Some Days The Fishing Is “Otter” Than Others

People often ask me about my catches. “What is your biggest?”, “What was the heaviest?”, “What was the most unusual?”. I have to say that the last one is the easiest of all to answer. It is one of many memories from a lifetime spent outdoors.     On a perfect spring morning I rise and get ready to make the drive to one of my favorite musky haunts. Anticipation is always high when the water is just right and the bite is on. A quick stop for a slice of breakfast pizza and a carton of chocolate milk and now I am reasonably fueled for a morning of fierce battle on the water. The time is now 5:00 A.M. On my way, I stop at my favorite creek to catch some live bait to use. In just a few minutes I had a nice variety of local chubs and large shiners. A large sucker was the prize of the morning. I can’t wait to get him on a rig and in the water! I drive for a little over an hour altogether and I smile when I pull in to my spot. The first faint hint of the coming sunrise starts to show the mist on the water.  There is no one here at all! Perfectly quiet! I can’t get out of my Jeep fast enough. I hurry to gather my gear and get ready for the walk through the woods to get to my point. This is musky fishing from shore at it’s best! I walk out to a narrow strip of land that is basically surrounded by a very gently flowing backwater, with a large open pool in front of me. I have been fishing this spot for many, many years. It has actually been nicknamed “Paul’s Point”.  I have not been here ten minutes and the cars start pulling in already, filled with other eager fishermen hoping to get in on the early bite. They pull in across the backwater from me and proceed to set up also. I get all set up and pull that large sucker out of the bait bucket. Once I get him all rigged up properly, I cast him out to a spot where big fish cross frequently and set the rod down. Now to casting a large spoon to start quietly with my other rig. There are now half a dozen other fishermen facing me from across the water, all looking at me like I am crazy. People in my area were not yet keyed in to using such large baits. Things have changed in recent years though.    After a few casts , I look beyond my bobber with the sucker, and see a large wake headed straight for my rig! I calmly ( I say that now!) lay down my casting rod and gently pick up the bait rod.  In a splash my bobber goes down hard and fast. Line is free-spooling off the reel fast! It starts to head for some very nasty, snaggy water, so as long as it is headed away from me, I thought I would take my chances and set the hook. And set the hook I did! I arched my back with the effort and groaned when I felt that hook catch solid matter!  As I settle in for the fight, it leaps out of the water………. it’s an otter! I caught a furry mammal?!?!..?.. That’s a first! I can’t believe it. After a fairly good tussle, I get him reeled in to the bank. Thank goodness for very stout musky rods! This is one unhappy critter with very large teeth, that has 2 of my treble hooks in it. Somehow I manage to hold him at bay long enough to grab my hook cutters. It has one hook in it’s lower lip and the other is caught in it’s fur on the chest. As I get closer you can see the animal stiffen up and start to say unpleasant otter things. I aim for the hook in the chest fur and get lucky, cutting the shaft of the hook on the first try. Screaming another curse at me it pulled back hard and in doing so, pulled the other hook free. Still cussing at me, it crossed a little creek and ran off through the trees toward the main river. You could hear it swearing at me for five minutes! I was happy he was loose and basically unharmed. That’s when the other fishermen yelled from across the water and asked me why I didn’t kill the otter. They said they eat all their walleyes. I started laughing and said that in reality, they were eating the otter’s walleyes. It was his home, we are just visiting. I think sometimes this very simple lesson can be forgotten.  There were no more negative comments from across the water and all was well. Fishing went on as normal for the rest of the day.   I will always remember that otter very fondly, although I am sure it doesn’t share the same opinion. He has given me a great experience and a story with a lesson to share. Every once in a while I will hope to see it again, on better terms. It was a day of musky fishing with a furry twist that surprised us both! A mammal,… I still smile when I think of it.