This article comes from the Bent Fishing Podcast’s “Fish News” segment, where hosts Joe Cermele and Miles Nolte go head to head to find and report the most interesting and amusing fishy stories across sources far and wide—from respected scientific journals to trashy tabloids.
On Jan. 16, Jon Kuznia went ice fishing with his buddies Carl and Ben Saarion on Lake Charley, Minnesota. Together, the trio managed to bring in an impressive fish, though the method of capture was highly unorthodox.
Jon, Ben, and Carl set up nice and early over about 16 feet of water and by 7:00 a.m. they were into a solid sunfish bite. A few pike started staging around the panfish school and taking swipes at hooked bluegills coming up to the holes.
If you’ve ever been in this situation, you know it can be a pretty fun game—if perhaps a little sadistic. You hook into a small fish, let it swim around a bit, and watch pike take whacks at it. Every once in a while, a pike grabs on and won’t let go or inhales the sunfish deep enough to stick in the predator’s throat. Then you get to fight the pike on light tackle, if it doesn’t bite through your line. It’s a good time. Jon, Ben, and Carl were having themselves a nice morning of ice fishing and playing God with the food chain. Jon even managed to land a 27-inch pike.
Then, all of a sudden, Ben’s flasher slid across the ice house floor and wedged in the ice hole. Ben grabbed the sonar unit and pulled back, revealing a huge fish hanging onto the transducer just below the surface. Ben inched up the transducer cable, and the fish’s head came into view through the hole. Jon snatched a gill plate and pulled out a 50-inch muskie dead-set on consuming that transducer. Even after coming through the hole and laying on the ice, the muskie continued to chomp on Ben’s electronics.
“We couldn’t believe it was happening. It was honestly a minute and a half before that thing let go,”Jon told Northland Outdoors. “I kind of tickled its mouth a little hoping it would open up and it didn’t.”
For years Jon has used a 10-inch auger, but he just recently bought a new one with a 9-inch blade. “If I used my 10-inch auger, your Vexilar would be gone,” Jon told his buddy. After the muskie released the transducer, they were able to snap a few photos and release it back into Lake Charley.
If you’ve ever fished for muskie, this story might sting a little. Some folks spend decades trying to catch a 50-inch muskie—or any muskie at all.
MeatEater’s senior fishing editor, Joe Cermele, says that trophy muskie are only caught through total dedication or blind luck. There is no middle ground. “You’re either utterly devoted to the pursuit of them, in which case you’ll find success through obsession. Or you catch muskies by completely not trying.”
“I am that middle guy though, I target muskie occasionally. I want them from time to time, but feel like I haven’t put in enough time to deserve a big one. Of course, I don’t catch them by mistake either. I basically just can’t catch muskies,” Cermele said.
In an additional twist of improbability, Lake Charley isn’t even supposed to have muskies in it. The DNR has never stocked them there, but the lake does connect to the larger Lake Ida through a small channel. Except, the DNR has never stocked muskies in Lake Ida either. They have, however, stocked muskies in Lake Miltona, which connects to the opposite side of Ida from Charley.
Check out a map; that fish made a pretty impressive journey. These are not short channels—they’re about 500 to 1000 feet long and each one cuts under a road. This fish went on a serious walkabout to get there, only to be caught by biting and hanging onto a transducer.
If this story doesn’t prove to you how cruel and callous the fates of fishing are, I don’t know what will.
To catch all the Fish News stories and so much more, listen to the full Bent show here or wherever you listen to podcasts. Don’t forget to subscribe!
Feature image via Jon Kuznia.