Shawn Lindley, a lifelong walleye fisherman, bought a muskie rig this year but hasn't had a chance to use it yet.
Maybe he should leave it at home.
While fishing walleyes on the Mississippi River below the Potlatch Paper Mill dam on Oct. 17, the 32-year-old Brainerd resident hooked and landed a giant muskie. The brute measured 51 inches, but its weight is unknown.
"My boat scale only goes to 25 pounds and the scale at the bait shop only went to 30," said Lindley, whose only previous muskie measured 30 inches.
Lindley fishes walleyes below the dam but had seen Al Lindner fishing muskies there, so he knew 'ol esox masquinongy was around. What's remarkable is that Lindley landed the fish on 4-pound test line.
"I was using Berkley Ironsilk, a new line that came out a couple years ago," Lindley said. "It's the best line I've ever fished with. It has no memory."
Lindley was tossing a small bubblegum jig with a fathead minnow in 5 feet of water when the fish hit about 15 feet from the boat.
"At first I thought it was a big walleye because of the way it hit," he said. "It was just a light thump, like a walleye does. When I set the hook I thought I was hung up. Nothing gave. Then it started running and I knew I had something special."
Lindley loosened his drag so the fish could run at will. His friend, Don Cervin, was in the boat and photographed the battle, which lasted less than 10 minutes.
"I was lucky," Lindley said, 'cause I hooked him right in the front of the top lip. The line was never really in his mouth."
Catch-and-release is preached so loudly by muskie advocates that Lindley felt a bit guilty when he took the fish to a taxidermist. He asked Al if that was the right decision, and Al put his mind at ease.
"He told me the fish was so old it would have died in a year or two anyway," Lindley said.
Now Lindley has two other decisions to make: where to hang the mount and what to do with that muskie rig.
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