Years ago, during the early years of internet forums, Tom, a police officer who later retired after 32 years of service, started and maintained a fishing forum titled Toothycritters, and many people knew him from his user name, Muskiekid. Not only did he share his knowledge about fishing for tiger muskies and other toothy fish, he created a forum where others could share fishing techniques and other information. At the time, there were few musky websites in existence, and his may have been the only one dedicated to tiger muskies and the fishing for them. Tom was a pioneer in that regard.
I joined the site late and didn't really contribute much because bass fishing dominated most of my fishing time back then. But, my brother, Kyle (who also passed away a few years ago, tribute here), was a regular on the forum. And, I indirectly benefitted from the forum that Tom created through my brother teaching me what he learned. My brother really was into walleye fishing at the time, and tiger muskies intrigued him as well.
Well, after ten years of running the very popular site, Tom shut it down due to people that trolled the site to cause trouble (a common problem with many fishing forums). Most people appreciate what you build, but there are always a few people that like to stir the pot. It became too much to manage and not fun any more for him, so down it went.
His take on the value of such a website was, in his words,
"Educating the public on a site like this is a good thing. We learn about CPR (Catch, Photo and Release) and perhaps those that think Muskies are bad for Bass fishing (not true) will learn something and perhaps fish for them themselves."Obviously, Toms favorite fish to target was the tiger musky, a hybrid between the pure muskellunge and a northern pike (Esox masquinongy X Esox lucius). Some of these occur naturally, but those stocked by Maryland and other states are offspring of the male northern pike crossed with a female pure muskellunge. When Maryland stocked them in some of our lakes, he could often be found trolling for them. That was his passion. A couple years before he passed away, he purchased a new boat with the intent of improving his ability to troll for muskies and perhaps expand his range.
|One of Tom's boat side muskies.|
Little Seneca Lake in Maryland was one of his favorite places to fish, and the once plentiful tigers became rare and tougher to catch along with the decline of the stocking program. Tom fished a few other lakes nearby in Maryland and Pennsylvania as well. I believe that this was also part of his motivation to upgrade his boat.
When Tom started fishing for tiger muskies, he said it took him three months, fishing four or more days a week before he caught his first tiger musky. He said it took him that long to figure them out, learn the water, and figuring out patterns that work. Now that is what I call dedication and determination! But he felt that catching one tiger musky was worth the effort. I feel the same way.
Tom's thoughts on catching 'em:
"IMHO if you match the "hatch" of the body of water you are fishing with color and the present size of the bait fish (and go larger as the bait grows throughout the season) you will catch Muskies. Many Musky fishermen downsize in the early season and go larger as the season progresses into the fall. You also have to put those lures in the proper position at the right speed to trigger a strike. I believe that Muskies live in the same places as Bass, but if you use larger lures in those same places, you will catch Muskies and as a bonus - catch very large Bass. You may also catch Stripers using the same tactics. Big fish eat big baits (most of the time)."Although Tom preferred trolling, he also enjoyed casting for tiger muskies. His favorite lures were eight inch Believers, eight inch Partycrashers, Super Shad Raps and the larger jointed Rapalas. His favorite colors were perch or black/silver (or black gray). He said the key was confidence, find a couple lures that you have confidence in and you'll be more successful with them than any other lures. I agree with that assessment. Everyone has a go to lure when times are tough. After a while, those increase in number and you adapt to various conditions until you have a real arsenal. One thing that Tom frequently added in many of his posts was,
"Muskies eat whatever they want!!"
|Tom's personal best tiger musky was a 44 incher. He actually caught two that size. He caught his biggest at Little Seneca Lake using a Jointed Rapala.|
Now Tom wasn't the only one to do this, just about anyone that I know now that trolls does the same thing. But, the first time that I heard about it, it was his post in one musky fishing forum. Little things like that go a long way, especially for guys like me that have a thirst to learn and soak up those tips like a sponge. I really appreciated that."Put your rod tip UNDERWATER and put something in your line (as mentioned a swivel wtih tag end) to catch the debris."
Although I never met Tom personally, I felt as though from a fishing standpoint that he was in our musky "brotherhood", being local to me and sharing the same fishing forums. I also emailed and sent forum PMs to share info and see how he was doing. We talked about fishing together at one time, but never had the chance. Now, I regret missing that opportunity.
Tom passed away unexpectedly at the age of 70 on March 2, 2015. Click here to see his obituary.
I have several friends that I've fished with that knew Tom, which really showed me much about the man that he was. He was a friend to many, loved to share his passion for chasing tiger muskies, and was a stand up guy. Tom was a long time member of Muskies Inc, Three Rivers Chapter 16 (Pittsburgh), and I'm sure he had plenty of friends from that association too. I would also like to thank Joe Fabian, a close fishing pal of Tom's, for sharing some information about Tom with me and inspiring me to write this post.
My heart goes out to Tom's family on his passing. I miss him as do my fellow musky anglers. I feel that the only thing more that I can say, if I had to say one thing, to Tom would be, thank you!