By Tony Rizzo ©
Reprinted with Permission
I fished for about nine hours this
June 18th. I must say that it was an outstanding day. The water
temperature is at 74° and the air temperature at 80°. It's hot
and sunny with the wind coming out of the West.
I'm guiding a father and son today, neither of which have
ever musky fished. The fish were going wild. One of the best
action days I've ever seen. We had follows from doubles and even
triples. Several times we had doubles on. The first cast of the
day I caught a 38 inch on their rod, just showing them how to
cast a Garcia reel. After catching the fish on their Rod, I
released fish, only to hear "why did you let the fish go?"
I said, "Well, I guess you'll have to get your own." Would
you believe it, they did. We boated seven legals, 10 undersize
of which three were 31 inches. We also lost seven others because
they were beginners and they made lots of mistakes. I told them
to make big turns when the lure came to the boat and not to slow
the lure down and to maintain the speed on the turns at the
boat, and above all, do not stop the lure on any follows. It is
a very hard task for beginners. They made lots of mistakes. One
mistake they didn't make was they got very few backlashes. That
was good. Imagine getting action from 10 muskies in hour. It was
a musky fishing dream. Then it happened, they had two muskies in
the holding tank and although the aerator was on, they died
anyway. The son hooked a fish that was 40 inches. Suddenly, as
the son was fighting his fish, a fish came out of nowhere and
took the dad’s white Rizzo Tail at the boat. This was a nice fish and
when the son saw the size of his dad's fish he gave his fish
total slack his fish threw the lure. After a good fight, the
father got the fish to the side of the boat where I could net
it. It was the best fish of the day, a 43 inch musky.
I said to the dad, "You have to throw it back."
He said, "Are you crazy?" That's the biggest fish I ever
caught in my life and I'm not throwing it back!"
I asked him, "Will you mount it?"
He said, "No, I'll eat it."
I said, "You have 28 pounds of fish in the holding tank
now, you don't need another."
I went on to tell them that if they released the fish I'd
stay out until my batteries were dead. I also told them that
they should take advantage of this day, as it was one of the
best action days I had ever seen.
I said, "Look, you have to dead fish in the tank, if you
don’t release this fish, my day is over."
The father looked at me and said, "Well Tony, I guess
you're day is over."
I must admit I didn't want to quit; this was too good of
a day. It was a day of a lifetime.
Being beginners they just didn't understand. I couldn't say
or do anything to convince them to release that fish. I was very
disappointed. I didn't want to quit that day but I did. We had
action from 81 musky that day. I'm sure if they had released
that fish we would have had action from over hundred fish. I
heard later that he did get that 43 inch musky mounted, but they
will never have another day like that again.
I'm not a big color man, when it comes to lures. Action, depth
and size are what I feel are the important factors. But I must
admit, in this situation the solid white with silver blade was
the best bait in the boat for that day. However, in saying that
I will tell you of the seven legal we caught; I caught three of
them. I mixed my colors that day. I caught one on brown and
orange with a brass plate. I caught one on green chartreuse with
a brass plate. Also, keep in mind that both of them threw solid
white lures all day.
Mistakes cost them a lot of fish. Going slow at the boat on
follows and not making big turns on the eights at the boat, cost
them fish. Also, at times just not being ready for a strike cost
them fish. Let me say that I've been a guide for 33 years and I
released around 2000 legal muskies. I have told clients to only
keep fish you want to mount it. I've never told my clients they
cannot keep a legal fish if they chose to do so.
I would never let a guide dictate to me that I can't keep a
legal fish. I don't care how good a guide he may be nor do I
care how big a name that guide has established for himself. I
don't care if he has a TV show and I don't care about his rules.
When I hire a guide, I'm not hiring someone to dictate to me
what to do with the legal fish I catch.
A guide is paid to put you on fish; not to dictate what you
can or cannot do with your legal fish. You are paying them your
own hard earned money to put you on fish not to be a dictator;
unless you want to go along with that rule that's up to you. If
you folks reading this article want to mount a 45 or 48 inch
musky, I strongly suggest you talk with your guide ahead of time
and get it straight, that if you get a legal fish you want to
keep, you will keep it. If the guide does not agree with your
wishes, I would suggest you find a guide that will allow you to
keep a legal fish if you so chose.
There are still a lot of good guides working today that will
agree to keep a legal fish. In my opinion, a client is a fool to
allow a guide to dictate the terms of what to do with a legal
fish. If you catch a fish of a lifetime that is 40 or 50 pounds,
no one has the right to demand that you released that fish.
Let it go they will tell you, you can always get a graphite
replica. Now what I am going to say next may be offensive to
some people reading this, but I don't care, I'm being honest. A
graphite mount is a liar's mount; plain and simple. Once you
released a fish you can make it anything you want it to be. You
call it a 46 inch fish or 48 inch fish or a 50 inch fish. Now
don't get me wrong, I'm not saying all graphite mounts are lies;
he'll no. There are a lot of honest respectable fishermen out
there, but there are a lot of liars out there also. This is a
cutthroat sport and business. A real fish mount is the real
thing. In my opinion, it's the honest way to mount a caught
Also keep in mind that fish of a certain size are
old fish. A 50 inch musky could be as old as 19 or 20 years.
This means that the fish has only two or three more years to
live. Also keep in mind that fish that big and that old are more
likely not to spawn. It is a fact that all female muskies will
not live to be 50 inches long. No male musky will live to be 50
inches long. Very few Tiger muskies ever live to be 50 inches
long. I'm not a fish biologist but I've spent over 32,000 hours
on the water and I will tell you the best spawners are female
fish of 44 to 47 inches, larger fish are no longer in their
prime. That simple fact is why I have always supported a slot
limit for Musky. It is a fact that a female Musky will begin to
spawn at 5 years of age (26-30 inches). So if you say that you
can keep Musky between 39 and 43 inches and any Musky over 48
inches, you protect Musky that are in their spawning prime. You
also have the opportunity to remove male Musky which if not
removed will only decimate the forage base. But don’t take my
word for it…the DNR has all the facts in their 1993 publication
"Casting Light Upon The waters".
Not long ago I guided a friend to a 52 inch musky. The fish
was only 23 pounds. I told my friends he caught a trophy fish
that was past her prime and going downhill fast. I told him I
didn't believe the fish would make it until spring.
People that tell you to throw back that 30 to 40 pound musky
in the hope that it will live to be 50 pounds or maybe even a
world record are just chasing a pipe dream. Don't let anyone
give you that snow job. I have a friend who told me that if he
catches a world record he would release it. I told him that if
that happened not to bother telling me about it; I would never
believe him. I don't care what kind of picture he showed me.
In my opinion, they have carried this mindless release
philosophy too far. Releasing fish is great and I enjoy
releasing fish. I've done it since 1962 but I'm also proud of
the big fish I have caught and mounted.