Lake Vermilion has seen a muskie rampage of sorts in the past week, with four muskies 55 inches long or longer caught in the span of three days - two on one boat in one day.
"There's a pretty special thing going on," said Lake Vermilion muskie guide Matt Snyder.
His client Michael Velasquez of the Chicago area boated a 55½-inch muskie on Tuesday night.
"Another guide got a 55 and a 56 on Monday," Snyder said. "And (Wednesday) night, another guide got a 55¾. There's been an exceptional amount of humongous fish caught in a short amount of time."
All of the fish were released.
Josh Borovsky was the guide who had two clients catch big muskies on Monday, one a 56-inch and one a 55-inch. Thirteen-year-old Collin Van Der Karr of South Elgin, Ill., caught the 56-incher in the afternoon, and Kelly Sohn of South Elgin, Ill., caught the 55-incher on Monday night. They were caught on a Beaver and a Mattlock lure.
Mike Brown, a fourth-year Lake Vermilion muskie guide, caught the 55¾-inch muskie on Wednesday night. It was his biggest muskie and the largest ever caught on his boat. He was fishing with a friend when the fish hit at 10:30 p.m.
"We do this for one reason - because these fish are insane, and it makes us insane," Brown said in a telephone interview on Thursday.
Velasquez got his muskie on a lure called an SS Shad, Snyder said. Brown got his trolling a 10-inch Mattlock.
This big-muskie phenomenon is being driven by a combination of factors involving the food chain, said Snyder and Brown.
"All of these fish have come from the same piece of open water," Snyder said. "It's not structure-related. It's just baitfish-related. It's literally middle-of-the-lake stuff."
Ciscoes are schooling in deep open water to feed on mayflies, which are hatching now, Snyder said. The muskies have moved in to feed on the ciscoes. These big female muskies, trying to fatten up again after spawning, are being caught from 5 to 15 feet below the surface, he said.
"This open-water thing happens on many bodies of water, not just Vermilion," Brown said. "There are other portions of this lake it works on, too. This one area just happens to have a good number of very large fish. It's uncommon to have that amount of world-class fish in one area."
Will the trend continue?
"I think this bite is going to last another 10 days to two weeks, possibly," Snyder said. "But I don't know how much longer these big ones are going to keep getting caught."
Those fish are among the largest that have been caught on the lake. A 57½-inch muskie was caught in a 2015 muskie tournament on Vermilion, Snyder said. He knows of a 58-incher.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources began its modern-day stocking of Leech-Lake-strain muskies in Lake Vermilion in 1987, said Edie Evarts, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources area fisheries supervisor at Tower.
Velasquez had quite a battle with his fish, Snyder said. The fish hit on a line that was clipped to a planer board, which keeps the line and lure some distance away from the boat.
"It pulled a ton of drag and completely submerged the planer board," Snyder said. "When I got the board off the line, the fish went on a big run, straight down, like you'd see in ocean fishing. It tired out just enough to come to the surface."
Brown had a scare with his big muskie.
"For about three-fourths of the way in, I thought I had lost the fish," Brown said. "She was coming right at me... When it got to the boat, it went bonkers."
Several other anglers have reported catching 50-inch muskies on Lake Vermilion during the past week, said Ed Tausk of Vermilion Dam Lodge.
The Lake Vermilion hot streak comes on the heels of a report of an angler who on June 17 found a recently deceased muskie measuring 59½ inches long on Mille Lacs Lake. That muskie exceeded the length of Minnesota's catch-and-release muskie record - 57 inches. The fish found recently will not become a record because it was not caught on hook and line.