HAYWARD — Friday the 13th sends chills up the back of the superstitious, but for one 47-inch muskie in Lost Land Lake on that date last month, that day was one of liberation, a day to flap its untethered tail.
Joe Weiss of Spooner, a retired lieutenant colonel from the Air Force and a retired American Airlines pilot, loves to catch muskies.
In fact, Weiss loves muskie fishing so much that he’s even recorded songs about his sport such as “I Fish for Hawgs” and has performed fishing odes accompanied by stories of netting more than 200 of the large lunkers the last 50 years.
Now Weiss has yet another muskie story, but he’s not sure if he can put it under the “fish I caught” category.
Weiss and his friend, Tom Poquette, of Spooner, a former Major League Baseball player, were fishing on Lost Land Lake on the morning of Friday, Oct. 13. At 10:30 Weiss hooked a 34-incher that he released.
By noon the weather cleared from overcast and the wind calmed enough for Weiss to describe that time as “a pretty nice fall afternoon.”
At about 4 p.m., Weiss and Poquette drifted over a weed bed and Weiss used a sucker with a quick strike rig, an arrangement meant to hook the fish in the mouth before they swallowed the bait.
Weiss noticed his bobber going down and he set the hook. It felt like he had hooked his bait on weeds, but his line “throbbed” a couple of times, indicating he had hooked a fish.
“I reeled in and there was this mass of weeds at the end of my hook,” he said.
There was also a large muskie rolling around.
“I thought, that fish is not on my hook,” Weiss said. “What’s he doing? Is he following the bait in? I didn’t know what to think of this whole thing because I saw this big fish, but it wasn’t really attached to my hook.”
Weiss reeled in and was removing the weeds from his bait when he discovered fishing line was wrapped around his hooks. He then pulled the line in, hand-over-hand.
“Lo and behold there was this big muskie on the end of the line with the bait still in his mouth,” he said. “We netted the fish and proceeded to take the hook out of its jaw. I used my bolt cutter to get the hook out.”
While the fish was in the net recuperating, Weiss continued to pull in the rest of the loose line and he had another surprise.
“I pulled it up and on the other end of the line was a rod and reel,” Weiss said.
Poquette took a photo of Weiss with the 47-inch muskie, then Weiss released the fish.
“It was still alive and looked like it could live and swam off,” he said.
Weiss and Poquette asked other anglers on the lake if they had lost a rod and reel; none had.
Weiss said there was discoloration around the fish’s mouth where it had struck the artificial bait. He thinks the fish could have been dragging the rod and reel around since the beginning of October when there was a muskie tournament that occurred at the lake.
“I know there are a lot of fishermen on that lake for that tournament,” he said. “And that tournament is an artificial bait only.”
Even though Friday the 13th has a reputation for being an unlucky day, Weiss said, it wasn’t for that muskie.
The biggest muskie Weiss has ever caught is a 53-incher in Minnesota. His largest Wisconsin muskie is 48 inches.
“It ranks as one of the more unusual catches I’ve had,” he said of the 47-incher. “I’ve caught tackle before. I actually caught a rod that I lost by dragging for it. I caught an anchor by snagging an anchor rope at one time. A 47-inch muskie is not a small fish, especially for that lake. That’s the biggest one I’ve caught out of that lake. But I can’t really say I caught it. I caught the line it was connected to. I hand-over-hand brought it to the boat, so I caught it indirectly.”
After the recovering the rod and reel, Weiss place an ad in the Sawyer County Record newspaper that reads: “Found! Fishing rod & reel attached to 47-inch (muskie). Call 715-520-0517 to claim rod & reel; (muskie) was released.”
Weiss has received several calls but not one from the owner. “I can’t believe how many people have lost rod and reels in that lake,” he said.
Zufall is a reporter with the Sawyer County Record newspaper in Hayward.