The release: A fitting finish after a battle with a worthy fish


As we troll between shoals, the serene hum of the outboard reverberates off the bay’s granite walls, filling the still summer air with blissful white noise. Suddenly, I feel my lure slam into something. We had come a bit shallow, so it must be hitting bottom. Then there’s another slam. Is that a muskie? Slam again. That’s a muskie. My knuckles turn white as the queen of the lake begins an epic game of tug-of-war, challenging me for my crankbait.

Eyeing the gin-clear water for evidence of my opponent as she rushes towards the boat, I crank my reel as though my life depends on it. Suddenly, she breaks the surface, and I’m flooded with wonder by the muskie acrobatics. The sun illuminates her olive scales and stark black dapples as she writhes with primal fury, a true untouched wonder.


My lure rattles as she tries to evade its hold, but it doesn’t give, even when she hauls it back into the depths. At this point, I might as well be wrestling an anchor, and I’m beginning to think I’ve met my match. Then I feel a break in the resistance. She has exhausted herself, and now is my chance to coax her in.

The author caught and released this muskie on a “hidden gem” of a lake near Kenora, Ontario.

The final stretch of a muskie fight is comparable to winding up a jack-in-the-box: each tentative crank of the reel brings you closer to an explosive finale. As the distance closes between us, I glance over the edge of the boat just in time to catch her engaging in a gator-like death roll, a final act of defiance. With each rapid thrash, her second wind fades, and I’m finally able to guide her into the net—a feeling of pure ecstasy. What follows is an efficient sequence to ensure this incredible predator has a rapid and healthy recovery: unhook, measure, photograph, release. As I watch her glide free of my grasp and descend into darkness, I remain awestruck. The elusive fish of 10,000 casts, gone without a trace.