Sarley: Local angler reels in giant muskie at Crystal Lake

Crystal Lake’s Jeremy Draftz was recently fishing from shore at the west beach on Crystal Lake and landed this huge 47-1/2 inch, 31-pound musky on a wacky worm using only a six-pound test line.
Crystal Lake’s Jeremy Draftz was recently fishing from shore at the west beach on Crystal Lake and landed this huge 47-1/2 inch, 31-pound musky on a wacky worm using only a six-pound test line.

I swear that I didn’t forget my promise to tell you all about that neglected gem of a fishing spot, Lake Defiance. I’ll get to that next week, but I thought you’d like to hear the tale of a monumental catch that happened just this past week.

The 228-acre Crystal Lake is virtually a private lake. It is accessible to residents for shore fishing in the summer from two beaches, one of which has a fishing pier. The rest of the shoreline is private property. The only people who can fish from boats are the lake’s homeowners. When the ice comes, the lake is wide open for access. Fishermen come from all over to try their hands at the magnificent Crystal Lake fishing.

The Crystal Lake Anglers fishing club has done an exemplary job over the years making sure that the lake’s fish population has excelled by a great stocking and management program.

Recently, Jeremy Draftz, a 38-year-old Crystal Lake resident, decided to try his hand at a little bass fishing from the shoreline at the west beach on the lake. He rigged up with a six-and-a-half foot, medium-action rod and a reel spooled with lightweight six-pound test line. At the end of his line was a single hook and a plastic worm rigged wacky-style.

On his third or fourth cast, he felt something.

"I flipped out about 20-yards and started to retrieve," Draftz said. "I thought I was snagged. Then my line started to move. I couldn’t get the fish to move. It did what it wanted to do. I thought it might have been a big catfish or a carp.

“I’d reel in and it would just move back out. I wasn’t gaining on it at all. I was being really careful because of my very lightweight equipment. After about 10 minutes, the fish broke water and I could see that it was a big muskie.

“I’ve fished in Canada, Minnesota and Wisconsin. I fish all of the time, but I have never caught a muskie. In fact, I have never seen a live muskie before, let alone had one on the end of my line.

“He took me from the beach down to the boat launch and then back again. I finally realized I would need to get into the water if I wanted to land the fish. I got in and grabbed the fish and flipped it onto land.          

“It was exciting. There was a boat watching and the people were yelling and hollering. Another angler watched me land the fish and he took the pictures. I never even asked his name. I measured it quickly and revived it. I released it and it swam away strongly. It was hooked perfectly on the corner of its mouth. I was lucky to have landed it on the equipment I was using.”

Carl Vainisi from the Crystal Lake Anglers Fishing Club was not surprised to learn of Draftz’ monster muskie.

“The largest muskie I’ve seen caught from Crystal Lake measured over 50 inches, Vainisi said. "There are big ones in there. They’ll be at the beach area for a short time in the spring because the crappies are there as the water gets warm. It gets warm because it’s shallow and also there is a feeder creek right there and weeds are starting to grow. The muskies will be moving out of there and going deeper any time now.”

Draftz has lived in Crystal Lake since 1988. He is married to Sarah and they have three children, Caitlin, 16, Nathan, 10, and Ashley, 7.

Does this experience mean that Draftz will be turning into a full-time muskie angler?

“I don’t know about that," he said. "This was a very special fish for me. I don’t see how it could ever be better than that. I was a very lucky guy.”

I disagree, sir. It may have been luck that such a monstrous fish was in the mood to snack on a plastic worm that day, but your skill in landing it is something that you should be very, very proud of.“


Northern Illinois: Dave Kranz from Dave’s Bait, Tackle and Taxidermy in Crystal Lake reports: “The dams at McHenry, Algonquin and Carpentersville are starting to see good catfish action on stinkbait, night crawlers and large golden roach minnows. Smallmouth bass are showing up at Algonquin and Carpentersville, but remember it’s catch and release only until June 15. McHenry County Conservation District’s the Hollows, has Lake Atwood in it and bluegill can always be caught and it’s a great place to take kids. No minnows can be used here. Vulcan Lakes at the Three Oaks Recreation Area in Crystal Lake is warming up and fishing for bass improves daily. This is a catch-and-release and “no minnow use” site also, but worth the boat rental or bank fishing time. For more info on Northern Illinois fishing, call 815-455-2040 for an updated report.”

Fox Chain O’ Lakes: Chris Taurisano of T-Bone Guide Service( – 630-330-9090) sends word, “Walleye fishing is starting to pick up with rising water temps. Jigs, live bait and crankbaits are the best bet. Remember, if you are fishing the bridges, try both sides. You never know which side will be hosting the feeding fish. Crappies are hit-and-miss depending on the weather. Muskies are becoming more active in shallows.”

Lake Michigan: The Lake Michigan Fishing Report is provided by Caleb Weiner. “The weather has finally seemed to break. Warm weather and calm seas will hopefully be bringing in the bulk of the coho soon. Fishing has been good. Numbers of coho and the occasional lake trout can be found from 175 feet and out. The best lure for the coho has been a little red dodger with a half-cut next generation fly. The lake trout have been hitting a variety of Spin-n-Glos and dodgers. The Yellow Spin-n-Glo has been the best for the Migrator. With the warm weather finally starting to show itself, the coho and some other fish should be showing up any day now. Now is the time to schedule your trip for the year.For information about charters give us a call at 224-234-3704 or checkout our website at”


Fly fishing for charity: Dan Johnston from St. Croix, Wisc. is a very good friend and he is holding a fly fishing fundraiser May 12, in North Liberty, Iowa at the Liberty Centre Pond.

The fundraiser is for Area Substance Abuse Council (ASAC), which helps kids struggling with addiction receive the help they need.

The cost is $100 per person, and it runs from 9 a.m. to noon with lunch is included.

This is an entry-level fly casting class targeted to the beginner. Advanced casters are welcome as well. This is a hands-on casting class that involves total attendee participation. 

Now, I realize that Iowa is a far away place to go to learn to fly fish, but the charity is a good one and means quite a lot to my friend. You can help support the charity by visiting Please consider it. Thank you.

Watch for ticks: From my friends at The Outdoor Wire comes this ominous warning, “Experts are warning people that a potential “tick explosion” is underway, and the blood thirsty critters will be crawling around in abundance this summer. And before you try and pull the old ‘I’m not going to the woods, so I’m safe’ routine, Kayla Socarras, a microbiology researcher at Drexler University College of Medicine, says not so fast. Yes, ticks are highly concentrated in rural, woodland type areas, but Socarras says ticks can be found in practically every region of North America.”

A few tips: wear enough clothing; use quality sprays and repellents; check yourself for ticks and then check yourself again; don’t assume you are safe in your own backyard. More to come soon on the danger of ticks. Stay tuned.

The Illinois’ Bowfishing Festival and Conservation Shoot at the Des Plaines State Fish and Wildlife Area is scheduled for May 19. This all-day festival will feature bowfishing instruction and ranges, fishing instruction for kids with supervised rod and reel fishing opportunities, fish cleaning and cooking demonstrations, with free samples of delicious fish, and activities for children and families. 

Experts will be on hand and displays will be presented from the IDNR, Illinois Natural History Survey, Bowfishing Association of Illinois (BAI), and other partners and organizations.

The Conservation Shoot bowfishing tournament – coordinated by the Bowfishing Association of Illinois – will target bighead carp, silver carp, grass carp and common carp on the Kankakee River, Des Plaines River, and Illinois River near the Des Plaines SFWA. Bowfishing enthusiasts can register for the tournament by email

The Bowfishing Tournament and Conservation Shoot will highlight efforts by the IDNR, along with state, federal and local partners, to bolster removal of invasive Asian carp from Illinois waterways, as well as boost demand for the tasty fish.

Admission and parking are free for the event, scheduled from10 a.m. to 5 p.m. rain or shine, with tents set up for all of those attending. Fish dinners and other menu items will be available throughout the day from Springfield’s famed Carter’s Fish Market food truck.

For more information on the event, contact the IDNR Division of Fisheries at

• Steve Sarley writes about the outdoors for Shaw Media. Write to him at Steve does a weekly podcast about fishing called “WeFishASA.” You can find it at            

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