BARRINGTON – This fall, Barrington resident Ken Mola and another fishing buddy will climb into a small boat and quietly motor out into either a Wisconsin or Michigan lake – they haven't decided yet – and attempt to beat Mola's record catch-and-release last year, a 55-inch muskie.
Mola, a consummate muskie fisherman, hooked the monster on Lac Suel, in Ontario, Canada, in 27 feet of water. It was the seventh largest muskie ever caught in Canada, he said.
"It was getting late in the day," remembers the 78-year-old retired district sales manager from Boise Cascade Co, "and I just decided I was going to put the biggest lure in my tackle box on the line."
That lucky lure was an enormous 13-inch-long crank bait, made by Grandma lures. It looks like a small perch, bristles with treble hooks and "wobbles" in the water when you reel it in.
To be sure, the fight was memorable, but what Mola talks most about is saving the 40-pound fish.
"I stayed with him for half an hour," he said, holding the muskie by the tail and gently rocking it back and forth in the water. The motion, Mola believes, helps pump more oxygen into the fish's gills and resuscitate it.
That caring and passion for the "King of Fresh Water Fish" comes after 65 years of fishing for walleyes and muskies.
After landing his first muskie, Mola admitted, "I was a fanatic, fishing from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m."
Mola analyzes every catch, asking himself, why did this lure work or not? He also keeps track of moon phases, the barometer and what color lure to use.
And it appears his analysis has paid off.
While most fishermen would die to catch one "keeper," 30 inches or longer, Mola said, "I stopped counting after I caught my 500th muskie," adding, "That includes undersized ones, too."
Mola said the best conditions for catching muskies are when the days are "overcast, there's a slight ripple on the water, a little drizzle, but not a rain."
"A steady weather pattern of two or three days, also seems to turn them on," Mola said.
Mola said muskies like nasty fall weather and "their appetites go toward live bait, like suckers."
A pioneer in night muskie fishing, Mola recommends using surface lures, like a "Tallywacker," that make a lot of commotion, and during the day, a black buck tail, like the Mepps.
"Muskie Killer," or "Giant Killer," or any of the popular "Cowgirl" lures that have two huge "blades" and plastic strands of colored tinsel wrapped around them.
"The key is to reel in real fast," Mola said.
Good muskie lakes? Mola recommends North and South Twin Lakes in Phelps, Wis.; Big and Little Arbor Vitae Lakes in Woodruff, Wis.; and the Flambeau Flowage in Park Falls, Wis., to name a few.
Bill Hobbs is a Barrington resident and instructor at Harper College and the Illinois Institute of Art in Schaumburg.