Annual Greater Wisconsin Musky Tournament

The common name is Muskellunge – Musky for short. The scientific name is: Esox masquinongy. The Wisconsin DNR web site tells me that: “Esox comes from the old name for pike in Europe, masquinongy comes from the Cree ‘mashk’ meaning deformed and ‘kinonge’ is a pike.

Nice Musky

A well deserved name, to be sure. The musky is one mean and prehistoric looking fish. But for those of you that fish – actually hunt would be a better way to describe the process – for musky, I’m sure that you already know that.

Recently I had an incredible opportunity to see first hand what might be described as Musky Fever. (I also admit that I may now be seriously infected with it.) Heidi and I both got to take the excursion… and it is one that neither of us will soon forget.

Berghoff Beer was a great sponsor for the tournament

I had heard about an event that was going to be sponsored by Berghoff Beer.  It was the 15th Annual St. Germain, Greater Wisconsin Musky Tournament, and Berghoff was the Tournament Sponsor for the second straight year.  A contest was held to become the official Berghoff Musky Hunter Team. 

And although we didn’t win the contest, we were offered the opportunity to make the trip to St. Germain as Berghoff's media team to cover the event.  We have both fished extensively for many years, but neither of us had fished Musky before and we were both excited for the opportunity to give it a try.

Our cabin was right on Little St. Germain Lake!

We arrived in St. Germain on Friday afternoon and checked in to the Black Bear Lodge where they told us that we would be staying in a small cabin not far away.  We drove about two miles to the cabin. Called Cedaroma, it was located about 30 feet from the shore of Little St. Germain Lake and the view was marvelous. 

Cedaroma Lodge

The early October day was cloudy, windy and freezing cold, but inside the cabin a gas fireplace was ablaze and the knotty pine interior was as warm as toast.  We unpacked and headed over to a friend’s cabin for a beer and talk of tomorrow’s hunt. 

By the time we were ready to head out for dinner, both Heidi and I were excited and ready to go fishing.  It was strange that the snow shower with which we were greeted as we exited the cabin did not change our minds.

Last year's trophy watches over the tournament prizes...

Dinner consisted of a tasty fish fry at the Clearview Supper Club that overlooked Big St. Germain Lake.  We opted for the Bluegill, although both Perch and Cod were also on the menu.  Dinner with friends is always fun. 

Conversation was lively and I got some good fishing tips as well as advice on how to stay warm.  Before we realized it, the time had come to get to work on our story and we headed off to the Registration and Rules Meeting at the St. Germain Community Center. 

We were amazed that there were 340 Musky hunters who had entered the competition and it was easy to feel the excitement in the room.  Berghoff had donated a generous supply of their great Original Lager beer and some of their creamy Blumer’s Root Beer for the occasion. 

We joined the other hunters and thirstily sipped the Berghoff products as we looked at the prizes – some to be awarded now and some that were to be awarded at the end of the tournament.  This was a musky hunter’s dream. 

There were about a half-dozen Minn-kota trolling motors, numerous fishing poles and reels, paintings, artist prints and carvings, landing nets, lures, hats, gift certificates and more.  It was a Musky Hunter’s Christmas in October

Bundled up against October's cold.

There were a total of 10 lakes that were to be fished in the contest; we were going to fish on “Big Saint.” We met our guide – Rob Manthei – at 8:00 am and headed out to the lake. One could easily sense the excitement and focus that Rob possessed.

It was still cloudy and there was a pretty stiff wind as we headed out across the water. The temperature was a chilly 38 degrees; it felt like about 0 degrees to us. Armed with many layers of clothing and both hand and toe warmers that kept us fairly warm throughout the morning, we were certain that a musky would strike with every cast we threw using the heavy musky rigs - stiff 7'6" St. Croix rods and Ambassador reels.

Stopping for a quick lunch at a neat little lakeside venue called Fibbers, we happened upon Gary Knowles, Assistant V. P. and Larry Schneiberg, Sales Manager of Huber Brewery. Although we were a bit dejected about not even having had a “follow”, Gary assured us that he was not aware of any fish having been registered yet. We headed back out onto the lake with our hopes still high.

Not far from shore and only a hundred yards or so from Fibbers, Rob announced a follow. I spun around to see a huge, dark brown form beneath the water approach the lure, then turn and glide effortlessly away from the boat. Rob jammed his pole back into the water and immediately began a vigorous and aggressive figure eight pattern with the lure.

A prehistoric monster emerged from out of nowhere and ferociously attacked the bait. The fish was over 40” long and shook its head in anger as it moved around the back end of the boat. I’ve had some pretty good action from large northern pike, but this fish was like a northern on steroids and amphetamines.

Ten seconds of his time was all that particular musky would allow. As quickly as he had attacked, he shook the lure loose and disappeared. We fished for another hour or two, but never even had another follow. We were beginning to understand why this was called musky hunting.

A great place to stay and a great restaurant too

Dinner that evening was at The Bear’s Den of Black Bear Lodge.  It was a sumptuous feast and perfect after a long and chilly day on the water.  As we supped on tender char-grilled tuna with snow peas and Mahi-Mahi with a delicious cranberry cream sauce, we shared stories of the day with Danny and Wendy – the Berghoff sponsored Musky Hunter Team – and Berghoff execs Gary Knowles and Larry Schneiberg. 

After dinner we stopped back at Fibbers for some Berghoff-sponsored prize drawings, a Berghoff Oktoberfest beer and then headed home for some well deserved sleep.  We had one last chance to catch a musky tomorrow before the tournament ended.

Beautifully sunny... but very cold early morning

Scott Kaminsky was our guide on Sunday.  We met him at 8:00 am and headed back out onto the lake.  Although the early morning temperature was only in the 20’s, the sky was clear and the morning sun began to quickly warm things up.  His style was a bit different but he was also a very knowledgeable - especially about Big St. Germain and Muskies - and personable guide. 

During the course of the morning, he shared with us much of his expertise about Musky fishing.  We headed for some shallower water and tried some slightly different baits from those that we used yesterday.  (Yesterday it was all “stick” baits and today we were using bucktails or “hairs” as they are called. 

As we cruised past a large and shallow area of reeds, Scott informed me that I had a follow.  I looked down into the water and saw the same wide and dark brown form as it approached my bait.  My heart started to pound as I anticipated the attack that did not come.  My inexperience resulted in my being unable to tempt the musky into a strike using the figure eight pattern that I had observed the day before.  (My pattern was feeble in comparison)

The allotted time for the contest was almost up, and both Heidi’s arms and my own were sore from the 500 or so casts that we each threw into the chilly waters of Big St. Germain Lake over the last two days.

Scott dropped us off and we headed in to get a bite to eat as Scott headed back out to another lake for some walleye fishing. We grabbed a quick bite to eat at the Dutch Door Restaurant and then headed back the Community Center for the results of the tournament.

All 340 musky hunters appeared to have returned to the Center for the results. As we entered, we saw that a local chapter of Boy Scouts was serving Brats and other goodies. There was also pulled venison and venison chops as well as more of the great Berghoff products that everyone was enjoying as they awaited the results of the event.

Gary Knowles prepares to hand out prizes

Of all the musky hunters on ten different lakes, only 19 fish were caught, registered, and released.  I figured that this result was pretty standard, yet I heard not a single complaint about the fishing or the weather.  Organizer of the tournament Kenny Jackson of Jackson’s Lakeside Cottages in St. Germain told me: “You should have seen it last year... cold and driving rain/sleet.” 

The winning fish this year was a whopping 47 inches of fighting musky that, by the way, was the contestant’s first musky, taken on his last cast of the morning.  It all goes to show that efforts can be rewarded at any time and to any hunter.  The remaining prizes were distributed – including a $1000 check awarded by a random drawing from all contestants entered in the tournament – and this year’s musky hunters headed home.

I believe that I can speak for both Heidi and myself when I say that we both had a wonderful time and thoroughly enjoyed our stay in St. Germain, Wisconsin. I also believe that we have definitely caught ‘the fever’… I want to take another shot at catching a musky.

Special kudos go to the owners of Black Bear Lodge and to the chef at the Bear’s Den Restaurant, as well as Fibbers, Clearview Supper Club and the Dutch Door Restaurant.

If you are planning to be in the area and in need of a great guide, contact Rob Manthei at his web site or Scott Kaminsky at 715-358-3606. Both are good choices for your fishing needs.

A huge thank-you has to also go out to Kenny Jackson of Jackson’s Lakeside Cottages for all the time and effort he must have put forth in order to organize such a great event.

The Berghoff-mobile!

For those of you who read this article… I would recommend that if you are interested in fishing in a great musky tournament in a great little town in northern Wisconsin, you should put this one on your list and make sure to watch for next year’s event and register as soon as you hear about it – this one will fill up quickly! 

Stay tuned to for details and links.  We certainly hope that Berghoff is going to make it back for another year.  I especially want to thank Gary Knowles and Larry Schneiberg from Berghoff for all their time and generosity associated with sponsoring the tournament. 

Great job!!