Few experiences in fishing leave such an indelible impression as an encounter with a muskie. Just seeing the torpedo-shaped fish appear from nowhere and follow a lure to the boat is enough to leave otherwise strong anglers weak in the knees.
In some ways, it matters little if the fish smacks the lure or disappears into the depths. Male or female, young or old, when anglers see a muskie in the water, “they never forget it,” said Travis Frank, a muskie-fishing fanatic and owner of Trophy Encounters Guide Service (trophyencounters.com). “It’s the only fish we can go for that you don’t even need to catch it to leave a lasting memory.”
The walleye is the undisputed king in Minnesota, folks looking for a meal gravitate toward such species as crappies and sunfish, and most fishermen never will catch a muskie they can bring home given its 54-inch minimum size limit. What’s more, there may be more fish in one school of walleyes than the number of adult muskies in an entire lake. The question, then, is this: Why do anglers choose to pursue a fish nicknamed “the fish of 10,000 casts,” knowing even if they catch one, they’ll probably have to return it right to the water?
Two fishing guides and two regular muskie nuts talked about the allure:
Travis Frank, 32, Waconia / “It’s a bucket-list fish”
As a 15-year-old, Frank targeted muskies for an entire summer without catching one. Something clicked the next season, and a self-described addiction took hold. This was in the days of disposable cameras, which Frank routinely dropped off at a photo shop, loaded with pictures of muskies. Word spread and it wasn’t long before people were forking over cash in exchange for a fishing trip with him.
Fishing guide and muskie hunter Travis Frank recently tried his hand on an early June night on Lake Waconia.
“It’s a bucket-list fish for people,” said Frank, a television producer by day.
Most of his clients know muskies “aren’t a fish you just go out and catch,” but he tells them if they “run the lure correctly, stick it out, and give it enough time, there’s a good chance they’ll leave at the end of the day with a fish. But there are no guarantees.”
His clients generally just want the opportunity to catch a muskie. But when he’s not guiding, Frank sets his sights on truly big fish. Those it might take hours — or a day — to catch. “They carry this mystique about them,” Frank said. “I feel like I’ve accomplished something when I’m holding a true trophy.”