Muskie Madness

Every now and then, someone catches a fish that makes the rest of us openly jealous. Such was the case when Crispin Napolitano caught and released this 52" muskie while fly-fishing on the St. Lawrence River.

Because they're at the top of the food chain, muskies are considered by many to be the premier freshwater gamefish-they're such picky eaters, some anglers call them the "fish of a thousand casts." In the spring they move into shallow water to spawn, so fly anglers should strengthen their casting arms. Water temperature is important: Muskies prefer temps in the 60-degree range. Try drop-offs, points, shelves, and river or creek mouths. Like the related northern pike, these fish are ambush predators, hiding in weeds or under logs and using short, explosive bursts to capture their prey. Their mouths are full of long, sharp teeth, so wire leader is mandatory. Muskies primarily hunt pan fish; more than 30 percent of their diet consists of yellow perch. So your best flies or lures should resemble injured fish, especially those with perch patterns. Use a slow retrieve, and jerk and wiggle your lure to make it look crippled.

Napolitano's fish is a prime example of proper lure choice and presentation: He cast a white rabbit strip fly with an epoxy head to a fallen tree in four feet of water. He used an intermediate sinking line, tipped with a trace of wire, and gave a slow, constant retrieve. With an eight-weight fly rod, it took 25 minutes to land the brute, which he estimated at 40-plus pounds. Yes, that sensation you're feeling is envy. Remember-thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's muskie.