“Get a picture! Get a picture!” Ken yelled as he played the big fish and Clint reached out over the water to net it. I had neither a phone nor a camera, so I scrambled around the boat’s steering column looking for either Ken’s or Clint’s camera. 

The fish rose to the surface, and I said, “Musky.” Clint, on the other hand, said, “The net’s not big enough. I need the gaff.”  Clint kept a big hook in a side compartment of his boat and quickly retrieved it. I’d gaffed a big musky for Clint two years earlier, so I knew that we did not use the gaff to impale the fish, but to hook the fish through the lower jaw.  It cut a small hole in the skin, but allowed us to return the fish to the lake with only a minor injury.

I found a cellphone to take a picture and asked for the numbers to open it up. A few seconds later, Clint hooked the fish with the gaff and lifted it out of the water. About half way up, the big musky wriggled off of the gaff and landed on the gunwale of the boat.  It could have just as easily fallen into the boat as out of the boat, but every fisherman and fisherwoman knows exactly what happened.  The big fish slipped back into the lake and calmly swam into the depths. 

The other two boats in our party had slowly motored in to watch the action, but one of the young men in our group kept casting.  No sooner had Ken lost the musky when Max hooked a second big fish.  This time it was a northern pike. His boat, unlike ours, had a big musky landing net on board.  Max’s dad grabbed it to haul in the fish.  When the fish noticed the net, however, it jerked its head, eluding the net and simultaneously spitting out Max’s lure. In a matter of five minutes, we’d lost two big fish.

Had we been able to get both of those fish into their respective boats, I wouldn’t be writing this blog about them. The most memorable fish stories are about the ones that got away.