The World Musky Hunt
Northwoods event still going strong after more than four decades
BY ROGER SABOTA
Special to the Star Journal
In the winter of 1976 three businessmen, Andy Andel of Rhinelander, Wayne Papini of Mosinee and Harold Mares of Appleton were sitting around talking about musky fishing.
Harold Mares told the others that he “would like to see something that would immortalize that tremendous game fish and allow the rest of the world to know and understand the great sport of musky fishing as well as promote the beautiful state of Wisconsin.”
Mares shared some of the stories about an annual trip he made to Lander, Wyo., to participate in the world famous One Shot Antelope Hunt. That event accomplished what Mares suggested for the musky and Wisconsin. It had made popular the pursuit of the antelope and brought some “fame” to the small community of Lander, Wyo.
The idea spread and within a few months interested persons from around Wisconsin gathered in Minocqua and the “World Musky Hunt” was born. The first event was held in September, 1977.
For many years the “hunt” was held in Minocqua, with Bosacki’s Boathouse serving as the headquarters. The event was usually held during the last few days of September, often with inclement weather.
A number of years ago the headquarters for the World Hunt were moved to Lake Tomahawk but the format of the event did not change. The lake that the teams fish on is determined by the choice of the guide with one stipulation that half of one of the days must be spent on the Minocqua Chain.
The World Musky Hunt usually consists of seven teams with three anglers per team who are invited to participate. A wide variety of anglers have served on teams over the 41 years of its existence some with names that many would recognize such as astronauts Deke Slayton, Gene Cernan and Jim Lovell. Other teams have included governors of a variety of states, including Wisconsin, representatives of specific businesses, professional fishermen like Babe Winkleman and Al Lindner and some of the participants of the One Shot Antelope Hunt in Wyoming. One year three of the Green Bay Packers, Jerry Kramer, Doug Hart and Ron Kastelnik made up one of the teams. Over the years both men and women have been participants on the teams.
Area guides volunteer their time to guide the contestants. Each boat has two anglers who represent different teams.
I have been involved with the Musky Hunt since its beginning. I served as a guide every year until the last two years when I gave my position to one of the younger guides but I have still been involved.
Many of the contestants have described the hunt as a very well organized, enjoyable experience in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. Not only are the contestants provided with a guide but each team is assisted by a person called a greeter who is given the task of seeing that the team arrives at the scheduled events on time and provide transportation if needed.
This year the World Hunt was held Aug. 24-26. A number of years ago the event was moved from the end of September to near the end of August with the hope that the weather would be more comfortable for the anglers.
Many lasting friendships have been formed over the years with numerous first time hunters returning year after year as what are called “past hunters” who are also provided with guides.
Often when past hunters return they are accompanied by their spouses and sometimes other family members which accomplishes one of the founders’ goals to “promote the beautiful state of Wisconsin,” specifically the Northwoods.
The only prizes that are awarded are a rod and reel that are presented to the three members of the winning contestant team. The prizes have never been money. Every member of each of the teams receives a trophy. When they return home they can tell any story about the earning of that trophy any way they deem appropriate. Though the event is catch and release, graphite reproductions of fish can be made by a taxidermist from a photograph. The actual fish can be released back into the water to be caught another time.
On Friday of this year’s hunt only one musky was caught by contestants. On Saturday there were seven muskies caught and released by the contestants.
Quite a few muskies were caught each day by past hunters. One of them, Mark McCumber of Virginia, landed a 50-inch musky – the largest musky ever caught in the hunt’s history.
Reports that I have received from anglers fishing on a variety of Canadian lakes are that the muskies were not active. Each of the groups of anglers that I talked with seemed to have caught many fewer muskies than they had on past trips. In one group an angler did manage to land a 52-inch musky.
The extreme variations in temperature that we have been experiencing in this area have made catching fish more difficult. Hopefully, these weather conditions will moderate to provide good fall fishing conditions.
Longtime Northwoods outdoor enthusiast Roger Sabota writes a bi-monthly column for the Star Journal.