LAKE VERMILION – It was the spring of 2013 and my wife and I were talking with our goldsmith Kirk at our jewelry store, and we had mentioned we were tired of vacationing and fishing at busy Hayward, WI, and wished we could find a new place to visit.
Kirk suggested we try Lake Vermilion in northern Minnesota. “It’s a great big lake with incredible fishing and charm,” he noted.
Well, it was pretty late in the year, but we started looking. We eventually found a place available for two weeks on the eastern part of the lake on Mud Creek Road. We headed up to the lake, and my brother and sister in-law met us there. We fished and fished and had a great time.
But there was one thing nagging at me. I wanted to go chase monster muskies. I searched and searched the Internet and found a young guide by the name of Andrew Judnick. He looked like the right person to guide me and show me the lake, and boy, was I right. I picked a real winner. I called him up and set up our first six-hour fishing trip for July 30, 2013.
AJ, as he goes by, picked me up at our dock around 9 a.m., and we took off. We stopped to fish a spot on the lake and in 15 minutes I was hooked into a big northern. I finally got it to the boat, and AJ netted it, and I had my first big fish: a 36-inch northern pike.
The day moved on, and we saw a few muskies but none bit. There was one particular spot that a fish chased my lure, so we went back on that fish three times, and on the third chase, it crushed my lure. I set the hook (and I was hooked). When we got it in the net and pulled her out she measured on the tape at 38 inches; not a huge musky, but it was a musky. I was ecstatic and Musky Madness had its hooks in me. The day was over and successful; time to prepare for the next trip!
We set it for Aug. 1, a long hot day. We saw a bunch of fish and had over 10 follows to the boat but caught none until the magic moment we headed to a spot (which would become one of our favorites). There was a kid in an inner tube playing in the area, so we stayed to the right; I threw a deep cast and boom, a fish was on. I got her in the boat and it measured 48 1/2 inches. I said, “Turn the boat around. Maybe there’s another one there,” and I casted and boom, another fish – 46 1/2 inches.
Two big fish in less than 15 minutes. I told AJ we would have to come back there again (and we did). When we were done, A.J. drove me back to my cabin and a lifetime friendship had started.
This was the start to my new summer getaway: Lake Vermilion Musky Madness.
The next year (2014) was a tough fishing year. We moved cabins to Daisy Bay; we love the bay. AJ and i hooked up again as fishing partners and went out four times in late July and early August. We missed a few fish, had a bunch of follows, saw a bunch more, but the first were just not biting until the night of Aug. 7 when, just before dark, I hooked into the largest smallmouth bass ever on a musky lure. It was 20 1/4 inches long and six and a quarter pounds, a pig. As it got dark, we knew our time was up, and we decided on one last cast, and lo and behold, I finally hooked into a nice 42- inch musky.
The trip was over but successful. I told AJ we should talk over the winter and set up times for next year, which we did, and boy would 2015 be big. The 2015 musky fishing trip was our best ever. We stayed at the lake and fished like every year with myself, my wife Brenda and my brother and sister-in-law, but again I only fished muskies with my buddy AJ.
This was a record year for me. On July 29 alone I caught three muskies of 44, 48 1/2 and 46 1/2 inches. Between Aug. 5-13, I caught another five, ranging in length from 39 1/2 to 46 1/2 inches. We saw many, and we lost a few, but I have to say AJ is the best and a good friend, too.
In 2016, we fished eight partial days for a total of 39 hours, and we had a total of 42 fish follows. I caught eight muskies ranging in length from 40 1/2 to my then personal best, a 50 1/4-inch monster.
In 2017, we fished 12 partial days for 52 1/2 hours, and I caught seven muskies. My biggest musky that summer was the winning lunker that AJ’s dad Bob Judnick caught with his son in a 2015 PMTT professional musky tournament. When Bob caught it, the musky was 48 inches. It had grown to 49 1/2 inches when AJ again was along to hook it. Coincidentally, the fish was caught two years apart on the same day – Aug. 7 – and at the same location.
Almost as strangely, a 39-inch musky I reeled in this summer I also caught the next. It had grown another inch.
This summer started out amazing as I caught a musky on the first four trips out, and for a new personal best, I caught two over 50 inches. We fished nine partial days for nearly 37 hours, and my new personal best musky measured 50 3/4 inches on my first hookset of the year. I also caught my new personal best bass (22 1/2 inches) and walleye (24 1/2 inches).
With AJ and his lucky fishing dog Avery to guide me, it was another good summer on Lake Vermilion. I’ll be back next year for more Musky Madness.
Al Louis resides in La Crosse, WI. He and his wife have been visiting Lake Vermilion every summer since 2013 to go musky fishing.