Three and a Half Year Old and a Musky
Aug 21st, 2015 by OutdoorsFIRST
Modified Aug 21st, 2015 at 12:00 AM
With an active 3 .5 year old and a wiggly 18-month-old in the boat my Canadian musky trips have certainly morphed from hardcore fishing expeditions, where we’re throwing Double 10’s 16 hours a day, to more of a family oriented, kid friendly vacation. This year my hope was to squeeze a few hours of musky fishing in between jigging for walleye and catching crawdads and turtles. If any musky show up it would be a bonus.
The first morning we were at Smith Camps on the northern portion of Lake of the Woods, I watched my 3.5 year old son, Benjamin, stand on the dock and cast a spinnerbait attached to his 6.5 foot rod and open-faced spinning reel when a small pike slashed at the lure and missed. My wife and I both saw the fish and my wife looked at me, cocked an eye, and quietly proclaimed, “My money is on Ben for the first musky.” I chuckled to myself and thought, “Wouldn’t that be something if he caught a big fish casting an open-faced spinning reel, all on his own, at only 3.5 -years-old?”
The first two days we were at Lake of the Woods we did not spend much time chasing muskies at all. The boys just wanted to explore the beach, go ‘zooming’ in the boat, and Ben was happy casting for smaller fish. On the third day of the trip all the gals in our group wanted to go to the farmers market that was taking place at the Harbourfront in Kenora. The plan was that we’d go to town by boat, drop the girls and kids at the docks to shop for an hour or so, while the ‘men’ all went fishing. Given a choice, Benjamin decided he wanted to fish with me, while his 18-month-old brother, Charlie, didn’t have a choice; he went with his mother. As I pulled away from the dock in downtown Kenora, I asked Ben what he wanted to fish for, and to my delight he replied with a smile, “Muskies, Daddy!” I thought, why not?
We didn’t have a lot of time so we headed to a spot that was probably 10 minutes away where we had seen some big fish in past years. Ben stood in the back of the boat and I handed him his rod and then went to the front of the boat and started to burn my Bigtooth Juice bucktail across the reef that I targeted. We were about 5 minutes into the pass when Ben called out, “I got a big one Daddy! Look at him!” Since Ben had cried wolf about having a big one on several times already this trip I didn’t think much about it except this time he demanded that I look at him. I reluctantly tore my eyes from my cast, only to see Ben’s rod doubled over and in the background, a very large musky head shaking just below the surface about 15 feet behind the boat. Ben’s 1.5 oz spinnerbait was clearly buried perfectly in the corner of its mouth. For a moment I just stood there in shock as I watched my 32-inch son go toe to tail with a musky in the high 40’s.
For the next few minutes I held onto my little son as he valiantly fought that fish. The musky made several runs and was now doing the traditional under the boat move as Ben’s drag squealed. Only then did Ben turn to me and say,”Daddy, what is it?” I ecstatically replied, “It’s a musky, buddy, a musky!” He replied very sharply, ” I know it’s a musky, but what kind?” I replied with a chuckle, “It’s a true musky, bud!” (In Colorado we have Tiger Muskies, I guess they don’t count as “true” muskies). He shouted,” Yes Daddy, just like the one on the wall at home!!!”
At that moment Benjamin’s sense of urgency to get the fish in the boat increased and he handed me the rod and said, “Here, Daddy, you do it.” I reluctantly took the rod from him. From the corner of my eye I noticed him scrambling about the boat when all of sudden he was standing next to me with the EGO Big Game Series musky net (which weighs about as much as my tiny son) dragging behind him. I couldn’t help but laugh, but at the same time I was frantically trying to get the fish to the boat. After two attempts to get the fish’s head in the net I began to fear the fish might come unpinned and this would become just another fish story no one would believe.
As the big musky made her way up to the boat I handed the rod back to Ben and scooped her in the net. I breathed a sigh of relief as my son leaned over the side of the boat and stared at his fish. I sat for a moment in disbelief as I collected my wits and realized what had just happened. Ben sat on the handle of the net, the fish solidly submerged in the water, as I grabbed my mini tripod and camera and pointed it to where we would try to sit for the picture. Next, I grabbed my Musky Bumper, gently disengaged the lure from the fish’s mouth, lifted it out of the net and laid the beast on the bumper for a quick measurement. Only then did I realize just how big this fish was. She stretched to 48.5 inches, no tail pinch required, with a chunky 23″ girth. I quickly placed her back in the net that still hung in the water and set the timer on the camera. Ben is one of the most difficult kids to get to smile for a picture, but the smile you see on his face was stuck there for the next hour. We snapped 10 continuous photos and quickly got the fish back in the water. I was able to snap one more photo of Ben and the fish as the musky hovered by the boat for a minute or so before swimming strongly off to the depths of Lake of the Woods. Ben was still grinning from ear to ear, and I had a smile that I wondered might never go away.
I decided to head back to town and see if anyone was back at the dock yet. My mother and my sister were just walking towards us and knew right away something was up. I still had the silly grin on my face though Benjamin acted very cool and collected. The girls noticed Ben’s hair was kind of in a Mohawk-not his usual look. They inquired what that was all about when, very nonchalantly, he informed them that he had caught a true musky (as a matter of fact, what the girls saw in his hair was a big glob of musky slime). We shared the pictures and all week he was the camp hero, though, to be honest, he kind of shrugged off the attention far more humbly than most adults would have. Not only had Benjamin caught the first musky of the trip, but it turned out to be the biggest, too.
No matter how many muskies I catch over the course of my life, no matter how big, this one will always be my favorite. I mean, how do you top your 3 ½-year-old casting, hooking, and, with minimal help, fighting and landing a huge musky, all on his own? My only regret is that I didn’t have a GoPro to capture not only the catch, but the ridiculously amusing and priceless dialogue. Yep, Ben’s mom won the bet about who would win the ‘first musky of the trip’ honor. Ben’s already a good little fisherman. Maybe it’s genetics – Ben’s mom is a pretty good musky fisherman herself- but I think it’s mostly about passion. Passion and a little bit of luck. Whatever it is or was, I will never forget Ben catching his first ‘true musky’. Never.
Will Dykstra is the Senior Predator Guide for Tightline Outdoors in Conifer, Colorado.