Many still remember the hot, calm week in July 1955 when Leech Lake gave up muskies like never before.
By Dan Craven
1955 one of the most famous photos in muskie fishing lore was taken: a
stringer-shot of 20-some muskies caught in about a day and a half of
fishing. A few midsummer days of 1955 became known as the Leech Lake
Muskie Rampage, one of the most intriguing muskie "bites" of all time.
The muskies on Leech Lake started giving themselves up like nobody had
ever seen before.
place was Federal Dam, a small town with a landing at the headwaters of
Leech Lake River. The town was named for the dam that created the
reservoir we now call Leech Lake.
Federal Dam has a population of about 100. It was a much busier town in
the 1950s. Because anglers from all over the country used its landing,
Federal Dam could support five launch businesses that owned a total of
Neururer family owned and operated one of the launch businesses. The
brothers did the guiding and launch operating; their wives handled most
of the business in the office and at the cabins. "Tubby" (Sara) and
Dana Neururer still live in Federal Dam today. Now in their 80s, the
two women have clear memories of the rampage.
year 1955 was a good one for the business. The walleyes had been biting
consistently until a hot, calm spell set in. July 16, as walleye
fishing slowed, guide Danny Chalich and Bob Neururer and his nephews
Chucky and Peter set out for a morning's fishing.
Peter decided to troll a Red Eye Wiggler. He had only 40 feet of line on his reel, and he would need all of it.
Chris-Craft made its way across Portage Bay and trolled the weedbeds
out from Two Points. Before long, Peter was battling a 35-pound muskie.
Danny and Bob used all of their skills to back the big boat toward the
wild fish as the young boy held on. Amazingly, 10-year-old Peter won
the battle. The fish was brought into the docks, and the "Muskie
Rampage" was on.
muskies and heat-stressed tullibees had been seen surfacing, so a
number of other launches went out to target the muskies. Witnesses
recalled seeing muskies exploding on the baitfish. The second launch to
arrive at Federal Dam had four muskies. So Peter's fish was more than a
the next few days, the bite was on. Chucky landed a fish in the
mid-20-pound range. Bob landed one about the same size as Peter's fish.
Neururer women started calling newspapers all over the Midwest. Lucky
anglers called their friends. WCCO radio carried daily reports on how
many muskies were brought in.
out of Federal Dam were running morning and afternoon muskie trips and
frequently evening ones too. All rowboats were rented, and parking lots
were overflowing with cars.
launch could carry about eight clients. Only four could fish at one
time, so they'd take turns, usually trolling the weedbeds on the west
side of Portage Bay.
best fishing was during the first three days, when anglers hauled in
about 50 fish. But Danny recalls boating one or two muskies on every
trip during about a 10-day stretch. He says just about everyone had
success. Most fish were caught on Red Eye spoons, KB spoons, and Pikie
Jerry Bader was a dock boy at the time. He was so busy cleaning boats
for his father's launch service that he had little chance to fish
during the pandemonium. But one day he did make his way across Portage
Bay in a boat with a 7.5-horsepower motor. When he got to Moscripp's
old homestead, he started trolling and hooked a muskie on a brass and
silver KB spoon. It weighed in at more than 42 pounds.
July 23, most local folks say, more than 100 muskies had been caught in
Portage Bay alone. But Tubby and Dana say the true number will never be
known, because many people simply threw their fish into the back of
their vehicles and went home. Most fish were probably 25 to 35 pounds.
Many people recall Jerry Bader's fish being the largest, while others
remember a 49-pound muskie being weighed in.
Danny said that around July 23 a massive storm blew in and put an end to the muskie fishing. The rampage was over.