An Outdoorsman’s Journal
By: Mark Walters
Operation Musky 2020
Hello everyone: I believe that this was the 20th year in a row that I have joined my good friends from my days in the Air National Guard at Truax Field in Madison for what we now call Operation Musky. There are about a half dozen of us left who back in the day worked on A10 fighter aircraft “The Warthog.” Over the years, my deer camp — The Red Brush Gang — and some of our friends have joined the group for two days of fishing and fun.
This year’s event was held on the Eagle River chain and we stayed at the Hiawatha Motel, which was an excellent facility in every way for our outing.
Saturday, Aug. 29 High 71, Low 47 Today was the first day this summer that I witnessed where a person had to dress warm instead of just in shorts and a T-shirt. There are 22 of us in this year’s event and my partner is long-time buddy Jeff Moll, who I hung around with while growing up and we were both at Truax together. Jeff was in avionics and I was a weapons loader.
The hours for the outing are from 6-8 on Saturday and 6-11 on Sunday. Jeff and I were not on the water at 6, but were getting ready with a bunch of other musky hunters and once we hit the Eagle Chain we kept fishing until 8.
Last night was a big social event and it is very cool how everyone from our deer camp to past Air Guardsmen is like family for a weekend. We specialize in giving each other as much BS as possible and it happens on shore as well as in the boats. Today Jeff and I were trolling downriver and through Eagle River to fish the other end when my good friend from growing up and deer camp, Todd Cibulka, and his son Joey, caught up to us. Jeff and I had a plan of fishing the lower end because it does not get fished as much. After an always fun chat, Todd passed us and right when we got to where I wanted to start casting, we witnessed Todd catching a 32.5-inch northern pike, which would win the northern pike side bet. Another crazy part of this 20-year history for me is that I have never caught a musky in this tournament. Today I caught like a 26-incher that I did not measure. Rueben Herschleb won this outing last year with a 43.5-inch musky and today he caught 43.5-inch musky and won it again. My brother Mike caught a musky and my “no good brother-in-law” Dick Schuster caught a 37-incher, which took second place. The one time that Jeff and I got out of the boat was on the lower part of the chain and we just pulled the boat up and drank a beer on what was once a beaver hut, but the tree branches from years of cutting with a beaver’s teeth, swimming to the hut and building have broken down and become earth. Now it could be seen by plenty of fish scales that when the local otter catch fish they eat them on it and I am sure the beaver that made this hut over a period of years are long gone.
Tonight, we had what I believe was one of the coolest shindigs of this group’s history. The Hiawatha has a game room with free pool and ping pong. Together this group cooked meals on our grills and we talked and laughed until it was just Jeff Moll, Rob Meier and myself.
The laughter was nonstop and for an old timer like me to watch my deer camp and my pals from my military days it was an exceptional night.
My enlistment in the Wisconsin Air National Guard ended in 1987. I have a profound respect for the U.S. military as well as for our good men and women in law enforcement. Without either, there is zero hope of living a quality life in this country and I just pray that everyone understands that.
Respect the flag. Sunset
The father-son team of Todd and Joey Cibulka enjoying their experience during Operation Musky!
Jeff Moll taking a break from fishing during Operation Musky.
The group had a great time on the Eagle River chain of lakes during Operation Musky!