gets wild, courtesy of hungry muskies
The Greenville News
Saturday, May 15, 2004
By Scott Keepfer
In the eyes
of many anglers, the elusive muskie ranks as the most difficult
fish to catch, often being referred to as the "fish of 10,000
true, Andrew Howard will be fishing on credit for years to come.
amassing his deficit last weekend during an annual fishing outing
known affectionately as "Old Whitey Weekend" in reference
to a particularly effective white plastic fishing grub that has
become an integral part of their tackle selection.
On this yearly
assemblage of eight Greenville-area friends on North Carolina's
New River, the standard quest is the smallmouth bass, for which
the river is indeed much revered.
But in recent
years, another fish has captured at least a few anglers' imaginations.
once in a while in the past few years our guide would get all
crazy because he'd see a muskie," said Howard, a veteran
Old Whitey Weekend participant. "We'd try to sling a lure
toward them a couple of times and of course, they'd never bite."
a wily, big-toothed, top-of-the-food chain predator such as the
muskie has to eat every once in a while, and last weekend happened
to be one of those times. Suffice it to say that the Old Whitey
Weekend got wild.
As the group
of eight buddies and four guides set adrift on four raft-boats,
lead guide Judson Conway of Boone, N.C.'s Elk Creek Outfitters
offered this early observation: "Boys, these first several
hundred yards are flat, so we're hunting for muskies."
his fishing buddy needed little prodding, quickly shunning the
ultralight spinning outfits typically used for smallmouth bass
and grabbing medium-action, seven-foot rods spooled with heftier
line and steel leaders to withstand the gnashing of muskie teeth.
down river the group had nary a bite. But the guide kept their
confidence up, proclaiming that someone would catch a muskie "within
10 minutes." Nine minutes later, while bumping the bottom
of the shallow water with a six-inch long rainbow Rapala plug,
Howard felt something that got his blood pumping.
the lure passed a deeper hole, it went straight down into the
hole," Howard said. "Twenty feet from the boat I knew
I had more than something off the bottom. It was all frantic from
three rafts drew near to watch the action and the muskie came
to the boat in relatively short fashion. On the third attempt
at netting, the muskie's big head found the bottom of the net
and was pulled aboard amidst much celebration.
doesn't happen that often; our outfitter had only boated three
muskies all year," Howard said, "so everyone was excited."
After some quick photographs, the fish was released, but the excitement
was just beginning.
was like we had broken the sound barrier or something, so we said,
'Let's try it again,' " Howard said. "Our boat decided
we'd fish for muskies until lunchtime."
Howard snagged his lure. While the guide was postioning and anchoring
the boat in order to retrieve the lure and preserve the steel
leader, Howard decided not to waste any time. He picked up his
ultralight rod equipped only with six-pound-test line and
a grub and began casting.
muskie bit Howard's grub.
just about broke the rod in half," Howard said.
the muskie was hooked on the top lip and was unable to snap the
frail line with its teeth. A minute later, the fish was in the
was lucky enough to reel him right into the net," Howard
and photos ensued once more.
less than an hour we had boated two muskies and none of us could
believe it," Howard said.
spent the night in a riverside farmhouse, then hit the water again
the next morning.
was flat water with a lot of structure," Howard said. "It
just looked like muskie."
He was right.
A boat up ahead yelled back that they'd seen a muskie swim under
their boat. Ten casts later, Howard watched in amazement as a
large muskie darted out of the depths and smacked his lure.
By 9:40 a.m.
less than 24 hours after catching his first muskie
Howard had reeled in a third.
which were all released, ranged in size from 10? pounds to 12
pounds, 9 ounces. All were between 34 and 36 inches in length.
spent the rest of the day casting for smallmouth bass.
don't know if I could've lived with myself had I caught a fourth
(muskie)," Howard said.
fishing partners the regulars of the Old Whitey Weekend
kidded him good-naturedly.
them that I thrived on their envy that was my catch-phrase
for the two days," Howard said. "But they were really
good sports about it. They would hound me a little bit, then offer
admits that he's been "giddy all week," and the monster
muskie memories have only fueled his passion for fishing.