Bass angler boats epic muskie
Cape Vincent, N.Y. — George Yund is a tournament bass angler who would like nothing better than to be known as the winner of the Bassmaster Classic.
That hasn’t happened yet, however, although the 39-year-old Albany fireman did win a Walmart Bass Fishing League event on Lake Champlain 10 years ago.
So for now, Yund will have to settle for the notoriety that comes with catching a world-class – possibly flirting with the world record – muskie, as he did last month while fishing Lake Ontario’s eastern basin.
“It was definitely 60-plus (inches),” Yund said in recounting the epic 90-minute battle, much of which was captured on video by a pair of anglers in another nearby boat. “None of this 59-and-a-half, 59-and-three-quarters. We measured it four times and it was over 60 every time; once we got 64 inches.”
Throw in the rough girth measurement of about 24 inches, and most of your muskie weight charts will place Yund’s fish in the mid- to high 60s.
The New York state record is a 69-pound, 15-ounce muskie caught by Art Lawton in 1957 from the St. Lawrence River, although the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, citing a lack of a certified weight on the fish, vacated that as the world record, instead recognizing a 69-pound, 11-ouncer taken from Wisconsin’s Chippewa Flowage in 1949 by Louis Spray.
Since New York’s muskie season wasn’t open on May 20 when Yund caught his fish, it had to be released. Yund was planning on that anyway, he said.
“There was never any question I was going to release the fish,” said Yund, who worked feverishly to revive it, even diving deep into the water to retrieve it when it sat sluggishly on the bottom. That move, too, was videotaped by a pair of Pennsylvania anglers, brothers Mike and Dan Johnson, who also provided the net used to boat the behemoth.
Ironically, Yund and the huge muskie – the only one he’s ever landed in his decades of fishing – were brought together by the same attraction: smallmouth bass. Yund was fishing for spawning smallies in shallow water, and he says “there’s no doubt in my mind that fish was feeding on the spawning bass, just cruising the shallows.”
The odds were well in favor of the fish. Yund was fishing with 8-pound test Seaguar fluorocarbon line, tossing a 5-inch Yamamoto Senko worm on an eighth-ounce jighead with a St. Croix Legend Elite Series rod. Not exactly your standard muskie setup, especially when you encounter a fish of legendary proportions.
To top it off, Yund’s co-angler that day wasn’t even as big as the fish he was trying to land. Eight-year-old Christopher Wendell of Cape Vincent accompanied Yund that day while his dad competed in a fishing derby with some adult anglers.
“He (Christopher) actually played the fish a little bit while I maneuverered the boat,” Yund recalled. “He knows what he’s doing with a fishing rod in his hand.”
Still, things got pretty wild after the fish made a reel-screaming run. Yund kicked the boat in reverse and chased after it at a speed so fast it sent water over the stern. The commotion attracted the attention of nearby anglers, including the Johnson brothers, who arrived on the scene and, in addition to providing the net and assisting in the landing, started filming the battle.
At one point, after the surviving the initial run by the big muskie, Yund thought that maybe, just maybe...
“After about 20 minutes I started thinking, ‘I’ve got a chance to land this fish,’” he said. “There was really nothing in the bay she could break me off on. And I had another advantage: I had fished for two days and then changed my line, so I had brand new line on. I was little worried about my backing, but I got that back on the reel and was into the new line.”
The fight turned into a yo-yo game, with the muskie diving deep and Yund reeling it back to the surface. That happened about a dozen times.
Mike Johnson eventually hopped into Yund’s boat with a net that was just big enough and deep enough to make the landing manageable.
“He (Yund) yelled, ‘‘I’ve got a 50-pound muskie on and I don’t have a net,’” Dan Johnson recalled. “That muskie must have towed him a half mile. I’ve never seen anything like it. Water was pouring into his boat. He wouldn’t have landed it if he wasn’t such a good fisherman.
“It was incredible.”
Dan Johnson was fishing with a friend when he heard Yund yelling for a net. He motored back to their cottage and got his brother Mike to grab a net and a video camera to film most of the battle.
Mike Johnson eventually hopped into Yund’s boat and encouraged him to measure the fish before releasing it. New York’s muskie season opens June 16, but Yund said he wouldn’t have kept it even if he caught in-season.
“It was definitely 60 inches plus. It was every bit of 60 inches,” Dan Johnson said. “And I’m guessing 60 pounds.”
The release of the fish was another story all its own. The big muskie sank to the bottom in 18 feet of water, and Yund dove down and retrieved it, bringing it back to the surface to resuscitate it.
“I couldn’t believe he did that,” Dan Johnson said. “And that water was cold! The guy’s a hero to a lot of baby muskies.”
Eventually, the fish swam around the surface while Johnson filmed it all before it moved out of sight, apparently revived.
Yund says he plans to have a replica mount made of the fish of a lifetime.
“I caught a walleye over 13 pounds and am having that one done, too,” he said. “But this one’s going to be expensive, for sure.”