George Eccarius had been waiting most of his 14-year-old life for his “once-in-a-lifetime” catch.
Maybe that length of time seems chuckle-worthy for lifelong fishermen who’ve yet to experience that magical, unforgettable bite. But when your whole life is all the time you know, it seems like forever.
George has fishing memories from when he was 5 years old. George’s father, Scott Eccarius, has pictures of George holding fish at an even younger age.
On fishing trips before George was 10, Scott said his son had a positive enough temperament to sit on a boat all day and wait for fish that might not ever come. No matter where he was, whether near Box Elder Creek, on Deerfield Lake or even in another country, George was drawn to the water.
“One of the first times we went on a trip together, he was about 9. And honest to God, it was seven in the morning and he was there by himself at the dock,” Scott said. “We’d eat breakfast at eight, and then he’d sit in the boat until 5 p.m., go eat, and then be back until dark. He just couldn’t not fish.”
So don’t scoff when you hear the big fish story about how George caught a 51-inch muskellunge at Leech Lake in north central Minnesota early last month.
After all, he’s been waiting for it.
“The guide helping us was hooting and hollering, because he’s excited we caught such a big fish,” George said. “My Dad was really happy for me, like he always is. I didn’t express anything as much as shock. It looked a lot different outside of the water.”
The catch came late in the day on Aug. 8. After what had largely been a frustrating day and a half on the water — just a handful of muskie follows in double-digit hours of fishing — George’s opportunity opened up around the same time Scott had been following a fish in roughly the same spot.
George said he was committed to making one more drift cast out over the water before considering moving on to a new position. With his 80-pound test on the line, he cast over the back of the boat.
“You’re never supposed to do that in muskie fishing,” George said. “Sure enough, I got it.”
An intense 5-minute battle with the 34-pound fish ensued; George said in an online account of his tale that he had to grunt as he was preventing the fish from going under the boat. When it surfaced, it took a few seconds for that initial shock to wear off; George said even the guide’s hands were shaking.
That hooting and hollering eventually did come, along with one of those special, fatherly smiles from Dad. George went from feeling numb to feeling jubilantly gross pretty quickly.
“We shared some slimy high-fives all around,” he said.
The experience was just the primary highlight of a successful family trip, but it hasn’t affected anyone’s expectations for finding that twice-in-a-lifetime catch.
“There’s always another fish, a bigger fish,” Scott said. “That’s the thing I like and the thing he likes about fishing. That next cast could be the next 56-inch fish.”
Same goes for George, who knows he’s got thousands of casts left to break his current personal best.
“I guess it’s my goal to catch a 52-inch fish now.”