Vilas County lake gives up 40-pound muskie


Eagle River, Wis. John Osterling always liked the location deep
water off a shoreline rock bar but he never caught a big muskie on
that part of the lake.

That all changed Wednesday, Oct. 2, when the Woodruff guide,
fishing by himself, boated his largest muskie ever, a 52.5-inch
fish that weighed 40 pounds, 3 ounces.

“I have caught two other fish there before, a 36- and a
39-incher, but I never saw a big fish there,” he said. “It just
looks like a good spot.”

Osterling, who was leery to name the Vilas County lake in fear
that too many fall muskie fishermen would be attracted to the lake,
headed to his favorite spot the morning of Oct. 2.

“It was a dark, overcast day, with a north wind at about 15
mph,” he said. “I started casting a crankbait along the break,
keeping the boat in about 25 feet of water. Sometimes I would cast
toward the bar and other times I would cast to deep water.”

The 49-year-old guide also had two suckers near the boat. One
was rigged about 5 feet under a bobber and close to the boat in
case of a follow. The second sucker was set 12 to 15 feet below the
boat, with a 3/4-ounce weight on the line to keep it deeper.

“I had been fishing for about an hour or so when the fish hit
the deeper 13- or 14-inch sucker,” said Osterling. “I had the reel
set on free spool and heard the clicker going off.”

Because Osterling had a quick-set rig, he immediately set the

“As soon as I set the hook, I knew I had a big fish. I didn’t
move the fish,” he said. “The fish stayed deep and I couldn’t get
it to come up.”

After a 10- to 15-minute battle, Osterling finally got the big
fish to the surface, getting his first glimpse of the muskie, but
he couldn’t see how well the fish was hooked.

“About the fourth time I got it to the surface, I was able to
pull it toward the boat,” he said. “I grabbed the net with one hand
and got it in the water, got the fish about one-third of the way in
the net, dropped the rod and scooped it up.”

Once Osterling got the fish in the boat, he finally saw the size
of the fish, including its 25-inch girth.

“That’s when I really started shaking,” he said. “I finally saw
that the treble hook on the quick-set rig was caught in the gills
of the fish.”

Osterling, a full-time guide, said he has caught and released
501/2- and 51-inch muskies in the past, but he never caught one
that tipped the scale at more than 40 pounds.

“It’s the largest one I’ve caught so far. I was really excited
when it hit 40 pounds,” said Osterling, a member of the Eagle River
Guide’s Association. “I fish almost every day, especially in the
fall that’s when I really put an effort into it.”

This time, the effort, and returning to a favorite spot, paid

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