Please accept my apologies for the delay in publishing the trolling report. I slacked off in transferring the details of each day’s catch to paper until the end of the season. It took several multiple hour sessions to go through 21 days of footage to record the details of each muskie caught as well as catalogue the video files for coming back to edit into videos in the new year. Here we gooooooooo.....

Muskies Landed: 53

2011: 48
2010: 57
2009: 71

Days Fished: 20 (at least one fish landed each day except for the last day of the season....D’OH!)
Muskie Lost During Fight: 3
Fish That Hit and Fell Off Right Away or Didn’t Hook Up: 17
Pike Landed: 44

Total Strikes: 117
% of Muskies Landed of Total Strikes: 53/117 = 45.3%
% of Muskies Landed minus Confirmed Pike: 53/73 = 72.6%

Thoughts on Numbers
My first instinct is to be a bit disappointed, which seems silly on the surface. Having not had to fish alone even one day during the trolling season, there was many more man-hours of fishing due to having 2 and, more often than not, 3 baits in the water all day each time out. However, overall it seemed to be an odd year in terms of locating baitfish and figuring out how the muskies were relating to a different kind of climate all season from the get-go in the spring. Low water, hot water temps all summer and then a huge drop right when it was time to predict bait-fish spawning seemed to stir things up a bit. Overall, I’m satisfied with the numbers. It felt like we worked super hard for every fish we caught, earning each one. Whether it was a biggie or a bitty, we were happy to get the right kind of fish to the boat.

Size Distribution
Sub 30”: 7
30” - < 35”: 10
35” - < 40”: 14
40” - < 45”: 14
45” - < 48”: 4 (45”, 45.5”, 46”, 47.5”)
48” - < 50”: 1 (49.5”)

50”+: 3 (50.75”, 51.75”, 54”)

Percentage of Fish 45"+
2012: 8 of 53 = 15.1%
2011: 10 of 48 = 20.8%
2010: 13 of 57 = 22.8%
2009: 8 of 71 = 11.3%

Thoughts on Size
Obviously, I’m thrilled to have slipped the net under a legal muskie, and the 2 others over 50” made it a banner fall in the Pooh Boat. I was a bit surprised at the increase in the numbers of sub 30” and sub 35” fish this year with more than double that of the 2011 trolling season. I will certainly take the 3 fish over 50” in trade for some more sub 35”s in future years so no complaints here. It will be interesting to see if the younger year classes are aggressive again next fall. One of the fish lost during the fight was easily in the 4 foot class and likely much bigger. There is no way of knowing how many of the other 17 fish that didn’t hook up were good fish, but you can except there to have been at least a few in that group. The fishery seems quite healthy moving forward. Great news for muskie anglers!

10” Jakes: 36
9.5” Kraves: 10
13” Grandmas: 4
14” Jakes: 2
9” Grandmas: 1

Average size of fish caught on the 13” Grandma (41, 51.75, 54, 47.5) = 48.6”. All these fish were caught late in the year with the big bait running over the motor in the middle position. The 14” Jake landed 41.5” and 46” fish. We have caught fish as small is 28” on big baits, but there was definitely a better average size to the fish that hit the big baits in 2012. The 9” grandma wasn’t used much so those numbers will certainly be down. The Krave had hot spurts, but didn’t sustain a consistent bite, though it did lose one of the nicer fish we saw that fell right off on a spectacular acrobatic display immediately after striking. Bummer!

Black and Gold Metallic (aka Goldilocks) was the hottest colour throughout the fall with 11 fish to its credit. The TN Shad jake (orange belly) managed 6 in limited time, which proved again to be a reliable pattern. The Jailbait Krave had a good run early with 4 before cooling right off. A total of 22 different colour patterns caught muskies. The Most Valuable Bait award is/was a no-brainer with the action on November 7th alone producing the winner. Dean Roll’s 13” Baby Muskie pattern Grandma landed the 51.75” and the 54” that day. End of discussion.

Rod Position Related to Structure
Outside Rod: 25
Inside Rod: 19
Middle Rod: 9

The middle rod was unusually quiet overall considering how many days we had 3 people in the boat, but did land the two biggest fish of the year. The other 50+ came on the outside rod, while the 49.5” hit the inside rod. The outside rod being bit more often would make sense using the theory that the colder water temps after the drastic drop in October pushed the fish off structure a bit more. In years past, we have noticed the inside rod starting off real strong before evening up somewhat, but that was not the case this year.

Nothing much new here. We still targeted that 10 foot range in general and didn’t see many reasons to change things up. There were times of multiple passes through areas (some deeper, some shallower) when we managed to find some baitfish, but that didn’t turn up anything significant. Current areas (whether natural or wind created) did seem to hold some fish in bunches this year. This made some otherwise super tough days turn into decent days with 2, 3, 4 strikes in multiple passes. I tried to target 3.5 MPH for most of the season, but did try some slower and faster speeds at times. Again, there didn’t seem to be much difference either way on speed, as long as you were in that neighbourhood.

November 7 was the big day for the fall. The 4 fish we caught made it a spectacular fall for me personally. In order, we caught the 51.75”, 39”, 43” and 54”. On the next pass through the same area the 54” hit, we had another hard strike on the middle rod big Grandma that did not get hooked up. With Dean saying it felt as hard and heavy as the one he just let go, the possibilities will bounce around in my head for years.

The 6 fish day (best numbers day of the fall) with Eric & Brad on October 19 stands out. Though 3 of the fish were 31”, 30.5” and 29”, we ended the day with the 49.5”. That fish hit right as the clock struck 6 bells literally 20-30 yards from what was the end of the last run of the day. The other 2 fish that day were 40” and 38”.

Putting Jim and Scott (Father and Son) each on their personal bests the 1 day I had them in the Pooh boat with me. Jim’s raised his PB from 50” to 50.75”, but likely got at least 5 more pounds...maybe more with a thick fall fatty. Scott landed a 42” to move his PB into the 40” class.

Getting Dave D and Doug a fish each on their 1 day with me was a highlight as well. Sometimes people don’t like to give me much time to work with so it feels extra good to get them on fish during a short window. Doug’s muskie was his PB and first ever. He also caught his personal best and first ever northern. I love it!

A total of 8 personal bests (7 length wise and 1 overall weight.) Some of the bigger PBs that fell included: 45”, 48”, 49” and 50”. Dean’s 54” was his “biggest fish ever” weight wise. He has a 54.5” summer fish caught casting on his resume. Two of those PBs were also first-ever muskies for the anglers.

Fishing with a couple Austrian anglers was pretty darn cool. Martin and Wolf fish a lot of pike in Europe and much preferred a day of trolling for bigger fish over jigging for walleyes. This despite it being Oct 3 and mid 50 degree water temps with the caveat given that it wasn’t prime conditions for catching several muskies. We managed 1 little one for Martin’s first ever muskie and a few pike. Wolf had caught a muskie jigging for walleyes so they both went back to Austria with a muskie tale to tell.

Watching Max G handle fish like a pro during the 3 days I got to spend with him and his Dad (Mitch) when they gave up a weekend of bowhunting to come and fish with me on short notice. Max had a fish follow in and hit boatside while we retrieved baits to pick-up and move to another area. He said he had one and all I could see was leader and white water when I turned around. After a short fight, the 43” fish was in the net and we had to take a minute to catch our breath. WOW!! Max also landed a 46” PB on a 14” Jake during the trip. Great stuff!

Rescuing the Jailbait Krave!! After losing it two weeks earlier in the same area, it was waiting there up on the rocks when we went trolling by. With the lure retriever fully extended, we pulled it back into the boat. It managed to catch 4 fish the next day before cooling off for the rest of the season. Hard to top that in terms of cool stuff!!

Fishing partners every time I went out! No solo days this year. That was AWESOME!

Afternoon moon-phase seemed to be the best bet for reliable action.

Not So Cool Stuff
I found out a reef I thought was south of a rock I like to cast is actually west of the rock I like to cast. OUCH!! Got lucky, again!! Prop repair and skeg rebuild looks like it will do the trick. Nothing noticeably wobbly in the prop shaft. That was the 6 fish day with Eric & Brad and it happened before we had the 3rd fish. Good thing we landed Brad’s PB (49.5”) at the end of the day or it would have been a real bummer. That made for a nicer, albeit slower, ride home with a broken prop.

Losing so many baits. I lost track of the baits I lost. At least 6. Haven’t lost more than 2 in any previous fall. Add a leader to that and you are down anywhere from $18-$25 on a 9-10 inch bait. YUCK! Of course, the worst part is losing some good ones. A Goldilocks, Superman Holoform, and Baby Blondie were among the good ones to be lost as sea. SIGH. It hurts less to lose brand new baits you haven’t become emotionally attached to yet.

The last two days of the season were: a SKUNK and a cancellation due to weather. The skunk actually set a new all-time worst for the Pooh Boat with me at the helm. Not one single strike or rod rip the entire day. Unless you count snagging the biggest Rusty Crayfish I have ever seen with my own eyes as a fish. We were absolutely, positively, stone-cold skunked.

It was DAMN COLD late in the year!! How many days did we deal with icing on the guides and on our eyeballs. was nasty out there late. Lots of wind, no sun to speak of. Had to fish were we could safely travel to and from a lot of days. On the bright side, the new cold weather gear help up nicely and I found out I needed a different pair of boots. I have that taken care of already!

Having to be extra bundled up made it tough to get the head-cam on at times. Sometimes not hearing it beep to turn on, I would turn it off and missed a couple great action sequences. We did capture some excellent stuff again this year though. I just have to make a point of being much more deliberate and careful next year to be sure we are rolling when there is a fish on.

Got the Suzuki disabled by an unmarked commercial net. That’s all I have to say about that.

The second GoPro for underwater shots did not get us the desired results with the lack of sunshine. Fish are so lively that they are often hard to capture when they take off full of energy, but the lack of sunshine was the biggest culprit. We got some usable stuff, but not as much as I had hoped.

I added a 3rd Thorne Bros custom trolling rod to the line-up and I can’t say enough about how nicely these rods handle baits and fish. Worth the money in my opinion. Started to upgrade reels and added a Shimano Tekota Linecounter to the mix. Great reel. I will add one each year until I’m set with a full line-up of those.

Knipex. If you don’t have a pair, get two. Period. When you buy a hook file, take it out at the store and make sure it’s good. I had two in the package that were junk. I don’t mean the cheap $6 jobs either. Not happy with Luhr Jensen for not standing behind crap files they put out for awhile.

Underarmor Base layer 4.0 gets a thumbs up from me. Also the Cabelas Insulated Guidewear (bibs, tall parka) kept me warm during the coldest days I've ever been out on the lake.

Other Observations
I still say pumping the rod is the way to go. I had my partners doing this often this fall and it seemed to make a difference. I do not have enough data for any kind of provable theory. It’s just something I have a gut feeling about based on the best of the best catching more fish than the rest of us while pumping their rods almost all of the time.

My biggest fish of the fall personally was 42.5”. I did lose a real biggie that we got a decent look at. The first time a giant showed itself before falling off. Each fall previously, there was a monster that got away without letting us see what we were tangling with. I much prefer to get a look at them before they break our hearts. With the 51” in the dark in August, I had already made my season and was thrilled to see the biggies from my point of view as net-boy.

Pike Thoughts
We caught lots of pike. The pike fishery is thriving on Lake of the Woods. Biggest we measured was 38-39 inches so no monsters this year. They were all successfull releases in that nobody have to go to the hospital because a pain-in-the-butt pike shook and stabbed someone with a treble hook when we were doing surgery on one of the many fish that swallowed all 3 hooks on a treble. AHHHHHHH.....I don't like pike!

Special Thanks
Dick Moore: leaders and hooks. Once we got the crimp size right on the new style crimps on the leaders, I did not have a single problem. Thanks, Dick.

Bob Schmidt: Just Encase tackle boxes. I wouldn’t want to muskie fish without them!

Thorne Bros Custom Rod & Tackle: For always taking good care of me when I need something way up north.

To Wolf, Martin, Doug, Dave, Jim, Scott, The Godfather, Eric (aka Tink), Brad, Mark, Tom, Dave, Max, Mitch, John and Deano for being great fishing partners and not letting me go out there a single day solo this year. Thank you, Guys!

Final Thoughts
I’ve come to realize I will never be a rich man. When I think of the goals and dreams I had as a teenager, it amazes me to consider the place in the world I now occupy. Back then, I would have said you were crazy if you told me this is how I would spend my time. Now...I can honestly say I love what I do. I love the way people look forward to their time at the lake. I love the joy it brings them to spend time at/in the place I get to call home. If it was all taken away from me tomorrow, I would be fine with that too. I have had 21 years of enjoying you all enjoy the lake. I can’t wait until it’s time to welcome you all back in 2013. Thank you for making me feel like what I do matters. I cannot tell you how much it means to me.

My thoughts are never far from those that have passed on too soon and are no longer here to do the things we love to do. Sadly, there are too many to name. We love you and miss you all.

See you on Youtube sometime in the New Year.


Captain J-Man 2.0