The Great Muskie Challenge

The strike of a muskie is jarring, sudden and powerful, a tremendous and exciting event. And, I've been told, when you boat one of these big, brash, brawny, beautiful fish, you've captured a memory that will stay with you forever.

Pure hunters, muskies balance confidently at the top of the food pyramid in the waters they frequent. They're the maned lions of the savanna, the polar bears of the ice cap, the jaguars of the jungle.

When you're at the top, everything that moves around you is potential food, and for muskies that includes muskrats and ducks. Muskies have even gulped small swimming dogs.

And muskies grow to huge sizes. Goodness, if your interests ran that way, you could easily stuff a melon into a muskie's toothy maw. A 50 pounder? It's been done, lots of times. Muskies over 80 pounds have been captured in nets. Who knows what the upper limit might be?

Heck, a muskie has to be 30 inches long just to be considered a keeper. In one of the state lakes, the minimum size limit is 42 inches, which translates to nearly 20 pounds.

Imagine having a beastie like that on the end of your line!

That's what I've been doing throughout my fishing life, imagining. You see, although I've always been extremely attracted by the prospect, I've never actually caught a muskie.

Not many people have. Muskies aren't everywhere and where they are, they aren't easy to catch. Among those who dissipate their lives fishing for them, muskies are affectionately known as the fish of a thousand casts.

Let's see, 1,000 divided by 25 casts per hour, which allows adequate time for fetching retrieves, equals 40.

Amazingly, that's getting close to the number of fishing hours a Conservation Department fisheries biologist told me it takes an average angler to catch a muskie. They calculated this figure using creel surveys - as if a muskie could ever fit into a creel!

I no sooner heard that figure than I wondered if I could beat the odds. Certainly, I'm as average an angler as anybody; in fact, I may excel at average. Could I catch a muskie in less than 40 hours?

Here was a challenge I couldn't resist. Mostly because it was fun. I wasn't challenging myself to lose weight, clean the garage or mow the lawn before the buffaloes returned, I was going to go fishing.

I had nothing to lose. Surely my ego would survive a day