The Best of Muskie Country

The Best of Muskie Country

  • By: Brad Bohen
  • Photography by: Tosh Brown
Towee Boats - Guide tested skiffs.   

Click image for slideshow.

Best Place to Catch Your First Muskie

Ghost Lake

Most of the lakes and streams in a 20-mile radius around Clam Lake teem with muskie, and any water that connects to the Chippewa River is a solid bet. But Ghost Lake might be the finest option, especially because two outstanding lodges operate there—historic Boulder Lodge, and the exclusive Ghost Lake Lodge, where baseball legend Ted Williams and outboard motor mogul Ole Evinrude often fished. The lake is mostly undeveloped, with 80 percent of its 7 1/2 miles of shore being part of the Chequamegon National Forest. The lake’s muskie average between 30 and 40 inches. Some are larger. You’ll also catch walleye, bluegill and perch if you desire.

Best Place For A 50-Pounder

Lake of the Woods or Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay

A 50-pounder? That’s huge, no doubt, but doable, especially on the massive waters, such as Lake of the Woods (Minnesota) and Georgian Bay (Ontario). A 40-pounder? That’s much more realistic and opens up a variety of options, because most of the quality rivers in Muskie Country host such fish. And elsewhere, too—look at the Internet and you’ll see images of those beasts being caught in Minnesota, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia by pockets of hard-core muskie fly fishers. I do believe we’ll see more 50-pounders in the near future, and I think those tankers will be caught during fall in northern Wisconsin or Minnesota, because there are growing numbers of dedicated practitioners targeting them, people who really put the time in—which is the key.

One River For Eternity

Flambeau River

The Flambeau is a beautiful river that flows through mostly state and national forest, serving up mile after mile of pristine and muskie-laden shore. In addition, the Flambeau muskie are very distinctive, known as a great race of fighters with striking barred marks. An overnighter on the Flambeau is the ultimate way to experience Muskie Country.

One Fly For Eternity

Hang Time Optic Minnow, Orange

I could have just as easily picked the orange Beauford, but I know this—if restricted to fish one fly for the rest of my life it would be orange, tied in the bucktail fashion, on a single, barbless hook. I’d pick such a fly because it cuts a wide visual swath for the angler and it provides the same, acoustically, for fish. Muskie are attack predators with a highly tuned lateral line, and they hunt by feel as much as by sight. That’s why I prefer natural materials to synthetic.

Must-Have Meal

Jackson’s Tally Ho
Hayward, Wisconsin

Tally Ho owners JJ and Cindy Jackson offer a varied and ever-changing menu that includes chicken cassandra, tenderloin penne, and even Alaskan king salmon and king crab. But for my money you can’t beat the Sicilian walleye pike. Don’t forget to wash it down with a whiskey Old Fashioned from the classic cocktail bar.

Best Bar

Tom’s Old Bogies Bar
Holcombe, Wisconsin

Established in 1926, this is the area’s oldest tavern. It’s located near the junction of the Chippewa and Flambeau rivers and often hosts anglers celebrating their first muskie. It’s also a natural place to watch Green Bay Packers games, and the tavern puts out a nice brunch on game day. The tavern is owned by Tom Schenk, who also owns Chippewa River Custom Rods, which are nice sticks that he builds and sells for really fair prices. Know that when you visit Bogies you’ll have muskie brethren to commiserate with.

Best Nightlife

Downtown Duluth

Hmm, for various reasons try a Sunday night at Fitgers Brewhouse or Pizza Luce. Hawaiian shirts and flip-flops are optional, but they definitely boost your potential for conversation or more.