Stacked in a pile on the garage floor laid my duffle bag, cooler, sleeping bag, pillow, and tackle box. I glanced out the window after an early departure from work on this Thursday afternoon, anxiously waiting for my buddy’s truck to come rolling up. There it finally came, a black dodge accompanied by a gray and blue 1990 Lund Pro V 1700.
Camp Runnin’ Buck with it’s newly added 2nd story
Our destination: Camp Runnin’ Buck for the annual National Musky Fishing Championship in Eagle River, Wisconsin. It’s deer camp in summer – just with boats and rods instead of ATV’s and rifles. Thirteen of us pack into a roughly 700 square foot cabin for four days of dawn to dusk musky fishing. Compared to most deer camps around the country, musky camp is in its infancy – not the physical Camp Runnin’ Buck itself (if you couldn’t tell by the name), but the annual summer fishing jamboree. Though young at heart, the traditions and camaraderie around musky camp emanate as if it’s existed since the 1940’s.
Sitting around musky Camp Runnin’ Buck. Get some Legendary Angler Apparel for your next fishing trip!
After a 4-hour trek north, we finally arrive. One by one, the tiny yard stemming off the dirt road fills in with trucks and boat trailers. Everyone gathers around the front porch sharing stories from the past, only this time they’re about big fish, follow-ups, and the ones that got away (fish and a rod and reel in my cousin’s case). Funny how similar musky fishing and deer hunting stories can be. The aura matches that of the eve of opening day at deer camp. One story leads to another, and eventually, one by one, the crew slips off to the bunks stacked along the southern tongue and grooved wall in preparation for a 4am wake-up call. There’s still a few hanging around the table who hope to go to bed a little richer than they arrived, so long as they hit a solid cribbage hand.
Like most camps, card games aren’t the only way to earn a few bucks over the weekend. The real tournament is the tournament within the tournament. Twenty bucks a head gets tossed into the kitty and the guy who lands the most total inches of musky prevails at the end of the weekend. Of course, it would be nice to bring home the top prize of the actual tournament, but let’s be honest, the odds are much better when you’re going against 13 campmates compared to the 1500 anglers who registered for the National Musky Championship.
Musky Mike with his 40.5-inch camp winning musky.
This year, it was the well-deserved Camp Host, Musky Mike, who won the pool with a respectable 40.5-incher. A couple other 39-ers were caught, and a handful of big ones, unfortunately, fought their way off before hitting the net – including one I managed to get a strike from right on the boat launch pad, while waiting for my buddy Josh to back the trailer down. As much as the weekend is about fishing, it’s the camp talk after a day on the water that everyone looks forward to the most. It’s the daily recaps sprinkled with a little (or a lot of) B.S., the food, cold brews, and the laughs that really make Musky Camp Runnin’ Buck a place we loath to get back to every season – just like deer camp.
We’ll see you again Camp Runnin’ Buck, and maybe next year we’ll have a few more fish to show for our efforts. Here are some more photos from the tournament weekend…
Allen with his 39.5-incher on Day 1
End of tournament ceremony
Josh with a 39-incher
A smallmouth bass I snagged…got my heart rate up for a second
Beautiful morning on the water ripping Dawgs
Big Buck Mitch is what they call him