Saturday, August 18, 2012

Video of Derby Winning Muskie

This is the much awaited video footage of the first and fifteenth place fish being caught during the 2012 Fort Kent International Muskie Derby!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

9th Annual Fort Kent Muskie Derby

August 10, 11, and 12 was the 9th Annual Fort Kent Muskie Derby.  This much anticipated event started with a day of pouring rain.  Not sure how the fish would behave during this change in pressure system, Heather and I headed out in far from desirable weather.  (She is a really good sport considering she is six months pregnant!)  After navigating through some very shallow parts of water, we got up into some good holes.  Heather momentarily hooked the smallest muskie I have ever seen!  That provided a little bit of much needed entertainment.  As the hours passed, and the rain came down, we remained without a fish.

At around 4:00 we did a changing of the guards.  Brent Stoliker, who has been fishing with me throughout the summer, met us on the river bank and he switched places with Heather.  We pushed off shore and went to some other holes.  About an hour and a half later, Brent shouted that he had something on the line!  The adrenaline immediately started pumping through our bodies.  It did not put up much of a fight at first, so we weren't sure what he had on the line, then it surfaced near the boat and it was a hog of a fish!!!  Our excitement was further fueled.  Then, the fight began.  Eventually we got the fish netted, and it was so heavy that it bent the frame of the net in half!  At that point, we knew Brent had a derby contender.  We called Heather and Amelia to come pick us up so that we could get it to the weigh station before it started to shrink.  The muskie was 43 and 1/4 inches and weighed in at 24 lbs. 14 oz.!!!!  That put Brent in first place! 

The "Hog" filling the canoe!
Officially 43 1/4" - 24lbs.  14oz.
A True Trophy

After tagging the fish, we set back out for the last hour of daylight.  We had just pushed off shore, when I hooked into a good one!  I fought it and got it to the boat and saw that it was in the 40 inch range.  As we hustled to get the net, the muskie dove down quickly and shook free.  Shaking off this disappointment, we continued to more holes.  Next, I found myself hooked onto a 32 inch fish.  It was exciting to reel him in, but the derby minimum is 36 inches, so this fish was set free to grow another season.  Pumped up on all this excitement, we continued our conquest.  On the way back to shore for the night, I heard the familiar hum of the drag going out again!  This time it was a 37 1/8 inch muskie!  Unfortunately, the weigh station was closed for the night, so we headed home and decided to head to the weigh station as soon as it opened in the morning.

32" Caught and Released
37 1/8"  at time of catch - measured in at 36 1/4" - 12lbs.

Since the weigh station only opened at 9:00, Brent and I decided to go put some hours in before the weigh in.  We set out nice and early and found some promising spots.  Not sure if the massive downpour last night would change their behavior, we decided to first try the spots and tactics that had worked on Friday.  To our delight, I got a nice strike and reeled in another derby worthy fish.  This was the most aggressive fighting fish of the entire weekend and we came close to losing it as well.  If it weren't for some fancy net work by Brent, this fish may have escaped.  We headed to shore, so I could go tag my two fish.

36 3/8" - 13lbs. 10oz.

A Better Look at the girth!
The fish from the night before did end up shrinking almost an inch despite my efforts to preserve its length.  My two fish tagged in at 36 3/8 inches 13 lbs. 10 oz. and 36 1/4 inches 12 lbs.  Two respectable fish that made their way onto the derby board.

Both Fish Made the Board at First!
After that visit to the tag station, we spent the rest of the day out on the water until dark.  Unfortunately, we did not land any other muskie for the rest of the day on Saturday.  I had other commitments on Sunday, so that was the end of our time out on the water, and thus began the waiting game.  It made for a long day Sunday as other fish made their way to the station and my fish kept getting bumped down on the leader board.  My original goal was to place, so I was really hoping that at least one of my fish would remain in the top 15.  Brent was also nervous all day anxious to see if he could maintain his first place position.  As the day wound down, and the weigh station closed, it became official that Brent remained in first place and I finished in 15th, which meant I had met my goal of placing!

Ah, that is why we use leaders!
The award ceremony was exciting and the muskie derby committee and sponsors deserve a huge pat on the back for pulling off such a great event.  The guys at muskie central really put in some big hours and helped make the whole weekend a huge success!  A thank you goes out to all of them!

Videos still on the way!
The final leader board.

Brent with his Winnings!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Review - Abu Garcia - Veritas Rod/Revo MGX Reel

Thanks to the wonderful Outdoor Blogger Network, and the amazing company Abu Garcia, I was fortunate enough to put to some new equipment through its paces.  I had my pick of the Veritas rod series coupled with my preferred gear ratio on their Revo MGX.  I opted for the one piece medium action 6' 6" rod partnered with the 7.9:1 gear ratio.  I received the rod first and I was immediately impressed by the aesthetic appeal that it had.  It's bright white finish looked stunning as it slid out of the tube.  Next came the reel, and when I first received the box I was afraid that they had shipped an empty box as it was so light!  After opening the box, I was relieved to see the reel was there, but its size and weight was concerning to me as it was a much smaller frame then I had envisioned.  It also weighed hardly anything!  At 5.4 ounces it was by far the lightest reel in my line-up.  It was time to see how everything performed.  As I matched the reel to the rod seat, I was thoroughly impressed by the machined aluminum fittings and how it cradled the reel perfectly.  I carefully threaded my line on and started to wind the carbon fiber handle.  My chin almost hit the floor as the 30lb. test braided line flew off the roll and laid perfectly onto the spool.  At 39 inches of line retrieve per handle turn, I couldn't believe how easy long lengths of line were handled.  The other aspect I noticed as I loaded the spool with line is how perfectly the reel settled into my hand and how comfortable it was.  Wiping the drool from the corners of my mouth and the few droplets that had landed on the reel, it was time to put the combo to work.

I really put this combo to work by throwing everything from 1/4 ounce jigs to umbrella rigs and large bucktails.  After a couple of hours, I was no longer concerned about the size or the weight, as this was proving to be a real workhorse.  In fact, I was very pleased about the size and weight, as it fit very comfortably and my arm never felt fatigued at all.  That is very important when you are spending eight or ten hours fishing in a day!  The first bass I hooked into just further convinced me that this was an outstanding package.  The reel had the speed to maintain line tension no matter how fast the fish ran at me and the rod had just enough give to let me thoroughly enjoy the experience and enough rigidity to battle the fish's attempts at escape.  The gear ratio let me scream bucktails through the water if I wanted to or work a jerkbait at whatever speed necessary.  I have now logged 40 hours of solid casting on this combo and have been nothing but impressed.  It has successfully landed smallmouth bass from 1 to 4 pounds. I also fish for muskellunge and I have spent many of those hours pulling extremely large lures and the reel hasn't skipped a beat.  I do find for these large fish, the 12 pound drag might be a little bit light, but too much more and you would probably overdue the hookset anyway.  The only downside to this combo in my eyes is the price.  It is a little more than I would typically spend on a rod and reel combo, but if it continues to perform the way I think it will, it will outlast two of my typical combos, and in that case the price is much more bearable.  Overall, I think this is a great set up for anyone who is going to do any quantity of fishing.  I would definitely recommend these products to anyone!  I would like to again thank Abu Garcia and the Outdoor Blogger Network for this outstanding opportunity and compliment them on the quality of the products that they are producing!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

July Synoposis - Part 2

Continuing into week two I maintained the lake theme and visited Cross Lake and picked up a few brown bullheads for a different type of adventure.  Not overly large, but pound for pound not a bad fight.  The part that takes getting used to though, is that the fish growls at you!  In typical catfish formation the fish utters a guttural sound when stressed.  A worm floating just above bottom on a bobber worked very well for these bottom dwellers.

I then decided to stay true to the River Rats name and get off the lakes and back onto a river. Brent and I headed out for another night on the river for a try at a muskie.  We were not rewarded with a muskie, but the bass action was slow and steady.

In the third week, we went on a couple more unsuccessful muskie trips followed by an evening of shore fishing for Heather and I.  We fished the mouth of the Fish River down into the St.John River a ways, then switched and hit some deep holes further up and finished at the mouth of the Perley Brook.  All in all we got skunked, but had an enjoyable evening on the riverbank.  I was also trying out my latest rod purchase, which was the Ugly Stick Bigwater in 7' medium action.  More to come later on that.  Heather managed to capture a couple of action shots as I plied the murky depths in hopes of finally feeling that tug on the line.  To top off the evening, there was a beautiful sunset as we packed the gear back into the truck.

Late that week, the local newspaper posted pictures of several local fishermen with large muskellunge and that only served to further fuel my fire about muskie.  All of these muskie were in the 39"-46" range and came from Glazier Lake.  I had never fished there and it wasn't a river, but I couldn't resist the urge to give it a try.  The lake is absolutely beautiful and even though our best efforts and 8 solid hours of lures in the water didn't produce a single fish, Brent and I still enjoyed the experience.  It is always fun to explore a new body of water and try to unlock the puzzles that it holds.  We spent most of our time in the upper ponds and in front of Connors Cove, but at one point or another during the day most of the lake was touched by our unrelenting casts.  We spotted several brook trout in our stealthy stalk around the shoreline and by our quick estimates the trout population appears to be in good shape.  A dragonfly hung out with us for the better part of an hour and it finally dawned on me that maybe I should take a picture!

The last week of the month found me down in southern Maine on vacation.  I have been Striped Bass fishing twice now with guides and have been skunked both times.  I decided to take a break this year and not book a trip.  I did head into Cabelas and picked up some new gear and talked to a guy in the fishing department who said people were catching stripers off the breakwater in Camp Ellis.  This piqued my interest and after a brief lesson on how to rig up, Heather and I headed out and lobbed chunks of mackerel into the pounding surf hoping for a hookup.  True to my latest success rates, we left empty handed again.  I am hoping that August produces much better catch results!  We have logged a lot of hours on the water in the last month and don't have many fish to show for it, but sooner or later when you put the time in it will pay off!  Stay tuned for more updates and lots of upcoming posts, including the Fort Kent International Muskie Derby and my previously promised stories!