How to Hold a Musky (and other info)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

No treble yell for Dolsen

ONE TOUGH GUIDE | Muskie fishing is his game in north central Ind.

June 13, 2007
BY DALE BOWMAN Staff Reporter
LEESBURG, Ind. -- A Mustad treble hook had just pierced the flesh of his right arm, but Chae Dolsen nonchalantly said, ''Hand me the bolt cutters.''
I should mention the treble hook was attached to a Super Stalker lure, and another treble on the lure was attached to a lively 40-inch muskie, whose weight stretched Dolsen's skin like something on a perverse tanning board.

He snipped the hook in half, then unhooked the muskie in the net.

''At seminars, I say these bolt cutters are the most important tool, more important than the net,'' Dolsen said. ''People say, 'You paid $50 for bolt cutters?'''

All the while, the barb end of the hook remained in his arm. We took photos, measured the fish and Dolsen released it in lively fashion. Only then did he push the hook all the way out, dab the twin punctures with antiseptic and try to remember his last tetanus shot.

Are we not men?

Several months ago, Cary Gelfond of the Chicagoland Muskie Hunters chapter of Muskies Inc. told me to save June 9 for Webster Lake. For years, he has wanted to show off Dolsen.

One of the founders and often president of the Webster Lake Musky Club, Dolsen has guided for seven years on that unique clot of three outstanding muskie waters in north central Indiana.

Webster is the main lake and in a recent survey unbelievably topped six adult muskies per acre. Webster empties into Indiana's deepest natural lakes, Tippecanoe and James. Darrin Conley caught the Indiana-record muskie (42.5 pounds) from James five years ago. Minutes to the south is the Barbee Chain, where small lakes vary from gin-clear to stained.

In my world, it's the best muskie fishing we have, outside of a trip to Minnesota or Canada. This is not northern Wisconsin, where muskies are a fish of 10,000 casts (and discredited world records). Fish these Indiana lakes, and you expect to raise multiple muskies and have a reasonable chance of boating one or more.

Gelfond, a Northwest Side man who works catch-all for Waste Management, caught his best muskie (40 inches) from Silver Lake in Wisconsin. His best from Webster was 36 inches. One of our hopes was to top those marks.

Dolsen, a siding subcontractor, caught his best (50 inches) from Webster on a sucker on May 8, 2001, when a client canceled and Dolsen went fishing anyway. He suspects 50 inches is near the top end for Indiana muskies.

Saturday was a blue-bird day, and I expected tough fishing.

''It will be just a little tougher,'' Dolsen said. ''We'll have to troll a little more.''

We started on the Barbee Chain, where clients had boated a big northern pike that morning. He alternated between speed trolling (5 mph) and casting on Big Barbee, Little Barbee and Sawmill. We raised two muskies and saw others chasing bait.

After five hours, Dolsen moved us to Tippecanoe/James. As he trolled in 30 to 35 feet, he marked huge balls of bait, a good sign.

Then, at 4:30 p.m., in full sun with pleasure boats and personal watercraft zooming past on Tippy, the middle rod went off.

Dolsen was closest but tried to hand the rod to Gelfond and me. We were having none of it. I said, ''Just get the damn fish in.'' Gelfond leaned over and did a solid net job.

That's the magic of muskie fishing, minutes of pandemonium out of hours of nothingness. While being unhooked, the muskie threw a treble into Dolsen's arm.

In the aftermath, Dolsen said, ''The best bait used to be the 10-inch Jake. But I caught seven over 40 inches on Stalkers last year.''

We wanted to complete the trinity of waters, so we trailered to Webster (all three knots of lakes have free launches). Idling off, a kid bobber fishing a minnow from shore started screaming, ''A muskie, a muskie.'' Sure enough, he lifted his rod, and a fat muskie flipped in the air and was gone.

It was time.

But we fished toward dark. As the sun set, Gelfond put his rod away and simply watched.

''It sure is pretty out here,'' he said.

For Dolsen's four-man guide service, go to

Places and faces
Bullfrog season opens Friday in Illinois. Details are in the Midwest Fishing Report. ... As Boyd Duckett accepted his 2007 Bassmaster Classic championship ring last week, he said, ''Remember all those days I missed to go fishing, and you said I wouldn't amount to anything? Well, look at me now.'' Duckett was jabbing an assistant principal from his school days, one he ran over in 11th grade, which got him kicked out of school. ... Wisconsin will have regular updates on viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) at

Wild things
To carp fishermen and outside sorts who simply like seedy treats, mulberries are ripe across the area. South of the city, raspberries are ripening rapidly.

Stray cast
This baseball season reminds me of wading into a new stream at a Missouri bridge and finding unexpected mud, where each step sounds like a great sucking chest wound (backward or forward, the air goes out).


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