Trying to tame a tiger muskie
A photo in a recent issue of New York Outdoor News served as reminder to me of a lost opportunity. The photo showed a duckling, mouse, crayfish and small bass – all found in the stomach of a northern pike. If it’s good enough for a northern, then it should be for a tiger musky as well.
Just days earlier, on a camping trip at Lake Durant in the central Adirondacks, I had squandered the chance to finally boat a fish I’ve been chasing for over two decades: the tiger muskellunge.
Tiger muskies are a hybrid of northern pike and muskellunge and are stocked in dozens of New York lakes. They grow fast and the statewide regulation for a keeper is 30 inches, with a limit of one per day. They’re also known as the fish of 10,000 casts, due to the difficulty involved in catching one.
My wife and I have been camping periodically at Lake Durant for nearly 30 years. On one of our early camping trips, there we were, out in our canoe and, at times, observing a family of ducks, including a few ducklings. After hearing a splash we noticed the duckling that had been there a few seconds earlier was gone. I’ve told that story many times over the years, most of the time to disbelieving ears. Perhaps I should start carrying the NYON photo in my wallet, or on my phone.
Over the years, I’ve had decent luck bass fishing on Lake Durant, but never any luck with the tiger muskies. Some experienced anglers I ran into one time told me to use big lures to catch big fish. It stuck.
So there I was one mid-July morning, paddling my kayak up the lake, trolling a perch imitation crankbait. I hadn’t gone far when the rod jumped right out of the rod holder and, just as I grabbed it, the line broke off. Was it a bass, a tiger muskie, or an obstacle, as I was going pretty fast? With a new pattern and less line I was back at it.
A few casts from another rod netted a few largemouth bass and another, about 14 inches, fell for the tiger muskie bait I was trolling. The next hit felt like another bass, and I began to wrestle it back to the boat. When it got about 15 feet from the kayak, it partially emerged from the water with a face full of weeds. It was a tiger muskie.
I have to admit, I may have gotten a little overexcited. I had no interest in keeping the fish, I just wanted to get it to the boat and get a few photos. But it didn’t work out. Once the fish got close to the boat, it got feisty, and I tried not to let it get under the boat. I likely worked it too fast and just about had it to the boat when it shook the lure and splashed me as it dove down. The battle was over.
Although I didn’t boat the big fish, I can finally say I got to tangle with one. I just hope it doesn’t take another 10,000 casts to have another chance.