Musky Fishing Charter Out Of Clayton, NY
Ed Beers from New Jersey was excited about going on his first musky fishing charter aboard The Waterwolf out of Clayton, New York. He had fished with Captain Bob Walters many times before but always for salmon on Lake Ontario. His anticipation of the experience was mixed, being prepared and forewarned by Captain Bob that the musky in the St. Lawrence River are “fish of 10,000 casts” and “you have to put your time in” to be successful. Then for two weeks prior to his November booked date, he kept receiving text messages with pictures from The Waterwolfs’ mate of all the muskies being caught by other guests!
There was no way to prepare him for what was about to happen.
Chilly Fall Months In The Thousand Islands, NY
The crisp November morning started with meeting Captain Bob and crew for breakfast at the Koffee Kove, a Clayton, NY favorite eatery with muskellunge mounted on the wall, as well as 1000 Islands décor.
Captain Bob did not want to linger for the usual, extra cup of coffee, informing Ed and friends that “there’s a mean looking cold front approaching our area by noon. We might have to cut our day short if it gets nasty out there on the river.” Normally there is no hurry for anglers to get started fishing for musky in the St. Lawrence River, as musky charters go all day and sometimes past sunset, putting in the time needed for a chance at a strike.
Finding Muskies in the St. Lawrence River
After a moderate run to one of Captain Bob’s favorite musky haunts and initial setup of all the fishing gear, Ed stayed on the back of the boat and put on a warm hat, awaiting a strike. His friends enjoyed the heated cabin while Captain Bob talked on the radio, to a private fisherman that was fishing at another spot a few miles away.
Musky Fishing Report
“That was Matt, from Philadelphia; he books the boat for four days in a row and fishes with me to keep up with the latest tactics. He then fishes on his own boat for the rest of his season,” said Captain Bob. He also learns new spots for musky in river, and gets to preview the latest custom colors from Drifter Tackle on the Believer Lures that Captain Bob has as a result of being on their Pro Staff.
Taking Refuge Behind Wolfe Island
The morning hours went by quickly. There was plenty to see with migrating waterfowl, windmills spinning in the distance, the lures being trolled and viewed on the underwater camera, and the overall picturesque beauty of the Thousand Islands, NY region.
The only thing that could spoil such a wonderful outing was the predicted cold front that arrived an hour early. The wind came around to the west and increased 20 to 30 mph. “I’m going to troll across the river and tuck into the lee side of Wolfe Island and start working back closer to port,” the Captain informed the crew.
Hooking A Monster Musky
Then it happened! “I heard a snap, looked over at the Otter Board planer, and saw the rod bent over, and started screaming!” recalls Ed. “I knew I had a big fish on right away, and was having trouble getting the rod out of the holder due to the heavy pressure on it.”
Best Line For Musky Fishing
It’s a good thing Captain Bob’s Shimano trolling reels are spooled with 65 lb. test TUFF-LINE with a 7 strand 60 lb. wire leader, or these hard fighting freshwater giants would just break off on the initial strike.
Landing the Trophy
Ten minutes into the battle the fish was winning the fight. The winds had increased to 30 mph plus heavy gusts, even in the lee of Wolfe Island the waves were now two to three feet and building. Captain Bob decided to pull the other fishing gear out of the water, back the boat down on the monster fish, and gain some line back on the reel. “It is a challenge to land a trophy muskie in the St. Lawrence River in calm water. Under conditions like these, I always expect the worst,” says Captain Bob.
Beating the Weather
At this point, Matt called on the radio. He was down at Quebec Point (aka East Point or Hemlock Point) at the eastern tip of Wolfe Island pondering the crossing of the main channel in the rough seas, having already quit fishing due to his smaller craft. Captain Bob responded, “Hang in there Matt, we are battling a large fish right now, and as soon as we land it, we are heading back to port. You can jump in my wake and I will bust down the heavy chop for you.”
The winds now were up to 40 mph. Ed was still on the back, struggling to gain line on his fish and hold his footing on deck in the violent seas. After 25 minutes or so into the battle, the giant fish was now on the surface 60 yards behind the boat, rolling in the steep-sided chop of three foot waves. Captain Bob backed the boat up, telling Ed to keep his eye on it, and don’t give it any slack line. The musky net slips under the fish, to the relief of everyone aboard. It takes two strong men to lift the fish aboard.
Time is an essence…
Catch and Release
When catching and releasing monster muskie in the St. Lawrence River, pictures need to be taken, and weight and length and girth data must be entered as quickly as possible to get the fish back in the water with as little stress as possible. The catch-and-release ethic of today’s musky angler is voluntary on fish caught over 48 inches, and highly recommended by most guides on the river. Ed Beers’ trophy musky is 59 inches long, has a girth of 28 inches, and weighs almost 58 lbs.!
Unfortunately, during the battle the musky rolled the leader and line around the gill plate. “We spent many minutes trying to resuscitate Beers’ fish after cutting all the line out of its gills,” Captain Bob sadly stated. “It was too far gone, with too much damage and blood loss, not responding at all. We put the wash-down hose in the fish’s mouth, allowing water to pour over the fish’s gills. After getting the line and hooks out of the muskie, we put the muskie back in the water, and worked with it there, trying everything we could to get it to come back to life.”
This was only the third muskie in the St. Lawrence River out of 100 caught on Waterwolf that wasn’t successfully released.
Rigs and Lures
The fish struck a Berger King Rig (named after Dave Berger, former owner of The 1000 Island Bait Store) Dave first developed this tandem rig by using a large plug, with a wire leader connecting a trailing large spoon. The rig this trophy muskie took was an eight-inch Believer with a Williams Whitefish spoon. One of Captain Bob’s favorites! “I put that rig out on my planers, and it stays there all season,” hints Bob. “It has connected with more than half of the 100 muskie I have landed so far.”
Good News Travels Fast
On the run in, Captain Bob called Matt back, and told him of the 59-inch monster musky they just landed. He explained to him how it died, and that they were bringing it back to port to get it mounted by Lax Taxidermy. While rounding Quebec Head, Matt tucked in behind the larger Waterwolf for protection. Then both vessels made the extremely rough crossing of the main channel, safely together, back to Clayton.
Dave Berger and others heard the radio transmission, so there were plenty of hands waiting at the dock, to help tie up the boat in the heavy winds. “It was like a welcoming committee,” remembers Captain Bob. “It’s so rare that one of these big fish gets caught, and then brought back to the dock, so everyone was eager to show up and to see it themselves.” The musky was measured and reweighed at the dock, to everyone’s amazement of what a trophy it really was. Dave Berger says “I think that’s the biggest muskie in the St. Lawrence River I’ve seen caught!”
Ed Beers agrees.
A Fish of a Lifetime
The muskie was afterwards wrapped up and frozen for shipping to Lax Reproductions, of Conover, Wisconsin. Ed Beers had a reproduction made that was a highlight at this past winter’s Muskie Expo in Chicago, Illinois. Captain Bob had a skin mount done, and plans to display it at the Thousand Island Bait Shop, for public viewing. “This is a fish of a lifetime!” “I don’t think Ed knows what he really has yet,” jokes Captain Bob.
“There is a new world-record muskie in the St. Lawrence River right now, just waiting to be caught,” he said. “And we have as good a chance to catch it as anyone else.”
Captain Bob Walters and The Water Wolf spend the spring in Wilson, NY chartering for Chinook salmon. He then follows the school of salmon down Lake Ontario through the summer months, ending his salmon season in September, at the Salmon River, Port Ontario. In October he moves the boat up to the St. Lawrence River for the muskie hunt, ending December 15. Find out more about Water Wolf charters at stlawrencemuskiefishing.com