First Musky after 30 Years of Waiting

First Musky after 30 Years of Waiting
Ron Fitzpatrick with his first muskie caught from Wildcat Lake in Boulder Jct. Wisconsin.

This is a story about a battle that was 30 years in the waiting.  It’s about musky fishing and one man’s desire to get his first.

This is about a musky that took the bait 20 yards from the boat, not while making a “figure 8” at the end of a retrieve which happens oh so often.  Light line and a heavy braid leader worked fine to bring in Ron Fitzpatrick his first musky.

Ron lives in Essex, Illinois and has been fishing since his childhood days.  He’s literally fished many bodies of water across the country.  Being a corporate jet pilot, it’s needless to say that Ron travels quite a bit.  But tucked away in cargo area of the plane is usually a rod case with his name on it.

Fly fishing is one of his favorite ways to fish.  But since his younger years with many travels to the Northwoods, Fitzpatrick has always wanted to get a musky in the boat.  For him, it has literally been the fish of 10,000 casts.

Last year I took a trip to Boulder Junction, Wisconsin in October with my daughter Lisa.  It was a good trip with us catching largemouth and smallmouth bass, pike, and musky.  This trip was an effort on my part to make up for lost time.  I do a lot of traveling myself and with my daughter working at a veterinary hospital, our schedules always clashed.  We made up our minds that a trip up north would happen and it did.

We fished Wildcat, Big and Little Kitten Lakes out of the Wildcat Lodge in Boulder Junction.  Here, Lisa got her first smallmouth bass.  During the fight a 46 inch musky jumped on the struggling fish.  First smallie and first musky, all in one cast.  The next day she got her second musky on a small bulldog.

Lisa told Ron about this trip and when she told him that we would be going again this past fall, he asked if he and his wife Sharon could join us.  We were glad to have the opportunity to introduce them to an area that we’ve grown to love.

With this trip I was on a mission.  I wanted Lisa to get another musky and definitely wanted Ron to do the same.  Wildcat, Big and Little Kitten lakes are all Class A musky waters.  And with Boulder Junction being the “Musky Capital of the World”, how could we not succeed?

I won’t tell you that I was overly confident that we would get our fish, but I had to keep reminding myself that fishing is fishing.  Nothing is guaranteed.  We’re fishing good water though.  It was the prime time of the year for musky fishing too.  Several good anglers in town told me, live bait was the ticket.  That’s what was in our arsenal.

I’ll be perfectly honest with you here.  I’m not an avid musky angler.  By no means am I an authority.  I do have a musky rod… one.  I do have musky baits… too many.  I also believe that in musky fishing, big baits will get big fish.  Yet on the other hand, I also believe that smaller baits will simply get more fish.

Our pursuit was not for a 50 incher.  Ron just needed to get a musky in the boat.

Since live bait was working well, my one and only musky rod was set up with a quick set rig baited with a 10 inch sucker.  My heavier spinning rods were rigged with a hook, split shot sinker and a fixed bobber for suspending a 4 inch red-tailed chub.  This smaller bait could get a walleye, bass or pike.  And as we would soon find out, musky too.

The Wildcat chain is not known for pike fishing.  But in our week of fishing we boated about ten of them, several were good sized.  A good number of largemouth bass took the baits as did some nice perch.

My heaviest spinning rods that had reels loaded with 12 pound mono line.  Each rig had 18 inches of 50 pound test braid line tied on.  My thought was that the heavy braid would reduce the chances of a bite off plus there would be no terminal tackle, swivels or snaps, to snag on weeds.

On Ron’s day, drizzeling rain was on and off all day long.  Earlier in the week I already had a musky in the boat, so did my daughter Lisa.

My boat was drifting across a large bay on Wildcat Lake.  We were on the water for about 3 hours with nothing happening at all.  I did my best to keep the boat in a little deeper water that was on the edge of a weed line thinking something would be nearby.

While in the deeper water, Ron decided to take off his float and fish his bait just off the bottom.  Wind was mild so it was a slow drift and easy for him to manage control of the depth of the big chub minnow.

We were in about 12 feet of water.  Ron’s bait drifted near the bottom about 20 feet behind the boat.  Finally things have changed.

“Got one”, Ron yelled out.  “It’s a good one too!”

Now the mad scramble was on.

“Reel in your baits.”  I yelled out to Lisa and Sharon. “Set ‘em on the deck… Lisa grab the net.”

It was almost like we’ve done this drill before.  In seconds the boat was cleared and we were ready to net Ron’s fish.

The drag was screaming on Ron’s reel and he did a good job holding the rod high keeping pressure on the fish but not too much.  This musky is coming in the boat.

The fish made a couple of nice runs.  Lisa knows the routine on netting a fish and she was ready.  On the fish’s last run, Ron turned its head and led it back to the side of the boat.  With one smooth sweeping motion, the musky was in the net.  At last, Ron got his musky.

I would imagine for many anglers it can be a long time before that first musky is caught.  Now, after 30 years waiting, Ron has his story to tell.  I’m glad he and Sharon joined us this year.  Too, I’m confident that they’ll return to Boulder Junction, as Lisa and I will again next year.

For more information on the area, contact the Boulder Junction Chamber by visiting or give them a call at 1-800-GO-MUSKY. For information on Wildcat Lake, visit or call (715) 385-2421.

The Boulder Junction area of Vilas County Wisconsin is only about 6 hours from my home in Chicago’s south suburbs.   That’s means that “Great Fishing is not that far away.”

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