Tuesday, July 23, 2013

My WV List: #15- Muskie

Since I'm leaving, WV and the team, I thought I'd start a series of posts, starting today, about the things I'll miss most when I move.  These are in no particular order, and may not encompass everything.  They're also not all surprising, or exciting.  There's also 15 on my list- which isn't a nice round number.

And I'm not dwelling on them.  It's just what comes to my mind when I think of WV.

So deal with it.

#15:  Muskie.

What's a Muskie?  Well, it's not a fragrance.  It's not a breed of cat.  It's a fish.

A really, really big freshwater fish.  A monster.

And before I came to WV, I had never seen one, certainly never fished for one, and never even really given them much thought.

But WV is FULL of them.

And in the strangest places.

I only went three times, but the Buckhannon River in Buckhannon, WV holds some MASSIVE fish.  How big?

The Buckhannon River.  Credit:  www.Chriscosner.com/blog

Think big enough to eat a small dog.

Or a chicken.  What.

And what's really special about that, is the river is SMALL.  No wider than 50 feet at any point I fished.  It's close combat.

Picture it: there I am, standing on the banks of a river that most wouldn't even think holds fish bigger than a few pounds, backed right up against a nice small college campus.  I'm standing holding an 8ft heavy-action salt water rod, with 50lb braided line and 80lb flourocarbon leader, and a lure that is all of 8 ounces and 12" long.  I have to be careful with every cast, because with just a flick it's on the bank on the other side of the river.  I got some strange looks from joggers as they plodded by on the rec path that follows the river.

It's the strangest fishing I've ever done.

They say the Muskie is the fish of 10,000 casts- it's an elusive fish, that takes skill, patience, and a healthy amount  of luck.

I was lucky.


One of the lures I was using.

I didn't know what I was doing, and the first time I went I just had my normal lake rod (7ft, medium action, something appropriate for up to 5lb large mouth bass) with some heavier line (15lb test), but certainly nothing adequate for what I was about to encounter...

The very first trip, as the sun was going down and I was about to turn back, I made a cast that sent the lure half way across the "river".  I plunked down and I got hung up on the trees around me.  I spent about a minute getting undtangled, and then started a pretty fast retrieve to prevent my now dirfted lure from hanging up in a log jam.  As I got it close, I tangled on the spool and let it stop again.  I fixed the tangle, and as I started to retrieve, no more than 4 feet from the bank, a fish rose, the size of an alligator, and took the bait.

My heart stopped.

I let it sit, shocked into inaction.  I then essentially just started to reel it in, and pulled the very confused fish slowly to the surface, where I got another look at it.  The lure was completely gone into it's massive jaws.

I then snapped into realty, cranked back on the rod and all hell broke loose, as a fish of at least 40" and all of 25-30 pounds made mince meat of my 25lb leader.

It was over in less than a minute.  And suddenly I knew I was being pretty silly.  But I was hooked.

The next time I went back, I brought the big rod mentioned previously.  And I had TWO more follows, and one hook-up.  But I never brought a fish to the bank.

I could care less.  A few of the best fishing days of my life.

Seeing a fish that big, that beautiful, follow your lure, in such a normal, urban setting, is something out of a fiction novel.  Or Jurassic Park.  It makes my heart race, and it's a rush that can only be related to sailing down Sugarlands at 55mph on 23cc tires...

Literally, this is one of the spots I had a follow.  How is it possible these monster fish live here?

When I move to MA, I'll have stripers, and I'll have sharks- but that's the ocean.  It's big, impossibly big, and it isn't surprising that hundred pound fish can be "easily" brought to hand.

But little can compare to the hours I spent in the thick brush of the Buckhannon, watching the swirl of a prehistoric beast rise to the piece of plastic and steel attached to a graphite stick.

For more information on muskie fishing in WV or Morgantown (yes, right here in Morgantown), check out the Muskie section of the WV DNR page at: http://www.wvdnr.gov/Fishing/Fishing.shtm

Also, an interesting articles, http://www.wvdnr.gov/wildlife/magazine/Archive/12Winter/Musky.pdf