How to Hold a Musky (and other info)

Monday, January 09, 2006

Muskie Fishing isn't necessarily a guy thing

The blond in "A Blond and Her Boat'' makes a row of Chicago-area appearances the next two weeks.

What a way to brighten the winter and kick off the outdoor-show season, which begins with the Northwest Chicago Sports Show at Arlington Park on Thursday.

Patricia Strutz is the 40-year-old blond who saddled her muskie-fishing guide service with the tongue-in-cheek name.

"You have to have a sense of humor in a male-dominated field,'' she said.

Amen, sister.

Strutz will present "Hook Your Wife on Musky Fishing'' at the Northwest Chicago show on Saturday. On Jan. 12, she speaks at the Riverside Fishing Club. She will be manning (her word) the Guide's Choice Pro Shop and Fishing Schools booth at the Chicago Muskie Show at Harper College in Palatine on Jan. 13-15.

Fishing is nothing new to her. She started when her family traveled from the Appleton, Wis., area to vacation in the north woods.

''I kept thinking there have to be some women out there like me,'' said Strutz, who started her guide service in Wisconsin's Vilas and Oneida counties five years ago with all-male clientele.

Strutz, married with no children, was right. The past season, 60 percent of her clients were women.

"Most definitely, I have seen [a change] in the last five years,'' Strutz said. "They are not just coming drug along with their husbands. I see a radical change in the last few years.''

Women have an odd history with muskie fishing in the north woods. There's the famous photo of Gypsy Rose Lee muskie fishing. But that was a different era. Modern muskie-casting equipment is much friendlier to smaller-framed women like Strutz, who stands 5-feet, 2-1/2 inches and weighs 100 pounds.

I'm not convinced women will ever make a significant jump in percentage of fishermen. But people like Strutz might make me change my mind. She understands the nuances of introducing women to muskie fishing.

For first-timers, she generally figures a half-day trip of four hours is about right. ''That is a nice introduction to being outdoors,'' Strutz said. "They are not out there all day casting. Even if not catching fish, they can have a lovely day on the water looking at all the extraneous things.''

Oh, Strutz catches fish. Her biggest is a 541/2-inch muskie with a 30-inch girth that weighed around 50 pounds. She released it and plans to have a replica made.

Sometimes her guiding/teaching is about those things that ruin trips for couples.

"A lot of women ask, 'Will you spend some time [teaching] backing up the trailer?''' Strutz said. That's down-to-earth smart. Few things are funnier than sitting at a launch and listening to a couple yelling at each other while one spouse (usually the wife) attempts to back up the trailer. Strutz simply works with a woman on learning to run the trolling motor.

''We had a 'chick boat' with single women on the Lake of the Woods in Canada this summer,'' Strutz said. ''That's a great way for single women to do it. We have a lot of fun.''

That will be more formalized in June when she teaches at an all-woman muskie school in Eagle River, Wis.

While she's on the leading edge for women in fishing, Strutz harkens to one of muskie fishing's most nostalgic styles, row trolling. Her DVD on row trolling should be available this month.

"[Row trolling] extends my season,'' Strutz said. "I'm one of these crazy people. I am the last person on the lake breaking ice. It is a more effective way to find fish. And I like the quiet and solitude of it. If you don't get a fish, you have a good day anyway.''

To contact Strutz via the Web, go to

Bowman may be reached at "Bowman's Outdoor Line'' is heard on "Outdoors with Mike Norris'' (3-4 p.m. Thursdays, 1280-AM).


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