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A monster of a muskie on the Fox River

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Updated: October 20, 2012 6:18AM

A day of delivering shingles to Lake Holiday with a buddy turned into the muskie of a lifetime on the Fox River for Bryan Lieser.

Some Fish of the Week are more likely a Fish of the Year. We have a contender.

This is more about how and why Lieser catches muskies from the Fox than the specific muskie — though it was one helluva muskie at 483/4 inches, with a girth topping 24 inches and an estimated weight of 35.75 pounds.

Lieser was crossing the Fox and saw a likely spot, then took the time to fish it.

‘‘From Elgin to Millington, there are all sorts of spots,’’ Lieser said.

He is the preowned sales manager for Toyota of Naperville and basically gets one day a week to fish.

‘‘I live 10 minutes from the Fox and decided to learn it,’’ he said.

When he worked at Riverside Sports in Geneva, he learned from a veteran muskie fisherman.

‘‘I catch about 15 or 20 out of the Fox every year,’’ Lieser said. ‘‘There are a handful of spots I go to. This summer was really tough. That was the first big one.’’

It is one of the biggest caught-and-released on
the Fox.

‘‘What I am looking for is a lot of current breaks — tree in the water, old pier, bridge pilings — with deeper water close to it,’’ Lieser said. ‘‘Big boulders that break the current.

‘‘The river is not flat, so there are always points, bends, rock outcroppings, big trees in the water. I have caught them within six inches of shore. I have never caught one in the full phase where the current is ripping through.’’

In other words, he targets close to shore.

‘‘Another magnet is where a creek comes in,’’ he said. ‘‘They are generally spring-fed or cooler. There are always walleye, smallmouth, carp and suckers there, too. A lot of people stand right in the break. That is not right.’’

The idea is to stand off the break, then work the lure in or through the break.

Lieser’s go-to bait might be the Mepps Magnum Musky Killer in gold and brown or gold and black.

‘‘I have a little box and backpack [with a] pair of pliers, a mouth spreader, a hook sharpener and a couple of extra leaders,’’ he said.

In the backpack are a few Plano boxes with smaller twitch baits, such as Shallow Raiders and 6-inch Grandmas, and topwaters, such as Hawg Wobblers, Top Raiders and Giant Jackpots.

He likes to bang the twitch baits off the bottom. That’s why he has a special need for a hook sharpener.

‘‘I just didn’t want to drive two hours to catch a fish,’’ Lieser said. ‘‘Put on swim trunks, take a couple of bottles of water, and you can make a day of it.’’

A kayak or canoe increases mobility.

‘‘Every spot is different,’’ he said. ‘‘I have caught them all over the river. There’s a lot of them in there. That is what makes it unique.’’

He knows catch-and-release works for river muskies. Lieser said one muskie with a notable birthmark was 311/2 inches when he first caught it in 2004. He has caught it twice since then. By 2010, it was 391/2 inches.

Hunting notes

Corn harvest was at an incredible 36 percent through Sunday, compared with the five-year average of 13 percent in Illinois. . . . Teal season ends Sunday. . . . You should have found out last week if you drew a free upland permit, Illinois’ coolest hunting program. Bucking the odds, I drew one for the second year in a row.

Stray cast

White Sox: Like shooting Wildcat Rapids. Bears: Like motoring back to Burnham Harbor off plane. Cubs: Like being up North Shore Channel without a paddle.

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