How to Hold a Musky (and other info)

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Beware the Mighty Muskie

By Paul Hartmann

Muskie fishing is a dangerous sport. There are great risks of damage to both the angler and the fish. By setting the hook, we can easily tear the gill or puncture the eye of the next muskie we encounter. There is also the probability that each of us will become hooked a time or two ourselves, not to mention suffer cuts from teeth and gill rakers of fish we catch.

The worst case scenarios often result in death for the fish and permanent damage to the fisherman. Regardless of the experience level, we all risk tragedy every time we hit the water. Consider the excruciating day where Rich Reinert had a customer hook him in the face while rearing back to cast a Suick. Three hours later he was leaving the hospital after having 4 of the hooks that had punctured his cheek and lips surgically removed from his gums. Even Dick Pearson received tremendous damage to his hand and arm when Steve Fuller handed him a hooked #47 muskie which flopped back into the water with Dick attached! If it can happen to the pros, it can happen to any of us, so beware.
There are two high-risk categories for being hurt while muskie fishing. First is the beginner that is handicapped by inexperience. No matter how many articles and videos they study on release, the adrenaline and excitement over their first big muskie makes for a dangerous situation. The other group that is at a high risk for being injured is the expert. While they know and abide by all the proper precautions and handling methods, but the numbers work against them. The more time you spend on the water and the higher the number of muskies that an angler handles the better the odds become that one of them will hurt you severely.

While nearly everyone is nervous about being hooked by a large muskie, reality is that a quick agile pike or muskie in the 1 ½ to 5 pound range are the most dangerous to handle. Due to their small size, the hooks will be in close proximity to your hands while unhooking the fish. All it can take one "wiggle" on their part and your hooked. Typically the angler is "gun shy" for sometime after, making things even more dangerous. The unhooking should be done carefully, yet firmly, with speed and confidence.

While every accident comes as a surprise, many of them are preventable. Keeping a neat boat should be every angler's top priority. Loosing your balance in waves, and falling hand first into an open tackle box will finish your season on the spot. Even tripping over a net handle can be a disaster if you land on the pile of baits set "out of the way" on the floor of the boat. Many anglers hang baits along the inside of their boat never thinking of what will happen as they lean over the side to life that "fish of the lifetime" for a few quick photos. Safety often comes down to thinking things through before you act.

Since statically we will all get hooked by a partner, fish, or ever a lure caught in the carpet, we must know what to do next will dictate how severe the results will be. Always have your bolt cutters and pliers right next to you before attempting to touch the fish. In the event that you do become hooked, get the fish off the bait and back in the water immediately. At this point, assess how badly you are injured and proceed from there. Most of the time you can twist the hook the rest of the way around and force it back out above the skin. There is no option but to go to the hospital if you can't stomach unhooking your self. The pros (doctor) can fix you up and have you back on the water before the Novocain wears off and the throbbing begins. Remember muskie fishing can be dangerous, so treat each and every fish with caution and respect.


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