September 15, 2023 at 5:45 a.m.

The Lake Where You Live

Musky bait

I’m riding my bike along the town roads, about three miles from home, when the phone in my pocket rings. I pull it out. The call is from Tucker Kulow, my older grandson, age 11.

I can’t let a call like this go to voice mail. I stop, dismount, and touch the green button on the screen. “Hello, Tucker!”

“Hi Grampa. Is it true that muskies eat ducklings?”

“Yes, they do. In fact, I saw it happen once years ago on Birch Lake.”

“Well, I want to make a musky lure out of a rubber duck. I want to glue on some material from a feather duster to make it look more real.”

Tucker fervently wants to catch a muskie. Actually, both he and his brother Perrin (age 9) have caught one on Birch Lake. That is, they have reeled it up to the boat until it either dropped the walleye it was holding on to, or I cut the line rather than use my inadequate landing net to bring it on board and risk causing it serious or fatal injury.

But now Tucker wants to catch one on a lure made from a two-inch rubber duck he played with in the bathtub when he was little. He not only wants to add feathers; he wants somehow to fasten on plastic twister tails to imitate legs and webbed feet.

“Tucker, I don’t think you need to do all that,” I tell him. “How about when I get home from my bike ride I send you a drawing of how you could make the lure? Then next time you come to Birch Lake you could try it out.”

“Or how about Bearskin Lake?” (That’s the lake just down the road from Birch). “Does it really have more muskies?”

“Yes, it does.” 

“And are there lots of them in Musky Bay?”

“Yes, there are.” 

And he launches into a series of questions about the size of the muskies, and whether Musky Bay also has northern pike, and how exactly to use the duck lure once he has created it. I explain to him that I’m on my bike ride and Gramma is waiting for me at home, so I should hang up.

“OK. Bye, Grampa.”

Back home I ask Noelle to draw me a picture of a rubber duck. I add details involving braided fishing line, a 12-inch wire leader, a couple of split shot, and a large treble hook. I take a picture of it and text it to Tucker. He doesn’t respond — until three days later.

He still wants to add the feathers and legs, and he’s not exactly sure what to do with the split shot. “You put one in front of the duck and one in the back, so it won’t slide back and forth on the wire leader,” I say.

We go over a few other design details. “Grampa, will the wire leader keep the musky from biting the duck off the line?”

“Yes, I think so.”

We’re planning to visit his family at the end of this month. I wonder if he’ll have made the lure by then (with a little help from his dad) and how it will actually look. And whether it has a chance of drawing a hungry musky’s attention.

Ted Rulseh is a writer, author and lake advocate who lives on Birch Lake in Oneida County. His new book, “Ripple Effects,” has been released by UW Press. You can learn about it by visiting his website at https://thelakeguy.net.


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