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A Fanatical Few

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Published on: Jul. 2, 2008

Last revision: Dec. 8, 2010

They call muskies the fish of 10,000 casts, and they’re not exaggerating by much. In Missouri, where muskie fishing is better than in most other states, the average muskie angler spends about 32 hours on the water for each legal-size fish he or she catches.

Figure, for example, eight 4-hour trips to the lake. If it’s spitting rain and the wind churns up whitecaps, all the better. On average, the angler will drag the boat home without having landed a legal-size muskie during seven out of eight of those trips.

When, finally, a monster fish does come to net, it doesn’t get sliced up for Sunday dinner or stuffed with wadding and displayed over the fireplace. No, the lucky angler usually lets out a whoop, takes a picture or two, then promptly and carefully releases the trophy back into the water.

He or she will then begin fishing for the next one.

“Sanity has to be called into question whenever it comes to any kind of fishing,” said Gary Neely, president of the Pomme de Terre Chapter of Muskies Inc., “but muskie fishing is a unique obsession.”

Neely freely admits to being afflicted. He bought a homestead in Pittsburg, Mo., that overlooks Pomme de Terre Lake in large part because he knew muskies dwelt there. After moving in, he three times hired a professional guide to help him catch one. Although the guide taught him lots about muskie fishing, he didn’t learn a thing about muskie catching.

Neely then joined the local chapter of Muskies Inc., which gave him a large network of helpful muskie fishing friends, but still no muskies.

“If muskies are the fish of 10,000 casts,” he said, “then the lake owes me about 20 of them.”

Neely finally landed his first muskie. He said his second one came a little easier. He’s caught many more since then, including, last June, a 43-incher—his personal best.

Muskie Madness

If you haven’t hooked into a muskie or seen one sizing up your lure—or your boat!—you might wonder what the fuss is all about.

Muskies (Esox masquinongy) are toothy, top-of-the-food-pyramid predators. They feed mostly on other fish, as well as—if you believe legends—ducks, muskrats and even small dogs. They also are huge. The world record is 67 pounds, 8 ounces. The Missouri record is 41 pounds, 2 ounces. In Missouri, the minimum legal size limit is 36 inches!

Long, lean, predaceous and pugnacious, muskies are a challenge to hook and a thrill to

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