The big rod doubled over, the drag screamed as the 10 year old’s arms strained against the power of fins and muscle. Without warning the big fish erupted from the water heading into the sky twisting and turning until reentry, vanishing into the deep. I could see Brady’s eyes enlarge when he saw the big fish he had on. He fought to keep the rod tip up against a fish that wanted to get as far away from us as possible.
“Keep the rod tip up, keep reeling, you can’t let the line go slack, you’re doing great,” came the encouraging words from Ben Elfelt, a good friend and fishing guide who asked us to come with him as he scouted a lake for future clients. Brady finally turned the fish, heading it back towards the boat. As it got closer it came to the surface. Ben was quick to recognize the fish. “It’s a Muskie!” Brady’s eye grew even bigger! I could almost hear his heart pounding as I grabbed the big net as the fish made a run at the boat where it went air born again right in Brady’s face. Excitement to the max was written all over his mug.
Ben calmly gave directions that Brady followed to a tee and again turned the fish towards the boat. All I had to do was scoop it up. I’m not sure who hollered the louder “YES,” Brady or Ben, when the fish was in the net. After a few quick pics Brady released the fish by its tail, letting go after a helpful handshake, pumping in O2 so it could swim away in good shape.
We were trolling big lipped Rapalas that dove to around 13’ on two level wind reels set up on trolling rods and another rod set up with lead core line. Ben was looking for walleye but Brady’s first Muskie was a lot more exciting for Brady. When the next rod popped Brady was happy to have his name called again. After a good fight we netted a 24 inch pike that foul hooked itself so it felt much larger but still exceeded the 21” pike that Brady pulled through the ice two winters ago.
When the next fish hit Ben grabbed the rod and set the hook before handing it to Brady. “This is another nice fish,” added Ben as it made a nice run before it went down deep playing dirty but making Ben think he had found a walleye. Once it when came into view Ben shouted, “It’s a big pike!”
Brady was all smiles working the pike with Ben’s same encouraging directions. I grabbed the net and scooped up the fish up like Orlando Arcia, shortstop for the Milwaukee Brewers, would do to a one hopper. After that it was photo time and another released fish.
Although Ben never did find any walleye on this quick scouting trip we did find some big fish and some crappie before we had to head in. Ben had to get his one year old daughter Eleanor to the doctor where she got four shots. Ben said she was not a happy baby afterwards. All I know is that Brady was a happy angler and is still watching the videos and looking at photos of the two biggest fish he has ever caught as well as his first Muskie!
Jim Bennett is an outdoorsman who lives and worked in the St. Croix River Valley and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org