How to Hold a Musky (and other info)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Talking Muskies With Todd Forcier

A Question And Answer Interview With Guide Todd Forcier

Muskie First
Published March 12, 2007

Todd Forcier operates a muskie guide service throughout central and northern Wisconsin, with an emphasis on the Petenwell Flowage and Wisconsin River mid-state, as well as a variety of northern lakes in Oneida and Vilas counties such as Crescent Lake and the Three Lakes Chain.

When he isnt fishing or spending time with his family, Todd is at his real job as a full time paramedic. He applies his medical experience and fishing knowledge to help anglers in on-the-water emergencies.

Todd takes particular pride in giving back to the resource, and every year the proceeds from his popular Petenwell Musky Challenge tournament are used to purchase and stock muskies back into that system.

Todd sat down with MuskieFirst to answer some questions about himself and his fishing career.

M1st: Let's start off with a little bit of background. Tell us a little about yourself and your interest in muskie fishing.
Todd Forcier: I live in a right on the Wisconsin River in a town called Wisconsin Rapids. Im married with three wonderful girls, and I work for the City of Wisconsin Rapids Fire Department as a Firefighter/Paramedic. The schedule I keep with this job allows me a lot of time to pursue fishing. Like a lot of you, it was my dad who got me hooked on fishing.
I fish the Wisconsin River and Petenwell Flowage and some lakes up north such as the Three Lakes Chain.

M1st: What are your principle bodies of water that you guide on?
Todd Forcier: Im confident guiding a number of different stretches of the Wisconsin River and Petenwell Flowage; I consider these to be my home waters. I also guide on the Three Lakes Chain; Ive got a trailer up there and spend a lot of time fishing that system.

M1st: Can you tell us a little about the Petenwell Flowage?
Todd Forcier: Its the second largest body of water in the state, including over 90 miles of shoreline which makes for an impressive body of water with tons of structure of different kinds. It's a flowage on the Wisconsin River that was built in the late 1940s to control flooding. Its home to all species of fish, especially the mighty musky!

M1st: Are muskies natural to the Pete, or are they stocked? If so, for how long have they been stocking it with muskies?
Todd Forcier: Muskies are native to the river, however it's been proven that they don't reproduce successfully in this section of water. As a result the DNR has been stocking Petenwell for years. This has been supplemented by the stocking efforts of the Consolidated Musky Club as well as fish purchased from the proceeds of my annual Petenwell Musky Challenge tournament. Over the last 10 years, tournament proceeds alone have resulted in well over 3000 muskies 12-18 inches long being put into the system!

M1st: What are some general tips you would give to someone fishing the Pete for the first time?
TForcier: First and foremost remember that it's a flowage, so a good map is a must. Use caution on the north end of the river up by the mill - watch out for rocks. The Devils Elbow area in the northeast can be trouble as well: there are many areas of flooded timber and stumps. Best is to go slow or follow someone who is familiar with the clear areas.
At the south end of the river section where it meets the north end of the flowage section there are buoy markers: follow them!

M1st: What are some basic patterns for early season fishing on the Pete?
Todd Forcier: I'm a spinnerbait and bucktail man. I look for the backwaters like you find in Devils Elbow, the creek inlet bays and some shoreline or flats holding timber. Work these areas over well! Try different speed retrieves. Also, work some glide baits. Remember these fish may be moving around so keep casting.

M1st: Petenwell has a reputation for being dark water. Whats it really like and how does it effect the fish?
Todd Forcier: The water is dark, not so much tannic, but that dark Wisconsin River color. In late summer we can and have gotten some bad algae blooms, but I think that is harder on us than the fish.

M1st: Tell us about your Petenwell Musky Challenge tournament.
Todd Forcier: Im very proud when I look at how weve continued to grow every year. This will be our 11th year. We have a lot of great sponsors who believe in what we're doing: stocking fish back into the resource. The tournament raises money to stock muskies in Petenwell. The support for this is unbelieveable and through our sponsors were able to give away a roomful of raffle and door prizes as well as host a very enjoyable banquet for tournament participants.
Our contestants have been the best too. We started with 26 contestants our first year and now we've got a full field of 70 boats every year with a waiting list of 20 more.

M1st: Are there any changes in format for this year versus years past?
Todd Forcier: This year we're adding 10 more boats to the field, we have a new (larger) location for the banquet, and we are adding two hours to Sunday's fishing time.
Friday registration and rules meeting starting at 7:30 pm. Saturday fishing hours run from 7:00am to 4:00pm, with the banquet and raffles on Saturday night. Sunday fishing hours run 7:00am to 2:00pm with the awards ceremony to follow.

M1st: What is the biggest fish caught at your tournament over the years?
Todd Forcier: We've had two 46-inchers, couple of 44 to 45-inch fish and a lot of 40 to 44-inch fish.

M1st: What judging format do you use, and how successful has it been with fish mortality?
Todd Forcier: Good question. We're a judge boat tournament, and it works very well. All the contestants have a list of judges phone numbers. When a contestant catches a fish, they call a judge boat on their cell phone. The fish stays in the water in the net the entire time, and the judge boat drives to them to measure and record.

M1st: How many judges do you use, and what is the average time for them to get to a fish that needs to be registered?
Todd Forcier: This tournament was designed from the start to use judge boats. Weve had no fish mortality that were aware of in the 10 years. We've been using from 10 to 12 judge boats. The longest wait weve ever had for a judge boat to arrive at a fish was about 10 minutes, the result of a team being on the south end of the flowage. We have good coverage of the areas fished by the contestants; their average wait is usually only 1-2 minutes or less. Many fish are caught within sight of a judge boat.

M1st: You mentioned that the fish stay in the net during that time.
Todd Forcier: Yes, good point. When the team hook and land their fish, they remove the hooks and leave the fish in the net in the water. The fish does not come out until the judge boat gets there. We must take care of the fish. Rule #1 says all decisions will be made in the spirit of competition and for what is in the best interest of the fish.

M1st: What is the entry fee for the tournament, and how does one go about entering?
Todd Forcier: Entry fee is $180.00 per boat for two fishermen. Past contestants have a "first chance" entry with a deadline of March 31st and then it opens to everyone else. This year the full field will be 80 boats, and we expect it to fill up very quickly. The majority of the field every year are returning contestants.
This years pay-out (based on 80 teams) is: 1st place $5,000.00, 2nd $3,000.00, 3rd $1,500.00, 4th $800.00, and 5th $400.00
Interested people can email me at info@forciersguideservice.com for an entry form; put tournament in the subject line some thing due to my spam. They can also call me at (715) 424-0452 and I'll mail one out.

M1st: You're a firefighter and paramedic in your "real job". Muskie fishermen have been known to have accidents involving gill rakers, muskie teeth, and sharp hooks. Can you tell us a few first aid and safety thoughts for in the boat?
Todd Forcier: The key thing is to remain calm. You'd be surprised at how many people panic due to the sight of blood.
For cuts, or embedded hooks infection is a concern. Make sure to clean the area well, dry it well, and bandage it completely. Use Bacitracin zinc ointment to prevent infection.

M1st: What is your best suggestion for deeply embedded hooks?
Todd Forcier: First, cut it off from the rest of the hook with a good pair of hook cutters. Then there are several ways of removing or backing the hook out from the hole it went in. I look at it as youre already infected, so just grab it and continue to push the point out/through if possible. This may depend on where it went in and the angle it went in at. Then clean it, cream and bandage it. Keep it dry (yeah, right). A Tetanus shot may need to be updated.

M1st: You market a First Aid Kit, can you tell us a little about it?
Todd Forcier: Its called the Sportsman's First Aid Kit. There are two styles available, the standard and the deluxe.
Due to my background as a paramedic, and having seen several injuries out there on the water, I felt we as outdoorsman needed a good first aid kit.
I did a lot or research, consulted a couple of Doctors, including an ER doc, and got input from fishermen on what injuries were happening to them out there. I then added what I thought were key items such as cleaning items, infection creams, lots of bandages, waterproof tape, and more.

M1st: Is the container it comes in waterproof?
Todd Forcier: Good question and one that a lot of people were concerned about. It's a nylon case, so I place the kit inside of an oversized heavy-duty Zip-Lock bag. I've tested the bag with the help of my kids and some stuffed animals underwater: after they got done with it all contents were perfectly dry.

M1st: Muskie fisherman fish in some pretty extreme conditions that can be dangerous at times. In the near-freezing temperatures of late fall, what is the right response when someone goes overboard into very cold waters?
Todd Forcier: First and foremost I hope they were wearing life jackets at that time of year!
So, some one goes in. First, get them out and back to shore as fast as possible: the landing, someones house, wherever is fastest to be able to get them someplace warm inside a house or a truck. Get their wet clothes off, all of them. Then warm the person with your clothes and blankets. If youre out somewhere in the backcountry and no heat is available, you can use your own body to rewarm them: skin-to-skin contact is the best way to transfer hear. A situation like this is no time to worry about modesty, do whatever it takes to save them. Strip down and snuggle with themBuild a fire....just get them warm and dry.

M1st: You mentioned lifejackets, do you have any recommendations about floatation?
Todd Forcier: I use the horse collar life jackets, both manual and automatic inflating. They are very comfortable to wear even over bulky jackets. Being comfortable helps me to wear them regularly and they are very effective as well.

M1st: Have you tried the floating "survival suits" or have any suggestions about them?
Todd Forcier: I've used them. We have them at the fire station for rescue situations. Im not sure I'd use one for fishing because theyd be difficult to move and fish in if you were wearing it all day long. However, they do make a very nice life jacket in a coat version which is effective.

M1st: Todd, have a great season and continued success with the tourney!

Thanks again to Todd Forcier for participating in our "Questions and Answers with..." series.

Todd Forcier
Professional Fishing Guide
400 Taylor Ave.
Wisconsin Rapids, WI 54494
Phone: (715) 424-0452
website: http://www.forciersguideservice.com/
E-mail: info@forciersguideservice.com

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