DETROIT -- A lot of people say that although Lake St. Clair is No. 1 in the nation for producing muskellunge over 48 inches and 25 pounds, that huge population explains why it never produces a 50-pounder. There's just too much competition for the prey base.
Veteran muskie angler Steve Lindemann tends to agree, but he said he knows of at least one fish in the lake that could better the Michigan state record of 51 pounds, 3 ounces.
"My usual fishing partner had to go to a family wedding, so I decided to go out alone," Lindemann said of a trip on St. Clair three Saturdays ago. "The weather wasn't the best, so instead of heading over to Canada, I decided to try some places closer to the ramp."
The Troy, Mich., resident wouldn't say where he launched or where he fished, but he did say that he had only two lines in the water and was setting a third when something hit a Nine Dollar Bass lure about 15 feet behind the boat.
"When I picked up the rod nothing much happened at first, but after a few cranks (of the reel handle), I guess it realized it was hooked and it just started ripping off line. It must have run off 75 yards," he said.
But the big fish was still a muskie, which tend to tire quickly, and it took about 15 minutes for Lindemann to bring it alongside the boat on 30-pound tackle.
Then, Lindemann said, "I saw just how big the thing was. It looked like an alligator.
"It was so big I couldn't get it into the net. I kept trying with the rod in one hand and the net in the other, but it kept kicking away from me."
So he decided to try to lift the fish's head into the boat with the rod.
"The hooks pulled, and it fell back into the water. It just kind of lay there for a few seconds, and I tried to get the net under it again. But it came to, slapped its tail and disappeared," Lindemann said. "When it was next to the boat, the head was right below my (starboard) rod holder and the tail was behind the transom. I measured (the space) later, and that fish had to be at least 60 inches.
"I've caught at least 100 muskies. My biggest was 52 1/2 inches. So I know I wasn't exaggerating on this one."
Steve Jones, who runs the Predator charter boat on Lake St. Clair, hasn't had a 60-incher this year, but a customer did land a 53 1/2-inch fish that weighed 37 1/2 pounds, a nice weight for this early in the season.
"Muskie fishing is going good, and so is the smallmouth bass fishing" said Jones, whose boat is based in Harrison Township. "The walleye guys have to work at it, but they're still getting some fish."
Jones said an average muskellunge day is four to six fish landed and released along with several strikes that are missed, "but we had one day last week where we went 11-for-16. The big problem has been weather. It's been real windy, and we keep getting these fronts through that can shut things down for a couple of days."
Jones said that walleyes "never moved up the Detroit River into Lake St. Clair this year. Normally, you can get a limit (five walleyes) in a few hours. This year it's more like two or three. But I saw that the same thing is happening in Cleveland.
"People there were complaining that the fish never moved out of the western basin (of Lake Erie) to the Cleveland area, and now they've started catching them. So maybe everything is just running late and we'll see the same thing happen here."
Jones can be reached by telephone at 586-463-3474 or online at www.fishpredator.com