Ben, here's another that revolves around Muskies. (I almost put it in "strangest catch" but I like seeing this thread continue.)
I agree with Fundad.
One late October afternoon a zillion years ago, a friend and I were fishing Muskies on a lake called Big Arbor Vita in northern Wisconsin. It was cold, drizzling and windy as all hell, so we were “pinned” to the lee side of a long point for the duration; we could fish nowhere else safely. I bet it was blowing a solid 25mph and gusting to 35. Temps weren’t bad though… maybe mid 40’s at first but dropping as the afternoon progressed.
At one point, I looked up and a hundred or so yards out a small group of ducks was laboring upwind. When they got even with the point we were working, they suddenly changed direction, like maybe they’d “had enough” and came hurtling by us quartering down wind. I told my partner, Randy, “Hey, watch this” and winged the Eddy bait I was using as far as I could, up in the air in front of them ( http://www.justmusky.com/products/eddie/eddie.htm
). At a full eight inches long, 3-and-a-half ounces, and sporting 3 giant treble hooks…the large Eddy is a formidable projectile. Anyway, like I said, I heaved it as hard and far as I could on an intercept and the unthinkable happened… one of the ducks in the group began back pedaling. In seemingly slow motion, I watched as the huge chunk of wood and bird eventually collided!!
A puff of feathers exploded from the duck and it began tumbling downwind. The flock was traveling at a high rate of speed and boosted by a 25mph wind. I won’t even guess at how fast they were moving, but the bird sailed and sailed and sailed, finally splashing down a couple of long football fields away out in the cold, open rough stuff. My friend and I were absolutely flabbergasted as we watched the incident unfold and finally he asked, “Whaddya’ think we should do?” I replied, “We’ve got to go get it.”
Well, it took us a really long, wet, cold, 15 minutes to reach it because the wind/waves were blowing it further from us. (It was an even longer, colder, wetter event as we limped back to the point’s lee that we had been “pinned” to.)
When we reached it, I leaned over the gunnel, picked it up, looked it over and saw it was a Black duck! I’d never seen one before and was going on and on. “OMG, it’s a Black, look how cool, Never seen one before, It’s huge, Blah, blah, blah…” Randy finally said “Throw the f*cking thing in the f*cking well, it’s dangerous out here!!” I did, and that was that. For awhile.
The afternoon moved on, the wind continued to howl, it began snowing, fishing was slow and the duck was forgotten.
When we finally called it a day, Randy was backing the truck down the ramp as I prepared to ride the boat up the trailer. My thoughts were more on a hot bowl of chili and a pitcher of cold beer at a local tavern than anything else when a muddy, flat-green DNR truck drove into the parking lot. A young (but older than us) warden stepped out and walked down to the dock.
He said “Howdy, how’d ya do?”
Me: “Nothing; ‘couple of follows.”
DNR: “Mind if I take a look?”
Me: “Go ahead.”
He began rummaging through our vessel and when he got to the back hatch, he lifted it and saw the duck. (I’d completely forgotten about it.) He recoiled like he’d touch an electric fence and immediately asked, “Where’s the firearms?” I told him we didn’t have any and then proceeded to explain the whole story you’ve just read. He wasn’t buying any of it and probably felt he had his first “big collar” of his young career. (Water fowl falls under Federal jurisdiction.) He looked and looked through the boat and came up empty… beside the obvious Black duck.
He told us, “Don’t move,” and then grabbed the bird and walked back up to his truck. I could see he was on the radio and assumed he was talking to a superior regarding how to proceed. I was correct.
Meanwhile, we were out in the wet snow getting colder by the minute. Randy was ripping pissed at me and my “stupid duck.” Almost an hour passed before another dirty, flat-green truck swung into the parking lot and the first warden went to chat with the driver. Eventually an older gentleman stepped from the vehicle and walked past Randy, straight to me. He said:
Old guy: “So, I hear you’ve got a story for me…”
Me: “Yes.” (And then I went through the whole story again.)
So, the senior guy asks” “Do you have a fishing license?”
DNR: “Let’s see it.”
I show him and he asks if I’ve “got a small game license.”
I say “yes” and produce. Then he asks if I “have a State Duck stamp.” I DID, because I’m a duck hunter and had done some teal hunting during the “early season.”
He then asks if I have a Federal duck stamp and YES! I’ve got that too!!
This all took place during one of the last years of the “point system” for waterfowl. The point system worked on the basis that you were allowed 100 points and 1 duck (but only if you shot a bird that was LESS than 100, FIRST.) For example: A mallard drake was 75, but a mallard hen was 100. If you shot a drake first, you were allowed another bird, but NOT vise verse. (Black ducks were a hundred points.)
He then asked, “Do you have any other birds?”
Him: “Why not?”
Me: “Um...it’s a 100 point bird.”
He chuckled and then ripped some feathers off the breast of my duck. We then, both plainly saw the bruise from the collision with my Eddy bait.
He handed my bird to me and said, “Thanks for a story I’ll tell for a long time…”
I hope he did. And now I’ve told it for perhaps the last time.