‘Muskie fishing is forever ruined for me’: A first muskie of 52 inches caught ice fishing will do that

Luis Gonzalez’s first muskie is a lifetime muskie, too, caught while ice fishing.

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Luis Gonzalez with his 52-inch muskie caught ice fishing Jan. 12 in Lake County.

Luis Gonzalez with his 52-inch muskie caught ice fishing Jan. 12 in Lake County.

Provided

Now, that’s a first muskie: 52 inches long and caught while ice fishing.

“As I reeled up and recovered some line, I saw the side of a huge fish, light in color, and for sure much bigger than the (39.5-inch northern pike) Tommy landed,” Luis Gonzalez messaged. “I knew I witnessed a muskie but was in disbelief as muskie, to my knowledge, didn’t bite during hard water season. I didn’t want to sound like an amateur and misidentify a pike as a muskie, due to the fact that I’ve never seen one in person but deep down I knew.”

For the past year, Gonzalez tried for his first muskie, often with Tommy “Netman” Krysciak, whose nickname comes from netting three Illinois records.

On Jan. 12 as a birthday outing, Gonzalez went ice fishing with Krysciak and Mike Jarvis. They loaded up on suckers and golden roaches from Jim Templin at Fish Tech, then targeted pike on a Lake County lake.

Like a lot of anglers, Gonzalez has superstitious. His is playing “Livin’ Part of Life,” by Eric Church, which Gonzalez played anytime he fished with his cousin James Bradley, who died Dec. 18.

Muscling Luis Gonzalez’s 52-inch muskie, caught ice fishing Jan. 12 in Lake County, through the hole. Provided photo

Muscling Luis Gonzalez’s 52-inch muskie, caught ice fishing Jan. 12 in Lake County, through the hole.

Provided

Fishing was slow and they were about to pack it in midday when Gonzalez caught a 28-inch pike, followed by Krysciak’s 39.5 pike and a 35.5 by Jarvis.

Then, minutes before they decided to quit at 4:30 p.m., both Jarvis and Gonzalez thought their eyes were playing tricks when an Ugly Stik Jaw Jacker combo, which Michael Folster gave Gonzalez a few seasons ago, popped.

While Gonzalez played the fish for about 15 minutes, the others identified it as a muskie, too.

“We had the fish at the hole a handful of times and it darted off each time Tommy reached in for it,” Gonzalez messaged. “He finally said, ‘Lou, I don’t give a ---- if I’m going to need stitches again, but we’re getting this fish.’ My hands were shaking in disbelief the whole time, but I just knew this fish had to be worn down before we would land it.

“Finally I see Tommy reach down for the fish and with a grasp on it, he sunk his whole arm into the freezing cold water. Out comes his hand with the spade head of a muskie! Wrapping both hands around the fish, he struggled to get it out of the eight-inch hole but the head and body were half way there. It slipped back in a few inches and my heart pounded. The inches looked like miles to me. One final pull and the beast was out! I belted out a scream of relief as we quickly got to work unhooking the fish, which was perfectly hooked in the front corner if its lower jaw.”

After a quick measurement, it was released.

Luis Gonzalez with his 52-inch muskie caught ice fishing Jan. 12 in Lake County.

Provided

Fisheries biologist Frank Jakubicek emailed that there are no special regulations in Illinois for ice fishing muskies, “The biggest issue with catching a large muskie while ice fishing is: Getting it through the hole!

“Certain ice fishermen, those that are prepared to catch big fish, have been catching bigger muskie and northern pike all along, Those that aren’t prepared probably loose the big fish (nothing new there, right). I guess the question is: Are they tip-up fishermen or rod fishermen. Tip-up fishermen use the right bait (large minnows or golden shiners) for muskie, northern pike, walleye, largemouth bass and dogfish. I wouldn’t doubt if some tip-up guys put down mid-size white suckers specifically targeting larger predators but I don’t personally know of anyone spending that kind of money on ice fishing.”

An idea for Gonzalez, who messaged, “Muskie fishing is forever ruined for me now as I have no real obtainable goal for the near future.”

Watch the full video below (WARNING: EXPLICIT LANGUAGE).

THANKS

I tried to respond to everybody who messaged, tweeted or emailed about my health. Thank you, even to the anti-hunter who wished the “time bomb” in my chest had gone off. Sorry to tell her but my rehab for triple bypass surgery is going to take time but seems to go well.

WILD THINGS

Hunters and non-hunters alike are reporting some bucks have already dropped antlers.

ILLINOIS HUNTING

We will post overall harvest for Illinois deer hunters, when it becomes available at chicago.suntimes.com/outdoors.

STRAY CAST

If your thinking aligns with somebody who goes by Baked Alaska, time take an extended weekend without devices outdoors to hike, bike, fish, hunt, wander or stare at your navel.

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