The muskellunge earned its nickname as “the fish of a thousand casts” by being elusive, persnickety, moody, and cantankerous. Muskies are just darn hard to catch.
They will act indifferent toward even the liveliest baits, or sometimes follow a lure all the way to the boat, only to turn away with a hint of disgust at the last second. And many other times, they abruptly end the fight by using their mouth full of sharp teeth to simply slash the line.
So muskies don’t ever come easy. That makes the accomplishments of the Lederer family of Perrysburg just that much more noteworthy.
Jake Lederer, a 17-year-old junior at Perrysburg High School, and his sister, Jenna, a 12-year-old seventh-grader at Perrysburg Junior High, won the top awards in their age groups for the 2012 fishing season at the recent Ohio Huskie Muskie Club banquet.
Jenna caught a 42-inch muskie on July 4th, while Jake caught a 44-inch muskie three days later. Both fish were caught on Salt Fork Lake, which is about halfway between Zanesville and Wheeling in east central Ohio. Both fish were measured and released.
Although both Jake and Jenna have won the individual honors before, the Lederer sweep in 2012 marked the first time in the more than 50-year history of the Huskie Muskie Club that a brother and sister combination won the awards in the same year in the “Junior Angler-Released” category.
“As a dad, I’m extremely proud of them, and it’s very gratifying to see them excel at something that can be very challenging,” said Fred Lederer, who will test his muskie fishing skills on the professional tour this spring. “There are so many other things that kids can get into these days, but they’ve taken the time to listen and learn and become very good at this type of fishing.”
Jenna was just eight years old when she started muskie fishing, and quickly developed a preference for casting lures for the big fish, rather than trolling.
“I just liked it from the start,” she said. “When a muskie hits, there’s this big jolt. They bite hard, and then the real exciting part is trying to reel them in. You really have to stay with it or you lose the fish.”
With Jake there are a lot of other fish that are easier to catch, but therein lies the allure of muskie fishing for him.
“The fact that they are harder to catch makes it more appealing to me,” he said. “It’s the challenge that’s involved, every time you go muskie fishing. But when you hook one, they can come out of the water and put on a show, and give you one of those picture-perfect moments.”
Jake, who caught his first muskie when he was just four years old, said he and his sister have one “huge advantage” when it comes to muskie fishing.
“It’s my dad: He’s done so much to teach us everything we need to know, and taken us places where we’ve had the opportunity to catch nice fish,” Jake said. “From the very first day, we’ve learned the right way to fish for muskies.”
The elder Lederer, who serves as president of the Ohio Huskie Muskie Club, said the early fishing trips with his kids would involve talking about the nature all around them out on the lake, or letting them steer the boat for a bit just to keep them occupied. But as they evolved as anglers, the fishing part got very serious.
“For a while, I was coaching them quite a bit, but they just naturally progressed to the point where they’ve really picked up on the best system for catching muskies,” Fred Lederer said. “They’ve given me some pretty proud moments out on the water.”
Muskies were so abundant in Ohio early in the 20th century that they were fished commercially until about 1930. But when dams blocked spawning routes and channelizing streams further limited their habitat, muskie numbers plummeted.
The Ohio Division of Wildlife began a muskie stocking program about 60 years ago, and these fish are now present in good numbers in Clear Fork, Salt Fork, West Branch, Alum Creek, Piedmont, and Pymatuning reservoirs. Paint Creek, Grand River, the Little Muskingum River, Rocky Fork Creek, Salt Creek, and the Mahoning River also are home to muskie populations.
The Ohio Huskie Muskie Club came along in 1961 to keep track of the largest muskies caught each year, and to promote the sport of muskie fishing, and the release of non-trophy fish. The data provided by the club assists the state in managing its muskie program.
FISHING REPORT: The walleye run on the Maumee and Sandusky rivers is heating up, with the water temperature still below the optimum level for spawning. Maumee Tackle reports some anglers are taking limit catches of four fish, while others are still struggling to find the fish and the proper technique. The fishing is expected to continue to improve as the weather warms. The river level is allowing anglers to reach most areas, and a few spawned-out females have been seen.
Bernie Whitt at Anglers’ Supply in Fremont reports that some fishermen on the Sandusky River have brought in limit catches and that more fish appear to be moving into the river. Since the water level is relatively low for this time of year, Whitt is recommending lighter tackle and a slower retrieve. “I’d say by next week, once the water warms up a little more, they should be hitting them like crazy,” Whitt said.
RIVER CLEANUP: On Saturday, Partners for Clean Streams and Bass Pro Shops will team up to spread the word on environmental awareness among the throngs of fisherman working the spawning run on the Maumee River. A table will be set up from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. along River Road at Side Cut Metropark and volunteers will be passing out bags and asking the fishermen to collect any trash they encounter on their river visit. There will also be educational information on the potential harm that fishing line, lead sinkers, and hooks can have on wildlife and the river.
Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6068 .