19-year-old pulls 49.5-inch muskie while fishing from shore near Alexandria
Neither Lake Ida or Lake Charley northwest of Alexandria are stocked with muskies by the Minnesota DNR, but a connection to Lake Miltona means some of the big fish make their way in. Park Rapids native Tayden George has quite a fish story to tell after landing a muskie near 50 inches long while fishing the channel that connects the two lakes.
ALEXANDRIA — Park Rapids native Tayden George has a passion for walleye fishing, but his greatest fishing story to this point in his life might have come by landing an unexpected muskie near Alexandria on the evening of June 20.
George, a 2021 high school graduate from Park Rapids, is living with Alexandria’s Jeff and Bonnie Brand this summer while he completes an internship as a lineman for Stearns County Electric in St. Joseph. George worked for the Brands for many years at Pine Cone Lodge — a resort that the Brand family operates near Park Rapids between Big Sand Lake and Loon Lake.
George’s days generally start by making the near 45-minute drive to work to arrive by about 6:50 a.m. He gets back to Alexandria a little before 5 p.m. From there, it’s often grabbing a bite to eat before going out fishing somewhere.
On that evening of June 20, George was fishing from shore in about 5-6 feet of water along the channel that connects Lake Ida and Lake Charley just northwest of Alexandria.
“I was going there to catch some largemouth bass, maybe some bluegills,” George said. “I saw a bunch of bass on shore and then a bunch of sunfish. I thought, ‘OK, maybe I can catch a decent bass to pass my time before dark.’”
George had caught his first-ever muskie on the same stretch of water a couple weeks earlier. A small one measuring 20 inches.
He had only been fishing for about 20 minutes on June 20 around 7 p.m. when he noticed another muskie swimming near the culvert where the water flows.
It was not long after that when a group of three other kids showed up on the opposite side of the channel where they were looking at the water.
“I heard them say, ‘This is the biggest northern I’ve ever seen,” George said. “I thought it was the muskie I saw originally, which was probably about 30 inches. All of a sudden, the kids said, ‘Hey, get over here and try to catch this one.’ I go over to where they are, and sure enough that thing is sitting there right by the shoreline. I thought, ‘Oh, that’s a little bigger than I thought.’ It was right before that big storm on Monday, so I think that’s maybe what got it active.”
George was fishing with a white-colored Keitech swimbait tied to 20-pound braided line on a spincast rod-and-reel combo he had just brought from home a week earlier. He lowered the lure into the water and jigged it up and down a few times. The muskie opened his mouth and inhaled the bait before George set the hook.
“I fought him up and down the channel," George said. "Me and one of the other kids threw our stuff off, jumped in the water because I couldn’t fight him anymore because he was going down stream. I jumped in and fought him up to my hands and grabbed him. Right when I pulled him up, the hook fell out of his mouth.”
None of them had a scale to weigh the fish, but one did have a tape measure in their vehicle. They measured the muskie at 49.5 inches before taking a few photos and then releasing it back into the water.
“I think it was a spawned-out female. It was really skinny,” George said. “Usually a muskie that size would have the big gut, but I think it was all spawned out.”
Muskies moving from Miltona
This is not the first time a big muskie has been caught around Alexandria in waters not specifically stocked for the trophy fish.
Ben Saarion and Jon Kuznia landed a 50-inch muskie out of Lake Charley through the ice on Jan. 16, 2021 after the muskie grabbed hold of the transducer on the Vexilar sonar unit they were fishing with.
Alexandria’s Casey Hammerback caught a 48-inch muskie while fishing in the summer of 2019 on Lake Ida. This was another case where the fish was never actually hooked after it grabbed hold of a smaller northern pike on the line and wouldn’t let go.
Both Charley and Ida are not stocked for muskies by the Minnesota DNR, but they connect to one of the top muskie fisheries in the Alexandria area on Lake Miltona.
Lake Miltona, about five miles north of Lake Charley, is one of three lakes within the Glenwood Department of Natural Resources’ work area that is stocked with muskies, along with Lobster and Oscar.
A channel connects Lake Ida with Lake Miltona on the northeast corner of Ida. Glenwood DNR fisheries supervisor Dean Beck, who is now retired, was not surprised to see Hammerback’s muskie caught on Lake Ida, saying the fish likely made its way through the channel from Lake Miltona.
Lake Charley is southeast of Ida, but fish can make the trip from Lake Miltona, into Ida and through the channel on the southeast corner of Ida that connects to Charley.
Once in a lifetime
George fell in love with fishing early on, with his dad, Kevin George, igniting that passion in him by taking Tayden with at a young age.
Walleyes have become his favorite target. Within a week a couple of winters ago, Tayden caught a 28-incher through the ice that weighed 9.5 pounds before a 30.25-incher that weighed just over 11 pounds.
Landing what might be a once-in-a-lifetime muskie won’t necessarily have George casting hours on end trying to find another one, but he knew exactly who he wanted to share his story with immediately after the moment was over.
“I sent that picture to my dad back in Park Rapids right when I caught it,” Tayden said. “All I got back was a, ‘Huh?’ Then I got a phone call and he was like, ‘What is that? Did you Photoshop that into your hands?’ I sent him another picture of me holding it. He said, ‘That is a once-in-a-lifetime fish there, Tayden. I can’t say I’ve ever seen that caught off of a river.’”