Every angler has one or more outstanding fishing memories. In 50 years of fresh and saltwater fishing, I have been blessed with many.
I remember each and every one as if it were yesterday. I can tell you the weather, the lures used, who my partner was, as well as the water conditions.
Some-times, when pondering those treasured memories, even the particular smells of the air, water, and the particular fish clearly comes back to me. For some, it's memories of a giant catfish in a muddy river caught 40 years ago, a 1,500-pound marlin off Panama, a really big snook on Pine Island Sound, or a bruiser largemouth bass on Lake Okeechobee.
Capt. George Tunison
Whatever they are they will thankfully be with you forever or at least till you are back in diapers, not knowing who the heck anyone is, including yourself.
Like lots of us down here, I'm a Yankee transplant and grew up chasing bass, largemouth and striped, in my home waters. I fished almost daily and read about fishing at night. I became particularly interested in catching the "fish of a thousand casts."
I was really fascinated by the idea of big toothy critters in freshwater and the crazy array of big and sometimes bizarre lures that musky nuts use to fool these big predators - giant footlong plugs, baby duck lures, all manner of jumbo spinner and buzz baits, almost anything one could imagine. I became obsessed with muskies, the records, the locations, the history and the anglers that chased these crazy and totally unpredictable creatures.
Casting big lures from dawn to dusk for days, without a strike or even a follow is the norm for these fish. For that reason it takes a special breed of angler to enjoy this kind of (punishment) fishing.
Over the next six years I chased muskies on the St Lawrence River, the Niagara River, Lakes Ontario, Huron, and Erie. My cousin Tim and I fished muskies through southern Canada on every famous and not-so-famous musky lake known to musky nuts everywhere, and caught quite a few, mostly small specimens.
I would carry huge lure boxes filled with monstrous lures and the required tackle big enough to cast them for days on end. Spent thousands on lodging, gas and guides, fished in beautiful places and made many fine memories. Unfortunately, my biggest fish only measured 42 inches long, far from the Holy Grail of 50 inches.
One day I got a call from a guide friend in Canada telling me that he had gotten permission to fish a sanctuary lake not far from him and wanted to know if I was interested. This lake had been closed to all fishing since 1937. That's right, 1937. I jumped at the chance, packed the truck and was in Canada three days later. He was allowed only six trips a year on this lake and I was honored to be invited.
As we rounded a bend in the tiny river a huge moose and her calf blocked the way as they slowly walked through the water on that ice cold, foggy morning. Finally arriving at the lake, we began to cast our favorite lures as the sun slowly rose from the forest. I was in musky heaven.
My fifth cast produced a beautiful 44-inch musky breaking my personal record. During that unforgettable day we caught and released more than 30 fish. Even a tough little smallmouth that had grabbed a giant plug was eaten before it made it safely to the boat. I caught 16 muskies that day, including a 49-incher that tailwalked and put on quite a show before coming to the net.
Once a year I stare at those photos and smell the icy air, feel those strikes, and recall almost every detail of that outstanding day, 12 years ago.
Life is short, fish hard.
Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Flying Fins Sportfishing.