It was hot and sunny, not unlike most August days on Lake Winnibigoshish.
But it would prove to be a day like no other on "Winnie" - or any other body of water in the state in the last 50-plus years.
At least if you're talking muskie.
According to reports of that day, after nearly a two-hour battle, Art Lyons finally landed a 56-inch, 54-pound muskie on Winnibigoshish in August of 1957.
It remains one of the most hallowed - and long-standing - fishing records in Minnesota. And one that's likely to continue to stand the test of time.
Not because there aren't bigger muskies out there.
Professional muskie fisherman Pete Maina of Hayward, Wis., with a previous trophy muskie.
The 2008 Minnesota muskie season opened Saturday. It's not a prime time for large muskies - that will come in late summer/fall, when muskies typically go on a feeding frenzy. But there's more to breaking this record than catching a 54-pound-plus fish.
"I'm hoping so," Travis Frank said when asked if this will be the year the record finally falls.
Frank, owner of Trophy Encounters guiding service out of Waconia and an avid muskie fisherman, caught two muskies he estimated at 52 and 50 pounds on Lake Mille Lacs in November.
"I think it (the record muskie) has been caught before," he said. "I've seen some pictures (of possible record muskies). It's just a matter of having someone bring it in. It has to be killed and weighed on a state (registered) scale.
Muskie fishing pointers
Professional muskie fisherman Pete Maina of Hayward, Wis., offers these suggestions to improve your chances of reeling in a muskie. The Wisconsin muskie season opened last month; Minnesota's season opened Saturday.
Don't be intimidated: Some anglers are afraid to try for muskies after hearing how "tough" they are to catch. They're not any smarter - muskies are really only tough to catch because there simply aren't many of them. In nature's balance, the apex predators are present in lowest numbers.
Learn to use bait-casting reels: The most expensive, highest-tech rods and reels aren't necessary for muskie fishing, but bait-casting style reels are recommended. They are easy to learn to use. Plus, with the larger lures commonly used in muskie fishing, the spool tension provided with this style of reel prevents lure tangling as they fly through the air - a common problem with spinning reels.
Understand the structure of your location: Fish, from the tiniest minnow to the biggest predator, seek structure. When looking at a map, any areas that offer cover weeds, rocks, trees or wood of any type and possibly artificial structures are places to concentrate. Also, areas where depth changes quickly are natural travel zones. Combinations of cover and depth changes are ideal.
Pick your lures carefully: Choose lures of different types that will cover different depth ranges. The main lure types include spinners, crank baits, jerk baits, surface lures and jigs. Make sure you select lures of each type. With the first spinners, crank baits and jerk baits, choose some that run at different depth levels to cover the water column effectively.
Consider hiring a guide: If you are new to muskie fishing, either fishing with an experienced friend or hiring a knowledgeable guide is recommended. You can learn a lot more in a short period of time with a guide. After learning a few key elements from an expert you'll be catching muskies like a pro.
"It's just a matter of who is going to be the one to keep it. In the muskie community, that has been a big deal as everything is catch and release. You would be shunned from the community if you kill a fish. You have to leave it go. It will be interesting. I'd say it possibly has been broken. But you don't know unless you put it on a scale."
Although he was to be in a friend's wedding Saturday, Frank planned to "sneak out before the wedding" to get in on the opener.
"I'll use small bucktails early in the year or swim baits in shallow water," said Frank, who recently began working as a Web manager - among other things - for Ron Schara's various outdoor television endeavors. "In June you just kind of get into it and then it's hot and heavy in August through November. The best is going to be after August. But I get out there right away because I'm an addict. I have to cure the itch a little bit and cast a few big baits."
Frank said he fishes Mille Lacs about 15 to 20 times a year, mostly for his favorite species. But if he caught the record-breaker, would he keep it?
"I've thrown that idea around quite a bit," he said. "I'd like to have an actual scale just to make sure and have the phone number of the people to call if I broke the record. But muskie fishermen are protective of their fish. If I caught it I'm sure I would be caught up in the moment, so it's tough to say. I guess it will get caught this year or next. It would be cool. It's my obsession."
Tournament fisherman Gary "Mr. Walleye" Roach concentrates mostly on, well, walleyes, but has caught his fair share of monster muskies through the years. He says the decision to keep or release a record muskie wouldn't be overly difficult.
"(A record) fish is past its prime anyway," Roach said. "It's like a 12-pound walleye. It's done his thing. I've released a lot of muskies, but I think I'd keep one (of record size). I don't think it would hurt anything.
"But I don't think I could put it in the livewell."
BRIAN S. PETERSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5864.
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