Fishing & Boating in the Northwoods


Annual Greater Wisconsin Musky Tournament – Day One

Muskie Hunters sign

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.

Note: Although no longer sponsored by Berghoff, this tournament is still taking place. This year is the 35th year of the annual event! This event is now sponsored by the St. Germain Chamber of Commerce and Rob Manthei’s Guide Service

(This page may contain affiliate links, which means I may earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. You can read our Affiliate Disclosure here.)

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

A Few Details About the Event

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.

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. Neither of us had fished Musky before and we were both excited for the opportunity to give it a try.

Cedaroma Lodge sign

Cedaroma Lodge 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.

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.

A Fish Fry at Clearview Supper Club… Then a Rules Meeting

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.

The 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. 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.

A Musky Hunter’s Dream

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

Musky Rules Meeting

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.

Rob Mathei & R. Karl fishing on Big St

Wind, Cold, & Excitement

There were 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, and 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.

As a side note: Gary Knowles is also the author of The Great Wisconsin Touring Book: 30 Spectacular Auto Trips.

A Follow and a Ferocious Attack

Not far from shore and only a hundred yards or so from Fibbers restaurant, 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.

The Bear's Den

A Sumptuous Dinner at the Bear’s Den

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 also 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.


Share this Article

Related Articles

Search On the Lake
Just Added
R. Karl Recommends
R. Karl with huge northern pike

R. Karl

Angler, Author & Epicure

Fishing since the age of eight.  Seriously writing since the age of 16. Chef and foodie from the age of 22 years… and counting. So much to learn and so little time. I have enjoyed every minute of it all.  Whether on the water (where I like it best), in the kitchen, or at the keyboard, churning out content, I feel like I have found my place.  I am sharing it with you in the hope that some of what I love to do will rub off on you. I hope to see you On the Lake!

R. Karl