Canadian angler Dale MacNair caught and released a muskie of huge proportions on November 28, 2008 that may have been a true "fish of a lifetime". His monster muskie measured 57 inches long with a girth of 33 inches. You can take any of the accepted formulas for figuring the weight of a released fish and this muskie adds up to be one of the largest fish ever caught and most likely the largest muskie ever released.
There's also a good story that goes along with this monster muskie. Dale MacNair and his fishing partner, Julie Cashaback, just started muskie fishing in October of 2007 and are proud members of Muskies Canada and the Ottawa Chapter. Dale and Julie have had the "muskie bug" since joining the club and spend most of their free time fishing Ontario's many muskie waters. They have made many friends in the Canadian muskie community and one of those friends is Sal Rotolo, who had taken them out fishing a few weeks before that fateful day in November. Rotolo is known for catching big muskies and Dale wanted Julie to catch a 50 inch muskie so that she could join the "50 inch club" of Muskies Canada. Dale had caught a 51-inch fish earlier in the year and now he wanted Julie to join the club. Earlier in the fall, Sal had caught and released a 59 inch and 28 inch girth fish in the same area that they were fishing that day.
Dream Comes True?
Back to the story, dream, or premonition that MacNair had been having for the last couple of months. Dale would wake up from a dream where they (he and Julie) were on a boat that was drifting into the rocks in stormy waters. These conditions turned out to be the exact conditions on that early evening when Dale caught his monster muskie.
The threesome had been trolling the St. Lawrence River and the famous "Forty Acre Shoals" near Gananoque, Ontario since early afternoon without any action in the clear but rough waters. The group had planned to fish throughout the second night of the new moon. MacNair believes in fishing the various moon phases as much as possible. Late in the afternoon, the group decided that a change was in order and decided to fish the area where Sal Rotolo had marked a huge fish on his electronics just a few weeks earlier.
A short time later, they marked a huge fish on the graph about 20 feet down and within a couple of hundred yards of where they had marked the large fish weeks earlier. It took a few minutes for their lures to pass over the fish and then suddenly a rod went off with a fish on. This fish was to be Julie's, but she was in the boat's stern so Dale grabbed the rod and set the hook hard while Sal and Julie cleared the other two lines. MacNair told me that he felt some strong head shakes from what he thought to be a big muskie. But, as he was reeling in his line it suddenly went limp and Dale thought that the fish was gone and had come undone. He kept reeling and to his surprise, Dale felt another head shake and realized that the muskie was swimming towards the boat. He checked his Shimano reel and saw that there was still 130 feet of line out! Next, he saw the muskie jump and clear the water behind the boat. The muskie made a few more powerful runs as MacNair fought to keep tension on the fish.
All this time, Sal was trying to keep the boat out of the rocks in the 20 mile per hour winds and 5 foot waves as it got darker and darker outside. But, after a few more runs Sal had the muskie in the net with only the middle treble hook in the top of the fish's mouth. The hooks were cut to free the fish and it was quickly measured at 57 inches long. Then, Dale and Sal measured the girth with a tape twice and saw that the girth was 33 inches. About now, the reality of the situation struck home and the group realized how big a fish they had caught. This muskie was truly a fish for the ages!
Kill Or Release?
Dale MacNair told me in my interview that he only considered keeping the fish for a few seconds before he decided to release the "monster" and get it quickly back in the water. A few quick photos were taken and the fish was returned to the water. Suddenly, horror struck Dale when the muskie turned over in the net and had some difficulty staying upright. Dale worked the fish and it soon turned over and almost jumped out of the cradle. The huge female muskie regained its strength and strongly swam away to possibly be caught again. Sal, Dale, and Julie stayed in the area shining lights in the water in case the fish surfaced, but it was back to its river haunts free and alive. There was no blood and the fish was released in great condition.
I congratulate Dale MacNair and his "team' for this tremendous feat. There are not many anglers who would have released a fish of these proportions. If you use the Muskies, Inc. formula for fish (length X girth X girth divided by 800) this muskie would be over 77 pounds and easily a world record. But, I'll leave it to others to debate the size of this fish, but it is awesome and massive. Dale is 5'11" and over 300 pounds, so you figure the size.
On-Line Interview and Pictures
I (Gary Engberg) did do a 12 minute interview with Dale MacNair that you can find on my website (www.garyengbergoutdoors.com) with the five photos that Dale sent to me and the Simply Fishing Magazine website will also have the story and images. The interview with the likeable Canadian tells what equipment was used, the lures, the speed, and more detailed information on this remarkable muskie.
Another great thing besides the MacNair release is that the waters in the St. Lawrence River and much of Ontario seem to be coming back after being devastated the last few years with the deadly fish virus, VHS. Many mature muskies died and hopefully the "Larry" (St. Lawrance River) is coming back strong! Thank you, Dale MacNair for releasing this magnificent fish.