The One That Got Away: Know Your Boat

Nobody wants to lose big fish--again! While it still hurts, don't hesitate to reflect back on the experience and try to learn from it.

The Story

Many lake-oriented towns have fishing leagues during weeknights. Most genres are covered as well, bass, muskie, walleye, panfish and even multispecies. Typically, these are two-man teams that fill a lake every week in search of a check and bragging rights.

Most of these leagues allow for established teams to have a backup angler to substitute in the event one of the regulars cannot attend for some reason. This story starts with a team member being called away to work, and a backup angler filling in …

Gary and Tim were teamed up for a night of muskie angling. It was early in the season, and muskie fishing was tough all around, but the duo piled into Gary’s boat and took off. An hour into the night, Gary set the hooks into a large fish estimated to be in the 50- to 52-inch range.

As the it approached the boat, Tim got ready to net the beast, but the fish had one last run in her. She darted toward the front of the boat, where the trolling motor was still in the water. Gary yelled for Tim to lift the motor, but Tim wasn’t accustomed to the type of motor Gary had on his boat. The fish wrapped the line around motor’s shaft, causing it to break, and she returned to the depths—almost in slow motion.

To add insult to injury, it would’ve been the big fish for the night, and for the season, equaling some nice cash.

Both anglers still tell the story often, and both can recall the markings on that fish better than any fish they’ve landed over the years. A true heartbreaker.

The Lesson

While most anglers know their own boats as well as they know the layout of their own home, they need to remember that people fishing with them may not feel as comfortable.

In this story, the fish was lost purely as a result of the co-angler not being familiar with a new (to him) boat—hardly his faulty. Gary would’ve easily lifted the trolling motor if it were Tim fighting the fish.

It’s a good idea to take a few minutes and become confident in an unfamiliar rig. Know where the net is, how to operate each accessory, and take time to feel your way around so that you’re comfortable when the stress of a big fish on the line surges through your veins.

This is just one example of a heartbreaker. And the ways to avoid a sob story outlined above are just the tip of the iceberg.

Over the last 6 months I’ve compiled a large list of funny stories, truly heartbreaking stories, and complex situations where fish were lost due to various reasons. Be sure to stop back and read more examples and learn from other anglers’ mistakes.

To learn more about the author or book a trip with his guide service in northern Minnesota, visit or his Facebook Page.

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