The Fresh Water Tiger: Story of a Mighty Battle with a Gamy Muskellunge, Daily Racing Form, 1919-09-05


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THE FRESH WATER TIGER Story of a Mighty Battle With a Gamy Muskellunge. Reminiscences of Trip 3Iade Thirty Years Ago Into file AVilrts of AVlsconsin. The northern part of the State of Wisconsin is almost n network of lakes, lying isolated or in chains, connected with one another by" waterways, with outlets into Lake Superior or the Mississippi River. These lakes vary in size from a few acres to several square miles in txtent, and are filled with a variety of fresh water fish. Among the gamest of these are the blackbass, walleyed pike, pickerel and that tiger of fresh water, the lordly muskellunge, or maskinonge in the Algonquin tongue. Some contend the name is derived from the French masque longue or long face. The name is certainly appropriate, as the nose is so long and the jaw slightly prognathous, which gives the face a sad and almost sinister appearance. In the estimation of many the muskellunge has no rival as a delicious food fish, the flesh being firm, fine of grain and sweet. Whether old or young, small or large, the quality Is unimpaired. It is a curious fact that of the fish mentioned the bass, pike and pickerel, or the bass, pike and muskellunge, are found in the same lakes, but never are the pickerel and muskellunge found in the same water. I have never heard a satisfactory explanation of this, but the fact remains. The name "tiger" as applied to the muskellunge is no misnomer, for, as he lies in wait for his prey on some shallow bar extending into the lake, concealed by water lily pads or submerged weeds, he exhibits the same stealthy patience as the tiger of the jungle or plain, and woe to the food fish that crosses his. line of vision. With a lightning like swirl ho closes on his prey and those long jaws and needle-like teeth never let go. When feeding the musky, as the natives call him, is voracious in the extreme. I have caught, more than one that had the tail of a sucker, his favorite food, still in his mouth, the body and head being in process of digestion in the stomach. Like the brook trout the musky is absolutely rapacious, and when feeding will kill and devour to his utmost capacity. FAVORITE HAUNTS DISCOVERED. Since the advent of the railroads into this north country most of the favorite haunts of the musky have been discovered and at the fishing resorts, which have sprung up on many of these lakes, one may meet sportsmen from all parts of the country and nearly every state in the Union. Thirty years ago the railroad had only recently been put through, connecting the central part of Wisconsin with Lake Superior. This road ran for the greater part of the way through vast pine forests and numerous settlements had sprung up surrounding sawmills. From these towns wagon roads, used by the lumbermen, led through the woods to numberless lakes that had never been fished except by Indians or woodsmen. These afforded rare sport to the lover of the wilds. One August morning, about the time of which 1 write, my friend Ted Pope and I . boarded a train bound for the north country of sport and adventure. Our duffle bags were well packed and we" felt that we were due to kill a big fish. After traveling about 100 miles north by train we alighted at a small sawmill settlement, so new that the shingles on the houses were not discolored. After numerous inquiries we finally found a half-breed Indian who agreed to drive us out to Moose Lake, a distance of about eighteen miles, although he refused to guarantee our reception at Jakes, a sort of stopping place for loggers and trappers. "I dont know," said Joe, our driver. "Mabeso, if wiskey all gone, Jake be good, if not, be very bad. Say he shoot ary Indian come near lake." We decided to chance it and were glad we did. Our drive of eighteen miles through those woods was an. event in our lives and something to remember. I have taken it many times since, but it never has given me the thrills I experienced that first time. The road was good, except in spots, having been used for hauling supplies to distant logging camps. The lofty pines towered above us, interspersed with hardwood ridges covered with maple, elm, ash and hickory, standing thick and quiet and affording fine cover for the deer, which Avere numerous. BEAUTIFUL WORK OF NATURE. Then another stretch of pines, with the road resembling a lane through them and the ground level and covered with a coat of brown needles. Thus does nature build and furnish her house until man comes along and makes of it disorder and ruin where it was so beautiful and old and quiet. In some of the openings the ground was literally covered with blueberries, although it was August, and such berries! The clusters were almost as large as bunches of grapes. From the midst of them would start up families of partridges or Canada grouse. We passed many small lakes and occasionally the call of a loon would come to us, so like the cry of a human in distress that wo were always startled. Joe would say: "That loon," nothing more and what more was necessary? We, so called civilized people, certainly waste a lot of time merely talking. Joes contributions to the conversations were not numerous or lengthy, but always tc the point, such as: "Deer crossed here last night," or "Bear signs here." . These,"brief bits of information told us all that we were most anxious to know. We arrived at Jakes about sundown and found him in fairly good form and after his man Ed had helped to put the horses in the log stable, we repaired to Jakes hotel, a log cabin of goot size, and sat down to a supper of mutton, potatoes, bread and tea. In the woods, and out of season, venison is always mutton. If the man of the house does not care to take a chance on the game warder, he leaves a bottle of whiskey or a piece of bacon at some appointed place on the trail and finds in its place a sack of mutton. Although he may nevei meet the Indian lie can always be reached in this indirect way, which he much prefers to open trading. Over our pipes after supper Ed answered our questions. Yes, we could catch plenty of pike and bass right here, but if we wanted a big musky we had better go over to the big lake several miles east. We could canoe up this lake three miles until wc came to a tall, blasted pine on the east shore then land and take the trail through the timber to the big lakes. There was no one there, but we woultf find a boat hidden ou the shore to the right of tin trail. The boat might not be much of a boat ant the oars just made with an ax, but it would have to do, as there was nothing better there. OUT OF SOUND OF CIVILIZATION, Next morning was fine . and clear and we took the birch canoe and paddled up the beautiful shore of the lake for three miles. In writing of the beauties of the lake shore I am not writing of summer resorts where handsome cottages abound and where everything seems hand made, but of natural pine forests, stretching back from the shore line to almost infinite distance; of grass meadows, sprinkled over with the most beautiful Christmas trees; of bays, where the constantly lapping waves have made a shore line of stones as perfectly placed, one upon another, as if by the hand of a skilled artisan; of islands, rising from the water level to a mound shaped center, thickly covered with beautiful pine trees and all out of sound of civilization. And what a marvel it is that Nature does all of this without regard as to whether man. with all his power of appreciation, may ever see or admire! After hiding our canoe we took the trail, which we found fully equal fo Eds description and, we thought, a little beyond even that. Two miles of condensed toil and trouble, with hog backs, swamps and windfalls to add variety, if not simplicity, to the route through the forest. The trail was" plainly blazed. As our only pack was a large sack for carrying our possible catch and our lunch, we could not earry rods, so had to depend on a hand line, which we carried in a pocket. All troubles must come to an end sometime and we finally reached the shore of the big lake and located the boat as directed. It had evidently been knocked together at some, sawmall and hauled in by the- longer route. Our first attention was given to our lunch, after that a rest under the pines until our impatience getting the better of us, we got out our hand line and attached a number eight Skinner spoon. As Ted weighed one hundred and eighty-pounds I elected to row and allowed him to handle the line. MUSKY FLEW INTO THE AIR. "Now," said Ted, "you row slowly past that point where you see- those weeds sticking out of the water. A .bar runs across there and that is where he is waiting for us." As we- neared the point Ted dropped the hook over the stern and began to pay out the line, but had not let out more than llfteen feet when there was a commotion near the hook, as if a bomb had exploded, and, as the line straightened out a musky flew into the air, entirely out of the wn-ter. He looked to me as large as a shark. My oars remained suspended in the air through sheer amazement, Avhile Ted, with jaw set, hung to- the line. Now bear in mind that when a musky of this size is caught with rod and reel it takes a. half hours nerve-racking strain to tire him out, so that lie can bo shot or gaffed. Ted, however, did not propose to take any such chance with. .his. hand line. He used his one liundred and eighty pounds of weight and muscle and in came Mr. Fish, hand over hand. Fortunately the hooks held and he lifted the musky right into the boat and then the fun commenced. That iish liad no idea of remaining in that boat, being as much alive as he ever was, but we had no idea of his doing anything else. Ted grabbed for the revolver lying on the seat, but I yelled: "Dont shoot; youll sink us," so we both threw ourselves on that flsh,-catch-as-catch-can, and McLaughlin in his palmiest days could not have done better. The bottom of the boat was wet and, that musky was. as slippery as any eel. Fore and aft- we went, bumping heads and getting hold, but without being able to hold on. My pipe went skipping over the water and my watch crystal was wrecked by a slap of his big tail. Finally, by good luck, Ted got a hold in the gills and turned him , up while. I gave him a knock-jut blow with a paddle THE PRIZE WEIGHED 28 POUNDS. We "shook hands and rowed for the shore and Ted said: "That Avould be enough if it was not half so much." AVe repaired damages as well as wo could and started on the back trail. We took turns carrying that fish and before we reached the other lake it had grown in weight at least one hundred pounds. . When Ave got -to .Jakes Ave.Aveighcd our, prize on the steelyards and found it. to be twenty-eight pounds. "Just the Aveight." Jake said, "that makes the best fight." We liaAe since caught larger and smaller muskies, but never such a scrapper: Hoav Ave got that fish home and banqueted our friends .is. another tory and, although Ave have often made the trip since . and have grown older and AAiser, avc have concluded that, in spite of our added wisdom, if Ave had that job to do OAer again nx AAouid probably lose that musky, and assure our friends that lie Aveighed much more. The recollection of that trip through the untouched Avilderness of northern Wisconsin stands out vividly among lifes memories, and clear and distinct above the lesser incidents thero remains the vision of that fighting fresh water tiger. F. II. Graham in Forest and Stream..

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