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I haven’t been in the sport of musky fishing as long as some anglers, but I can still remember the days of being the lone nut out on the water using gear antiquated by today’s standards.  In the last decade, musky fishing has grown exponentially both as a sport and as an industry.  Booming musky fisheries are popping up around the country where no muskies previously existed, and the musky bug has spread faster than the swine flu.  Bass and walleye fishermen get a taste of the action, and many never look back.  State fisheries managers and private organizations alike have taken action, and now there are more musky fisheries and muskies than ever before.  Tackle manufactures have also heeded the call, and now there are at least twenty times the products available to musky fisherman than there were just 15 years ago.

Casting Below An Ancient Dam

Casting Below An Ancient Dam

In many ways I love the modern era of musky fishing.  Some of my favorite waters didn’t have a musky in them 25 years ago, and I surely could never give up my modern tackle.  However, a large part of me misses the way things used to be.  Certainly, I am not an old timer who spent most of his musky fishing life in “the way things used to be” era, but I certainly got a taste of it in the 90’s.  I used to be able to fish uncontested on popular musky waters on summer and fall evenings.  I didn’t have to share any spots, and I could hit them at my leisure knowing the fish would see no presentations but mine.  I liked the looks I got at landings when it wasn’t every hour that someone was showing up with musky gear.  Back in the day, musky fishermen were an oddity instead of commonplace, and I think we secretly received great satisfaction in knowing that.

Bob Marley And A Nice Musky, Life Is Good

Bob Marley And A Nice Musky, Life Is Good

I don’t miss dacron and heavy mono, but I do miss the solitude.  If I want some peace and quite on lakes, I have to get out for a few hours very early in the morning, or head out when it is cold, wet, windy, and nasty; and even then it is no guarantee.  Rivers and streams tend to be my last vestige of solitude, especially the ones that are hard to navigate or must be fished on foot.  Often, I can fish these waters all day and never see another person.  However, trying to get on one of the popular big name MN lakes on a Saturday morning can get a little ridiculous.  The obvious argument is that with greater popularity comes greater awareness, effort, and conservation; and musky fishing is true of that, possibly truer than in any other fishing.  Obviously, the sport is better than it has ever been, but I still yearn for the past at times.  Often, just to get a taste of what used to be, I find myself hiking up some small remote stream or river getting eaten alive by mosquitoes.  Sometimes it pays off, often it doesn’t.  For me, these adventures are more about connecting to the past than successful fishing, but it doesn’t hurt to find some less pressured muskies.  The simplicity of walking and casting rivers really brings me back.

On the other end of the spectrum, I have recently started fishing the big money musky tournaments.  Morning take off at one of these events will make one aware of just how much technology and money has been dumped into musky fishing.  Tournament musky fishing puts an emphasis on technology and performance in every aspect of the sport; and having the best of everything will make for an advantage.  I enjoy the competitive nature of this aspect of the sport, and certainly a musky hooked during tournament hours gives me a greater rush.  However, it is probably my tournament fishing experiences that make me crave some very simple musky trips each season.  They help to center me out.  It is nice to go from an environment of the most intense musky fishing pressure in existence to an environment of no fishing pressure period.

Gone are the days of the way things used to be.  A modern era has been ushered in for better or for worse.  The fishing is great and I will still have my memories of being alone with the muskies:  Those quiet summer nights on the lake that seem like a dream long since dissipated to my subconscious.  Alone on a half frozen lake in northern WI that glows deep blue after a fresh snow like a rare precious stone.  The feeling of being on a real adventure.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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