AN OUTDOORSMAN’S JOURNAL – August 15, 2012
by Mark Walters
Anything For A Musky?
Three nights before I left for the trip that you are about to read about, I spent an all nighter fishing on Lake Michigan in my canoe for salmon and rainbow trout. I caught a rainbow trout and figured what the heck, I need to break the ice and catch a musky out of my canoe. I chose Wisconsin’s 3rd largest lake, which is the Chippewa flowage.
The “Big Chip” is located in Sawyer County, much of the shoreline is tree lined and owned by the state of Wisconsin and with a 50-inch size minimum, there are musky in there that could pull my canoe for a day.
Sunday, August 5th
High 76, low 52
I actually arrived last night at a public boat ramp where the east fork of the Chippewa River enters the flowage. I rigged up my canoe for a day and a night of paddle trolling and casting, and than crashed in “The Chevy Hotel” until first light this morning.
After a physical, dangerous and exhausting trip on Lake Michigan this experience was going to be a piece of cake.
My golden retriever Fire would be my companion and I have to admit I was confidant (hopeful) that I was going to catch a big musky. I was paddling by sunrise and pulling a Top Raider and a Shallow Raider of which the Shallow Raider was rigged on a planer board.
Three hours after first light I had not caught a fish and so I took a break and did some field and water work with Fire while using a training dummy. In a nutshell, Fire is awesome on land retrieves with either the dummy or with pigeons, but still hesitant on water retrieves; that would change in the next three days.
When I resumed paddling, I got lucky when a 17-inch largemouth bass engulfed the Top Raider and I caught my first fish of the day. The fish catching experience gave me a powerful jolt of energy and brought back some pretty incredible memories for me.
I canoed the entire east fork of the Chippewa, back in ’93, from northeast of Glidden all the way to the Mississippi River at Pepin.
Ten years later, I brought my then two-year-old daughter Selina on an April canoe trip on the “Big Chip”. I had a rope tied to Selina, and both the air and water temps were cold when she fell over board while paddling with a tiny little paddle that she called her own.
When I pulled her back in the canoe, she was fine until she saw her paddle had been temporarily lost, that’s when she started bawling. We built a camp a fire and had a great experience.
After catching the bass, I paddled by a musky fisherman that was on the end of a seven-day trip with four friends. So far, no one had caught a musky.
For much of the day, I was paddling against a solid headwind and that made forward momentum difficult, especially when checking my rigs for vegetation.
About 1:00 I made an executive decision and took a long lunch on Pine Island. I heated up a batch of cheesy broccoli soup (fresh from the garden) and then rolled out my sleeping bag and took a snooze with my pup by my side.
When I woke up, I did some more water training with Fire and then I got back in the canoe for what would be an 8-hour stretch. My goal was to head northeast and eventually paddle up the west fork of the Chippewa.
I was envious of all the folks that I saw staying at the resorts, that I paddled by, felt like stopping for a beer, but knew I had to put in my time if I wanted to catch a musky.
It was 9:30 and I was on the west fork of the Chippewa when I turned my canoe around and put myself up to a slight challenge.
I was going to paddle to my truck in the dark maybe 8-miles over a course that I had never paddled before. My guide was a map and the moon.
With Fire either sleeping or sitting on the bow of the canoe, I made my way back to the “Chevy Hotel”. Sometimes I thought I was hopelessly lost. Other times I figured any second I was going to catch the next world record musky.
At 1:00 a.m. I made it back to my truck and slept like a baby.
The next morning I made an executive decision while driving through Fifield. I stopped at The Seed-N-Feed store and bought me a barrel of bear bait.
It has been killing me not to run bear baits and not being suicidal, I bought a barrel and now I’m going to chase some black bear!
The camera will be my weapon! Sunset.