We did not get beat

Mike Bleech Outdoors Columnist

Fog covered the river valley when Bill Anderson and I hooked his boat to my truck at about 7:05 a.m. At least that was better than fog right on the water.

My friend said, “That fog will be gone by the time we get to Tionesta.”

And it did, revealing a very bright, blue sky. Really not the conditions we would have preferred for fishing, but a very pleasant day. Gentle wind countered any heat effect from the sun, and the temperature never got higher than 81 degrees.

One of the things I like about trolling for musky at Tionesta Reservoir is that most of it can be covered in a half a day.

After putting the boat in the water, I drove the truck up to the parking lot. Those long cement steps at the Tionesta Reservoir boat launch are brutal. My already sore knees hurt so bad I had to take a break halfway down the steps.

If we may flash forward a few hours, sitting in the boat all morning was torture on my knees. Climbing back up those cement steps was nearly impossible.

We started trolling not far from the launch ramp through a short stretch that had produced considerable musky action in the past. No luck there this day, though.

Both of our lines were rigged with Grandma Lures, my favorite musky lure. Anderson’s was a black scale color pattern. Mine was labeled as a crappie pattern which, to me, looks nothing like crappie. However, the amount of paint that has been scraped off by musky teeth is a testament to my faith in my wife, Jeri, picking lures.

The first time I used that lure was a three-musky day.

A long point narrows the lake considerably maybe 250 years up from the launch. We swung wide to avoid the shallow water that extends from the point, then followed the very steep bank. Our lines were right where we wanted them, occasionally smacking bottom.

This long, steep bank continues to a wide mouth bay where the bottom contour abruptly changes. This quick change from steep bottom to gently sloping bottom is a great place to find musky. And right on cue, my partner’s rod lurched back.

“I got one”, he said while fumbling to get his rod out of the rod holder.

No rod holder will ever be invented that will allow a rod to be removed easily if even a modest size musky is hooked. They put too much pressure on the rod.

The battle was not long, not long enough to tire the fish, unfortunately. It went berserk when I clamped the gripper on the lower jaw. I was fortunate to avoid the hooks.

This year we are using a jaw gripper for musky and pike fishing. We need more practice A musky can do a lot of thrashing when it is held by a jaw gripper. This is dangerous enough with sharp teeth and gill rakers to contend with, but with three very sharp treble hooks flailing about a serious injury is more than a little likely.

A friend who lived at Chautauqua Lake, whose father had fished for musky commercially, has a knack for cradling a big musky in one arm while removing the hooks with the freehand, and the musky calmly let him do it. But I can not do that, nor have I seen anyone else do it.

The best way to avoid injury to fish or angler is to immobilize the musky which is much easier said than done. They do tend to thrash less if left in the water, but this certainly is no guarantee. This may be the best use for a jaw gripper.

Never pick up a fish with the jaw gripper. That probably is about as uncomfortable for the musky as it would be for you or me.

There are several small lakes in our region where you can fish for musky with a small boat such as a 12-foot car topper. Others include Edinboro Lake, Conneaut Lake, Canadohta Lake, Sugar Lake, Woodcock Reservoir and Cassadaga Lakes. More boat is advisable for the Allegheny Reservoir, Chautauqua Lake and Pymatuning Reservoir, something like a 14-foot semi-v or larger.

I think a very nice retirement would be trolling for musky in a pontoon boat with plenty of shade, cool soft drinks on ice and maybe even a rail-mounted cooking stove. I do enjoy a hot cup of tea.