Share your story of the one that got away! We all have likely plenty of examples!
The one that got away
July 2019 - My daughter hooked a very large northern in excess of 40 inches on an Ontario fly-in casting a gold spoon. The fish was too big for the net, but I managed to scoop it into the bottom of small boat on the 3rd try. Unfortunately, the treble hooks got fouled in the net, and the pike, with one mighty tail slap managed to throw the hooks and launch itself completely over the side of the boat. It all happened in the blink of an eye. It was my daughters biggest fish ever and I would have loved to have captured the moment in a picture, but at least she, my wife and I have a memory to share for the rest of our lives.
Last spring. Sturgeon Lake, Ontario. I was vertical jigging next to the boat for walleye. I had 6 lb test, a plain jig and a minnow. Something grabbed the jig, bent my rod over and the line instantly broke. I didn't have him on the line for more than a second or two. I didn't see the fish. My cousin who was up front running the bow mount saw it and said, "if you would have seen what that was, you'd be really pissed". He estimated the pike at nearly 50". Said it was the biggest pike he'd ever seen.
I've had a couple over the years. Back in the 80s, a friend of my dad had a party at his place on Lake Geneva. Being the obsessed little angler I was, I spent the whole time fishing the pier and boat slips. I remember dropping a brown jig and twister tail down, feeling a little weight, and reeling up thinking I'd snagged some weeds. Wouldn't you know it, up comes a 8-10lb walleye. As soon as I saw it I yelled for help and it dove and broke my line.
Back in the late 90s I was on the Wolf River off Hwy 156 with a friend of mine. Labor Day weekend. First time on that stretch and just anchored up along the breakwall just north of the road. I had a spinner rig and crawler on a bottom bouncer hanging out behind the boat and noticed the rod tip bounce ever so slightly. I picked up the rod and set the hook and ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ went the reel! First down river, then across, then up river....Still no idea what it was. It came right under the boat and I couldn't even budge it. Went back down river and by this point a guy and his son who were on shore were walking by and from their elevated location could see that it was a northern "well over 40 inches" he told me. Not long after, it surfaced, gave one shake and the whole rig came flying back at me. Talk about a string of expletives lol!
Back in the early '70s, my Dad younger brother and I would spend two weeks on the Big Chip fishing. We were mainly Bass fisherman in those days and were just getting started musky fishing. Back then Bruce Tasker who was a big musky guide on the Chip used to bring in 30 pound fish at 11:00 at night and lay them on the bar floor at Herman's Landing. This got us interested in trying night fishing. So the next few nights we went out at 10:00 and only fished until midnight. One night we were straight out from Herman's fishing Fleming's Bar. It was a calm night and we were all throwing surface baits. My brother was in the front of the boat, and all you could hear was our baits chugging through the water. Back then figure eighting your bait wasn't mentioned much if at all. All of a sudden, it sounded like my brother did a cannon ball off the front of the boat! Apparently he had a follow by a huge fish and didn't know it, and when he lifted the bait out of the water a huge fish took a swipe at it and missed! That had all three of us shaking and we thought maybe night fishing isn't for us.
I've been fortunate to have caught many large WI muskies and walleyes over the years. I also enjoy taking people out musky fishing who have never experienced catching a large fish (not guiding...just as a friend). To go with that there are way too many stories of lost fish (broken lures, broken line, broken rods, straightened hooks, muffed net jobs, etc)....but here are just a couple.
1997 - I had a friend from work in the boat with me one day. He had never fished for muskies before, let alone fished with a bait caster. The day before we went fishing I got him comfortable with the bait caster, how to cast, and how to properly retrieve the crankbait I was going to have him fish with. One item I stressed was if you ever don't feel the resistance of the lure, you need to set the hook immediately (re: the biggest fish often overtake the bait and you miss them before you even knew they were on). Fast forward to the next day. About 30 minutes into our day, my friend states "hey my crankbait isn't wobbling right anymore". I said "let me look at it". When he lifted it out of the lake, there were 3 streams of water coming out of the crankbait. 2 near the tail and 1 toward the head....the hollow bait was completely flooded. I quickly measured the bite marks at just over 4.5" wide. I showed him the damage and informed him sometime in the last several minutes you had a 30 lb+ musky grab your crankbait and he punctured it. For comparison purposes my 53" musky mount (12" long head) has a lower jaw bite width (tooth point to tooth point)of 4.5" and my 57" musky mount (13" long head) has a bite width at 5".
1998 - I was fishing with a friend in an area where I had caught several large fish before. I was fishing with a special modified crankbait of mine. After the initial 4 cranks of the reel handle and twitch, my lure disappeared (no weight). I instantly set the hooks and my rod bent over like I set hooks into my house foundation. There was no give at all and the fish pulled 3 short drag bursts off my reel (zip, zip, zip). 5 seconds later there was no weight and I picked up the retrieve again....feeling the thump, thump of the "crankbait". WTH happened! As I got the lure back to the boat...horror. All I had left was the metal diving lip and a chunk of the crankbait's head. This fish was just that big that it completely bit through and broke the solid bodied lure (not a hollow lure). A few minutes later a very large musky was on the surface about 15 yards upwind of the boat trying to throw the remainder of the crankbait.
I was walleye fishing with fatheads on a # 6 circle hook under a slip bobber, had a couple of slit shots to keep the bait down. The lake I was on had a slot of 14 to 18 inches. I had bagged 2 under 14 and was trying for a fish over 18. The bobber goes down, set the hook and start reeling and get the half way to boat when it suddenly takes off on me. We played tug of war for about 5 minutes, I gain, then the fish would run. Saw the tail once, I couldn't see the whole fish because the water is stained. I finally see the head of the fish and the walleye was in the 13 -14 range and only a couple of inches of the tail showed. Somehow I hooked the muskie in the lip. The fish makes another run and then nothing. I had about 3 inches of line below my swivel so the line busted at a split shot.
I was maybe 5 or 6 years old and up north with my family at the neighbors cabin. We set out tip ups and late in the afternoon my father and I wen out to check them. A flag was up! These were the days of scoop auger technology (very early 70's) and the holes were maybe 4-5" diameter. My father could not get the fish thru the hole. The ice was deeper than his arm could reach. He, not being a fisherman really, told me he will make the hole bigger with the scoop auger and I should hold the line against the opposite side of the hole. Well of course one rotation of the auger and the line was sliced. In 50 years I have not let him forget the we lost the world record musky. LOL
Our family was hard core, night fishing, surface baits for muskies. My ex-father in law always said big ones don't hit surface baits hard, they inhale and instead of a big splash all you hear is a 'slurp' as they suck it in. Fast forward and I'm fishing with my brother in law, around Sayner, at 10PM and the infamous slurp happens. I couldn't move that fish to save my a**, but finally started to gain some ground after about 10 minutes. When I got it to where we thought it was close to the boat, he asked if I wanted him to shine a light on it to figure out our next step. I said no as I didn't want to spook it. That was all the fish needed to hear. One sharp left turn later, she cuts the line. I'll never know how big that fish was and to top it off, my homemade surface bait we history.
2012 Wabigoon....we went there to catch pike, so being newbies to big pike fishing we bought baitcasters, 8-0 ish rods, put 80# powerpro and some 40# ish leaders. Early in the week we are in a bay and I get the distinct pleasure of watching a 50"++ musky eat my copper and red buchertail. Having never caught anything over 32" before, I panicked. I loosened the drag up and it ran a mile. I got a grip, worked it back to the boat and it's taking me under the boat with runs. I am freaking out with excitement. All of a sudden, doink! The split ring that connected the clasp to the wire leader broke. DAMN you Berkley! Anyway, we went to Bobby's sport shop that afternoon and bought 100# single strand leaders. 2 days later our youngest son boats a 53".
2016 Wabigoon....my eldest and I are fishing a new bay right after a T storm. It was a weedy bay with I think wild rice and bullrushes in it and a few stumps, about 4 fow. I don't recall the lure, it was either another Buchertail or a large Mepps. I made a cast and something stopped me so hard like an absolute dead stop that I thought I had just snagged a stump or maybe a rock, maybe 25' from the boat? There was NO give when the bait was stopped. I set the hook when I was stopped and my rod was very bent over, but the lure was not moving side to side or towards or away from me. Hmmm, must be a stump?? I just kept pressure on it but there was no movement. My eldest son was on the ready with the net. The water there is not terribly clear and it had just rained, so it was murky. After maybe 8-10 seconds of nothing moving, I decided it must have been a snag, so I proceeded to try and shake it loose and move on. During the shake loose effort, it turns out it was a GIANT (understatement) walleye, and from the determination time it was a fish to me stopping the shake loose process it shook loose. We don't fish for walleyes, that was my chance for a mongo trophy. That fish will haunt me forever. Needless to say we changed how we deal with "snags". And I have never felt a hit that hard since, not a 38" pike, not a 47" musky, not a 22" largey or smallie. I need a drink.
Arrived at the lake in Canada. One of the kid rods was already hooked up with a little jig and bobber. I snuck off to the dock while the wife and kids were getting situated in the cabin. Two casts in, I get a decent sized bluegill. I'm about to lift it out of the water, when from under the dock, a massive pike hammers the bluegill. It starts pulling drag like crazy. I'm frantically fiddling with the drag so I don't get spooled. As soon as the drag tightens down enough, the pike lets go of the bluegill. I reel my panfish in. He has a few teeth marks on the side, but looks like it'll survive. I toss him back.
Fished for five more days on that lake. Never saw another pike while I was there.