New Beginnings

Jun. 9, 2015 by Richard Ofner
I have told parts of this story several times over the years, including a mention in my first contribution to the Hobie Top Gun Series. Now I will tell how it has developed into a life changing experience that took place on October 26th, 2009.

Richard Ofner

After discovering that I could fish out of my Hobie Adventure Island after taking off the sail, amas and akas late 2008; it was still somewhat frustrating to go out and not have a clue how to catch fish. Growing up on a creek minutes from Lake St. Clair, I had no interest in fishing. Most of the neighborhood kids couldn’t wait to throw a line off of the banks of our creek or walk out to the lake fishing from the break wall. So after spending most of my life participating, refereeing, and coaching both soccer and hockey I found myself clueless and somewhat frustrated while “attempting” to catch fish. Fishing with one cheap rod and reel – well not actually my rod and reel but the rod I purchased for taking my kids out… Anyways, we didn’t do a whole lot of catching fish considering my only presentation was to put a worm on a hook with a little weight to get it on bottom.

Richard Ofner

My first time buying some used muskie gear from a local angler, he thought I was crazy that I was going to try and catch muskie from my kayak. He had a collection of muskie skeleton heads in his garage decorating his shelves like trophies. Pointing at the teeth on a large head he said there was no way he would let a muskie get into a kayak with him. I had read in a magazine article that kayak anglers were targeting muskie and catching them in kayaks so I figured if it had been done then why couldn’t I do it too.

My first year of trying to catch bass from the kayak was not a very successful one, I even tried catching walleye, without any luck. The few outings that summer were mostly trial and error of different methods I had researched on the internet. One particular catch in 2009 was meeting my wife Julie, who eventually played a big part in my growing interest in fishing from a kayak. It was still early in our relationship and it wasn’t until 2010 that we had the opportunity to fish together in the kayak, yet she had showed an interest in my new found hobby early on in our relationship.

Catching a Muskie from a kayak, was still something I had not heard too much of. I spoke to a few other local kayak anglers that had told me the fall was the best time to catch a muskie when they come into the rivers chasing shad. That fateful day in 2009, the conditions seemed perfect. A few of us arranged to meet at the Thames River which flows into Lake St. Clair in the small town of Lighthouse Cove. Julie, whom I had just met a few months earlier, grew up very close to Lighthouse Cove. She asked if she could take photos of us from shore since we would be fishing close enough for her to capture us trolling up and down the river at the mouth of the lake.

Richard Ofner

There were three of us fishing out of kayaks along with the half dozen shore anglers and another half dozen power boats. We launched just before noon and Julie showed up about the time we got started trolling up and down the river near the mouth of Lake St. Clair. The river was showing off its fall colors: a perfect day to be on the water, with little wind and partial sun shine. Since it was close to lunch time I was already hungry and thought I would try the banana nut muffins Julie had given me. They were in a brown paper bag in the back of my Adventure, which I kept forgetting to put my scupper plugs in… and well this wasn’t the first time I soaked my lunch. I tried to eat around the wet part of the muffin and gave up, once I remembered how dirty and stained the river was. Not wanting to carry it along with me while fishing, I tossed it behind me figuring a bird or fish was going to have a good snack.

Within 30 seconds of chucking the wet BANANA muffin, my kayak gets swung around as if I was snagged on something heavy. I started to yank on my line, but it started to give and within a few seconds I see a large tail flicker on the surface. “There is a big fish on my line,” I thought to myself. Not being a dramatic person, I kind of muttered that I had a fish on my line. I had a net barely big enough for a bass, let alone a large muskie. The other fellow had a pair of lipper grippers, and when he went to lip it, a quick head shake was all it took to break the lipper gripper like a toothpick. I passed him my plastic lipper gripper, which were destroyed even easier. For a fish that came to the boat pretty easy and wasn’t putting up much of a fight, it was still showing it’s raw power destroying lip grippers like they were a child’s toy.

The fellow helping me had another heavy duty Rapala gripper that he had forgot about and was able to finally secure it to my fish. He quickly unhooked it for me and a quick measurement before releasing it. At 48 inches it was one of the largest muskies caught from a kayak at that time. Through the excitement I had forgot about Julie taking pictures from shore and when I looked up she was gone. As it turned out she had left only minutes before I hooked up with what is still my largest muskie. So I tossed my camera over to my buddy to take a picture of the catch.

That was the only fish caught the rest of the morning/early afternoon and frankly I didn’t really care if I caught another fish the rest of the year (don’t think I did). This catch was the first popular freshwater species that I had caught other than a smallmouth bass. It also sparked my interest in catching other species which I ventured out to do in 2010. My relationship with Julie became more serious, and in 2010 she started coming out and fishing with me, and when she wasn’t fishing she was very supportive to my new found hobby. That was over five years ago and I have now fished all the Great Lakes, fish at least nine months of the year, and have caught most freshwater sport fish from the Great Lakes than ever before. Julie and I were married in 2014 and I look back at that first time she came out to see me fish on October 26, 2009. Oh, and I won’t forget the banana nut muffins she gave me which ended up being good luck… or bad luck?