Engbretson Underwater Photography

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News From Behind the Scenes at Engbretson Underwater Photo and Stories about the Freshwater Environments We Visit.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Encountering Muskie Underwater

                                    The first time I came face to face with a muskie underwater in it’s environment, I thought I was going to have a stroke. I was scuba diving in a small northern Wisconsin Lake known primarily for bass and bluegills, when I turned and found myself face to face with a monster that looked more like an alligator than anything else. To say I was startled would be an understatement. I remember screaming into my regulator as an eruption of air bubbles exploded from my lungs and raced towards the surface. My arms and legs moved involuntarily in panic and I stirred up a cloud of silt that quickly enveloped both the beast and me. After a few seconds, when I had recovered from the start, and regained my composure, I was amazed to see that the giant fish hadn’t moved an inch. It was still there, just three feet away hanging motionless in the slowly clearing water. In stark contrast to my initial panicked surprise its reaction was just the opposite. It’s demeanor was calm, and it’s steely-eyed gaze remained fixed on me the entire time like a gunslinger in a Clint Eastwood western. This was a fish filled with confidence, instead of fear. He was the ruler of this underwater kingdom, and seemed to regard me with the same sense of apathy and disinterest that’s normally reserved only for telemarketers and late night TV pitchmen. Finally, he slowly finned away into the depths and I was left with a feeling of awe and admiration for these magnificent fish that has only grown over the years.

I’m very lucky that I just happen to live in an area that’s home to some of the most legendary muskie lakes in the country. Over the years, I’ve had a chance to swim in some of these famed waters and encounter muskies up close in their own environment. There’s nothing quite like seeing a large muskie underwater. They glide effortlessly through the water with the supreme confidence reserved for members at the top of their food chain. Because of this, they’re not afraid of divers and I’m able to approach them usually fairly easily. They are surely aware of all the other fish and animals that populate their world and because divers are an anomaly, they will routinely approach me with what I can only characterize as curiosity. They often make a complete circle around me as if to inspect this ‘strange creature” from every angle. They also display keen awareness. When I enter a lake, I don’t have to search for the muskies. I’ve discovered that if I’m patient, they will find me. Drawn, I’m sure by acute imperceptible sensory abilities and also probably just by the noise of my air bubbles too.
List of Lakes with the Biggest Muskie (from Muskies Inc.)
To Buy One Of My Most Popular Muskie Prints, Click Here


  1. Really amazing! Thnx for sharing that. I freedive & im interested in getn some photos of muskies.

    1. Scott,

      Muskies are easiest to photograph in the springtime right after they spawn. After spawning, they will continue to hang around in shallow water (generally 7 feet or less) along the shorelines. This is where it's warmest for them. You can approach them quite easily up until the end of May. By then they typically move to their summer haunts and you're less likely to easily find them.
      Concentrate on the lakes that are known to have good musky populations. They're a low density fish whenever they're found, but if you can find a lake where they occur at a density of at least 0.3 fish per acre, you'll stand a better chance of seeing one.