught about a 30-35" on Bankson lake. We had actually stopped musky fishing, and started bass fishing more or less. I was casting a 2 1/2" jitterbug and just slowly retrieving it. The big fella hit it hard, and just about swallowed all of it, along with 8" of steel leader. He must of hit it from behind. He jumped 3 times on the way in to the boat, and didnt seem very tired at the side of the boat. He was splashing around quite a bit, but was still fairly easy to control. Both myself and my friend in the boat are inexperienced with musky. When we first went out on the lake, there were three of us in the boat, and we were prepared with a net. However, halfway through the outing, we were joined by a friend in another boat, and one of the three in our boat decided to join him for some trolling. They took the net. That left me and one other friend in the boat, with no good way to land the musky. Anytime my friend tried to get a grip on his tail, it just slipped out of his hand. The lure was too deep into his mouth even for my 10" long fish pliers, so as a last resort we decided to try to bring him in the boat. My friend grabbed the leader by the top, which was no more than 4" from the muskies thrashing teeth, and tried to get him in the boat. Once he got about halfway out of the water, he just began thrashing about, and my friend was unable to maintain a grip on the leader. After a lot of splashing, spinning, and thrashing about, the line was cut. Im not sure if the musky got his teeth on the line, or if one of his gill plates cut the line, but the end result was a musky swimming away with a leader and hooks in him.

    My idea of a great first time catch most certainly included a successful release, and thats why i have mixed feelings about the catch. It was a lot of fun reeling him in, and just seeing him cruising in the water was pretty awesome, but I really feel quite bad about him leaving the side of the boat with hooks still in him. I realize there are a lot of things that were done wrong on my part. Lack of a good plan for landing him being at the top of the list. In addition, I plan to start using an 18" leader, as that would certainly have made brining him in by the leader less tense for my friend. I also know that Im going to need pliers much longer than 10" just in case. Being that the lure was so small, Im sure that had a lot to do with it getting as far down his throat as it did. So upsizing the lures is on the list as well. And Im going to build a cradle net. Id love to hear tips and suggestions as far as additional things to have on hand that might not be obvious.

    My questions are, In the event that a musky is caught that isnt able to be netted, how are you suppose to release it if you cant get to the hooks with the fish in the water? In the case of my fish, even though he was relatively small in the world of musky, there is no way that it would have been possible to cut the hooks out without sending an arm more than wrist deep into his mouth. Does anyone have tips to achieving a good gill hold. Can this hold be performed on musky that are less than completely worn out(ie. splashing at the side of the boat)? How likely is it that the musky will turn back toward you to try to bite? Can the hold be practiced on less agressive/dangerous fish?

    If anyone has tips Id love to hear them. I dont want to lose any fish like this again. Its one thing if they spit the hooks out on the way in, I can live with that. But to know that there is a 30"+ musky swimming around with my jitterbug in his throat, waiting for a grim end, is not a good feeling at all. :(

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  2. If the fish was only 30" I would just grab it by the shoulders with my hand. Raise him slightly out of the water, pop the hooks and let-em go. You really don't have to have any fear of a 30" pike/muskie. They will cut the hell out of your hands, stick hooks in you and make you bleed pretty good (but this is rare). It's not like your going to lose a finger or anything.

    We landed hundreds of Pike on our Canada fly-in trips and if they were 32" or smaller we just grabbed them by the shoulders. We preferred the pliers that have a "gun" style handle but it didn't matter. Regular 'ol extra long needle noose pliers worked just as well.

    If they were larger than 32" we used the cradle. It is really nice. They had a laminated tape measure along the wood so we could quickly see the length of the fish. If wasn't obviously over 40" we let it go as quick as possible.

    If you get one too big to shoulder grab and have nothing to land it with I'm aware of a "jaw grab". I guess you carefully slide your hand under their throat until your forefinger stops and then lift them. The spot is similar to where your two jaw bones meet under your chin. I was told this is a safe way (to angler and fish) to hoist a big pike/muskie. I've never tried it so I can't confirm that.

    Anyways, hope this helps....and good luck on your next big one.

  3. Duke

    Duke Habitual outdoorsman
    Premium Member

    Sorry to hear about the ordeal, if there's one thing these damn fish are best at, its doing the unexpected... At least you did have the leader on to give yourself a fighting chance, I wouldn't beat yourself up over it too much. You were right on that the size of the lure is why he took it so deep. We only use 10" or so leaders all the time, because with the bigger baits a deep hook really is not even an issue. Here is a couple things that should help in your next encounter (keep at it, it doesn't sound like you could have done much of anything with this guy):

    1st is the "Leech Lake Lip Lock" that 1fish2fish referenced. That's a bad name though- trust me you never are grabbing their lip! Check out this web page for a great demonstration:

    This hold really does work very well, and you can keep a solid grip on even a big fish with no harm to either of the players! The fish is out of the water for demo purposes, it can be done in the water. I'm not a big fan of the shoulder hold- you really have to squeeze them tight and they can shake out pretty easy (muskies of the same length will have broader shoulders than a pike usually too, and have much greater stamina). With the lip lock you can hang on and just go with their movements. Yes I have been able to grab fish that are less than spent, you just kind of get in position and wait for the second that they pause their thrashing. You really can't be hesitant, and have to be confident that once you get that grip, its all over but the shoutin. Oh and of course it is in the fish's best interest to not tire him out too much. I have never heard of a musky trying to bite, and actually I think they calm down a lot more than a pike for instance once you get a hold of them.

    We have had fights that are literally just seconds long, because they tend to hit at the side of the boat often, and we net fish at the VERY first chance to do so. Sure their fight is spectacular, but for as rarely as you get hook one, I want to hold, touch and photograph that baby. So we horse them in and do not give them any extra chances to get off (because they will...).

    Musky fishing is really not fishing as you will learn, it is hunting (hence MuskyHunter magazine)- the whole reason behind it is the hunt, and of course their awesome size.

    Next I would suggest the Baker hookout tool, which is 'gun' style tool also mentioned. You have real good control, and they are pretty cheap even though your 10" pliers will usually get the job done easily. I just happen to love my Bakers.

    Another tool is the jaw spreaders you have probably seen- probably should pick up some of those too. They should save any major injury- by the way to have tooth scars is like a badge of honor! Don't ever get near the lure/hooks still in the fish, but you do have to kinda live with some scrapes when working in there from the teeth- or a lot of guys use a leather glove for protection though.

    For some of the above reasons I do not like cradles. The fish pretty much has to be tired out to be able to lead him into one. Now if you are going to make your own then go ahead and try it, they will work. But I like to be able to be on the offensive to net the fish, not wait for him to be steered to me. The net we use is the biggest on the market and costs an obscene amount ($120), other wise I would absolutely recommend it!

    Good luck, I'm sure your next encounter will be just the way you planned it!
  4. Duke

    Duke Habitual outdoorsman
    Premium Member

    By the way there happens to be a post right now on cradle vs. net on the message board. And many questions have already been answered by the best in the biz on that board, or, or can be some fascinating reading if you're into it!
  5. Thanks again Duke! I really appreciate all the tips and suggestions. The pictures of that hold actually let me understand the nature of the hold. I had only been able to find a drawing of it, and it just didnt make sense to me.
  6. You may be able to go in through the gills if you're really careful. Sharp gillcovers? Maybe one of those kevlar fillet gloves would be handy.

    Crank fast. The hooks usually end up in the jaw that way.

    Cranking: about 8 mph
    Gamefish strike burst: about 20 mph.

    Big Mike

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