Small-muskie mania on Lake Miltona
Sometime during the mid-2000s, I caught the muskie bug. I bought the requisite gear, studied a couple of lake maps, and pronounced myself a muskie fisherman.
Truth be told, the journey started out pretty well. I caught fish on Lobster Lake and Lake Miltona – both near Alexandria – as well as Lake Minnetonka with enough frequency to keep me interested. On my best night, I boated three fish that smacked topwater baits right next to the boat. Those 20 minutes still rank among my favorite fishing memories.
But the well has been fairly dry for the past five years or so, roughly beginning with the birth of my first child – a wonderful little girl, but one whom I can’t envision having the patience to fish for muskies. (My son is a different story.) As the kids have grown a little older, it’s been easier to sneak out for a few hours of muskie fishing.
During the course of this summer, my brother, John, and I made three trips to Lake Miltona. During the first excursion, he hooked a 30-inch muskie. It was a beautiful fish, and full of spots, but I gave him a hard time about catching such a small fish. Still, when we left the lake that day, I hadn’t hooked anything, and it was nice to have at least had a muskie in the boat.
Several weeks later, we were perhaps an hour into the morning when he hooked another fish. We could hardly believe it when we hauled the 31-inch muskie aboard. It was another super-pretty fish, but I made more jokes about his proclivity for catching little fish and continued heaving a big topwater bait, hoping to recreate that magic of the mid-2000s. We left the lake that day having boated just that one muskie.
So when Labor Day weekend rolled around, I was convinced it was my turn. We fished in the pre-dawn darkness. John hooked a 3-pound largemouth bass, and I remained confident my next cast would lead to my first muskie in years. Instead, John announced he had something. I grabbed the net, looked into the water, and, to my astonishment, saw another teeny tiny muskie shooting up from the depths. This one was definitely the smallest of the summer. We didn’t measure it, but I’d call it 29 inches.
We got a good laugh out of that fish, but John must have known I was going to make fun of him. Before I said anything, he told me the size didn’t matter – that it was all about “the streak,” and that he thinks of himself as the Joe DiMaggio of muskie fishing.
“He didn’t hit home runs in all 56 games of his hitting streak,” John told me. “Sometimes, a single gets the job done.”
It was true, so I kept my mouth shut. Now, I’m just interested in seeing how long he can keep this streak going.