LAKE VERMILION— The muskie has long been known as the “fish of ten thousand casts,” a title reflecting the challenge of connecting with this elusive top predator. But for a couple …
LAKE VERMILION— The muskie has long been known as the “fish of ten thousand casts,” a title reflecting the challenge of connecting with this elusive top predator. But for a couple that just wrapped up their own quest for giant muskie here this week, the experience also required putting in plenty of miles— 3,927 to be exact.
That’s the distance from Grums, Sweden, where Bjorn Nystroem and Liisa Hedin call home, to Tower, Minnesota, where they spent much of last week in search of big muskie.
The Swedish couple are serious anglers, and they usually have little trouble hooking into big fish near their home, which sits on the north shore of Lake Vaenern, Sweden’s largest freshwater lake. Liisa’s Instagram page is full of photos of her and Bjorn hoisting enormous northern pike, which are also found in Sweden.
But the muskie, or muskellunge, is native only to the Hudson Bay, St. Lawrence, Mississippi, and Great Lakes watersheds in North America— and they’re what brought Bjorn and Liisa to Tower this past week. “It’s like fishing for pike, but harder,” said Liisa. They both say it’s the challenge of hooking and landing a monster muskie that makes a nearly 4,000-mile journey worth the effort.
The feeling of setting the hook on such a giant is hard to describe, said Liisa. “Maybe you just become addicted! It’s an amazing feeling when you have been out for days and hours in both good and bad weather. And suddenly you are on the right spot and do that little extra thing that those big, smart, old fishes like.”
This week wasn’t their first trip to the U.S. in search of those big, smart, old fishes. They visited Leech Lake two years ago, but said they had better success here on Lake Vermilion, where they both caught large muskie, despite conditions that their guide Jason “Muskiebreath” Hamernick described as “tough.” “Thankfully I had very skilled anglers who picked up on the proper muskie technique immediately!,” Hamernick noted on Instagram. “I’m grateful they each caught their first muskies, which both were on Nick Eddy’s stagger blade Apaches. Liisa executed a perfect figure 8 for hers!”
Vermilion didn’t just serve up the couple’s first big muskies— it also served as a kind of home away from home, reminding them of the terrain surrounding their own home in central Sweden, with the big water and pine-dominated forest. They also liked Tower, which is even smaller than Grums, which is best known as the home of the world’s largest cardboard manufacturing plant. Bjorn works for a Caterpillar distributor near Grums, which primarily serves the area’s thriving timber industry. Liisa is a graphic designer who works for a sign company. That is, when they’re not out fishing.
While serious about their quest for big fish, the couple has participated in only a few tournaments back home in Sweden. They say they prefer the serenity of fishing without the competition. Now at the peak of the summer season, serenity was a bit tougher to find on Vermilion this past week, according to the couple. “You can tell people here really like fishing,” said Bjorn.
While they wrapped up their stay in Tower on Monday, the couple had a few more days to spend in Minnesota. They were next headed to the Crosby area to check out the new mountain biking park that’s been a big hit in that former mining town.