Duluth angler lands 48-inch muskie while crappie fishing on LOW

Dave Hamilton was not prepared for this. He had come to Minnesota's Northwest Angle equipped with diminutive ice-fishing rods and 6-pound-test line to fish crappies on Lake of the Woods.

Dave Hamilton and muskie
Dave Hamilton of Duluth hooked into a surprise catch in the form of this 48-inch muskie during a recent crappie excursion on Lake of the Woods. The fish put up an "unbelievable" battle on light line, Hamilton said.

Dave Hamilton was not prepared for this. He had come to Minnesota's Northwest Angle equipped with diminutive ice-fishing rods and 6-pound-test line to fish crappies on Lake of the Woods.

Now wholesale amounts of that line were peeling off his tiny reel at an accelerated rate, pinging around the rough edges at the bottom of his fishing hole.

"The line sounded like a banjo string," said Hamilton, 44, of Duluth. "I thought it was going to break any minute."

Hamilton would soon learn that what he had on the other end of his line was roughly 4 linear feet of Lake of the Woods muskie.

Amazingly enough, after about a 15-minute battle, he managed to haul it into his fishing shelter.


"It was unbelievable," Hamilton said.

He said that several times, actually.

Hamilton and about 16 friends were fishing out of Flag Island Resort on Feb. 18 in the Northwest Angle, a tiny piece of Minnesota isolated from the rest of the state on the west side of Lake of the Woods. They were fishing with guide Joe Cooper of Red Fox Fishing Co.

Cooper was moving some members of the group around to different areas, but Hamilton stayed at his original spot, jigging a buckshot jig for crappies in about 28 feet of water. The jig had been given to him by friend Scott Torvinen. Hamilton can't tell you what color it was.

"That's top-secret," he said.

He got a bite, and the mysterious fish began stripping off line, Hamilton said. He figured it was a pesky 5-pound northern pike. Hamilton's son, Dane, 25, was in his shelter with him. The fish was making lengthy runs, tangling up other anglers' lines on its jaunts. With his little rod bent to its handle, Hamilton finally got the fish up to the hole.

"It was unbelievable looking down the hole, and here's this behemoth of a fish," Hamilton said. "We figured it was a muskie. It took off again. The pole bent straight over."

The second time the fish came close, Hamilton got its head turned up into the hole. He managed to grab it and lift. He lost his grip several times, but finally found a secure grasp.


"It just kept coming and coming and coming out of the hole," he said.

The jig was right in the middle of the fish's jaw. But the hooks from the other anglers' lines, which had come up in a tangle, were now in Hamilton's hand.

"My son was pulling the hooks out of my hand," Hamilton said. "I didn't even feel that."

A crowd of Hamilton's fellow anglers had gathered to watch him land the fish. His other son, Wyatt, 16, captured the action on video.

"It was unbelievable," Hamilton said.

The longest tape measure in the crowd was 24 inches, so Hamilton measured the fish by pacing it off, heel to toe, in his pac boots. His size 10s are 13 inches long, he said.

"It was over four Ice King boots," Hamilton said. "That's unofficial, but we know it was at least 48 inches long."

After a few photos, Hamilton released the fish.


Later in the day, Hamilton and some others in the party moved to a spot over 33 feet of water where they kept catching crappies. Using the same jig and the same line that he had used in the morning, he hooked a 27-inch walleye. The hook popped out as Hamilton was pulling it up, but Cooper dived toward the hole and grabbed the fish.

"It was" -- you guessed it --"unbelievable," Hamilton said.

The crappie fishing was excellent, too.

"We caught hundreds of crappies," Hamilton said. "It was pretty common to catch 13-inchers, some up to 15," he said.

There's only one word for that kind of fishing, and we all know what it is.

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