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Big Fish Tradition Continues

PUBLISHED: July 13 2008

By Tom Watts
Macomb Daily Staff Writer

Mr. Muskie Too – a 31-foot Tiara with twin 350 Mercury Crusader Inboard engines—set out on a sunny, blue-sky afternoon with winds whipping at 20 mph, just enough to form white-caps on Lake St. Clair and cause an ominous stir in the water.

"It's going to be tough fishing today," lamented Capt. Kevin Backus of Mr. Muskie Charters of St. Clair Shores. "We'll have to work for it." ... What transpired over the next five hours is the reason why muskie fishing on Lake St. Clair is considered the best in the world.

Mr. Muskie Too – a 31-foot Tiara with twin 350 Mercury Crusader Inboard engines—set out on a sunny, blue-sky afternoon with winds whipping at 20 mph, just enough to form white-caps on Lake St. Clair and cause an ominous stir in the water.

"It's going to be tough fishing today," lamented Capt. Kevin Backus of Mr. Muskie Charters of St. Clair Shores. "We'll have to work for it." ...

What transpired over the next five hours is the reason why muskie fishing on Lake St. Clair is considered the best in the world.

Capt. Kevin and his First Mate, Butta, departed dry land in search of the legendary freshwater fish on Thurs-day. And they did not disappoint when Scot Brzozka of Lambertville boarded a gorgeous monster: a 521/2-inch, 38-pound muskie.

Here's how it happened.

Mr. Muskie Charters left Jefferson Beach Marine in St. Clan-Shores for one species: the fabled muskie. After all, that's what Backus and Butta do for their customers. First-time muskie fishermen Scot Brzozka, 41, of Lambertville and Jeff Gamble, 26, of Royal Oak, joined charter captain and mate.

"We're going to first hit the south shore of Canadian waters {pear the dumping grounds about fejix or seven miles across the lake," Capt. Kevin told the crew. "We're going to make our way to the Belle (River)."

Butta, the able mate for the last three years aboard Mr. Muskie Too, outfitted the Shakespeare Ugly Stik Tiger Rods with 320GT Penn reels and an assortment of Homer LeBlanc tackle and lures with a 40-pound test and 3-ounce sinkers. Some of the local tackle used were: Charlie Brown, CB Baits, Loke's, Mason Muskie fillers, and Lapper Lures.

"We took in a 51-inch muskie the other day, which was probably a 20-year-old fish, and we took in some smaller ones: 2-3 feet long, 2-3 years old, which tells me the population is healthy," Capt. Kevin noted. “Smaller muskie means healthy breeding."

As the 31-Tiara motored its way to its ultimate Canadian destination, Capt. Kevin provided a quick lesson on the history of muskie fishing in Lake St. Clair. It was Kevin’s grandfather, Homer LeBlanc, who is credited for writing the book on trolling for muskie. "He developed the Swim Whizz and Swim Zag spoons," Capt. Kevin said. "He wrote the book on muskie fishing on Lake St. Clair: was the first to do it in the 1930s."

Capt. Kevin noted that muskie fishing is much different today than it was even 20 years ago. "A muskie charter service is a good way for families to get together; businessmen and women who want to host clients, or for certain holidays, birthdays or anniversaries," Capt. Kevin recited. "I'm like my grandfather. He spent 50 years of his life teaching, and when I take my customers out I provide them with an interactive experience like no other."

The "interactive experience" started as Butta set out the Planer Boards as Mr. Muskie Too purred at about an average speed of 4 mph in 69 degree water temperatures. Within one hour, the first hit came. Jeff was first up, but as soon as he grabbed the rod, the fish at the end of the line came off.

Jeff, who just returned from bear hunting and pike fishing in Canada, reeled in the fishless line. This was a major disappointment for Jeff, and the entire crew.

But in the third hour of the trip, the words that never get old came with ease from Capt. Kevin.

“FISH ON!”

Brzozka, who was performing an inspection trip for his company, Outdoor Connection, was the nearest to the screaming reel and grabbed the bent Ugly Stik.

"Let the fish take it," Capt. Kevin instructed. "Reel down and pull up. He's gonna take the line: let him."

Capt. Kevin requested that Butta to slow the boat speed. And now the fight was on. The fish hit about 5:15 p.m., and at 5:35 p.m. the monster muskie flipped out of the water, its mouth wide open, and splashed down like a log. Brzozka didn't flinch and listened intently to what Capt. Kevin was telling him.

In the next minute, the muskie finally surfaced near the boat, and after a few more minutes Capt. Kevin scooped it up in a giant net and brought the beauty on board.

 

Journal Register News Service photo by Tom Watts
Scot Brozka of Lambertville was the recipient of a 52 1/2- inch, 38-pound muskie on Lake St. Clair aboard Mr. Muskie Charters. It is the largest muskie taken on Lake St. Clair this year.

 

"You will never ever catch another fish as big as this one," Capt. Kevin first said. "That's the biggest muskie on Lake St. Clair this year."

Said Brzozka: "It's indescribable: For my first fish taken in Lake St. Clair, I don't think... I can't even think what to say. I'm speechless. It's just a rush, and I can't explain it."

Capt. Kevin removed the $9 bass-painted Loke from its mouth and put the monster muskie in a custom-made holding tank large enough for a 60-inch fish. After a 20-minute fight, Capt Kevin likes to let the fish calm down before any photos are taken and before releasing it back into the water.

“I will never kill a fish,” Capt. Kevin said. “Catch-and-release is a win-win for everyone.”

Once on the scale, the words came freely: “It’s a monster: 52 ½ inch long with a 22-inch girth," Capt. Kevin said. "It's 38 pounds, maybe 381/2, and 7 inches between the eyes. That's my No. 3 largest fish ever taken with Mr. Muskie Charters."

The crew was ecstatic. "I'll take a fish like that over an 8-fish day any time," Butta said. "You know what I like about muskie fishing: that's what I like about muskie fishing. I like to see the slime all over the guy who caught it. They don't care."

"That was amazing," Jeff said. "It's like he landed a log."

The "Muskie Prayer" that Mr. Muskie Charters (www.mrmuskiecharters.com) says every day before a charter provided the ultimate fruit of the sea. And when Capt. Kevin released the monster back into the waters, and to watch the muskie quickly exit down to the depths of Lake St. Clair, there was a huge sense of accomplishment.

"This is the best muskie fishery in the world," Capt. Kevin Backus said. "The beauty of catching something so beautiful and releasing is the greatest thrill on water."

Amen.

© 2008, The Macomb Daily.

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