Bass angler hooks and lands 52-pound muskie

Jim Vozar, right, and Capt. Tony DeFilippo pose with the 52-pound muskie Vozar caught recently while bass fishing in Grand Traverse Bay. 	Photo courtesy of Tony DeFilippoTraverse City, Mich. — When anglers discuss the best muskie waters in Michigan, Grand Traverse Bay doesn’t even get a mention.

Lake St. Clair? Absolutely.

Thornapple Lake? Of course.

Hudson and Sanford lakes? You bet.

Grand Traverse Bays? Not so much.

But a recent catch by recreational bass angler Jim Vozar, of Coldwater, has put the  legendary trout, salmon, and bass bay on the muskie map.

On Friday, June 21, Vozar was fishing with his wife Suzanne  and Capt. Tony DeFilippo, of Up North Smallmouth Charters, on the east arm of Grand Traverse Bay when he boated the second-largest muskie ever caught in Michigan.

“We were getting ready to move. There was a little creek coming into the bay and Tony told me to cast over there,” Jim Vozar told Michigan Outdoor News. “At first I thought I was snagged. It wasn’t moving and I didn’t want to lose his bait.”

The trio was fishing on a sandy flat in 6 to 7 feet of water. DeFilippo said they had caught quite a few 3- and 4-pound smallmouth bass when the muskie hit.

“We were covering water with tube baits,” DeFilippo said.

Once Vozar realized he had a big fish on his line, the excitement set in.

“It kept taking line and we were chasing it around with Tony’s trolling motor,” Vozar said.

DeFilippo said his 36-pound-thrust trolling motor had all it could handle keeping up with the submarining fish.

“We were able to keep up with it, but we chased him all over that flat for about 20 minutes,” DeFilippo said.

The fish finally surfaced and DeFilippo broke his net trying to boat the beast. He finally wrestled the fish into the boat, then called his friend, fellow charter captain Chris Noffsinger, who has a large livewell on his boat. Noffsinger arrived on the scene and the men transfered the fish into the larger livewell.

“We were very fortunate to get that thing in the boat,” DeFilippo said.

The anglers called the local DNR office, and fisheries biologist Heather Hettinger met them at the boat ramp and verified the catch.

The trophy muskie weighed 52 pounds, had a 25-inch girth, and was a tad over 50 inches long.

“It sure surprised me. It interrupted my bass fishing,” Vozar joked, then added, “I have to give all the credit to Tony. Without his help and advice I never would have caught that fish.

He’s one of the best guides I’ve ever been fishing with.”

As soon as Hettinger weighed and measured the fish and a few photos were taken, it was released back into the water of Grand Traverse Bay.

“Right from the start, Jim wanted to release it and he was very happy when we got her back in the water alive,” DeFilippo said. “We worked on her a little, she started kicking and swam off. She was fine.”

DeFilippo, a former bass pro, is a full-time bass guide now and spends hundreds of hours annually on Grand Traverse Bay. He said muskie catches there are pretty rare.

“We get them once in a while, about every three or four years,” he said. “But nothing like that one.”

A check of the DNR’s Master Angler entries showed no muskies meeting the minimum requirements being caught in Grand Traverse Bay.

Vozar’s muskie was just 6 pounds short of the current state record.

Portage resident Joe Seeberger holds the record for Great Lakes muskies with a fish he caught last year in the Elk River Chain of Lakes (Lake Bellaire) in Antrim County. That fish weighed 58 pounds and was 59 inches long.

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