Fish of a Lifetime

Our party of four from various parts of Pennsylvania (PA) traveled north for a week of fishing on the French River Delta near Hartley Bay, Ontario.  Our destination was Bear’s Den Lodge which we had been introduced to over fifteen years ago by members of the Johnson Family, who have been coming to Bear’s Den for fifty-one years.

We began the week of July 17, 2016 on a positive note with Bob Griffith, State College, PA catching a 52 1/2 ” Muskie, his personal best ever.  Optimism was high as we fished through the week with several smaller muskies caught.  Then on Thursday, July 21, I caught and released a 40″ Muskie after a thrilling fight.

We fished the next day, Friday, July 22, our last day of this trip, with some nice pike caught, but no muskies.  We agreed after a mid-afternoon meal to not fish late (10:00 PM normally) and be back to the lodge by 9:00 PM to pack for our trip back home.

My boat mate for the evening was Steve Landis, Lititz, PA.  We cast and trolled several areas with no success, and then around 7:30 PM decided to return to the area where I caught the Muskie the night before.  When we arrived, Bob Griffith and Larry Williamson, Carlisle, PA were there casting for fish.

Steve and I decided to troll through the area where I had previously caught the 40″ Muskie.  I rigged my rod with a 9″ jointed Wiley Nine Dollar Bass lure, which also caught the 40” fish.  We hadn’t trolled two hundred yards when the clicker on my reel went off, and my rod began pumping strongly.

Several days earlier in the same spot, Steve had snagged a deadhead, so after throwing the engine into neutral, and picking up the rod, I felt nothing but dead weight.  I said to Steve, “I snagged your deadhead”.  I then felt a strong jerk on the rod, and the water exploded about 75 feet behind the boat.  We simultaneously shouted “That is a huge fish!!”

While fighting the fish, I called to Larry and Bob who were only several hundred yards away for help which I thought I might need, for they had a larger Muskie net than I had.  The fish came to the boat fairly easily, but once sighting the boat, made several strong runs and then thrashed violently as we tried to net it. 

Hastily coming to aid

As Bob and Larry approached, Steve performed an excellent netting job, and the fish was secured.  Looking at this huge fish curled in the net, my only thought was “What in the world do I do now?”  But staying relatively calm, I was able to extract the lure which was now in two pieces while keeping the fish in the water the entire time.

Bob and Larry were now alongside our boat.  Bob passed us his measuring rod, and I handed Larry my camera.  I got a good grip on the fish which I feared would struggle violently when lifted from the water.  Miraculously, it stayed calm, as I struggled to pull it out of the net and into the boat.

Dick Sprenkle with his 54 inch French River Musky, “Catch of a Lifetime”

We laid the fish on one of the boat bench seats and got a quick, but very accurate measurement – 54 inches – a fish of a lifetime for me.  

Dick Sprenkle with his 54 inch French River Musky, “Catch of a Lifetime”

Bob and Larry both took hurried pictures, and the fish was returned to the water where I held it for nearly ten minutes before it swam away.  We followed the fish, which was slowly swimming on the surface, using my electric motor for another ten minutes when it suddenly disappeared as it swam into deeper water. Back at the Lodge, the photos were downloaded onto their computer, and we all marveled at this huge fish of a lifetime.

Dick Sprenkle with his 54 inch French River Musky, “Catch of a Lifetime”
Dick releasing the French River Musky


Author: Dick Sprenkle, Cochranville, PA

Photo Credits: Bob Griffith, Larry Williams & Steve Landes