I lost the “big one” today……….

September 24, 2009 and Henry & I decide we should take Henry’s boat and fish the far East end of Eagle Lake for muskie. A sunny, calm day with water temps around 68 degrees it would not seem to be a great muskie day. It turns out it really wasn’t, except for one fish. Above, Henry with a decent northern, one of a very few caught today. On the first spot we fished, Henry had an nice 48″ muskie follow.

Later in the afternoon I did manage to land this small muskie. If I don’t seem too impressed it was probably due to the fish I lost earlier in the morning.

This is the lure that caught the small muskie and also hooked the “MONSTER” that I lost earlier in the day. If my recollection is correct, the bait is a Shumway “Boo-Tail“…….probably mid 1980’s vintage, judging by the amount of rust and lack of tail. Let me tell you about the fish of a lifetime I lost today. Firstly, as anyone who has fished with me can support, I don’t exaggerate the fish I catch and release. Secondly, after fishing Eagle for over 30 years I have probably caught two fish that, if stretched, could be said to be 50 inchers. Nice fish…….I’ve seen bigger. Until today the biggest fish I ever saw was in Meridian Bay, maybe 25 years ago, fishing with Bill Balcom (NewMexicam) who I still fish with today. The fish was a lazy follower, size was undetermined….it was a huge fish. The fish I had on today was every bit the size of that fish. My lure was probably ten feet from the boat when out of the brownish East end water this huge head appears, followed by the rest of the fish that seemed to go on forever. In slow motion the fish …….which at that moment I was thinking several things about……..the head was absolutely huge…..its eyes seemed to be so far apart……and the crease between its eyes extended down its body to its tail…..solid muscle. It’s mouth opened behind my lure……….I recall thinking that the lower jaw bones were crazily big……..and then closed on my bait. Are you supposed to set the hook now? I hate these moments………well I kind of set the hook, and the fish is on! It did a brief head thrash on the surface and I yelled to Henry to get the motor up. I was actually thinking of the trolling motor ( I was in the bow) but Henry thought I meant the big motor. No matter the fish went down, bypassed the trolling motor and headed to the rear of the boat, where it surfaced like a submarine. It seemed like 6 feet of fish back there thrashing around………in slow motion it did the head thrash with mouth open routine………I’m thinking this hook isn’t going to hold……….and I’m right. The fish is off…….all thoughts of where the net is and getting the camera ready are out the window.

All that is left to do is heal the wound with some of Henry’s Polish beer…..a cold Lezyajsk or two. My lasting thoughts are these. Pay better attention to the condition of the hooks you are throwing…………and…………a fifty inch fish is big, but a fifty-five plus fish is a whole different species. As I type this with the repro fify incher above me, there is no comparison. Was it a forty pound fish……for sure………how much bigger, I guess I will never know. Well, there is always later this fall. If big fish go in cycles, then my cycle is 25 years………I’ll be almost 80 when my next chance comes again……………

16 thoughts on “I lost the “big one” today……….

  1. Gord, Ever since you called yesterday all I could think about was your event yesterday. God I wiuld have liked to have seen that fish. I'll forget my name before I forget the one we saw 25 years ago at Meridian Bay. I don't think that the one you had on yesterday is done for this year quite yet. You know where he lives. Get her.


  2. Gord! and Henry !
    You really are musky nuts! I hope one of you try that area again soon.fALL IS THE TIME FOR THE BIG ONES!
    I've already ordered a NEW SHUMWAY DOUBLE BLADE BOO TAIL from the MUSKY SHOP!

  3. Gord,

    This is a sad story indeed. Some might say this was a once in a lifetime fish. I agree with the rest. Why not go back and hit this area a few more times. With this late fall, and the absence of guests…go out and hit it a few more times!


  4. WOW, I feel your pain Gord…..
    As I read your story and can tell by the words you were in pain when having to write that story….
    I will vouch for Gord when it comes to estimates on size of fish he does not add 5" to a fish so a story will sound good.
    I know I have been BASHING my friend Gord this summer from my computer but he can fish and he does not lie.
    GREAT story anyways Gord and would have been a much better story supported by pictures of you holding the beast…
    I t brings back many memories of fishing musky on Eagle for me, I can remember one 55 degree day in early July back in the early 80's when the winds were blowing and the rain was falling when I thought I was hooking my biggest musky on a cisco kid topper only to have the bastard throw the lure back at us in the boat.
    All I had to show for it was teeth holes crushed into my topper and a story to tell all at dinner.
    That was a fish the Indian guide estimated at 60" was it that big I don't know when you get the rush they look like 70".
    Only thing you can do now Gord is let that fish heal for a week or 2 and go back with those big baits and try again and just hope.
    Good Luck to you if you get another chance as you well know those fish don't get that big for being stupid…..

  5. I agree with Perchmaster. Pound nails for a week and then go back to pounding the water. I wish I could join you. If anyone can bring a fish like that in for a quick photo session it will be you.

  6. Hi Gord…I enjoyed your recollection of the big muskie lost. Very few people will ever get to experience what you did. Completely fooling a giant fish, as you did, is rare enough. Actually landing a giant, with all that can wrong from pre-strike to netting, is even less likely. You did well and I hope that you feel proud of your accomplishment. Incidentally, I think you will get another shot at a monster well before you turn 80. Take what you've learned from this encounter and be ready for the next time.

    In tribute to you, I've modified a verse from the Janis Joplin song, Mercedes Benz. Here goes…

    Oh Gord, won't you catch me a giant muskie?
    My friends fish for walleyes, but these
    are too wee.
    I love monster fishies, and hope you'll agree.
    So Gord, won't you catch me a giant muskie?

    I also have a suggestion for your consideration–a reenactment of your fight with the monster. This could be done right off the VBL beach for the pleasure of your guests, perhaps after the Sunday Night Fish Fry.

    It would begin with you regaling the audience with the story of your encounter with the "monster". Then, you would hop into your boat along with another person who would play the role of Henry. (I speak a little Polish and would love to do this.) We motor just off the beach and you begin casting out to a spot where a person dressed in a muskie outfit is lurking in the shallow water.

    The "muskie" grabs your lure and a brief, but exciting, fight ensues. (I suggest Andy for this role. He likes the water and is pretty strong. I think you would get quite a tussle from him, and with a little practice, he could even do the head-thrashing and perhaps a few leaps out of the water.)

    "Henry" could get into the action sequence by running around in the boat yelling, "Swiety gowno! Swiety gowno! Jest giantyczny muskie." (Translation–Holy shit! Holy shit! It's a giant muskie.

    Then, the "muskie" would throw the hook. The show might end with you noting how muskie fishing is a metaphor for life in some way. Finally, everyone would be invited back to the lodge to get soused on Polish beer.

    I think most of your guests would be willing to spend a few extra bucks for entertainment like this. And this may be a way to attract many new customers to VBL. What do you think, Gord?

    Folks, Gord is likely to be a little shy when it comes to an idea like this. Please let him know what you think. And feel free to add your own ideas to this concept.

  7. Gord shy???? Come on….
    I think we will hear this story a time or 2 and it's well worth the tell…
    There is nothing like a good musky hooking story when you sit around the fire in the lodge at VBL while sucking on a few cold ones on the house.

  8. Musky stories at VBL? I am reminded of the time I went musky fishing with Gord back in 2005. We were casting feverishly along the shore of some down timber on Eagle Lake. We both happened to notice this motion out on the end of a tree branch hanging out over the water. It was a squirrel bobbing the branch up and down trying to get close to a stump on the water. We couldn't figure out what it was doing until we noticed that there was a large acorn laying on top of the stump. We continued to cast and watch the squirrel at the same time. All of a sudden, this huge musky exploded out of the water, grabbed the squirrel, and took him down to Davey Jones locker. I don't know what surprised us more…the size of the musky or the size of the meal. Now I have to tell you, Gord estimated the size of that musky to exceed 50". We were really a bit in shock and we didn't have any 18" squirrel lures in the box. So Gord started up the motor. Just when we were getting ready to leave, wouldn't you know it? That musky leaped back out of the water and placed the acorn neatly on top of the stump.


  9. Professor,

    I think you might be on to something with the reenactment. Americans love this crap. The community of New Glarus Wisconsin has been attracting thousands of tourists for 72 years to the William Tell Festival (They do both an english and german version each year). Here is how they describe the event on their web site:
    "See and hear how frisky goats, mooing cows, and whinnying horses bring the story to life on the natural outdoor stage to create a unique theatrical experience". Attendance has been dropping over the years, so this year they reduced the 2 1/2 hour production down to an hour. I'm not making this stuff up.

    The VBL version of musky madness might be described as: "See and hear how frisky anglers, belching guides, and whining customers bring the story to life on the natural outdoor stage of Eagle Lake to create a unique theatrical experience". And given the length of time that Gord had this musky on, it could be done in 30 seconds….attracting scores of
    American tourists.

  10. Andy…This is exactly the kind of creativity that could bring my idea to life, but a catchy title will be needed. What do you think of this one–"Gord Bastable's Monster Muskie Show at Beautiful Vermilion Bay Lodge"? Perhaps it could include a warm-up act that featured a reenactment of the time Billy Belinski had his foot bitten by a muskie just off the VBL beach.

  11. Hi! Joe
    The new issue of In-Fisherman amagazine has a very informative story about the deadly result of bringing a Walleye out of 50 feet of water.
    The 35% death rate of this deep fishing may get you to reconsider your bottom bouncing?
    The walleye in Eagle Lake are trying to live in the deep water.
    Perhaps one day you could do a talk and demo. with Andy, about this topic concerned with Eagle Lake
    about pulling up (ANDY AS THE WALLEYE)
    Chuck in Toronto

  12. Great little story Andy about the musky placing the acorn on top of the stump!!!!!!!
    That was funny but here I thought you were going to tell us how Gord tried to start the old merc on the wood boat to head back to camp to trap some furry bait.
    Might make for a good cartoon picture Charles?
    Gord casting one of the furry animals for musky…

  13. Chuck, I have not read the article you mention, but I do share some concerns over fishing deep water walleyes. I look forward to reading it.

    I'm not sure it would be a tourist attraction to watch Joe and Andy re-enact the deep water bite….particularly disturbing would be the part where Andy's eyes pop out of his head and his stomach protrudes from his mouth. It would be entertaining to some, but not all………

  14. Ah yes, the age old debate about what should be an acceptable mortality rate. I will read this article and perhaps we could post a follow-up as a seperate topic. Our DNR here in Wisconsin projects the mortality rate for musky's (at any depth) could be as high as 25%. See: http://dnr.wi.gov/fish/documents/trophymuskysizelimitsproposed2003.pdf Whether that mortality rate is 10% or 25%, the Musky and PETA ask that you restrict the sport to painting their picture.

    The only thing we know with certainty is that the mortality rate of kept fish is 100%. And, when the fish are deep, we know the probablity of catching fish in shallow water is low…particularly on a lake which prohibits night fishing. In other words, when the fish are deep and anglers are fishing shallow, the mortality rate is extremely low. So in interest of the fishery, we should pass regulatios that restrict anglers to fish where there are very few fish?

    I know some anglers at VBL just love to fish. Some have been known to actually catch very few fish. Given the option of fishing or catching, I tend to prefer catching.

    I know Joe was fishing deep water this fall, but the majority of late summer fish have come in the 30-40' range.


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On behalf of the Boyes Group, I would like to pass on our sincere thanks for hosting the Muskie Madness Week and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay at VBL and had a great time!! This was our 7th year on Eagle Lake and we have stayed at a few other lodges but VBL takes the cake hands down! You can definitely count us in for next year. I’m happy to see you post some of my pics, they turned out well. Thanks again Gord for a wonderful week of fishing and your stellar hospitality, you run a first class operation, we look forward to seeing you next year!

Trevor Benner

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