the evening of July 23, 1949, Dad, myself and Jack Conner, outdoor editor of
the Minneapolis Star, drove to the Moccasin Lodge o Lac Court Oreilles to do
some fishing the next day. I was 23 years old at the time. During the night
there was a severe thunderstorm—a pretty good ‘rip snorter.’ Dad, as usual,
wanted to get a real early start the next morning but, when we awoke around
daybreak, discovered that the storm was still rather threatening. So we
impatiently sat around the cabin of a while, waiting for the storm to ease
At around 5 o’clock Dad and myself finally decided to go out. Jack Conner
went fishing on his own to try for some bass that morning—a decision, I’m
sure he regretted for years to come. It was a real fishy morning—very little
wind at the time, just a little bit of a ripple on the water, and there was
a kind of dull rumble of thunder in the background but it looked like there
could be more to come.
Upon leaving the dock in one of the resort’s 16-foot round bottom wooden
boats, equipped with a 2 ½ horsepower Champion motor, we began fishing
immediately, row trolling straight out toward the drop off and then turning
right and working up the shore toward Moccasin Bar, a weedy sand bar. Every
inch of that shore is good musky water. I was on the oars and Dad was
trolling—something he rarely did but, under those circumstances, he figured
it would be the most effective way to present a lure.
We were working the outer edge of the bar, about 150 yards out from the
big weed bed. Since it was still too early in the morning to see the deeper
weeds—and having no depthfinders in those days—it was very difficult to fish
the edge of those weeds but, from memory, that’s where I tried to keep the
boat—I’d say in about 15 to 20 feet of water. Instead of us making a wide
turn when out boat got to the end of our run across the bar, Dad reeled and
then cast back out after I turned the boat around to row back across the bar
allowing Dad to again let his lure troll behind the boat.
Dad was using a single piece wobbler, a chub-color South Bend Pike-Oreno—a
relatively small lure, as far as musky lures go. Of course, the smaller
hooks of the lure gave us a better advantage of hooking a fish.
I rowed the boat backward and followed the fish, trying to keep the
fish about 50 to 60 feet away from the boat. We didn’t want to get
too close to the fish, for fear he would cut under the boat. The
fish just hung, real deep, and swam with kind of a slow sort of
motion, depending more upon its great weight and strength to break
away, rather than leap and swirl, such as the smaller muskies do.
It was a kind of tug-o-war and Dad knew that he would just have to keep
steady pressure on the fish and be sure not to attempt to horse it. There
was a lot of open water out there and it just took a lot of
patience—something Dad had plenty. I think if this had been in a flowage
with many underwater threes, we never would have gotten him.
It was about 20 minutes before the fish began to give in and allowed us
to see it. As Dad began to work him closer to the boat, we prepared to get
our first glimpse of what we had. We saw the huge shadow of the fish near
the boat and just below the surface and, when it finally surfaced, it was
probably about 30 feet from the boat. It kind of rolled on the surface—but
not with a lot of motion. And of course, when we SAW IT…my GOD!! That’s when
we started to really get excited. We thought ‘My GOD, this thing is REAL!’
That was really the beginning of the end of the battle. The fish really
didn’t have much more fight left in him. At one point, Dad worked the fish
in alongside the boat and, rowing with the gaff at the ready, I considered
gaffing it. The fish rolled and went back out to deeper water. So Dad just
kept very slight pressure on it and it wasn’t long before the fish was back
near the surface and coming back toward the boat. By that time, the fish was
starting to turn over on its side.
After that, I put any thoughts of gaffing the fish out of my mind, for it
was just too large to handle in that manner. Dad thought it would be best to
just slowly work the fish in toward shore and beach it. So we headed in
toward shore on the resort side of the reedy bar, working the fish in very
slowly. There was very little fight after that and the fish just kind of
went along. At times the fish would go down a little and then off to the
side, but then it would come right back up and allow us to move it along.
Dad just maintained a steady and fairly light pressure on the fish.
Once we got within about 35 feet from the shore and the water was not
quite waist deep, I jumped out of the boat and with gaff hook in one hand
and the boat in the other, pulled the boat in toward shore. Dad, who saw
sitting during most of the fight, stood up and brought the fish in closer to
shore. I quickly slid the gaff under its gill and hauled it at least 30 feet
up the beach before I stopped. Not really having time to panic, I wasn’t
really thinking—I was just doing. And Dad was REALLY telling me what to
do—he always did. The amazing part of it was that there was not problem. I
can remember holding the gaff with two hands, expecting a heck of a lot more
problems than I had.
But, of course. When it was up on the beach, then it really started to
flop. So I turned on it with the gaff and hit it and knocked it out. The
strategy that we used to both fight and land the fish seemed to be the right
Being down the shore about a quarter mile west of the lodge, out thoughts
turned to betting the fish back to the resort as soon as we could. The early
morning commotion and hoopla that we created when we arrived at the dock
shortly after 6 o’clock awakened most of the guests at the lodge. People
sleepily came out of their cottages wearing everything from clothing to
The proprietors of the lodge, Mike Solo and Serge Bagny, used a platform
scale to weigh the fish. They put some boards down on the scale first and,
when the beam balanced, the weight read 87 pounds. And for just a split
second we thought ‘My GOD…87 pounds!’ And then we woke up to the fact that
‘Hey, that’s with the boards, too!’ Minus the boards, the musky weighed 67
pounds 8 ounces, measured five feet and one-half of an inch in length, and
had a thick 33-inch girth.
Knowing that the fish had to be well preserved, we immediately took the
fish to Karl Kahmann’s taxidermy studio. And then the phone started ringing,
and I don’t think it quit for two weeks! And that was the story."