How to Hold a Musky (and other info)

Friday, March 16, 2007

Struggle for monster musky a matter of skill, will,

By Bob Riepenhoff

What does it take to land a huge musky?
In the case of a 52-inch monster caught and released this month on Pewaukee Lake, it took experience, skill and a fair amount of luck.
Steve Miljat, of Milwaukee, was guiding Jerry Gambatese and his wife, Susan, of Brookfield on the afternoon and evening of Oct. 5.
"I knew the whereabouts of a big fish," Miljat told me. "I'd raised it on a variety of lures over the past two weeks."
So Miljat took his clients to that spot, a weed line near Taylor's Bay.
"I gave Susan a carp-colored minnow bait," Miljat said. "I told her the muskies were feeding on yearling carp."
Minutes later, she said something was wrong with the lure.
"She brought it in and it was destroyed," Miljat sad. "The lip was broken and there were tooth marks all over it. I told her the next time that happens, set the hook."
They fished a few other spots, but 2 hours later, they returned.
"Jerry was throwing a Chatter Bait, Susan was throwing a Grandma- bait and I was throwing a Bagley DB-6, painted like a musky," Miljat said. "I was telling Jerry and Susan about a 52-incher that I had caught on this date in 1995."
His story was suddenly interrupted.
"On my fourth cast, the fish hit about 15 feet from the boat," he said. "I knew immediately that it was the big fish I'd been working. I was in the bow of the boat and the musky made a run along the starboard side, stopping at the stern near the outboard. I put the rod tip as far down as I could in the water and hit the free spool to avoid the line being cut by the prop."
As Miljat was hunched over the outboard, just a few feet away, the musky jumped 3 feet out of the water and over another rod in a holder that was being used to suspend a live sucker behind the boat.
"It was an unbelievable sight," Miljat said. "I was eye to eye with this fish. When it hit the water I couldn't tell if it was still on or not. It made a run about 40 feet from the boat. I reeled up the slack and the fish was still on."
When the musky came up to the surface, Miljat could see that only one hook of the bait's treble hook was in the musky's cheek.
"I thought we were going to lose it," he said. "I told Jerry to get the net and I started horsing the fish toward the net. At this point, I thought it was all or nothing."
Miljat brought the big fish to boat-side and Jerry slid the net under it.
"But before he could scoop it, the musky jumped from the net and headed toward the bow and the trolling motor," he said.
Again, Miljat stuck the rod tip deep in the water and hit the free-spool, guiding the line away from the propeller.
"I saw that the fish was 40 feet away again with that one hook still in its cheek," he said. "I worked the fish back to the boat and, as Jerry netted it, the hook came loose."
The battle only lasted 4 or 5 minutes but, to Miljat, it was an eternity.
"It took every bit of my 20 years of musky experience to land this fish," he said. "It had at least four chances to get off. It was a great fight. I won't ever forget it."
The fish, which was 52 inches long with a 24-inch girth and an estimated weight of 38 to 40 pounds, was Miljat's sixth musky 50 inches or longer.
"What really made this fish special was that I had worked it hard for two weeks," he said. "It hit by the books, post-frontal weather conditions, full moon period at moon rise. It was the perfect big fish feeding window."
The irony of the situation is that, for the past two summers, Miljat has been lured away from Pewaukee Lake to spend time in Minnesota in pursuit of big muskies
"I spent the summer guiding in northern Minnesota and my personal best for the year comes out of my own back yard," he said. "The more I try to run from Pewaukee Lake, the more I realize how special this lake is."
Send e-mail to briepenhoff@journalsentinel.com

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